What Does a College Diploma Mean Today?

December 17, 2010

A few decades ago, when a child entered the hallowed halls of higher learning, it was the mark of accomplishment.  Most people acknowledged that the student was intelligent and his college diploma would open doors to whatever field he wanted to enter.

They also assumed that his earning capacity would be much greater than those who didn’t graduate from college.  Of course, that was in the days before Bill Gates blew that kind of thinking out of the water when he left Harvard in his sophomore year to start a company called Microsoft, with Paul Allen.

In the old days, students who weren’t at the top of their class couldn’t have gotten into an Ivy League school unless their family was influential enough to pull strings and/or who had enough money to fund a chair at a university.  Nowadays, there are still some parents who are pulling strings and buying college diplomas for their children but it’s hardly necessary anymore.

Today you just have to have a decent SAT score and a decent GPA score or even go to a community college for a semester or two and then transfer to a high ranking college.  The bar has lowered so much that it makes one wonder what a college diploma means today.

I have had professors tell me that colleges have become a popularity contest.  The teachers who don’t assign homework and who give easy tests are the ones who have the largest class enrollments.

One of the professors at an Ivy League school even wrote an article in a magazine stating as much.  The college Deans tell the teachers that they must lower their standards because students won’t sign up for their classes and if they don’t have a full enrollment, the school will have to close its doors.

A college teacher told me his Dean won’t let him give any student less than a B grade, even if the student has failed all his tests and been absent for most of the semester.  This is partly because students won’t sign up to take his classes if he has a reputation for giving homework and low grades, and partly because the administration is afraid of lawsuits.

Our expectations of life seem to have gotten higher and our willingness to work hard seems to have gotten lower.  I remember when taking an Honors class meant something really special.  You didn’t get extra credit on your transcripts but you did get an “H” next to the subjects so that everyone knew you excelled at those subjects.  It was definitely a “feel good” moment when your family and friends acknowledged it.  It also motivated you to study more and work harder to be at the top of your class.

Today’s students take the attitude that if they aren’t getting extra credit for an Honors class they don’t want to take it because it means having to work very hard for no tangible reward and they don’t count the “H” next to the subject as a tangible reward.  It’s too bad because the Honors classes give a student that competitive edge in business and socially.

No one asks you if you took those classes.  It just shows up in the way you think and in what you accomplish in life.  That isn’t to say that someone who didn’t get into an Honors class can’t think outside the box but it gives the others an easier time to get ahead in life because they are more accustomed to working hard and competing to get to the top.  Again, it’s not mandatory for success but it’s easier.  It also means that your college diploma will mean more to you because you worked so hard to earn it.

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