Student responsibility

 

I’m sure that most of us have heard quite a bit about student debt recently. A lot of you reading this are probably students and, in case you aren’t keeping up with the news, student debt is a problem. I’d rather not throw out a few huge figures to try and make this point more obvious because I’m not even sure that anyone can even truly fathom the concept of the trillion dollars in national student debt.

Whenever we hear about the massive amounts of debt the average student has coming out of college, society thinks a collective “Oh, those poor students.” Next, we hear the president and Congress fighting to keep student loan interest rates from rising and a collective “Thank goodness they are protecting those poor students” is thought throughout the country. Maybe it is my contrarian nature, or maybe I’m the only sane one, but my reactions to these two statements are much different. My reaction is that maybe it should be harder to go to college.

Before you turn the page and label me a heartless prick, hear me out because I have most certainly had to hear you out. Maybe the reason students are piling on the debt is precisely the fact that the money is too easy to get.

Artificially low interest rates make more people take out loans, and thus, more people go to college. Universities are not run by dumb people; they understand how easy the loans are to take out, so in turn, they are able to raise their tuition cost without any adverse impact on enrollment. This would provide an adequate explanation for the massive increase in college tuition in recent years.

However, rising tuition costs aren’t my main point of contention. My belief is that there are too many students attending college right now who shouldn’t be. This isn’t a matter of intellectual capacity though; it’s a matter of personal responsibility and a sense of entitlement.

Don’t believe me? Let’s look at an example that just happened last week.

It’s midterm season so I naturally had a midterm in one of my 3000-level courses that I knew would be difficult.

As I walked into the hall to take the test, I was met with 50 people I had never seen before. In a course that has 100 students enrolled in it, the 100 percent increase was very noticeable. It shocked me that half of the class, all of who are paying for the opportunity to be here in some way or another, just hadn’t shown up all semester. When the class distribution of grades was posted online, the results didn’t really shock me. More than 75 percent of the students didn’t score more than a 50 percent.

I will admit that the class is not easy, but we were given the ability to use a full-page cheat sheet using both sides of the paper. With this crutch, I would hardly expect to see inexcusable scores hovering at about 50 percent or worse.

Could it be that I’m the odd one out in one of two senses? Could I be in the one class that has issues like this? Doubtful. Could I be the only one who cares about their education? Again, certainly not. What this does say to me is that there is a pervasive poison that seems to be running through the world of higher education: entitlement. In most cases, I think feelings of entitlement are a disease, but I will focus my critique on entitlement in higher education. Students coming out of high school, especially suburban, middle-class students, feel it is their right to go to college. It’s their right to go party it up for four (or five) years away from home. The only bad part is that courses get in the way, but my generation seems to have avoided that obstacle. We just don’t care about the education anymore. We hear about how important the “college experience” is. I don’t think we pay tens of thousands of dollars for an experience; we pay for an education.

We choose not to focus on school. We choose to declare majors we know don’t have career prospects, and then we blame the system. Maybe we’ve begun to take it for granted. This seems to be the normal progression when something becomes a right. We rarely are thankful for the ability to speak freely, or to worship as we wish. Maybe we should, and maybe we should start appreciating the knowledge we could gain here.