At graduation time, the dean at Pioneer Valley Community made the case for a supportive academic culture, no matter the name on the institution.
Donors who had funded various scholarships attended and saw the students they had funded. We all got to hear the success stories of the students -- some single Moms, some recent immigrants, some people in suits and some in painter’s pants and sad-looking sneakers.  Many of the students had already made plans to transfer to some pretty impressive four-year schools, and they were grateful for the chance.

It’s a gratifying event, and I was happy to be there. But at some level, no matter how generous the donors, it was only possible because of the strength of the underlying institution.  Hollow out the community college, and the transfer route will close. Take away enough operating funding, and all the scholarships in the world won’t matter.


Some of the three dollar people will surprise you.  I never get tired of the success stories. They’re tributes to hard work, of course, and to the sacrifices of families, friends, and children. But they’re also affirmations, however unintentional, of the nobler, more inclusive side of American culture. A side that remembers that you can’t always tell who has the next great idea just by looking.


I’ve got nothing against research universities; I got my doctorate at one. But it would be nice if we could shift the public discussion a bit from the “climbing walls” and luxury dorms of residential universities.  More American undergrads attend community colleges than research universities. The funding issues here aren’t about out-of-control costs. At some level, it’s hard not to think they’re about writing off the three dollar people
"Three-dollar people" is a reference to the clientele that paid $3 to watch Detroit Pistons away games on a big screen at the Auburn Hills Palace.  Let's say that some of those fans were somewhat more badly behaved than Piston fans who could come up with the $25 and up for a live game.

The challenge facing the community colleges, and the land-grants and mid-majors, and the borderline famous private college, remains one in which the wall-climbing, U.S. News-climbing institutions continue to restrict output so as to be able to raise prices.  Apparently that concept is too much for David Wilezol at Minding the Campus.
Truly elite schools (with massive endowments and operating budgets) can offer more money than second-tier private schools that are grasping for elite status. They will always have a high demand of people willing to pay their tuition rates. Conversely, second-tier private schools have to compete harder for an ever-shrinking pool of the most moneyed clients. They will never capture the revenues that the Ivies do, and will eventually become forced to offer less money to their needier students. Alas, this is another unfortunate consequence of private schools trying to emulate the economic model of their elite counterparts.
How can a high demand for top-tier acceptances coexist with a shrinking pool of moneyed clients?  There's apparently nothing unsustainable about merit scholarships.  I know Northern Illinois does some fundraising for that purpose, and it's encouraging to see Pioneer Valley encouraging the same thing, rather than letting the lowest-common-denominator egalitarians trash the academic programs in the name of access.  Or of retention.
There is a much more important argument against quantifying the cost-of-non-completion too narrowly: some rate of non-completion is necessary for a school to maintain rigorous coursework and high grading standards. Only a few ultra-prestigious colleges and universities with exceedingly high admissions standards in the whole country can have near-perfect graduation rates without dropping standards.
Maybe, although it's helpful for even such exalted places to have a few hardnosed faculty weeding out the coasters, and the paragraph implies the existence of opportunities for aspiring universities also to lift their game. There's plenty of opportunity to do so.
America has actual problems that impede people from relatively poor backgrounds from advancing to the extent of their abilities, but this is just making a mountain out of a molehill. The essence of the mistake the egalitarians are making is that they have confused the silly beauty-pageant rankings that purport to tell us which schools are the best with their educational effectiveness. The thinking goes, "The best colleges provide the best education and it's a shame that they are keeping it just for the rich kids." But that just ain't so.

The truth of the matter is that undergraduates at many of the prestigious colleges and universities suffer from educational neglect. Their professors may be academic stars, but they seldom get much attention from them.
Thus does the real work get done, at the mid-majors and the community colleges. Provided the faculty isn't buying the "Our-students-aren't-as-good-as-Madison's-so-we-won't-push-them" notion of inclusiveness.
We call some schools "elite" but that's not because students learn more than they would at one of our many non-elite institutions. Often, students (no matter their family background) make more academic progress at schools that offer more faculty involvement to compensate for their lack of fame.

And it emphatically is not the case that poor kids "don't have a chance" unless they get to attend one of the big-name colleges.
Indeed. I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer, or the balance of my career.

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