Money alone won’t solve the problem

I’m kind of shocked when reading the commentary Setting Students’ Minds on Fire which talked about Obama’s warning in the beginning. More than a third of America’s college students fail to earn degrees. (The actual figure is closer to 50 percent.) I agree money alone won’t solve the problem. Actually setting something to a high value forces people to appreciate and cherish it. If education is cheap, people will tend to take it for granted. Chinese higher education has very cheap tuition. It’s approximately $2,200/year compared with $8,240/year in public schools and $28,500/year in private schools in US. Although I myself do not know anyone who dropped out of school, however, not dropping out does not mean they enjoy the school. I could literally say more than a third of college students skip classes everyday if the instructor does not set some kind of punishment system. If students do not come to the class, the teacher will gradually lose their passion for teaching, and begins to put less work in preparing for it. It’s becoming a vicious cycle. I mean we all want to make the most out of what we invest for (money, time, etc.).

In terms of engagement, it’s really effective to incorporate games or activities in the class. Just as the commentary says, students learn more when they are obliged to think in unfamiliar ways. I had one class where the instructor turned the classroom into an engaged activity room. We had to reflect on what we learned and apply it to reality. Everyone has to contribute, which means everyone needs to invest their time in preparing for it. That memory stuck with me more than any other classes.


8 thoughts on “Money alone won’t solve the problem”

  1. Interesting post. Dropping out of college is bad enough, especially with all the student loans that come with it, and no degree. But sitting in class mindlessly does not work either. I am a little surprised Chinese education is that much cheaper, quite a difference from the US. I also like your point about if students do not come to class, teachers will lose interest in teaching. But the blame really goes on the teachers in my opinion when that happens. The teacher is probably not very engaging, and therefore, students do not feel the desire to go to class. I am curious to know what game your professor used that you mentioned in your post. If you have time, please elaborate. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The student-teacher relationship is one that needs to be developed. If a student only see the teacher as the old fogey in the front of the room, and the teacher only sees students as young-wipper-snappers, then there is not connection or accountability to either side. Often coming to class is a unspoken contract between the professor and the students. You have the opportunity to come, but if you choose not to that is your choice.

    So, does education have to be entertaining to be successful? Do we need to put on a show for students for them to care enough to learn? Is teaching a consumable good that people now buy instead of a intrinsic good for the advancement of society?

    I have spoken to this before, and that perhaps the question is mis-motivation and not the lack of motivation that defines some students? That they are interested in something different at the moment but are overall interested in topics?

    If this is the case, teachers need to be able to dial students back in, but also be a visual source for motivation. A teacher’s disinterest is transferred to the students immediately. The stately lecturer is no longer a viable visual model for teaching. Now there needs to be other devices and methods that build on past experiences, not throw them away.

    This is what that one teacher did for you. And you still remember the experience. Most likely because it was different a new. And that is most likely what keeps interest: new, exciting and unfamiliar

    1. Ken I couldn’t agree more with this statement, “A teacher’s disinterest is transferred to the students immediately.”

      I took a class in undergrad that I loved, and a big reason I liked it so much was because it was clear that my professor loved the topic and loved teaching the topic. He still lectured a lot, but the lectures were entertaining because of his enthusiasm. I wound up working for him doing research, and now am getting a PhD in that field. I sometimes wonder if my career would have taken a different path if he didn’t bring that enthusiasm into the classroom and it reminds me how important our role as teachers is.

  3. You mentioned a little big about the money involved with higher education (your title originally drew me to this post!), and it reminded me of a stat I saw over the summer regarding minimum wage and tuition. I don’t remember the specifics, but it was something along the lines of this: working 4 hours/ day at minimum wage in the 1970s would cover your tuition at Yale, but today you would have to work somewhere around 17 or 18 hours/ day, which is obviously impossible. With so much money on the line, it is imperative that students have a vested interest in what they’re doing with their time at college. Teachers play a role in this, as they must find engaging ways to get their students excited in class and encourage them to come to every class. Ultimately, though, if students choose not to come to class, they’re only hurting themselves and wasting their money. I think you discussed a lot of interesting ideas here, and I enjoyed reading your post.

  4. Interesting post and comments. I think Ken comment have most of the things I wanted to say. However, one point to consider regarding the “money” topic.

    I think that motivation is what can guide the behavior of students regarding how they approach the learning experience. And motivation has to do with different aspects. For example, and back to the money issue, in Venezuela there are public and private Universities. Public universities are free, they even give you free lunch and dinner. Private universities are relatively expensive. The difference is that public universities are very respected (and also difficult). Getting an engineering degree in a public university can be very challenging.

    The admission process is also very different, for public universities you need to pass different tests and have different qualifications. I think in this particular system, students feel motivated to attend the public institutions since they are competitive, and don’t take the “free” education for granted.

    I guess my point is that we need to find the different motivators that fire students into getting serious about their learning.

  5. In Brazil, it is very similar to the context that Homero described about Venezuela. The best universities are public and free, but in order to able to pass the admission exams, students usually pay for expensive private schools, especially on High School. So, the public universities are more composed by middle-class and high-class students, while the private universities (some of them are great, but there are several “new” colleges with poor quality) are full of low-income students that have to work a lot to pay.

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