I’ve got a question for all of you proffies out there, in any and all disciplines: do any of your departments give credit from your university to high school students taking “approved” courses for college credit in their high schools? As in, they’ll take an advanced class taught by a high school teacher (like perhaps an AP or IB class, or maybe not), and it will show up on their transcripts as a course taken at your university. (And they’ll get this credit without having taken the AP exam, for which usually students need to get a 4 or a 5 in order to have it accepted for college credit.) This apparently is the Colorado legislature’s brilliant scheme for “saving money”–as in, the money of parents of high school students who would otherwise need to be accepted into and enrolled at a university (or at least pay for an AP exam) and pay tuition in order to receive college credit for the course.
Is it really in our best interests to send the message that college is a tedious hassle that should be gotten over with as soon as possible? Do we agree that there’s little difference between high school and college classes, and anyone can teach them? How does this not turn us into Wal-Mart in the long run? I’m not saying we’re Barney’s here, but I think we hold our own as a dependable Sears or J.C. Penny of higher education.
Apparently, the muckity-mucks at my uni are all for this. My department and others in our college are being “encouraged” to consider “partnering” with local school districts and to consider a variety of different models for “collaboration” to provide professional “oversight” for these high-school classes. We were told there’s another university in my state–call it Satellite Campus of Flagship U.–that has already approved over 500 high school courses around the state for college credit at their university, and somehow this is an arms race (to the bottom?) we simply must get into, otherwise those students will all attend SC of FU, rather than Baa Ram U. (And we’re hardly hurting for enrollment here–that continues to grow every year, and it strains our resources as it is.) The incentive for BRU to do this is that the university would get some tuition dollars for these classes, paid by the local school districts. There is no plan so far to share any of this dough with cooperating departments or faculty–this is apparently something we need to consider doing out of the goodness of our hearts, in solidarity with teachers and students in our community, for free, and in a year in which our salaries will likely be frozen yet again at our 2008-09 level. (Are the football and men’s basketball coaches being “encouraged” to “volunteer” their time and expertise in developing student-athletes by working closely with high school coaches? Or is this an expectation we don’t have for people who make more than $300,000 a year at Baa Ram U.?)
It appears that my colleagues are mostly in agreement that this is crazzy, every which way we look at it (lack of incentives, lack of compensation, unfairness, lack of quality control. Why bother hiring only people with Ph.D.s in my department if local teachers with B.A.s or M.A.s are qualified to teach college courses now? All of our adjunct faculty have Ph.D.s now.) But, we hear that work speed-ups and demands that people get something for nothing are on the rise everywhere. For example, go read Clio Bluestocking on the true reason on-line education is so attractive to universities: they think they can expand student enrollment infinitely without compensating faculty or eroding the quality of teaching, because they don’t understand at a fundamental level that what we do is work.
But, as many of my colleagues have pointed out, this is just part of the long and rapid decline of support for education by our citizenry. It’s clear that the state legislature and the Governor–all Democrat controlled, by the way–don’t have the stones to make the argument that funding higher education is important. (And absent political leadership, the people of Colorado won’t jump up and vote for higher taxes on their own.) I’m starting to think that privatization might not be such a bad thing in the long run. Besides: the auctioning off of the naming rights should be fun to watch. Why should Colorado get its name on my uni when it’s contributing nothing to the work we do? Cargill U. or Archer Daniels Midland U., here we come.