Twice in a row, well intentioned federal policies aimed at helping low income people make it into the middle class have spectacularly backfired and imposed ruinous losses on exactly the people in our society who can least afford them. The answer isn’t to stop thinking about how to help low income people do better in life, but it’s clear that some of our basic policy assumptions need to be rethought.As part of a meditation on misguided mandates on community college, the dean at Anonymous, er, Pioneer Valley Community notes, "Growth requires investment." Investment requires return on investment.
Colleges could also tweak their admissions procedures and/or programmatic offerings to avoid the highest-risk students. This would be easy enough to do, and it would pay off in higher course completion rates and graduation rates. It wouldn’t have to do anything conspicuous, either; right now, there’s a heroic amount of behind-the-scenes work that goes into helping students who need it the most. Sacrifice some of that to budget cuts, let those students vanish, and the rates improve. Of course, that would also fly in the face of community colleges’ reason to exist.Too often, though, that heroic work is doing the jobs the high schools, and in some instances, the common schools (via) failed to do.
In my high school, teachers were a little too lenient on their assignments and didn’t take the students seriously. I don’t necessarily blame the teachers, especially since I saw the unmotivated students they were dealing with. But to expect the same type of behavior from the rest of the students isn’t fair.The greater crime is to lend unmotivated students money to continue to be unmotivated, and earn meaningless degrees in college. Continuance of that policy only continues the positional arms race, in which parents bid up the prices of houses in good school districts, and universities compete in amenities so as to be able to soak a few such students at full fare so as to retain their high status in the national rankings.