College isn’t what it used to be. Today it’s full of those so-called “nontraditional” students in need of “remediation” and lots of “financial aid.” We have to adapt in order to accommodate their “needs” and “deficiencies.”I concur in part and dissent in part. It is a libel to think of first-generation or non-traditional as synonymous with less capable of handling college work. That's her Tenth Suggestion. I'd rank that as the First Suggestion. Requiring administrators to teach a class? I'd amend that to say, an upper-division class in a traditional field. Carla Montgomery of Northern Illinois did so, in geology. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain at Bowdoin did so, years ago, in anything but mathematics, with rebel bullet fragments in his gut. None of this Retention 101 stuff. Professors advising students? Helps both the professor and the student negotiate the bureaucracy.
This common discourse is all kinds of wrong. Today’s students are regular people. The privileged people are “nontraditional!” Those fortunate few who get to attend amazing high schools with great college preparation and who can afford college easily — they are in the minority. But colleges have long focused on catering to that elite group’s whims and desires, never referring to their “challenges” with, for example, conspicuous consumption.
And yet, without a commitment to provide such students with the intellectual challenges that are de rigueur at the hundred institutions claiming to be in the top twenty, the same dynamic of avoiding the subprime party schools and the institutions that are reprising high school will be at work.