One of the saddest days of my life occurred when I learned that my dream of going to college was completely finished. I was using financial aid to pay for my college tuition and it had run out. While I don’t blame anyone in particular for my situation (it was over 6 years), I do believe that what happened to me should not be allowed to happen to any other student.
Looking back over that long trek, there were many things that lengthened my stay in college and ultimately decreased my chances of graduating. There were some specific and solvable things that affected my college journey and that probably affected other students as well. In attempting to offer my help with the situation, I came up with five recommendations that might help the next student (or prospective student) in that quest for a college degree.
1. Put a cap on state-funded education NOW. When I first started college, the amount for tuition was $100 per credit hour. When I left college, the amount was five times that, with a couple of fees added on top. Considering that this doesn’t include books, it is not tough to see why my financial aid was increased. Each year that my student aid increased, each year my tuition went up until it was exhausted. See that pattern? If student aid is not capped and tuition follows suit, higher education can end up in a very bad place.
2. Remove excess testing NOW. One of the things that delayed my education was unnecessary testing. Not the testing to get into school, but testing once I was accepted. As a Georgia resident, I was required to take a Georgia Residency exam along with other exams after I had already taken some classes in the college. Why do we need such tests when it adds unnecessarily to a college’s budget? Shouldn’t an ACT/SAT score, high school graduation (and in my case Associates degree) been enough to prove that I was ready for college?
3. Fix the system for transfer students NOW. Another thing that delayed my education was the transfer situation. I had to transfer two times in my education because of finances and each time set me back. Going through the process of registration, I had to retake classes simply because I was in a different location. The higher education system needs to develop a faster and more efficient way of getting transfer students into their curriculum without adding unnecessary classes and requirements.
4. Increase student scholarship opportunities NOW. There needs to be more help with finding and locating scholarships instead of just providing a list and the same old resources. As a student, I had a hard time finding scholarship opportunities. Each time I looked, I was usually only given the same resources. This needs to change. We need to have more investment from all sources: local businesses, government, social media, and more to get the word out about the various scholarships in a much more efficient and systematic manner.
5. Stop the constant pursuit of more stuff NOW. This recommendation builds off my first recommendation and is directed toward colleges. Colleges need to return their priority back to their students and their graduation, rather than the newest building or newest academic program. It is true that colleges need to invest heavily in their own infrastructure in order to attract students, donors, and other people with money. That being said, I have seen the constant building of academic buildings, student services programs, and technology gone overboard too many times. Colleges need to wisely invest their resources and this investment needs to have to oversight from all sectors: students, staff, the community, the state and national government.
In a nutshell, my recommendations boil down to three principles:
- · Colleges need to restrain their spending of things that have limited value.
- · Colleges need to be effective in increasing resources for things that have limitless value.
- · Colleges need to act now before it is too late.
The point is that I believe in the rush to success, American colleges fell into the same cycle that many other aspects of the American economy did (housing and banking markets for example). We now need to fix the problem before colleges experience the same fate.