Last Thursday, President Barack Obama called a convention of college presidents from all over the country to try and correct the woes of the college system. Obama has preached the importance of higher education since he first took office almost six years ago.
The collaboration seems natural. College presidents rely on federal funding, and as a former professor of law, Obama knows the inner workings of the college system. On paper, this summit of higher education looks like a godsend that would serve as a stepping stone to reform. However, the air was filled with tension.
Obama’s agenda consisted of very admirable goals: helping low-income students attain a college education; reaching out to primary and secondary education and stressing the importance of college; and improving remedial programs so that students are more equipped to succeed. These all sound great and most people (barring financial implications) would agree that these issues all need to be addressed.
However, Obama proposed implementing a rating system on colleges that rank schools on their value and return on investment. This proposal has college presidents up in arms and sullied the potential chemistry of the conference.
Former Arizona Governor turned Secretary of Homeland Security turned President of the University of California system Janet Napolitano replied,“You don’t address higher education in this country by slapping a rating system on it.”
Napolitano, one of Obama’s closest colleagues, has it right. Imposing a rating system on colleges is absurd for many reasons — the least of which is the subjectivity of the matter. A return on an investment-based system quantifies education with dollars, which any good liberal arts student could tell you is bologna.
Furthermore, Obama’s suggested plan is indicative of an even more disturbing trend in higher education — an adopted customer service mentality that has been adopted by students, parents, and alumni all over the country.
How often has the argument been raised that “Books are too expensive,” or “That wench of a teacher didn’t curve the class,” or “I can’t believe I pay this much for my education and (insert inconvenient experience) is happening.”
This mindset is acceptable some of the time, but it seems as though every day someone is complaining about something and expecting some type of compensation from the powers that be.
Remember, as a student of any given university, one is not paying to be catered to, and one is certainly not paying for a degree. A student is paying for the opportunity to earn a degree. A student pays for the opportunity to work hard, learn from mistakes and yes, eat slightly below average food.
Obama’s heart is in the right place. College tuition has soared to heights that create a financial barrier to entry, and just about everything needs improvement, but implementing a rating system on the value of colleges is taking good intentions a step too far.
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