Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Frustrations with student engagment/effort and finanical aid fraud

I'm about to make a "well, duh" kind of statement. It seems to me that far too many students at the college level are severely lacking in the fundamental maturity required to accomplish even the most basic level of college study. It's not that they are disruptive or overtly disrespectful, just completely disengaged from the whole process. As a result, they flounder about and make poor grades while wasting large amounts of tuition dollars, a heavy cost when considering the hard economic times that face parents/taxpayers. To the casual observer outside of higher education this problem is usually simplified into an accusation made towards the instituions. Anecdotally, I have heard several of these comments from parents/other citizens that sound something like this...

"I pay all of this money and my child still doesn't know anything...Why can't those professors teach the students anything?"

You get the idea...Now, I will admit to some of the shortcomings of those who teach at the college level. Some faculty have wildly inflated egos and/or lousy instructional skills. However, as I can tell you from my own experience as an educator, innovation in the classroom is impossible if students refuse to participate in the process!

In addition to this frustrating task of trying to shake students from their high-school-induced stupor institutions (and taxpayers!) must also deal with another very ugly reality. Some students are not in college to acquire any sort of degree, rather, they barely attend classes until Pell grant checks arrive. Once the money is in-hand these students disappear until it's time to enroll in the next semester for more "free" money. At my own institution the running joke among some students is to ask when someone is going to have a "Pell grant party". I'll stop at this point to say I have no idea how pervasive the problem of financial aid fraud is throughout the country, but as a taxpayer and educator this problem bothers me to the core. Maybe I'll revisit this issue later with some hard data that either confirms or denies this impression.