We need to reorient higher education
As another college semester approaches, we need to recognize that education has become a business.
It’s a business for elite private schools.
It’s a business, more and more, for public universities.
And it’s explicitly a business for the so-called for-profit universities.
Much of that business revolves around applying for grants from the government and shaking down alumni for donations.
But what we’re losing with this orientation is the commitment as a democracy to educate the poor, the underrepresented, the disenfranchised and our veterans.
The federal and state governments provide financial aid to students from impoverished backgrounds and offer incentives for universities to enroll them.
But even when public and private universities make an effort to accept a more diverse student body, they often do not do enough to enable them to succeed. They take the government’s grant money and within one academic year, easily half of their low-income or academically challenged students are back home saddled with huge debts.
That is not acceptable.
I know of one university that invited 21 African-American males into their freshman class. By the sophomore year, it had retained only 10 of them.
I was in a recent conversation with the provost of one university. The official proudly shared that the institution accepts students no one else would take a chance on. The university’s six-year graduation rate is 36 percent.
That is not acceptable, either.
The government is trying to enhance the economic viability of its populace. It has provided financial incentives for us to do that.
But what we lack are results.
We’ve got to do better.
Maybe we should tie financial rewards to universities to successful recertification.
Maybe we should demand recertification every five years.
Maybe we should include student retention as part of the recertification requirements.
Our universities need to excel not at hustling grants from the government or wealthy alums but at creating a nourishing environment for all of their students.
Algernon Felice is CEO of Cultural Bridges LLC, a consulting firm that works with schools, school districts, universities, individuals and businesses in the creation of marketing strategies aimed at engaging social and ethnic minority populations. He holds a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Wisconsin, with a specialty in multicultural counseling. He can be reached at pmproj [at] progressive [dot] org.
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