Corrupted College

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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39 Responses

  1. fillyjonk says:

    I swear, some days it feels like I’m in some kind of a contest as to whether I can make it to a respectable retirement age (I am 48, could minimally retire under my state’s pension system at 60, had plans to stick it out until 65 or 70) before the whole higher-ed thing implodes.

    I love teaching but I hate what’s happening to higher ed. And yes, I have seen a decline in the “average” student in the past 15 years – the best students we get are still excellent and are as good as they were when I first started teaching, but we seem to get more students who just lack preparation. That’s not SO bad….if someone knows they need to step up and is willing to do the work, I can help them. But the problem is the people who don’t know much but have an attitude about it, like, it’s my fault they’re failing because whatever I’m covering is “too hard.” (No. If I have people in my class earning As, it is NOT “too hard.”)

    I await with trepidation the outcome of the “free college*” experiment in New York State; I suspect it will be rife with unintended consequences.

    (*Some terms and limitations apply)Report

    • North in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I’m presuming it’ll turn the college that is free into an extension of high school: that thing everyone does and no one values.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to North says:

        Yeah, pretty much. I would be more inclined to go the Berea College route for price-reduced/”free” college: expect the students to do work on-campus to help pay for it, because then maybe they value it more.

        I have students who work to pay their way through college (going to college part-time). Anecdotally, their attendance seems to be better than the students using loans or parental money to attend.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    How long do you figure before employers will want a copy of your transcript along with a resume?Report

    • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      It’s pretty common for employers to ask for that sort of thing in some industries.

      I even had one ask me for my SAT scores, which for some reason really pissed me off, and for that matter still kinda annoys me years later. That despite the fact that in retrospect, I’m really glad I didn’t get the job.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:

        I’ve had employers ask about my High School transcripts after I was in Grad School. I had one that was obviously weighing my fitness for an Aerospace Engineer position upon whether or not I played High School or College sports.

        Both pissed me off, and the reason was pretty clear – they cared more about who I was as a teenager, not who I am as an adult.Report

        • pillsy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          For me, I think it just felt unnecessarily intrusive. I’d gone to college, I’d gone to grad school, they had my transcripts for both–what possible information could the SAT possibly add?Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to pillsy says:

            What annoyed me was when some Office Functionary needed them for some kind of box-checking work (I think it was accreditation renewal), instead of checking to see if HR still had them from fairly-recent hires (like me, at that time), he just told us all to get new copies sent to his office.

            At that time, two of the universities I had been at charged money. I had to pay something like $20 out of my own pocket for transcripts. Yes, $20 isn’t a LOT, but it’s the principle of it.

            My grad school was late getting theirs in, too, and the guy called me to harass me about it. I offered to bring in my diploma from my Ph.D. to show him and his response was, I’m not kidding, “Those things can be faked.”

            (The guy was well known as an a-hole or I would have been more upset)

            In retrospect, I probably should have brought my 350-page bound copy of my dissertation to his office and dropped it on his foot.

            (I like nearly everyone, but there was no love lost between this guy and me. That wasn’t the only time he was openly rude to me)Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to pillsy says:


            I have an honorable discharge, a degree, and almost a second degree. What could you possibly learn from HS that would be of value?Report

          • Dark Matter in reply to pillsy says:

            For me, I think it just felt unnecessarily intrusive. I’d gone to college, I’d gone to grad school, they had my transcripts for both–what possible information could the SAT possibly add?

            There are worthless degrees, worthless programs, and people who were only admitted and graduated from what should be good programs because of what should be called “quotas”.

            A business can’t only ask for SAT scores from people that it thinks fit that description because they’re in a protected class. So it asks for SAT scores from everyone, because the SAT hasn’t been corrupted yet.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

              If a recruiter/interviewer has to rely upon an SAT score to determine potential value, they have no business being in that role.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                If a recruiter/interviewer has to rely upon an SAT score to determine potential value, they have no business being in that role.

                Interviews are expensive.

                An SAT score would be a way to avoid that if colleges are devaluing their signal. It should be a light filter, not a “determinate”.Report

              • When the economy is down, or a job is desirable, whittling down the number of applicants from 150 to 15 takes on a premium. Using SAT scores probably has slightly more predictive value than just throwing away the 135. And – until or unless quality applicants actually use this as a basis not to apply at a greater rate than non-quality applicants – it costs them nothing!Report

              • pillsy in reply to Will Truman says:

                This is the sort of thing that I would now be inclined to hold against an prospective employer.

                Then again, I’m no longer a beggar, so I can be a chooser.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Will Truman says:

                Yes, exactly that, and at the moment, it’s not being gamed.

                Goodhart’s law: “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Except SAT/ACT is a really bad measure past a certain point. Tests like that have an expiration date on the results for a reason. If I’m getting weeded out for a professional job based upon the results of a test I took more than 5 years ago, I’m going to be offended, and rightly so. Not because the test results aren’t valid, but because there are much more salient metrics available.

                But towards@will-truman point, if they’re relying on such a dated metric for culling, that tells me a lot about what kind of place it is, and that I probably won’t enjoy working there.

                Such metrics work both ways.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                My expectation is you didn’t go to college lacking a middle school understanding of math/english.

                And yes, these tests expire, your 2nd or 3rd employer certainly won’t care… but a fresh out of school pup with nothing but a CSU degree? I can see why the SAT might be thought of as useful.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Ah, well, that is why I’d want a transcript. That would tell me how many remedial classes you took for college credit.

                Now, that alone might not put you in the circular file; but if, say, you fulfilled a subject matter credit load requirement with mostly remedial classes, and took little to no college level classes in that subject, that might result in an attempt at an office 3 point shot.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yes, if you got a degree in physics and the highest math you took is College algebra, well… you’d better have enough documentation that you can actually solve those E&M problems.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                That would tell me how many remedial classes you took for college credit.

                True, but that’s also burning more and more of my time, and it’s also assuming “remedial classes” will be usefully labeled from a place like that.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          The other thing is that asking about stuff is a good way to judge office dynamics and whether you will get along with someone or not.

          I have my BA, MFA, and JD on my resume. I am sure my MFA has helped and hurt me because it makes me seem “interesting.” There are probably employers who saw it and ran away because they thought I would flake out and then there are employers who find it fascinating. So I do get some short term pain but long term benefit from having it on my resume.

          Work is also a social place whether we want it to be or not and part of HR’s role or management’s role is to find who is going to be a good social fit for an organization or not.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            There is asking about stuff to flesh out culture fit, and there is watching the interviewer just shut down when you answer, “no, I never played team sports in High School or College”.Report

        • Aaron David in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          One of the things that gets missed in conversations like this is how much the internet has changed the job hunt process. People can literally apply for hundreds of jobs before coffee, jobs that they might or might not be qualified more that tangentially. And add to that the recession of not too long ago and it wasn’t unheard of for HR people to get 4-5 hundred apps/CV’s/resumes for a job that would have gotten maybe 20 applicants before.

          And in some situations, especially public service, every single one of them must be evaluated. So additional qualifiers are added. And every time they ask for something, there are applicants who will forget to include that. And so you can disqualify them automatically. And then if you increase the requirements (but include some verbage about possible other qualifications to keep you legal) you can weed out more. And this is awesome when you have an internal candidate but must post the job publicly.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to pillsy says:

        The first time I interviewed with my current employer, they asked what my college GPA was. I had been working in software for almost 30 years.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Every search committee I’ve been on has required them.

      Of course, we’re a special case: if we’re hiring an anatomist, we kind of, you know, expect considerable subject-matter-experience in anatomy.

      (You’d be surprised at how many applicants we reject out of hand because they apply for the job with zero experience in the field, like someone who’s only ever done fungal cell biology applying to teach and do research in field entomology….)Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I see employers ask for transcripts all the time. I see them ask for transcripts even if the position requires 10 years of experience.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      for CS at my alma mater, that’s standard procedure. You can tell a lot based on whether someone took Operating Systems or not. (that’s the “you and team will build your own OS. have fun!” death-course)Report

  3. Christopher Carr says:

    You know, I don’t really have a problem with this sort of thing. Education should benefit students first. I’m skeptical that grades and rankings and standards and certifications should matter for every student and for every profession. Sure, if we think of college as a screening test for life, then it makes sense to judge students the way we do, but college seldom de facto serves this purpose. If a student wants to pay tuition to attend college, engages with the material, and ultimately becomes better off as a result, then why do we need to impose our bean-counting and judgmental ways upon such students; why do we need to exclude them simply because we are in a position of power over them and can? I think this is the ultimate corruption of our education system and something we’ll look back at 200 years from now and wonder why we were so stupid and evil.Report

    • pillsy in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      The problem here is that college shouldn’t be a screening test for life, but employers insist on treating it like one. This is often a more-or-less reasonable approach for an individual employer to take, but when they all do it, the whole system of higher education ends up being deformed by it in a way that doesn’t really benefit much of anyone.Report

  4. Kimmi says:

    Yawn. Anyone ever had to teach Business Calculus here????
    Figured NOT.
    There’s plenty of classes that count toward college that oughtn’t.
    At least they’re being honest about it.

    (And, ya know, if you’re going to be an english major, I’m okay if you’re only passing College Algebra).Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    There are a few issues I see here.

    1. There is a huge history of structural racism and de facto segregation and the horrible way that we fund K-12 education in the US that leaves black and Hispanic students at a disadvantage.

    2. This leads to endless debate about whether blacks and hispanics are less intelligent than whites and Asians because they are decades behind in equality and the resources are still not spent equally.

    3. You also have the pernicious “model-minority” speeches which ignore the whole history of Jim Crow and Slavery as a form of lecture. Sullivan in New York mag is the most recent variant of this.

    4. All of this makes a horrible stew with no good policy solutions and a lot of bad blood.Report

  6. Dark Matter says: