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Wednesday, September 15, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 17

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Let students slide? It's not right

By Jennifer Ihrig

I often receive responses that explain to me the complicated efficiency of capitalism, supply and demand. 

I want to make it clear that I understand the concepts. However, I believe that their efficiency does not always outweigh the consequences they can impose on our human condition. For example, in my last column, I discussed the profit-minded principles of universities.

These principles allow universities to continue growing in size and power, and they allow students to earn degrees that will place them in a profitable job market. What is at stake? The same principles that provide this profit also diminish the quality of our education at every level. 

Consider this: A state university receives a certain amount of money from the state for every enrolled student. You are worth a certain dollar amount to the university. If you are a Ph.D. student, you are worth more than a master's student, who is worth more than a senior, and so on.

This money adds to the tuition you pay. One could easily explain how this process benefits the university's ability to provide services to the students. That is the most ideal explanation, but others exist. The more students the school admits, the more state and individual dollars it deposits.

The question is: Does each student really cost the university a sum equal to the combination of the state's and individual's investment?

The university benefits if it can keep students happy and prevent them from failing. This could be a good incentive to provide a thorough education to high school students and to hire professors who are excellent at inspiring and educating their students. This could also be a good incentive to allow students who wouldn't normally "make the grade" to pass through. That student will be worth more as a sophomore slacker than as a freshman dropout.

Is this one reason why professors are judged negatively if they have too many students fail their class? What is the consequence for passing the student who is not prepared for college, or who enrolls because someone expected them to? If the university wants to keep them in the program, the depth and quality of classes must lower to meet these students' level of understanding -- which is already happening.

I've been in classes where a student couldn't recognize a noun from a verb. How did he or she get into college? Isn't this <I>higher<P> education? Not only does an individual find difficulty finding a job without a college education, but now many higher level positions require a graduate degree.

Once again I must scream: "Increase enrollment requirements and lower tuition!" The supply and demand might falter a little, but if every university followed its dream to educate instead of its dream to grow in size and wealth, students would certainly earn a better education.

My purpose is not to insult UH, but to encourage people to think. It is possible for an individual to live his or her whole life by a preprinted pattern. Crawl, walk, potty train, go to school, go to college, enter a corporation, hate the corporation, get married, have children, retire, make up for lost time and die -- it doesn't have to be a universal equation.

A little ingenuity, confidence and thought can get you almost anywhere. We live in America, where it is supposedly possible to become anything. This will never happen if we don't think for ourselves. The people who started this country didn't follow the rules -- they took risks.

Don't be so sure of what lies ahead. Question procedure, question ethics, question yourself and question authority. A good life should require that you be awake to live it. Think!
 

Ihrig, a junior creative writing and sociology major,
can be reached at fatfenny@hotmail.com
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