Tuesday, August 24, 2010

offering degrees in things that matter?

You can see I've shifted gears slightly today by beginning to make the bases for the Arkansas Quality Awards "Governor's Award." This has been an annual event in my woodshop since 1995 when I was selected to design the award base. The first photo shows the simple jig that carries the glued assembly through the planer.

The University of Arkansas has a graduation rate of 38 percent in six years. That means that 62 percent of those students entering this fall as freshmen will not graduate within the next six years.

There are a number of reasons. One is that students come to college ill prepared. The remediation rate, those incoming freshmen needing to take remedial courses to be fully able to attend, is 54.7 percent. Remediation cuts into the time available for the standard course load, and when over half of incoming freshmen aren't ready for college in the first place you can expect some difficulties to follow. Many students change interests and majors forcing them to take many additional courses. Upon entering students have little knowledge of possible career choices and due to teach-to-the-test schooling, know very little about where their own interests might lie. Many students, having to work and attend school, just can't devote themselves to the coarse load, despite their original intentions upon enrolling. The other factor simply involves maturity. A huge number of incoming freshmen become involved in irresponsible college activities. Party, party, wasting state aid, parental contributions, and taking on debt that may not be paid until years later.

There has been some pressure at the U of A to make things easier, so that students can graduate on time. There has also been some pressure to expand the offerings so that student educations are a better fit with community needs and job opportunities.

This year at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith campus they have added two additional majors, Media, and Diesel Mechanics. That second one surprised me, as I thought that diesel mechanics would be a field of study offered at a technical school rather than a university. Is that a sign of good things to come? Can it be that a field of study one can do hands-on, might be afforded the same status as a degree in philosophy or poly sci?

When college degrees have become so expensive and irrelevant, you've got to do something. Blog readers might enjoy this earlier post, Two quotes, as it relates to the purpose of land grant colleges like the University of Arkansas.


  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Great jig. I hope you don't have the problem I do with things that are only used once or twice a year. They hide so well.

    As a graduate of a land grant university (Oregon State) I can vouch for their value. And as a now retired teacher at a community college, I can also vouch for the lack of skills among students these days. It's sad to see.


  2. I keep figuring that some day I'll throw the jig away and that they will have found someone else to make them... This jig has a special spot where it takes up until needed. It was a thing I threw together in just a few minutes, and that has lasted far longer than I intended. But it keeps working and keeps me from having to think so much about the process.

    I wonder how many parents realize when they send their kids off to the U of A party that the likelihood of a graduation in 4 years is only 38 percent?

    But you can get a good education at U of A or your local Community College if you are mature enough to apply yourself.

  3. Anonymous7:05 AM

    You wrote: "But you can get a good education at U of A or your local Community College if you are mature enough to apply yourself."

    And there's the secret. Maybe a year or two of working in the real world would be better than going to college directly from high school.