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College Dropout Factories
The Washington Monthly has a long article about colleges that are "dropout factories," such as Chicago State, a four-year college which only graduates 13% of its freshmen. I'm shocked to hear that a taxpayer-funded college on the south side of Chicago just 1.1 miles east on 95th Street of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ is a boondoggle. (Chicago State is located, coincidentally enough, at 9501 S. Martin Luther King Drive. As Chris Rock would say, "Run!")
The authors conclude:
There is no reason that states canâ€™t quickly build newer, better, more cost-effective public universities to educate people who are currently stuck in college dropout factories.
Presumably, the buildings at Chicago State are infected with Legionnaire's Disease or evil spirits or something and therefore must be torn down. I'm sure putting up a $578,000,000 school building will get those graduations rates right up.
The school that would later become Chicago State was founded in September 1867 and called the Cook County Normal Schoolâ€”â€śNormalâ€ť referring to schools that prepare teachers for the classroom. For a century or so, it fulfilled this teacher-training role reasonably well. But in 1965 the school was acquired by the state of Illinois, soon renamed Chicago State, and converted into a standard four-year institution. In 1972, Chicago State moved to a newly built $95 million campus that could accommodate an additional 10,000 students. Most of them would be drawn from the cityâ€™s poor and working-class South Side and nearby suburbs. It was an admirable attempt to open new doors to a demographic that had been largely shut out of higher education. But it wasnâ€™t long before signs of neglect and mismanagement were obvious. Passage rates on an elementary education teacher licensure exam, for instance, plummeted from 82 percent in 1968 to 42 percent in 1973, and the school almost lost its teacher accreditation.
One year later, in 1974, a devastating series on Chicago State appeared in the Chicago Defender, the cityâ€™s premier black newspaper. Under the heading â€śWhy Johnnyâ€™s Teacher Canâ€™t Read,â€ť the articles blasted the school, calling it a â€śdiploma mill, with little quality control or concern about the product,â€ť and noted â€śoppressively lowâ€ť morale among students. Chicago State is a â€śripoff institution,â€ť it said, â€śa place where a comfortable white administration and faculty is providing a second-rate education for black students.â€ť
Obviously, white control was the problem. And, apparently, still is, a generation and a half later. (White people, I've learned from reading articles like this, apparently have very long-lasting juju.)
Seriously, isn't the problem here the absurd emphasis our society puts on high school students attending a "four-year college" right out of high school? If they feel like they have to go to college, send them to junior colleges. President Obama makes a big deal about how everybody must go to college for at least year. Fine. But don't expect everybody to get a 4-year degree. And don't send them to 4-year-colleges.
Send them to JC. Let the dropouts dropout, let the mediocre students get AA degrees and then get jobs, and let the best students go on to four-year-institutions.
Our society needs to keep in mind the need to offer attainable goals, such as two year diplomas.
Say you you were an above average student in your urban high school with a 95 IQ. There are a whole bunch of people in America with 95 IQs, but nobody who is anybody ever thinks about them.
You show up at a four-year college and struggle with the 100 level courses but find you can grit them out with a lot of work. You flip through some of the textbooks used in 300 level courses and are dismayed at how far above your head they are. You'll never be able to complete the requirements for a BA. So, why not drop out now, rather than waste a few more years?
On the other hand, if you are at a junior college, you can focus on sweating out your Associates of Art degree so that you can walk the stage in front of your family. That goal is attainable enough to keep you working. (Similarly we should have Associates high school diplomas for kids with IQs in the 60s through 80s. That would give them an attainable walk-the-stage goal so they don't drop out in 9th grade)
What should be done with Chicago State is demoting it to junior college status so it can concentrate on providing basic education to the locals. (Demotion would also be for the encouragement of the others.)
But, how likely is that to happen?