Price Tags and Service

So, Jonah’s been away at college for two months. Enough time to give some preliminary evaluations.

The good side is that he has totally drunk the kool-aid. Every item of clothing that he wears has the college logo. He proudly tells me that his school is damn tough. The kids are smart enough to go to Ivy League schools. Many of his friends were admitted to Ivy League schools. They just didn’t want to waste their money.

He has nice friends. He never calls home unless I’m sending him all-caps texts that say, “CALL. YOUR. MOM. NOW.”

But I’m pretty appalled at everything else. The advisement office put him in the wrong Intro to Physics class. There are two Intro to Physics classes at his school – one has a calculus pre-requisite. He took him a week to figure out that he was in the wrong class. It was too late to get into the non-calc Physics class, so they put him in the Intermediate German class and didn’t warn him that the class was pretty much only for advanced students majoring in German.

All of his teachers are adjuncts. And they tell the students that are over worked and under paid all the time. One got fired in the middle of the semester and was replaced by a very, very old adjunct who complains all the time about his physical pains. He said that he can’t do office hours, because his wife has to drive to him school.

His bio and calc classes have 400 students.

It can take a 40 minute bus ride to get to class, because the campus is spread out over several towns.

It’s very hard to get extra help for calculus.

A small private college would easily cost another $35,000. So, I still think we did the right thing provided we make some changes. I’m taking over academic advisement for him. I spent two hours going over all the course guides, syllabi, and major requirements for the spring terms. I called Deans. I yelled at some. We’ll pay for a math tutor. After we pick his classes, we going to lean into Rate My Professor and make sure that he gets better teachers next semester.

Perhaps this is why only 58% of students graduate in four years.

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73 thoughts on “Price Tags and Service

  1. Sounds like par for the course. It’s disappointing about the adjuncts. I never got the impression that they comprised a significant portion of the teaching staff when my friends and family were there, in the 1980s. It’s true about the kids: some of them likely turned down Ivy League schools to go there, and others probably have Ivy League talent, but found themselves on the wrong end on the cap on the number of students from New Jersey. Course selection and advising at a large place like Rutgers can be a disaster. But that’s not limited to Rutgers; the state school I attended had equally bad advising. Good luck moving forward.

  2. Uck, but a fancy private college doesn’t protect against all of these (or similar) problems. There weren’t many adjuncts teaching at Wake Forest or Emory, but there were plenty of graduate student math teachers (Little Miss Y81 was a math and poli sci major) whose English was incomprehensible. Also sociology professors who handed out easy A’s to anyone who regurgitated their left-wing dogma back to them. (Her father’s daughter did that with enthusiasm.) Courses were sometimes oversubscribed and unavailable. I mentioned once before that the “tutoring center” at Wake was purely a front for the purpose of writing athletes’ papers for them, and had no capacity to help the average student who wanted some editing on her Shakespeare paper or who was hoping to lift her B+ in Calc II to an A-.

    1. There weren’t many adjuncts teaching at Wake Forest or Emory, but there were plenty of graduate student math teachers (Little Miss Y81 was a math and poli sci major) whose English was incomprehensible.

      The interesting thing about that card is how often students play that to deflect from their own inadequacies. When I was in graduate school there were plenty of Chinese and Eastern European grad students who had heavy accents and plenty of foreign *and* American grad students who just weren’t that into teaching (and it showed).

      The thing is, I would often get students in my calc 2 or calc 3 sections who had a foreign instructor (graduate or faculty) the previous term and would express pleasure that I was American and complain about the trouble they had with the previous teacher. They almost invariably would have trouble in my class as well, usually due to their own apathy and intellectual limitations. These students were almost invariably the most unpleasant to teach and interact with. Whereas my better students who had had the same instructor almost never complained about it but were usually the most intellectually engaged and high performing.

      I’m not going to say that there weren’t terrible foreign grad students and faculty, but more often than not they exposed the weaknesses of these students rather than being the cause of their trouble.

      1. I do think the accent issue is mostly about students blaming someone else for their shortcomings. But, I had a grad school office mate who really did have a problem. In the office, I had no trouble understanding him. We would break for tea and chat around three o’clock everyday. But when he gave a talk in the department or taught a class, he got nervous, talked faster, and his accent became much, much stronger. I was accustomed to his accent in the office, but when he gave a talk, I really struggled to understand what he was saying. He worked hard to fix it (pretty unsuccessfully), and I felt sorry for his students.

      2. When I was at Ohio State, they required all foreign nationals working at teaching assistants to go to an office and prove they had passable spoken English. Which I thought was hilarious when my British roommate learned that it applied to him.

      3. MH said:

        “Which I thought was hilarious when my British roommate learned that it applied to him.”

        That’s actually very sensible.

      4. bj said,

        “Hey, a British accent can be pretty hard to understand. I often have to use subtitles in Brit shows.”

        Yep.

      5. He passed it very easily. He was from some very boring suburb of London where everybody speaks more clearly the the average resident of Ohio.

      6. I would think it would be the job of an instructor to overcome the students’ intellectual limitations, not expose them, but obviously not everyone feels that way. Quality of instructor seemed to make a big difference in my daughter’s engagement and learning.

    2. I think there are students who attribute their lack of understanding of the material to the accent of the instructor and do not improve when they have a instructor with a standard American accent. But, I also think there are TAs with inadequate ability to communicate in the lecture setting (as well as those who might do OK in prepared lectures, talking inequalities, but have difficulty communicating one on one). And some of those have passed language proficiency tests.

      And, even with when the accent might not be an issue for those who can understand the material, it might be an additional cognitive load that makes the material more difficult to understand for those who are struggling.

      Finally, those who are not familiar with accents might have more difficulty understanding them than those who don’t. It can be a learned skill that might make calculus more difficult to learn.

      I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the issues of language/accent globally without considering the person specifically.

      1. But, I also think there are TAs with inadequate ability to communicate in the lecture setting (as well as those who might do OK in prepared lectures, talking inequalities, but have difficulty communicating one on one). And some of those have passed language proficiency tests.

        And quite a few of them are native speaking Americans who have no business in front of a classroom…

  3. Gah, I wish I could comment on this with relevant work experiences. But I really like my job.

    S just signed up for spring semester classes. She’s taking Macro, Labor History, Social Inequality, Ethics, and Meditation in India (which fulfills a cultural diversity requirement, LOL).

    I’m so jealous of J for being able to take German.

    1. Wendy said:

      “S just signed up for spring semester classes. She’s taking Macro, Labor History, Social Inequality, Ethics, and Meditation in India (which fulfills a cultural diversity requirement, LOL).”

      That sounds like a lot of courses.

      1. Wendy said:

        “Only 5, and one seems bogus (to me).”

        What if “Social Inequality” is actually a code name for sorority dues?

      2. Aaaaahhhhhhhh.

        Every time I mention my daughter in college, my colleague texts me an emoji of a helicopter. 🙂

  4. I grew up in the increasingly run-down neighborhood next to the R.U. stadium. My father went to R.U., as did most of my cousins and friends who attended college. The “R.U. Screw,” as it’s long been known, is real, and it’s directly connected to the futile, decades-long effort to turn the school into a sports powerhouse.

    When my friends were marching to protest tuition hikes as far back as 1991, local newspapers reported on pianos that needed tuning in the music department and English comp classes that used Scan-Tron tests, even as the football stadium was rebuilt twice and new sports buildings have sprouted like mushrooms on Busch Campus ever since. A few years ago, it came out that they were blatantly taking money from the academic side of the university to fund sports. I can’t remember if that was before or after Rutgers threw away a portion of its ecological reserve to build an 8,500 square-foot house for the football coach. The rumors I still hear from locals, including people who work for the university and local governments, are hair-raising. (One of the previous university presidents was regularly pulled over for drunk driving. He would play the “don’t you know who I am?” card, and off he’d go.)

    I find it disheartening to talk to people about the problems at Rutgers. Many parents, students, and locals are football-mad. They love having a big-division team to cheer for, a fancy stadium with a fancy screen, and the sense of spirit that goes along with all this stuff. They don’t care that they’re taking a hit both in their tuition bills and in their taxes. Instead, they’re stuck on all the old sports lies: The money is separate! The programs fund themselves! The prestige brings in donations! The name recognition attracts better applicants! I love where I grew up, but my affection ends when New Jersey aspires to be Alabama.

    1. The programs fund themselves!

      This is true in the Big 10 and the SEC and almost nowhere else, including Rutgers.

      And even for the schools for which this is true, there are hidden costs, such as the minimal academic standards student athletes dragging down the level of the courses.

      1. Aren’t the athletes at those schools in separate classes? The students in no-show Afro-Am Studies courses at UNC weren’t dragging down the math department.

      2. Athletes were never in separate classes at the two Big 10 schools I’ve been at. They had tutoring and other aides that were not open to the average student, and I think they may have gotten one course in “Football Theory”, but mostly the same classes. They certainly looked for easy courses and traded stories about who was an easy grader, but that was no different than the model member of the student body.

      3. I also don’t think the athletes I saw were dragging down the standards. Generally speaking, the ones I knew (who weren’t the scholarship players) did about as well as anybody.

      4. Husband was once told by an athlete at his previous elite institution, “I’m not here because I’m smart” in the course of dealing with the athlete’s academic struggles.

      5. I haven’t spent much time at elite institutions. At land grant schools, lots of people are around for reasons other than because they are smart. I don’t think that’s a problem but it is why I think honors programs are so important.

      6. I never really had any contact with the undergraduates at Duke. They were in Satisfaction and I was across the street with the old people in the James Joyce.

      7. OMG, Satisfaction! I’ve been there! LOL. I’m trying to remember the name of the bar we used to go to all the time, which was near there. We could nurse a pitcher for hours in that place, and they were ok with it.

      8. For three years, I worked in the next converted tobacco barn over. Satisfaction opened early on 9/11 so we could watch CNN.

      9. TG I have old grad school friends friended on FB who can remind me of the name of this place. 🙂 We used to go to Val’s Upstairs, mentioned here: http://www.opendurham.org/buildings/ivy-room-1000-west-main-street
        There is mention on that site of a Duke philosophy prof who used to hang out there or somewhere near there and seduce female students, but I swear I have no idea who that is.
        The other benefit of this blast from the past is that I was directed to some old photos of the late 80s that my friend from grad school had. There’s a photo of me at a protest against Oliver North, who’d come to speak at some fundraiser. Man, I was adorable back then. What happened?

      10. I think all that stuff was before my time there. I don’t even recall that building being occupied by any business I would have noted. I was already old before I got to Durham (in 2000).

      11. I’ve been reading about the building all morning. Yes, totally moribund in the late 90s/2000s. Apparently they just started repopulating it in the late 2000s. My grad school friends still living in or frequently visiting Durham tell me that downtown Durham is totally trendy now. Sacrilege!
        The woman who owned the bar I went to is now a minister who got some media coverage for performing same-sex marriages in Charlotte. Apparently she was a Div School student while running the bar (which was also a restaurant, fwiw; I could never afford to eat there).

      12. The area was frankly bad when I was there. It was Brightleaf, James Joyce, that other complex with Fowlers, and lots of empty lots or abandoned buildings. People said it was dangerous, but nobody ever broke into my car (some scratches say a guy failed) and everybody who asked me for money left when I said no.

    2. And even in those programs where folks argue that the program “pays for itself”, it is a highly volatile business, with significant unpredictable costs (NCAA rules about student athletes, coach’s salaries) and unpredictable revenue streams (ticket sales, which are heavily dependent on winning, tv contracts, . . . .)

  5. Here’s my undergraduate writing-center story, not from Rutgers, but from a large state university with a strong athletic program. I was getting Bs on my papers, and wanted to get As, and thought it was the mission of the writing center to help me get there. I was politely told that while it might have been reasonable for me to have that idea, in fact if I was getting Bs there was nothing more that they could do for me. The people working there were not doing much better, if any, than that at all. The writing center was designed to get people from F to C, probably with a level of help that might have raised some eyebrows.

    Also, I had a graduate student teach my microeconomics class. I looked him up recently, thinking he must be a professor now, as most of the other graduate-student teachers I had were. Nope. He’s running a hedge fund.

    1. I ran a writing center at a university for about 5 years. The majority of our students were B students trying to get As. By majority, I mean over 50%, though admittedly not by much. I learned a lot from running the writing center, much of which I use in my classes today (I also did tutoring alongside my tutors, particularly in the earlier years). We had student tutors, and I can’t guarantee they were the best at what they did. But I did teach them that 1. we were not a dry cleaners; students couldn’t drop off their papers and pick them up fresh and clean and 2. they should be working with students on one or two things for a shorter period of time. After 20 minutes or so, the student brain clicks off and doesn’t learn as effectively, so student tutors were trained to set up a half-hour plan. I got such crap from the faculty over this strategy. They couldn’t understand why students were going to the writing center and leaving with imperfect papers. I’d go to department meeting after department meeting and try to explain our philosophy. They also thought my tutors were unqualified, but then I’d explain to them that I only hired tutors who got As in English, and that would shut them up, at least to my face.

      Ah, good times. I guess this is why they refused to hire me for a full-time tenure-track job. And that is the story of why I moved away from NYC despite living there happily for 5 years.

  6. Laura said:

    “The good side is that he has totally drunk the kool-aid.”

    YAY!

    “But I’m pretty appalled at everything else. The advisement office put him in the wrong Intro to Physics class. There are two Intro to Physics classes at his school – one has a calculus pre-requisite. He took him a week to figure out that he was in the wrong class. It was too late to get into the non-calc Physics class, so they put him in the Intermediate German class and didn’t warn him that the class was pretty much only for advanced students majoring in German.”

    NOOOO!

    I’ve you guys the story of the freshman college student I had years ago who had somehow been allowed to sign up for 3-4 intro language classes at the same time. And she was a chem major…

    “All of his teachers are adjuncts. And they tell the students that are over worked and under paid all the time. One got fired in the middle of the semester and was replaced by a very, very old adjunct who complains all the time about his physical pains. He said that he can’t do office hours, because his wife has to drive to him school.”

    Oh wow.

    “So, I still think we did the right thing provided we make some changes. I’m taking over academic advisement for him. I spent two hours going over all the course guides, syllabi, and major requirements for the spring terms. I called Deans. I yelled at some. We’ll pay for a math tutor. After we pick his classes, we going to lean into Rate My Professor and make sure that he gets better teachers next semester.”

    Go, Laura!

    I can also see a magazine article or two or three.

    I don’t know how much they pay, but you might consider pitching something to one of the money magazines, because “How to save money by keeping your college kid on track” sounds like a great article for their readership.

    “Perhaps this is why only 58% of students graduate in four years.”

    Yeah.

    It sounds like it wouldn’t be a good fit for an ADHD kid.

  7. It was too late to get into the non-calc Physics class, so they put him in the Intermediate German class and didn’t warn him that the class was pretty much only for advanced students majoring in German.

    Is that a bad thing? If he went to a SLAC then *every* German class would be that way. When I went to a SLAC and when I taught at a different one the institutional philosophy was “every class will be taught as if every student in the course is a major in that subject.” Not that faculty actually thought that every student *was* majoring in math or German or physics or whatever, but they thought it was important to teach each discipline as seriously as possible. There were a few exceptions (such as the intro to science for non-science people that was universally derided by the math/science students [and faculty]) but for the most part every course worked that way. It was a feature, not a bug.

    As I said in a comment in another thread, Jonah really wants to be in the honors college. That seems to be the best way to actually get a decent education at Rutgers without the SLAC price tag. The honors college seems to be Rutgers’ way of separating the kids who are serious scholars from the ones who just want to hang out at the frats three days a week.

    And the whole “kids here are as smart as Ivy leaguers ” argument is sort of disingenuous. In a school the size of Rutgers there is a much thicker tail, so there are plenty of students who are *smarter* and more ambitious than any Ivy league student. The thing is, 70% of Ivy League students are true Ivy League students (and 30% are legacies), whereas at Rutgers the number is fewer than 10% and it is the other 90%+ that helps drag the whole thing down. I found that in my experience as a student at a SLAC one of the biggest value adds was the quality of my fellow students and teaching at a SLAC what allowed me to add value was not having to teach to the lowest common denominator.

  8. Were you surprised by the adjunct thing? Or did you realize going in that this would be the situation for his first year? Was this a consideration when you were making the decision? Are you assuming that he’ll be in upper-level classes soon enough, so the adjuncts in the lower-level ones aren’t so important? Or that he’ll be heading into the honors college?

    The honors college situation here really bugs me. Despite our financial problems, we’re giving more scholarship money to top students – who I hope are diverse, but I worry it’s just upper middle class white kids who go, “yay, full ride!” – and the size of the honors college has gone from about 3% of the school to almost 10%. For a parent, it’s definitely the way to go, but the effect on the rest of the student population is not necessarily a positive one.

    1. I find the idea of an honors college troubling. I feel a public university should not be creating haves and have nots. I’m also not certain a student can transfer in to the honors college.

      Landing in intermediate German is fine, if you’ve already had German. Unfortunately, students who’ve learned German at university may be far more advanced than students who’ve learned German in high school. (I hope he likes German, and keeps up with it, as there are many opportunities available for kids who learn German.)

      1. I don’t see an honors program as creating haves and have nots so much as serving the whole population. It was crucial for me as an undergraduate because the standard classes were set so that the average high school graduate in the state* could get a pass if they worked at it. Without the honors classes (more or less half of my courses) it I would have basically spent four years drinking and studying ten hours a week. Or, more likely, my parents would have steered me elsewhere.

        * They had to admit anybody who graduated from a high school in the state.

      2. So you were a “have,” when it came to academic challenge.

        In the last decades, the honors colleges have increased, with an eye to competing for superlative students. It also appeals to upper middle class families, who would prefer to have their children closer to home, and can afford to pay for a private college. I have noticed interest in our state’s flagship increased markedly after the introduction of an honors college.

        The flip side of large courses are small seminars with limited enrollment. That can lead to anxiety as students jockey for admission to courses.

      3. I tested well.

        The thing is, you either have to have some separate programs at common institutions or you have to have separate institutions (or just give up on anything that requires specialist skills and training). I think the former is much more fair than the later. Also much more effective all around. A college that only teaches at the level of the average student seeking a credential is basically a normal school. They don’t use the term anymore, and normal schools have diversified beyond just education degrees, but the concept is the same. Such schools are both good and necessary, but if they are the totality of public education in a state, that would be a huge loss to the state, especially if that states doesn’t have one of the very few first-rate R1 private schools.

        It would have been relatively easy for my family to have paid for private college (I had scholarship offers for some of those), but for the most part those wouldn’t have put me as an undergraduate into contact with people who did research.

      4. I don’t know the details yet, but I believe one of the perks of the honors program at Hometown U. is that students get a lot more flexibility in creating their program of study.

        I think this would be especially helpful for our oldest, who really should not narrow down too far too fast.

      5. How is an honors college different from a public system (like most of them, really, but California and Virginia come to mind) with different campuses which have separate admissions processes and where each campus enrolls students of different levels of academic ability?

      6. y81 said:

        “How is an honors college different from a public system (like most of them, really, but California and Virginia come to mind) with different campuses which have separate admissions processes and where each campus enrolls students of different levels of academic ability?”

        That is a very reasonable point.

      7. How is an honors college different from a public system (like most of them, really, but California and Virginia come to mind) with different campuses which have separate admissions processes and where each campus enrolls students of different levels of academic ability?

        Because the students are enrolled in the same university, competing for the same resources. Placement into the program is not always transparent, either.

        I just checked, and students already enrolled at our state flagship may apply to the honors college, if they were not placed in that college at the time of acceptance. That is good to hear. There is also a surcharge for honors college enrollment, which can be covered by financial aid. That is one way to combat the suspicion that the regular college students’ tuition underwrites the extra resources devoted to the honors students.

      8. Because the students are enrolled in the same university, competing for the same resources.

        That assumes that the inter-university distribution of resources within a state stay constant despite changes in the student population and that “resources” are easily transferable from one type of student to another. I don’t think either is a reasonable assumption. Also, if one student at a public university is paying enough that it is plausible they could be subsidizing anything else, the state legislature has drastically underfunded the university system. I think this is close to the case in some states.

    2. I knew there would be lots of adjuncts. And I know that adjuncts can vary in quality from outstanding to horrible, just like any tenured professor. But I had never heard of an adjunct being so bad that she got fired in the middle of the semester. This is a new one for me.

  9. Ugh. I’m afraid this is how it often is. Even at Miami of Ohio which in the 80s at least was one of the most undergrad teaching oriented schools you could find, first year advising was often done by Resident Assistants. I was lucky in that I switched into what was called The Western College Program (small liberal arts college in large universitiy thing) where you were advised by full time faculty. Despite the issues with the honors college Jonah should see if that’s a possibility.

  10. Wendy: I could have benefitted from your writing center. Mine did not really give me any help. Luckily, as an undergraduate I found work as a stringer for a daily newspaper, where I ended up working during summers and breaks. The editors there–some of whom remain in daily print journalism thirty years later–helped me tremendously. I probably should have paid them for the privilege of having my copy edited by them. It’s sad that this type of work does not appear to be available anymore.

    On honors colleges: I too wrestle with this one. On some level, it does not seem fair, it creates what something of a caste system. I did not have “honors” status at my state university, and I saw firsthand some of the advantages that the students who did have that status received: priority registration; a special dorm; built-it networking abilities on campus. At the time, I did not think it was fair. The school defended the program by saying, “but this is how we attract kids who otherwise would have gone to Yale.” To that I would respond, “Fine, let them go to Yale, if that is what they want. This school will survive and thrive.” But as I explore colleges for my current HS senior, we’re looking at honors programs for some of the schools. Selection to such a program may end up being a factor when choosing, maybe even a dispositive factor.

  11. I’ll second the statement that one can’t imagine that all these problems are magically fixed in a private school. It is true that there is a choice — say in our private HS, which doesn’t have tennis courts or an auditorium big enough to hold the student body (like the public HS down the street does), we are choosing that loss over the gain of real availability of teachers (if not courses) and counsellors and the excellent peers. So, I’m not whining; we’ve chosen one over the other.

    But, a private college wouldn’t necessarily have better advising, especially the kind of advising that you can provide for J — which is how to optimize his experience and minimize your cost. An advisor at a college, even if they do have the time to care about your student, isn’t going to have their role as optimizing an individual student’s experience (and they certainly don’t care much about minimizing your cost, especially if it isn’t going to affect the student in the form of having to drop out).

    1. At the small liberal arts college I teach at, I have 4 first-year advisees. I meet with them for an hour every week to talk about how things are going in their classes. What I do is not atypical among my colleagues. As far as minimizing costs, we do everything we can to make sure students graduate in 4 years and most of them do.

  12. Yes, I think there are global issues with honors colleges at state supported universities, but state supported universities are becoming less and less state supporting, to the extent that they have to compete in a different marketplace (the foreign funds article was an eye opener for me; I’m not naive about universities, but I wouldn’t have imagined funds in tax havens and still don’t completely understand why. I’m guessing it has something to do with participating in funds that operate there because they are tax havens for taxed entities).

    I would definitely be exploring honors colleges for my kids in a public system, even while I might argue for their elimination in a political argument. One of the issues, of course, is if they exist, they impact your child’s experience in the programs, in a way that they cannot eliminate by opting out.

  13. I wrote “less and less state supporting”, which is a slip of some sort, but also true. But I meant “less and less state supported.”

  14. Your description reminds me that with all the whinging that schools do over “helicoptering”, they also set up systems that are seriously crazy to navigate (like the tax code). I think this is somewhat worse at a state university, but even at a private university, telling parents to stay out clearly makes a power imbalance between the school and the student even bigger. That might not matter when the student and school’s interests are aligned. Sometimes, I think schools are even correct when they think the students interests are better aligned with the school’s than with the parent; some parents have unreasonable goals. But, when the school’s interests and the students aren’t aligned, clearly the school would prefer the parent stay out of the relationship in which the school has so much more power that they can get whatever they want.

    1. bj said,

      “Your description reminds me that with all the whinging that schools do over “helicoptering”, they also set up systems that are seriously crazy to navigate (like the tax code). I think this is somewhat worse at a state university, but even at a private university, telling parents to stay out clearly makes a power imbalance between the school and the student even bigger.”

      That is a very fair point.

  15. With rare exceptions, the honors programs at the state schools we are looking at are not giving “full ride” scholarships. But it sounds like they might be routinely be giving up to 25% scholarships, which is not insignificant money.

    1. I had a full ride and admission to the honors program, but the two were independent of each other. I don’t think many people in the honors program didn’t have a free ride, but lots of people with free rides weren’t in the honors program. Also, soda cost a nickel back then.

  16. OK, just signed up for the search committee for the new advisors.

    Plus I wondered how my first year (heavyweight wrestler) son ended up in Dance. Sometimes I think it was the first thing in the alphabet of open classes. He didn’t expect to test out of the language requirement and classes were pretty full.

    That said, he took a second class in Dance as a senior, so I guess it was a good thing, even if I didn’t get it.

  17. I hate to say but almost every university advising system regularly fails freshman advising. The rapid growth of online registration has only worsened the trend. People end up in the wrong sections and no one can do a darned thing.

    I’d also say that archaic traditions of program design are made worse by the adjunct turn in over-subscribed and under-conceptualized intro courses. You guys have all my sympathies for his struggles – I remember how hard it was on Eldest in her first year of undergraduate studies, realizing that having done HS calculus didn’t help much with yet another crappy section of university calculus (but the Khan Academy saved the day).

  18. Be careful about Rate My Professors. Errors abound in terms of who is rating which course with which professor, and the site itself tends to serve as a search engine for courses with entertaining instructors who give easy As for little work. The students who use Rate My Professors don’t praise instructors who give a lot of work and feedback in order to improve the student’s critical thinking and writing capacities.

    Also: an honors college model that is not exclusionary and not based on membership-at-entry, where intellectually curious students can opt in at any time if they have a suitable GPA or professor’s recommendation, does not create a have/have not system. The University of Pittsburgh’s Honors College is like this and it is a system favorable to late bloomers and to students coming from less rigorous high schools.

    1. Christiana: I’d really like to thank you for this comment. One of my children is wrestling with being in a university honors program and how it seems really wrong to him to have advantages that are denied other students.
      We’ve been discussing it a bit as he was trying to work out whether or not he should participate in the system. I sent him your comment about how you found the Univ. of Pittsburg to have a much better honors program system and got a thank you from him about how helpful it was to point to a solution!
      Maybe change can happen one college at a time.
      (Also I got a thank you! From my teenager! For an idea! O happy day! )

      1. cy said:

        “(Also I got a thank you! From my teenager! For an idea! O happy day! )”

        I think labeling it as coming from an outside authority is always a good strategy.

      2. “labeling it as coming from an outside authority” – worked for Confucius! “Confucius viewed himself as a “transmitter” of social and political traditions originating in the early Zhou dynasty (c. 1000–800 BC), and claimed not to have originated anything”

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