Saturday, January 21, 2012

American Colleges - Fleecing America

As many of you know, the Queenager has flown the nest for college. I happen to be  researching colleges for another project at the moment, so I'm currently quite well versed in all things college. Well, for a foreigner anyway. 
And I'm shocked, quite frankly. For a people that decries too much government interference, Americans seem only too happy to let colleges and universities call the shots.

At almost 19, and despite the fact that she knows she wants to major in Journalism, and has already scored a much-coveted place in the Journalism School, my daughter is still deemed unfit to pick her own classes.  As her funding mechanism,  we are therefore paying (through the nose, I might add) for courses she's not interested in and will probably never use. They're called pre-requisites and core courses, and most colleges do this. Before the Q can take any Journalism courses, she has to complete her pre-reqs (some of which are relevant to Journalism) and core courses, like math(s) and biology. 

OK, I get that many kids don't know what they want to do, and others change their minds before declaring their majors, so they benefit from a variety of classes. But my daughter has effectively declared her major, and even if she changes her mind, she probably won't jump to neuro-surgery or aeronautical engineering.  Even if she does, isn't that her/our business? She's 19 for crying out loud. She's old enough to do everything other than drink alcohol (and don't even get me started on that one),-  she can be tried as an adult, she has the right to vote, she can die for her country. She just can't choose what to study, even when her parents are paying? Really America?

But I get it. Without those pesky pre-requisites (many of which she has studied at high school, BTDubs), she could probably graduate in three years. Heaven forbid that universities might have to fore-go a year's tuition!

Aah. - It all makes sense now.


  1. Yes the college thing is depressing here, kids are pushed into very vocational courses - too much business and finance- instead of learning as they do in Britain. Maybe we'll have to send the kids back to new Zealand when that time comes.

  2. I remember when I was teaching at the state uni. where I got my master's degree, I met a couple of British students who told me that their A-levels had got them out of some of the pre-req. classes.

    I always assumed that the required classes were there because American kids, having started school a year later than British students were not really 'ready' for college-level classes yet. I have to say, a 3 year degree is definitely making us think hard about having DD and DS apply to UK universities. The tuition rates are going up in the UK, but when a degree only takes 3 years instead of 4 . . .

  3. But the prerequisites are basically the same regardless of your major so if you change your major midway you don't have to start over from scratch. At the time I didn't appreciate having to take math,science and business classes as a child development major, but now I'm glad I did. Not saying system is perfect.

  4. I couldn't agree with you more about some of the pre-reqs, although Son#1 was able to get quite a few of them out of the way by taking AP courses, so we were able to save some money on him. I'm not familiar with the system in the UK, but I assume it's similar to Germany, where students who pass the Abitur and are admitted to Uni are ready to start studying in their own field - having completed all prereqs in school -, and, frankly, it makes sense to me. Of course, I see this as part of the American conundrum - the land of the fiercely independent - but also the land of so much more government regulation, lawsuits, etc.

  5. Definately check out the possibility of receiving credits for a European degree. Years ago, I received an entire year's worth of credits and did manage to finish my college experience in under three years. It might take some negotiation but worth a try!

  6. My research is currently telling me that kids with A levels and the Abitur do get some credit hours for that. Unfortunately, my teen is an all-American girl with no credits!
    And yes Morag, I know that the pre-reqs are all the same but it still stinks that she has to do math and biology, which will not only bore her rigid, but will drag down her GPA a lot! And of course, cost me money. Although she's in the Journalism school, she doesn't get to do any J classes till next year at the earliest! Bit ridiculous really.

  7. Does her Uni not offer credits for AP courses, or did her high school not do AP courses?

  8. That seems to be quite shocking. Surely no one would want to study someone else's choices. She is old enough to make her own decisions and after all, you are paying!
    I am amazed that 19 year old Americans cannot drink. Maybe we should adopt that idea over here. But as you say...... she is old enough to die for her country. Something wrong there.
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  9. Morning,
    I experience this system through my ex, when I decided to try to finish his degree. He could do it in sections/credits. He never did finish it and still has 2 credits left to do. I found it strange that this was allowed. What about the flow of education? If Q has done all the relevant studies prior to starting the degree, then surely the natural progression is to begin with her major and it's core subjects.
    It's a very bizarre and expensive system over there.
    Only slightly better over here.

  10. HI Lulu. I think the reason they let students take time off between semesters is that a lot of kids (and older people) pay their own fees, working as they do so. When I did my Masters you were allowed to take time off but you couldn't let a gap of more than four years go by. In this case, not only were people working to pay for their Masters degrees, but many (like me) were having babies at the same time.

  11. Tertiary education is so expensive, and yes, you're right. Why on earth let a student graduate in 3 years when you can get 4 out of them?

  12. That's great she is doing what she chose. A slightly different take on "core" classes. I was a biochem major and placed out of 4 classes becauses of AP credit. I used the placing out to take more advanced classes in thoses area--science, English, spanish. I was annoyed at the time at having to take humaties, fine arts, etc as required, but in retrospect, I think they were valuable in helping me see other disciplines and see if I were interested in them. At the least, I learned more about the world and became a much better writes than I would have if I had just taken science classes.

  13. I was told that this is to make you a better educated, more well rounded individual. I left maths until the last semester of my senior year because I dreaded it so. I had to take biology, sociology, public speaking, some other crap I can't remember. I'm thankful for it now, and it has helped with my Trivial Pursuit/Pub Quiz game. Otherwise, I could have done without it. But it's required to have knowledge in many subjects, not just your major, to receive a college education, apparently. Otherwise, why would anyone take half these classes?

  14. Anon & 'Cross the P - I completely understand the benefits as you state them, and it's definitely an improvement on what I did in England, which was to drop everything when I was 16 except for English History and French. That was far too early to have to do that, especially as I had no idea at that point, what I wanted to study at University. Then, half way through my Law degree (which begins at undergrad level there) I decided I didn't want to be a lawyer. Too late. I had to finish the degree.
    However, when you step and back and really think about the fact that 18-22 year olds are still being told what to study here, it's a little paternalistic. They're old enough to think that through for themselves, and to take the consequences of their own decisions.

  15. Well, I wasn't - I was immature and a tad naive. I wanted to marry Geoff Brown at 20. Thank God mom talked me out of that. And if I had actually paid attention in my required Spanish class I would never have taken one 15 years later and met my husband! It varies from student to student but the school has to cover them all. That's the only explanation I can give.

  16. The boy will soon be taking out a student loan here in the UK for £9000 to study just one course, Geography.
    What is better, him paying the £9000 for two courses or you paying the$$.$$$.00 for about 8 that aren't needed?
    There isn't any logic to either frankly!

    In my day in New Enlgand at College, I took the extras as required and the majors as I wanted and didn't question it. I did get to pick my extras though (except for Freshman year). I feel I came away knowing a few good extras aswell as what I needed.

    I am not sure about todays University and 'College" cousres. Is it worth it for those who don't know what they want to do??

    Good for your girl to know what she wants right now.

  17. This is a very interesting discussion. I feel very silly though only worrying about mine getting into the schools of their choice. That was enough to give me a head of gray hair alone!

  18. P.S. My oldest attended IU, home of Straight No Chaser of course and they are STILL calling asking for money more than 2 years after she graduated!

  19. I'm late as usual to chime in, but I went to an American college (Smith) where there were no prerequisites. At the time, I loved it. No math, no chemistry, no statistics. I could take all the history, literature, and political science my heart desired. To their credit, my advisors encouraged me to broaden my horizons, so I threw in some French, LOL. And you know what? I have about three regrets in my life, and one of them is that I graduated from college without a class in the hard sciences or math/computer science. When I thought about applying to medical school in the 90s, I was dismayed when I saw the disadvantage I had against students who HAD taken the chemistry, biology, physics, and math as liberal arts majors. On top of this, by then I wasn't fresh out of high school so I had that disadvantage too. My husband went to MIT, and there he had to take a core # of classes in the humanities; it wasn't all science all the time. He can hold his own better in the humanities better than I can identify cell structure, for sure.

    It's rare that I think the American system of something is "better" -- but in this case, Go Team!

  20. We are steering away from a US option when the universities are a fraction of the price here in Europe. UK seems relatively cheap compared to US.Many demads have almready been made on my 11th grader for Bacclaureate choices, but most likely studying here in France.J in France
    PS. Does the IGSC exam exempt any US coursework?


The more the merrier....

Blog Archive