Friday Fragments | Confessions of a Community College Dean

Several wise and worldly readers who work at four-year colleges offered helpful feedback on yesterday’s piece. The piece noted that students who graduate with an associate degree get their credits accepted as a bloc, whereas students who transfer without graduating first often get their transcripts nitpicked and credits denied. I suggested that the premium on program completion was a reflection of the perceived greater likeliness of students who had completed one program to complete another.

The responses converged around “yes, because …” The “because” is math. When students transfer prior to graduation, they claimed, it’s usually because they’ve put off taking math. But students who have put off their math classes tend to be less likely to finish programs. Students who come with completed degrees have (presumably) fulfilled their math requirements.

I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense. I saw a variation on that often at DeVry. Although it was a technical school and the students took technical majors, many of them feared math and put it off as long as they could. It was a rare student who could recover after doing that.

To be fair, some responded that the premise isn’t universal. Alexandra Logue, from CUNY, noted that course transfer within CUNY is independent of whether the student graduated. I was glad to hear it. But in my own world, the degree premium is real; I’m just not sure that many people know that.

Congratulations to my friends whose Public Service Loan Forgiveness finally came through this week! The program has had more than its share of issues; it’s gratifying to see good people who held up their end of the bargain for years finally get their due.

The Girl got her third college acceptance this week. It came in the form of a celebratory video that managed not to include words like “accepted” or “congratulations.” It seemed to imply that she got in, but it maintained a plausible deniability that seemed out of place. A follow-up email clarified that yes, she was accepted.

It’s the little things.

Given what it costs, acceptance is only the first step. The next step is parsing the financial aid offer, which they indicated will probably come in March.

All told, I have to give TG credit for her patience. It’s a frustratingly slow process.

Speaking of financial aid, kudos to Sara Goldrick-Rab for making the necessary point this week at ABC about the lawsuit filed against a host of elite universities for agreeing not to compete on financial aid.

Goldrick-Rab pointed out, correctly, that there are really two arguments going on. One is by prospective or actual students who felt that they were cheated out of aid by what amounted to a price-fixing cartel. They wanted better deals. The second is by students who were excluded altogether by “need-blind” universities acting in ways that were very much not need blind. As she pointed out, if you don’t get accepted in the first place, there’s no aid offer to compare. Both the price-fixing and the exclusion of students who weren’t “full pay” were in service of minimizing institutional spending on financial aid.

Strikingly, the colleges in question don’t deny collusion. They just deny that there’s anything wrong with it.

If anyone doesn’t understand what’s wrong with it, I know some 17-year-olds who would like a word.

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