Kleinheider reports that Colby Sledge reports that the Governor says:
Bredesen says we’re “upside-down” when it comes to community colleges; there are too few people in two-year programs and too many in four-year programs.
This is irritating enough, but Sledge further reports:
On cost savings in higher education: “I think you can reduce some administration costs within the system … The real cost savings in the system are in not starting PhD programs in some of the schools around here.”
And what do you even say to that? A PhD program that results in grad students who get paid next to nothing to teach is hardly a huge cost factor, when you consider the massive amounts of labor they provide. Of course, if there are fewer students going to 4-year colleges, because the governor thinks they should all be in 2 year colleges, then you don’t need grad students to teach them, so I guess the circle of stupidity comes… god, backed myself into a corner here… full circle. Yes the circle comes full circle. That’s the best I could come up with. Sorry.
I have two trains of thought thought. One is practical. Are there a bunch of employers in Tennessee or in the nation who want employees with an associate’s degree? The governor seems to think that there should be more people in two-year colleges than there are in four-year colleges. But this would only be true if most employers prefered to have employees with two-year degrees and a much smaller amount wanted folks with four-year degrees. I could be wrong, but this seems to not be the case. Even if having a two-year degree is the minimum requirement for a job, if you are a 22 year old person applying for it and you have a two-year degree and two years of work experience and the other person applying for the job has a four-year degree, I’d think you’d be pretty reasonable in being afraid they’d rather have the kid with the Bachelor’s degree, even with less experience.
Also in my experience, there are three types of students who attend two-year schools. People who are trying to get the first two years out of the way in an inexpensive manner but who then transfer to four-year schools to finish up. (So, assuming that the Governor doesn’t disapprove of this track, wouldn’t you still end up with more people in four-year schools, because they’d contain the people who started at that school and the people who transfered in?) People who are trying to acquire skills they need in their careers (and these folks may have jobs that need these skills right now or they are trying to get those jobs in the future). And kids who aren’t going to college, for one reason or another, but who just haven’t come to accept that truth yet.
So, for the vast majority of people who attend two-year schools successfully, it is a tool for acquiring skills they need to achieve a goal they have. It’s not, despite the stereotype, a holding tank for losers.
To me, it makes sense that there would be fewer people attending two-year schools than there are attending four-year schools, if the two-year schools are working how they should. You get people in and out and on with their lives. You don’t have the dalliers trying to figure out what they need.
But my other train of thought is philosophical. Bredesen went to Harvard. He’s now filthy rich. And he achieved both of those things because, at heart, he thought that he could do it. That even a kid who lived with his mom and grandma after his parents’ divorce could go to Harvard if he was inclined and could get in and could figure out how to pay for it.
So, considering his background–that he has what he has because he had the idea that it was possible–I think it’s frankly really shitty to say that we have too many people attending four-year colleges.
In fact, it seems down-right un-American. Why shouldn’t as many people as can go to four-year colleges? And why shouldn’t as many people as can go to two-year colleges?
Why should our governor be sitting around acting like folks are just going to have to accept that we’re not all going to be able to get the education we need?
That’s something a person might come to realize. You might want to go to Belmont, but the kids and the boss aren’t going to make that possible. But that’s a choice you should get to make.
It’s not something the governor should be setting as some kind of public policy.
Education is key to being able to pull yourself out of poverty, out of crappy jobs, and bad situations. It opens doors for you that are otherwise very difficult to get open. An educated work-force is attractive to employers.
Why are we talking like it’s not that important for the future of Tennesssee?