Thursday, May 28, 2015

Boycott! (Orientation, O Parents of Undergrads)

      When I started college in 1961, the University of Illinois at Urbana ran an orientation for frosh (which I didn't bother with), but certainly felt no necessity to attempt to orient our parents.
        In my years at Illinois as an undergrad, the University claimed to be "in loco parentis" — i.e., in a parental relationship with students who could be seen as "legal infants" when convenient for Big U officials — but generally left us alone. There was, though, one custom that cut different ways, and interesting ways on matters parental. The Big U would accept payment for tuition and fees only from the student: no checks from the students' parents or guardians; students wrote the checks.
      Or the students paid cash. My memory of tuition and fees at the time was maybe $150 a semester or year for in-state students: a service charge, plus some important symbolism.
      When teaching (briefly) at the University of Illinois, I sometimes handled parental complaints — not necessarily against me — and found it really good to have a ready answer to the line, as an appeal for some benefit for some student, "I'm paying for my kids' education!" We could usually answer, "No, the people of the State of Illinois are paying for your offspring's education, with the taxpayers chipping in even for students from out of state. And for who's paying our service fees — well that you are is more than we know. It's the student's name on the class roster, and it's the student's check for tuition and fees."
      Nowadays, I'm sure, billing at the U of I is set up to get money from the deepest pockets around, and I'm very sure without checking that the great majority of payments are made by parents: cash, check, or maybe even PayPal, wire, or automatic deductions, but whenever the Big U can arrange it, by the parents.
       And that's too bad.
       When I worked at Miami University, Oxford, OH, I used to say that Miami U succeeded financially by "getting our fair share of young adults who go to college in Ohio and way more than our fair share of children who are sent." To repeat one of my main mantras as a university professor, College is for grownups, and it doesn't help that philosophy when colleges and universities aid and abet keeping young adults financially dependent upon their parents and encourage not just firmly-tied apron strings but what we used to call "the two-hundred-mile-long umbilical cord" and add, "And that really must be really uncomfortable 'cause the parent calling me is a guy."
       So parents of America unite in this: Next fall, drop your offspring off at college, do a little schlepping to help them move in, and then get the hell out, go home and enjoy the extra space and quiet around the house. Boycott orientation, and burn the glossy handout for heat and light.
       Then send a bit of that time you saved lobbying for more sensible ways of funding US higher ed. than the current weirdness of having the State offer (nearly) free schooling to parents' children while they're children, and then asking — demanding? — that parents pay huge amounts on education for offspring who should be adults.
       Tuition and fees should be paid directly by the students, and payment should be structured so that even working-class 18-year-olds can afford to pay.

No comments:

Post a Comment