What would the freshman class look like if they had to spend a year or two working before they could run away from home: if they were required to pay for some of their own tuition, instead of working for that year or two after they flunk out freshman year? What if college entrance requirements were teacher and employer recommendations instead of SAT scores?
That, of course, will never happen. Higher education is all about thinking outside the box. Except when it comes to higher education. Just because it hasn’t worked for years, and it gets more unaffordable each year, why change it?
What college would students choose if they had to pay for it? The University of Getting Out of My Parents’ House or the community college down the road?
Sure, everybody wants to go to a “good” school, to go to their first choice, but is the math they teach down the street any different than the math they teach far away? Is Geology 101 different at Harvard than it is at UCLA? Is biology different in Nebraska than it is in Florida? If it is, something’s very, very wrong.
Why is there an English department at any school? If you got an 800 on your SAT, it’s a good bet that you already speak English. For all that money, shouldn’t you be learning something you don’t know? Say, French, Farsi or Finnish? What are you going to do with that English degree? Teach English to people who already know it? That must be tough. How did Shakespeare and Dickens ever get by without one? How did they make it in life without ever studying Shakespeare or Dickens? Or maybe they did because they never went to college.
Still dying to get a degree in Pop Culture from some Ivy League school? Go to community college for two years and then transfer over. You’ll still get your high-status scroll and you’ll also have saved enough money to have a big, splashy wedding to someone your parents despise. That’ll show them.
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life,” “Baby’s First Tattoo” and “Now in Paperback.” He can be reached at email@example.com.