It’s (sort of) official

Just waded my way through the horrid UMUC online admissions form, and completed it on the second or third attempt. It was surprisingly brief, given what I’ve heard about college admissions in the past. But then, I suppose UMUC is an atypical institution, more interestedin connecting paying students with willing teachers than with maintaining some kind of image. There is much that I do not and probably will never understand about colleges, but at least my brief relationship with UMUC has been, so far, as straightforward and businesslike as it was with Carroll Community.

Does anyone here get the whole college thing? Particularly the “OMG I’ve been admitted to College $FOO” business? I mean, they offer classes in return for money. I have money, and I want to take classes. If I’m not qualified to complete the coursework, they can flunk me. What’s with the elitism and exclusivity? When I go to the bookstore they don’t judge me at the door to determine whether I’m “worthy” to purchase books from them. Anyone? Clue me in?

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  1. Exclusivity leads to better recognition, and therefore, higher tuition can be demanded, and more grant and fellowship money will be granted. Also, alumni will have a larger sense of pride and will be more willing to donate to the institution. In other words, exclusivity leads to more money for the college, for less work.

  2. Some colleges are better than others, so they can pick and choose who gives them money since they can’t pragmatically take everyone who wants to go there. They’d rather have people who pull up their average numbers (which in turn makes them more desirable and they could charge more money) than people who are likely to flunk. In the case of state funded schools, I am pretty sure that their numbers are in some way linked to their funding, so it does them no good to let in students who are just going to flunk out.

  3. Does anyone here get the whole college thing?

    I didn’t, really. It was more about a chance to go back Home for me, the first time around. I was stuck in the eastern part of Virginia, really wanting to be back in the western mountains. I failed badly the first time. I wasn’t ready, and I really didn’t want to be there (at school).

    Now, I’m going to persue professional betterment. It’s taken 10 years, but I’ve found something that interests me enough to persue a degree that doesn’t require calculus πŸ˜‰

    1. I regard the whole thing as a sort of silly formality at the moment. I’m very interested in continuing my education in the more esoteric realms of computer science (among other things); but most of that is postgraduate-level stuff. Right now I’m pursuing a piece of paper that essentially proves that I know what I already know, which is inexplicably desired by people who know first hand that I already know it.

      Viewed from that perspective it’s kind of depressing; but what the hell, it gives me a chance to take some history classes and whatnot for my general ed. requirements. And hopefully I’ll finally learn the math I’m supposed to know for my field.

  4. It’s in the history..

    Remember.. Universities began in the mid/late Middle ages.. A time when your position in society was far more crucial than your mere existence as another human being.. Back then, Universities were elite institutions who took only a small number of people in to train them on how to become good members of the Church/gov’t establishment…

    To a large extent, this attitude has never left them.. I mean, when the Reformed German university system came into effect in the Early nineteenth century, they did open up the system a bit–entrances became based a lot more on merit, but it was still an exclusive institution….

    Even though I am deeply involved in the university system–I’m a dissertating graduate student–I have always found this aspect of university life to be highly obnoxious.. I have always had friends who never went to university–hell, my life partner never got to go to a real university–and I usually find them to be a lot more to my liking than a lot of people who did go to a university (and get very snobby about it..)

    In any case, it’s merely another kind of status symbol for many people.. and it is no different than most other kinds of unearned status-raising attributes that people present to us.. e.g. a number of people, when they meet someone who is a minister/priest/rabbi/etc automatically give them an elevated status–see them as elite individuals etc etc..

    But why? Although these people have usually been trained somewhere (just like college graduates), there is still a wide divergence between good ministers and crummy ministers despite all this training..
    Same thing with people who think rich people are something special.. just because they are rich..

    Personally, the only kind of status that I give to people is when they act in an ethical fashion–when they value trust and communication and attempt to give more than they receive..

    And I don’t care whether they are rich/poor, educated/uneducated, spiritual/non-spiritual…

    1. Re: It’s in the history..

      Very informative.

      If I were obscenely wealthy one of the things I think I’d try to do is create the Wal-Mart of colleges… a chain of equal-opportunity schools which offer a four-year education in return for money, without any of the silly trappings. No complicated admissions process, no attempt to provide a cultural environment on top of an educational one, no sports teams. The Universities would hate and villify me, and film students would make damning documenteries about how College-Mart is destroying american education πŸ˜€

      I guess such a thing already exists to some degree in the form of technical schools. I don’t know, I’m not that familiar with technical schools.

      1. yo..

        well.. I think it is a good intention.. but it has already been partially done in the case of state-universities… They were created on the premise of trying to help the communities around them. And, in the case of at least the big-ten.. I think they’ve done fairly decent jobs…

        Also–there are now a lot of extensions courses you can take from these universities–and distance learning is going to become a huge thing in the future… so part of what you are advocating is coming to pass…

        However.. the problem is not necessarily just in the universities… It has to do with attitudes of people who think that they are better because they went to this snooty, hard to get into university versus just getting an education at some other place…

        Think Harvard, Yale, Ivy League, etc.. Yes, there are a lot of very talented individuals there.. but there are also, I’m willing to bet, just as many talented individuals at State schools–it’s just that the concentration of them is not as high…

        Still.. if you are trying to get a job as an investment banker, most of the industry will pick the student from harvard over the equally qualified candidate from U. of Maryland, just because they like the name “Harvard”…

        This situation, I must admit, is so abhorrent to me that it makes me wretch.. but still, it is not fundamentally the fault of the universities.. but rather, I believe, a fundamental trait of a type of person who automatically wants to view people hierarchically.. who needs to define themselves in comparison to others with rankings and trappings of such things… instead of just looking around at others and seeing them as inherently equal–but differently capable in various things..

        So.. in the end.. I urge your parallel universe obscenely wealthy to create such schools.. but I don’t necessarily think that they will solve the problem that you are encountering.. Heck.. Community Colleges like Madison Area Technical College do a lot of what you describe–and they do it well..(in fact I know a number of University Professors–the ones that actually prefer to teach rather than just do research–who go and teach at these kinds of community colleges… )

        1. Re: yo..

          Yeah… I have uniformly good memories of community college. I never understood why I had to feel embarrassed about saying “I go to Carroll Community College”, and yet, it was there… because that was the attitude I saw in others.

          I never had the opportunity to go to an established four-year college for comparison. My only impression from occasionally walking around on college campuses and from what I’ve heard from others is that, compared to Carroll, they were older, mustier, in greater disrepair, and had far inferior computer-lab facilities.

        2. Re: yo..

          I’m so happy I work in the field I do. There’s still some lingering stodginess about having the piece of paper; but at least so long as you have that paper they care more about your l33t sk1llz than about which college gave you the paper.

  5. First of all, Congratulations! What a thrill! I remember it being a thrill anyway.

    Second, I have lost sight of what the hub-bub is about universities and their status, etc. I used to know. I used to be one of those people wanting to be a part of the elite (and I could have too if it hadn’t been for a father who insisted I go to a “perfectly good state school in my home state”!). Looking back, though, I don’t think I would have been well suited for either West Point nor Annapolis. I was gung ho then.

    But you know me, I’ll keep looking for those alternative schools and maybe one day achieve my goal of obtaining a doctorate in natural health.

    And until then I’ll be cheering you on in your newest endeavor! *squishy-hugs*

  6. In defense of Universities

    I think I should point out two flaws in your argument:

    Firstly, the commercial model you described is not correct. While you do pay money for classes, that money does not cover costs. All serious universities are non-profit entities with major non-student funding sources. State schools receive tax money; private schools have endowments. Both solicite charity and research grants. Since they are taking a financial loss educating you, it is reasonable that they set criteria of whom they are willing to educate. I don’t have figures to tell if a bare-bones university such as you describe would be viable.

    Secondly, universities are (or at least try to be) more than places you take classes. They are (or try to be) intellectual communities. Students are expected to learn from each-other as well as from their teachers. Students should be able to join in useful research with the professors (there’s no better way to learn a subject in depth than to work at the leading edge of it). This sort of environment requires the right people to be built out of.

    Finally, imagine taking a class in which most of your classmates were hanging on by their fingernails but you got the material easily. Every time you asked a question about more depth, you’d get dirty looks. Every time they asked a question it would be to go back over something and you’d want to go to sleep. That’s not the way you want to study, is it?

    None of this is intended as a defense of the *way* in which colleges manage admissions. I think they do it rather poorly. Applicants spend a great deal of time and effort at it and the final result doesn’t seem to be very reliable. I’m only saying that having some standards is a good thing.

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