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Articles / Applying to College / College Negatives: 10 Years Later

April 25, 2018

College Negatives: 10 Years Later

Note: I like to skip around a lot. Straight-line sequentialism can be boring. Random access can keep things lively, so that's my plan for today's Admit This! Post.

Last week, I updated my decade-old thoughts on some things I loved about college. I updated three of the original seven that I penned back in 2008. I also mentioned that I wrote a flipside post ten years ago about seven things that I didn't like about college and I promised to get to them down the road at some point.

Well, common sense would dictate that I finish my “love" list before dipping into my “didn't like" list. But, today I'm eschewing common sense (an all-too-frequent habit of mine) and updating the first three of my college “negatives," hoping that this tease will lure you back to see the rest of this -- and my “loved" -- list later.

Before I begin, here's a refresher for those of you who are parachuting in today without having read my previous love list. But today, let's accentuate the negative, discussing what I didn't like about college," starting with the first three. (My 2008 post's comments are in italics; my updates are in non-italic bold.)

1. Elitist, leftist professors. Anti-war sentiment was strong in the late '60s and early '70s, stronger than it is today, in my opinion. The tinge of anti-Americanism was there, too, but perhaps not as strong as it is now. This affected me directly due to my military service. When I would try to advocate a pro-America, pro-military point of view, some of my professors (and even teaching assistants) would brand me as a redneck, jingoist killer of innocent women and children or some variation thereof. Although I can't prove it, I honestly believe that their attitudes negatively affected my grades in some courses. The situation is far worse today, unfortunately.

Speaking of things I love, I love a good debate. On the other hand, I hate to be bullied. The final sentence of my number one “dislike" above says, “The situation is far worse today, unfortunately." Keep in mind that I wrote that in 2008. Today is 2018 and things are beyond “far worse" -- they are a hundred times worse almost everywhere you look on campus. Leftist professors, in general, will not tolerate dissent from students who maintain an opposing viewpoint. Because of their tenured, virtually untouchable status, they can shout down, humiliate and academically punish (or even banish) those who challenge from a conservative or even centrist position. Space prohibits me from citing particulars but I offer this link listing as evidence.

Leftist professors are pied pipers of prejudicial protest. Here's a list of examples. They have been captured on video physically attacking those who oppose them during demonstrations (a.k.a. campus riots). In the most recent, and current, leftist-professor debacle, a tenured professor of English at Fresno State University in California claims that she is immune from being fired over her remarks claiming that former First Lady Barbara Bush was a racist and raised a war criminal (President George W. Bush), in addition to wishing death upon the entire Bush family. Freedom of speech works to defend statements like this (and I agree that it should), but now Fresno alums are thinking of withholding their giving because of this upheaval and that's a blow right to the college's bottom line. Maybe that's the real sin here, as seen from the college's administrative perspective.

I'm citing less than 0.001 percent of available examples of this moronic behavior and have to wonder what parents, even leftist-oriented parents, think about paying the outrageous costs of higher (so-called) “education" only to have their offsprings' easily influenced minds exposed to this kind of extremist rhetoric. To paraphrase Paper Chase Professor Kingsfield, (some of) these young people come into these professors' courses with their skulls full of mush, and leave thinking like Marxists.

Obviously, that's not true for everyone, but what happens when a right-wing-thinking student challenges a leftist prof? Ask Lake Ingle. Apparently, civilized debate on campus is a rare commodity these days. I'm afraid I wouldn't last a full semester had I a mind to return to college. My outrage meter is constantly pegged these days and that's the unfortunate result of what has happened -- and is happening -- on campus these days.

2. Short-deadline tuition bills. Colleges know how much you need to pay them well in advance of their billings. Students know that they need to have their money ready but often get sidetracked with annoying little distractions such as working to make the money they need to pay for college. Consequently, those tuition, room and board invoices have a way of sneaking into our mailboxes at what always seems to be the worst possible times. The kicker, though, is not so much the amount due (because we're semi-braced for that), but, rather, the due date. In years past, I've seen tuition bills due as soon as two weeks after receiving them. That's no big deal for an electric bill, but when the amount is in the five-figure range, that's a significant pain. Anyway, I say that there should be a consumer protection law that requires colleges to give students and parents at least 30 days to pay their invoices. Cash flow: The name of the game.

I sometimes ponder conspiracies. In light of those short-fuse tuition bills -- now far more punishing than they were a decade ago -- I have to wonder whether there might be a connection between colleges and the student loan industry. Families and students need to have all their financial ducks in a row every year in anticipation of the money monsters' (tuition invoices) arrivals. Thus, for those who do not have enough personal, on-hand cash sufficient to pay these stellar sums, loans are the only option, other than an affluent Gramps or Grammy.

Therefore, the process flow goes: College acceptance => financial aid award (or not) => cash-on-hand assessment => shocking realization => loan acquisition => tuition invoice arrival => invoice paid by deadline. For the group of families somewhere in between “wealthy" full-payers and economically qualified low-to-no-payers, this can be quite unfortunate due to the concession to student loan debt. The worst aspect of this process is the practice colleges implement called “front loading" of financial aid.

Financial aid front loading amounts to providing the best financial aid package a student will receive across all of his/her college years only for freshman year. What many times happens in subsequent years is a decline in grants and scholarships, which causes the balance due to shift toward loans. This can be a cruel blow to many families who have made significant sacrifices to meet the demands of the first-year aid package and are now faced with an even heavier payable requirement.

Thus, in order to meet that ever-present short fuse deadline, additional loans must be secured. This is the slippery slope of student loan debt. The simple reality is that if the tuition bill is not paid on time, the student cannot register for the new term or semester. Full payment in advance for services to be rendered is an interesting concept. Granted, unlike products, services cannot be physically repossessed, thus colleges would be ill-advised to bill at the conclusion of a term or semester. So, parents, be ready to pay on time, and be prepared to be shocked when you see how quickly those non-refundable charges are due.

3. Long-term breaks. Obviously, we all need reasonable breaks from the grind of incessant academics, but the length of some of these breaks creates negative issues for both students and parents. I recall that my daughter had five weeks off between her fall and spring semesters at a small liberal arts college. This worked out well for her and us, since she had secured a profitable part-time job that she worked across the five weeks. However, some other parents I knew were having a hard time with their kids living a dorm-style life at home, coming in at all hours of the early morning and disrupting the routine of a calm home. Semester breaks should be no longer than two weeks, maximum.

Is it just me or does it seem like the college school year is getting shorter? I was looking at a typical public university academic calendar the other day and, at least to me, it seemed to have quite a few stops and starts. I'm trying to recall what the “rhythm" of my college classes felt like. Thinking back, I guess my goal would have been to minimize the amount of time I was actually in class. That's probably a majority sentiment among today's college students. There are many more interesting things to be doing and places to go other than a boring classroom or lecture hall.

Momentum is important as well. When students are “in the groove" of studying, writing and performing on exams, progress seems to be easier to maintain. I recall that during my freshman year, I had a long semester break between mid-December and mid-January. All this time away from “the grind" threw off my focus and motivation and resulted in a lackluster spring semester for me. There may have been other distractions that I'm underestimating, such as tennis team travels, which kept me out of the classroom. Oh, and let's not forget spring fever! However, I do think that the long break did derail my intensity to a reasonable degree.

The contrast between college pacing and a “real world" job is stark. Many traditional full-time jobs offer at least two weeks of vacation. Some offer three, four or even five weeks, depending on length of service. In all my years of working corporate jobs, I never knew of anyone to take three or four consecutive weeks of vacation. In fact, I would generally cringe after returning to work after a mere single week of vacation. My dismay was always spiked by the fact that my desk had become “the gravitational center of the universe," as I use to say. All manner of paperwork emergencies managed to find their way there.

Coming back up to speed at work, even after a single week away was bad enough. I would like to see a study that shows first-semester vs. second-semester academic performance after a long between-semesters break. Of course the variables would include course difficulty, weather and other circumstances, but my money is on an outcome showing that the longer the break, the worse the following semester's academic performance tends to be. Maybe I'll apply for a grant to do that study!


Okay, then. Those are my updated thoughts on three of the seven things I didn't like about college. I'll be back with comments about the remaining four: textbook prices, perfunctory teaching assistants, massive, impersonal lecture classes and the unfortunate, traditional timing of a college education in an upcoming post.

College -- What's not to like? Hmm. Maybe more than we thought.


Be sure to check out all my college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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