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This is the second in a two-part series about the issues facing undergraduate education.
Sarah Zameta (Oct. 16) approaches the issue of college not being for everyone but from an angle that posts a challenge to high schools.
What I have noticed is that unless the school is specifically designed for vocational training, faculty and administration operate on the assumption that all students will go to college after graduation. They do not introduce their students to other alternatives.
Sarah quotes an interviewee as saying, “We also need people to do jobs that don’t require degrees. A job that requires a degree wouldn’t be worth it if everybody did it.”
Not only should someone relay this message to President Obama, but heeding this message would make life easier not only for the students who do not want to go to college or cannot succeed in college. It would also benefit those of us who are already college graduates by increasing our employability in the eyes of hiring managers, because employers can be more confident that we truly earned our degrees and are serious about being good employees.
So, I challenge secondary school administrators to add more vocational training for their students. Contrary to what many of them believe, it is more unfair to push students toward college who are unwilling or unable than it is to funnel students towards postsecondary opportunities that will make them more successful and happier.
Professor Denise Ho (Oct. 22) touched on another issue, also raised by Sarah that should cause us to rethink who we admit into colleges: Only 60 percent of UK undergrads get degrees in six years.
I took six years to get my undergraduate degree after transferring and changing majors twice. However, some suggestions that I offered in a previous column would have helped me if I had known then what I know now, and could raise the number of people who graduate from here in a shorter time frame.
It is important for the other reasons Dr. Ho cites in her article to ensure only admitting students who can graduate in 4-6 years. Not only will it make the school look better, but the number of students having to repay student loans without benefit of a degree or a job will be much lower.
A challenge I offer to UK and other universities is to rethink the role of the College of Arts and Sciences, and general education courses.
Dr. Ho refers to a student feeling distracted from her major because of all the gen-ed classes she had to take. Most university majors and most gen-ed courses are out of the A&S college, regardless of which university we are discussing. So, by repurposing A&S, not only can universities save money on the costs related to employing faculty and staff, but students can also be freed from taking classes, that while making them well-rounded, detracts from their academic and career goals and costs them extra money.
Speaking as an A&S grad myself, I know that we are not forewarned that employers will not take us seriously even with Bachelor’s degrees. Streamlining A&S could solve the problem of people not belonging in college being on campus.
It is likely that many students either choose an A&S major because they do not know what else to major in, or like me, they did not meet with the success expected in a more challenging and employable major, and fell back on an A&S field.
Streamlining A&S would also benefit those who really want to be A&S majors, provided that they demonstrate to employers that they were challenged and that they developed skills that are beneficial in the workplace.
To tie this all together and to put into perspective the issue of too many people being in college, consider what someone mentioned in an interview for the homecoming article in the Oct. 11 Kernel. An alum who attended UK many decades ago mentioned that at the time they were attending, there were 5,000 students, compared to 25,000 today.
How many of the 25,000 or so UK students are the ones that frustrate me and fellow Kernel columnists, and what would be a more appropriate number of enrolled students to maximize the success of future UK alumni?
Robert Ridley is a first-year Master of Public Policy student. Email email@example.com