Monday, July 25, 2011

An Emotional Plea for Colleges to be Honest with Prospective Students: The College Report Card

I seem to have gotten nowhere with a rational approach, so here is a more emotional appeal for you to demand that colleges replace their deceptive marketing practices with a College Report Card. It wouldn't seem that this would be so important but it would dramatically improve the lives of literally millions of people and help America slow its descent into being a third-world country.

Below the video, I provide a transcript of it.

Transcript of the video
An Emotional Plea for Colleges to be Honest with Prospective Students
by Marty Nemko

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this, “I wasn’t a good student in high school but I wanted to prove that I could get a college diploma --I’d be the first one in my family to do it. But it’s been five years and $80,000 and I still have 45 units to go.”

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: According to the U.S. Department of Education, despite colleges having dumbed-down classes to accommodate to the weak students, among college freshmen who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their high school class, more than three of four won’t earn a diploma, even if given 8 1/2 years! Yet colleges admit and take the money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave college having learned little of value. And I urge you, before you trust me on this, see the frightening results of the definitive national study, Academically Adrift--Google it,) a mountain of debt, and devastated self-esteem from all their unsuccessful struggles at college.

Perhaps worst of all, the aforementioned people too rarely end up with a career that requires a college degree. So it’s not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you’re likely to meet workers who spent years and their family’s life savings, mortgaged their family's future, on college only to end up with a job they could have done as a high school dropout.

Colleges trumpet the statistic that, over their lifetimes, college graduates earn more than non-graduates, but that’s terribly misleading:
  • For one, you could lock the college-bound in a closet for four years and they’d earn more than the pool of non-college-bound--They’re brighter, they're more motivated; they have better family connections.
  • What also makes that million-dollar statistic misleading is that statistic is retrospective. Yes, in past, when a far lower percentage of high school students went to college, college grads had a big advantage in the job market. But today, when colleges admit nearly any student who breathes, that advantage is far smaller. Now we have an oversupply of college graduates at the same time as employers are automating as many jobs as possible, offshoring as many jobs as possible, turning as many jobs as possible to part-time or temp jobs, to beat the enormous cost of hiring U.S. workers.
  • At the same time, the cost of college increases well beyond the cost of inflation and the average-time-to degree increases. The calculus is particularly bad for students with a less-than-stellar record in high school.
There is a desperate need for government to mandate a College Report Card, so prospective students and their families could see--for students with their high school records--their likelihood of graduating, the average amount of learning such students accrue, and the likelihood they'll be professionally employed if they defy the odds and graduate.

Public outcry is the only way we can get colleges to change and for the government to mandate that colleges prominent post on their website an externally audited report card on themselves. So please forward this video to your contacts, especially to college-bound students and to their families, and to any legislators you know.

For much more on the need for a college report card, see my blog:

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