Football and finances

Two articles of note from — one good, the other bad.

The good: This article about small schools using football to "correct" gender imbalances and how doing so sets male students up for failure. I’ve blogged before about the inadvisability of starting a football program up at a small school as a ploy to get more males to enroll, especially when you can’t afford it and it doesn’t enhance the academic climate.

The bad: This article, provocatively titled "The Children Left Behind",  about a study that aims to investigate the socioeconomic factors that affect whether college students graduate. It’s bad because there are enough logical fallacies in here to make an introductory textbook. Here’s a snippet:

[T]he Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, a nonpartisan panel that advises Congress, estimates that in the 1990s, between 800,000 and 1.6 million low and moderate income high school students who were both academically qualified for and intent on attending a four-year college did not go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. In this decade, the panel concludes, another 1.4 million to 2.4 million similarly situated students face the same fate. The panel’s report describes the formula used to produce its “loss” estimates and projections (which is described below) as “extremely conservative.”

“These bachelor’s degree losses are an unmistakable signal that our nation has yet to make the full investment in student aid necessary to secure our economic future — a dire warning that we are requiring millions of students to mortgage their future and ours as well,” the panel writes in its report, which the advisory committee presented to Congress this week, drawing contrasting reactions from leaders of the two parties (more on that later).

The "contrasting reactions" were that the Democrats really, really want to spend more government money on financial aid, and the Republicans just really want to spend more government money on financial aid. Get it? It’s not how hard a student works in high school or once they are in college — it’s about the man keeping them down.

As you can tell, I continue to be unconvinced about the whole "access" issue; my college funds well over half of the expenses of the majority of our students, and a significant minority get well over 80% of their college paid for, and that’s just from garden-variety financial aid, without taking other scholarship opportunities into account. If a kid can’t afford to get into Harvard, then that’s not a problem with "access". There are plenty of high-quality schools that will lay out whatever amount of money it takes to get talented students enrolled — and retained.

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Filed under Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Student culture

3 responses to “Football and finances

  1. I respectfully disagree with you and think that there is a problem with access to higher education. You’re talking about “talented” students being able to find scholarships or whatever for quality schools. But why do these poorer kids have to be super smart (i.e. be able to win a scholarship) in order to attend college? What about all the rich kids who are average students at best, but skate through school because their parents can afford to pay the tuition? They end up with degrees and opportunities that average poor students don’t have access to.

  2. Respectful disagreements are always welcome.

    First of all, by “talented” I mean someone capable of graduating high school with decent grades and who has the willingness to work hard to educate him/herself in college. As opposed to “untalented” which means the intellectual skill, academic background, or willpower necessary for college is deficient in critical ways. Taken this way, my last sentence would say that any kid who does reasonably well in school and shows a real desire to learn in college will not have a problem finding some college, somewhere that will pay a significant portion, perhaps 100%, of her or his way through. And I believe this is indeed the case. You might not be able to afford Harvard, but you can afford *something* and I’ve found as a prof that a student can get a Harvard-quality education anywhere, provided the student is committed to working hard enough to get it.

    Those who play the “Access” card typically want to say that a student doesn’t have “access” to college education if they cannot get into the college they really want at a price they can really afford. But that’s just a fact of the market. It’s the same with any commodity. I’d like to own one of those new Power Mac computers. But the fact that I can’t afford it doesn’t mean that I don’t have “Access” to a computer that works perfectly well. If I were somehow completely unable, despite all my efforts, to obtain a computer that works for me, then I would have an access problem. But not if I just can’t afford a nice machine — and not if my neighbor, who only uses it for playing games, *can* afford it.

    Because although it might seem unfair for richer kids to have no problem getting into college, only to screw around and flunk out, this phenomenon has little or no bearing on whether any given kid can or cannot get into a college. Inequity is not the same thing as having no access.

  3. Ah, I see what you mean. Thanks for the clarification.

    You’re right about me using “access” and “inequity” interchangeably; there is a difference there…