How Many Deaths Will Our Failed U.S. College System be Responsible for This Year?

I’ll tell you what I mean, but first as a mom with a graduating senior, let me brag a bit, after all it’s been years in the making…

My boy will graduate as a Valedictorian, received a “Torch of Excellence” award for Wisdom, Strength and Honor as he has every year, was awarded the French Department’s medal, received the California State Seal of Biliteracy (French), is a National Merit Scholarship commended student, was accepted into the California Scholarship Federation as a Lifetime Member, is an AP scholar with Honors, and was accepted by many top schools to which he applied. Finally, he received a scholarship from the school he will be attending. He chose the college that was top twenty in the country for his major—woohoo! As a mom, I’m beaming and now thankfully, so is he.

But was that his first reaction? No, it was disappointment. He didn’t get into UC Berkeley, “his” top school that he wanted. Nor that “reach” school, Stanford.

He, like his fellow friends are excellent students with G.P.A.s well over 4.0 (in my day they didn’t have such a thing…it’s for kids taking college level courses in high school known as AP classes), great ACT/SAT scores and accomplishments outside of school…isn’t feeding 18,000 meals to the hungry in Orange County since he was five enough? No, apparently not.

Our dedicated students struggled to do the right thing, earned fantastic grades and now how in the world will they and their parents be able to afford college? The university our son was accepted to has a price tag of $75K a year. Thankfully, he got some scholarship funds and a grant reducing the cost to $52K, but is it really fair that without financial help our kids would start out their adult lives in debt to the tune of over $300K? The college system is very broken.

In 1785, John Adams wrote: “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and must be willing to bear the expense of it.”1 In fact, The Morrill Act of 1862 was established by congress that enabled land-grant colleges to be created by states on federal lands so that higher education could become available to Americans in every social class.2 What the hell happened?

Aside from the costs, times are also different today because much fewer people then were interested in attending college. In today’s world, for most, it’s a necessity.

Even when I graduated high school in 1973, there were fewer than ten million college students in the United States.3 In 2018, that figure has more than doubled to over 20 million!4

Over the years the acceptance numbers have decreased badly and for Ivy leagues, less than 10 % of all applicants were admitted.  At Harvard less than 5% will be donning the Harvard crimson this year as freshmen.5 Of those the majority were early admits, with less than 3% admitted regular decision.6

During the last eight years, applicant numbers have gone up yet admittance has gone down.  WARNING: DON’T WAIT FOR THOSE APPLICATION DEADLINES FOR DECISIONS ABOUT WHICH SCHOOLS TO APPLY FOR. To have any chance at the schools your kids may want to get into AND to be eligible for their scholarships, make decisions early!

We did what we were supposed to, we put away money in a college fund. Maybe not as much as some, but we like to travel and believe there are experiences that life will bring that are just as important. Well, the fact we took him to Israel in 2014 and found ourselves caught on vacation in the middle of the war wasn’t on our itinerary. I’m still trying to get over the fact I took our son to war for his Bar Mitzvah present!

But it makes a great story and is the subject of my book, “Finding Peace in Israel, A Mom’s Tale of Terror & Transformation.” It will be out this year to begin the Jewish New Year celebrating Israel’s 70th Birthday. One positive benefit of taking him to Israel to instill a love for the Jewish people’s homeland was that he became an Israeli overnight.

So he did his job and we thought we had done ours. We attended “How to Get into College” seminars and hired an independent, college counselor.

Exactly why did we pay for this college counselor who didn’t tell us what we needed to know? Did she actually think we would be alright with the fact that there will be at least some that, with his excellent accomplishments, will want him? That it wouldn’t bother us about all of those scholarship application deadlines we missed? Scholarship deadlines end before school applications need to be finalized, as odd as that may sound. Unfortunately, we found that out after he could apply…how do you spell NOT HAPPY!

He wasn’t eligible to apply for the scholarships at the $75k per year school he’ll be attending since he decided to apply after their scholarship deadline. Infuriatingly, with his accomplishments he would have had a good shot at them! Yes, another frustrating part of this hazardous journey.

Let’s consider this scenario. Your child is accepted to her reach school, in fact her dream school—and an expensive one at that. Given the competition, she truly did not think she would be accepted. Therefore, why on Earth would she think about applying for a scholarship and the college counselor neglected to wisely guide her. Oops, and now its too late to apply for the college’s big one-time scholarships that are only available as Freshman for the rest of their tenure at the school.

Sorry, this hits too close to home and may just account for my pissy attitude. What do you do? Bite the bullet or for some of us of the tribe, potentially die of Jewish guilt? BTW, this particular school was always on the table. Well, let’s just say, I’m not feeling guilty right now, just worried about how we are going to pay for it and feeling like my hands are tied up and not from a scene in Fifty Shades of Grey.

But hold on you might be thinking, my kid is still getting used to high school and is so young trying to learn how to shave or not trip going up the library steps as that gorgeous girl goes by (some things haven’t changed). Too bad, that’s not how today’s system works and it sucks. The process forces them to make decisions before they have the maturity to do so. No wonder so many sign up undeclared or repeatedly change their majors.

It’s not only the Ivy League schools with outrageous pressure and competition, the situation is dire across the country. Stanford incredibly admitted only 4.2% of their applicants for 2018!7  At the UCs, many get over 100k applicants each, yet fewer are admitted every year.8 I’m not sure who actually got admitted in 2018 to Stanford and UC Berkeley, but I can assure you, Einstein and Stephen Hawking would have had some tough genius-level competitors.

Of the 64K applicants to USC for 2018, they only admitted 13% of applicants this year,9 name any of the top college admittance statistics and it’s discouraging even reaching down beyond the universities into the state schools. The battle our top kids face is troubling, potentially devastating, and even possibly might kill some by their own hands. Why?

These top students have never failed. They’ve had their nose to the serious, student grindstone, studying hard and achieving all of their lives. They’ve gotten the kudos and the great grades for their efforts that they deserved. They’ve been told for years it’s what they had to do.

They’ve heard It’s so competitive out there, you don’t have a minute to waste! And so they worked diligently, many giving up the occasional school dance or awkward first date. Is it the homework getting in the way, or an excuse for the shy introvert, not wanting to ask that cute brunette out? They got their grades, did extra-curricular activities and some miracle workers even had fun along the way.

These students are America’s future—where our new inventions and cures will be developed, creative ways of solving problems will be imagined, and the next generation who will keep the United States great and thriving. They’ve made the grades, accomplished outstanding achievements and now it’s time to collect their brass rings they’ve worked for so diligently …right? WRONG!

The doors of their most desired campuses were slammed shut. Possibly for some of them, for the first time in their lives even though they put in the time, they are not getting the credit they deserved. Through no fault of their own, they were not attaining what they earned and they don’t have the healed wounds of previous disappointments to shield them from their despair.

So many of my son’s friends, these amazing achievers, feel like failures. It may be well and good that I as an adult understand that the definition of F.A.I.L. is First Attempt At Learning—but they don’t. I fear for them…that the disappointment might be too much. Will they hurt themselves? Are the high school and college counselors prepared for this or will the kids even seek their help?

They don’t have the life experience that says it will all work out alright, and they no longer necessarily trust us. After all, we said working hard was the requirement to achieve their heart’s desires, and look what that got them. Why should they believe us when we say it will all work out for the better…really?

So many of his friends have elected through their disappointment to enroll in community college honors programs and try again next year to get into the universities of their choice. Now, there’s definitely no shame in going to a community college. In today’s world, economically, it’s the smartest thing to do. You pay the big bucks for two years instead of four and anyway, the first two years are primarily general education requirements.

But you do give up that stereotypical college experience of dorms and clubs and school spirit for the first two years. I know for my husband and I who worked through college as commuter students, that experience was something we wanted for our kid. It’s the time in their life when they are old enough to make decisions on their own, but still not have all of the adult responsibilities…a fantasy we certainly weren’t able to experience, and as parents we always want our children to have it better.

Our son’s friend’s parents hear, But you told me that if I worked hard, I would get into a top school. I did, but didn’t get in! As parents, all we can do is shake our heads with a tear in our eye, we are surprised too.

These are hormonal teens with few life experiences. They don’t know how to put any of this into context. How can we in the same voice we used before to tell them to work hard, say it doesn’t matter anyway… it’s not the end of the world?

We know it’s not, but to them, well… the earth has just opened up and they’re ready to jump in. Will some of them choose to do just that? I hope not. I pray that an adult who is truly listening talks them off the edge…

What are the consequences of having so few spots for college students? A college education is surely in today’s world an admitted necessity. I believe our futures are at stake. Why aren’t people protesting in the streets? Where is the uproar? Why aren’t our government officials helping us out? If the demand is a necessity, why isn’t there more space available for more students?

Worst of all we have many of the highest achievers of our next generation feeling like failures. As a society we have failed them and in so doing, ourselves and our futures. Sorry for such a downer during graduation when it should be all roses and dreams of bright futures…it is, but our brightest aren’t necessarily feeling that way. Please stop and help them. All of our futures depend on it.

As always, I invite you to Join Me On My Journey…

 

Footnotes:

1 “‘Should College Be Free? Pros, Cons, and Alternatives.’” “Should College Be Free? Pros, Cons, and Alternatives,”  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Land-Grant-College-Act-of-1862

2 “‘Should College Be Free? Pros, Cons, and Alternatives.’” “Should College Be Free? Pros, Cons,

and Alternatives,”  https://www.britannica.com/topic/Land-Grant-College-Act-of-1862

3“U.S. college enrollment statistics for public and private colleges from 1965 to 2014”and projections up to 2026 (in millions) Statista.com, May 25, 2018 https://www.statista.com/statistics/183995/us-college-enrollment-and-projections-in-public-and-private-institutions/

4 U.S. college enrollment statistics for public and private colleges from 1965 to 2014”and projections up to 2026 (in millions) Statista.com, May 25, 2018 https://www.statista.com/statistics/183995/us-college-enrollment-and-projections-in-public-and-private-institutions/

5Boston.com “Harvard’s acceptance rate hit an all-time low this year”

By Nik DeCosta-Klipa  March 29, 2018By Nik DeCosta-Klipa  March 29, 2018

https://www.boston.com/news/education/2018/03/29/harvard-acceptance-rate-2018

6Boston.com “Harvard’s acceptance rate hit an all-time low this year”

By Nik DeCosta-Klipa  March 29, 2018By Nik DeCosta-Klipa  March 29, 2018

https://www.boston.com/news/education/2018/03/29/harvard-acceptance-rate-2018

7 “IvyWise KnowledgeBase Admission Statistics”

https://www.ivywise.com/ivywise-knowledgebase/admission-statistics/

8 ”Record numbers apply to University of California campuses for 2018”

By EMILY DERUY | ederuy@bayareanewsgroup.com | Bay Area News Group

PUBLISHED: December 14, 2017 at 11:30 am | UPDATED: March 23, 2018

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2017/12/14/uc-sees-record-number-of-applications-for-fall-2018-admission/

9 “USC sees record number of applicants for fall 2018 admission.” BY Ron Mackovich March 23, 2018 https://news.usc.edu/139338/usc-acceptance-rate-fall-2018-admission/

 

 

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