Sunday, March 20, 2011

What is the point of an associate's degree?

What is the point of an associate’s degree? Why doesn’t some kind of college controlling body do away with the 2-yr degree? There really isn’t a single aspect or avenue of society that covets a degree of this level, is there? I actually earned an associate’s before earning my other degrees, and in many ways, I was less qualified for jobs with the A.A. than if I had obtained just a high school degree. It's a matter of finishing something you start, I think. No employer these days would ever look for someone with an associate’s. Honestly, it’s a bit strange to only have an associate’s degree, isn’t it? It’s kind of like playing a nice first half of football(to use the sports analogy) then deciding to quit at halftime, and just be satisfied with that. But for some reason, colleges reward students with this halftime degree. Why?

The only colleges that give associate’s degrees are community colleges, generally. This is another aspect of the college landscape that I don’t understand. Why do we have community colleges? Like I said in my last post: shouldn’t college be society’s farm system? If, for whatever reason, a student cannot earn acceptance to a standards-based university and/or college shouldn’t that be detected early on and an alternative post-secondary plan be given to that student? Isn’t community college in many ways just a glorified 13th grade that costs a student and/or his family money for courses, textbooks, etc, when in the end, all that money and time would be better invested? For some, community college is another chance to build up the resume for college. For others, it’s a way to save money and take core courses cheap before going to a 4-year college. I get that. But the dropout rate at HVCC is over 50%. That means that more than half the students who walk through the door in September, walk away with nothing, but unneeded loans and debt, albeit smaller than at the university level. So in the big picture, this path is failing miserably, because I don’t know any institution in any industry that is considered successful with those numbers.

What business would be allowed to continue functioning with a failure rate of +50%? Why do so many of these dropout factories remain open, allowed to take money for a product that doesn’t even result in anything half the time. Does keeping community colleges functioning cost NYS tax payers any money? I’d like to know that, because in the last decade they have dumped millions into HVCC. I want to know if tax payers have had to help pay that. If so, that’s outrageous. Again the whole + 50% thing.

And if these community colleges are feeder schools for 4-year colleges, why do they give an associate’s degree at the end of it? To me that makes no sense. To me that makes it kind of a competition or alternative to the 4-year college model. The goal for anyone who ever steps foot on any college campus should be a 4-year degree at least, and community college should be seen as the first step to that. That’s it. And community colleges should be held more accountable for this outlandish failure rate across the country. All I ever hear is how great HVCC is. How it’s one of the greatest community colleges in the country. What does that mean? +50 of the student population drops out! How can something be considered great with those kinds of numbers?

I have been thinking a lot about college this past week. And I guess my thoughts on the topic began when those U Albany punks rioted in the city last Saturday. I ask: Is it too easy to get into college, on any level? Has a college education become a right rather than a privledge? It shouldn't be that way. What good are jerks like that doing at U Albany? Even the armed services have a battery of psychological tests before entry, so that the person they bring aboard possess the moral makeup as well. What is really the point of bringing 10,000 kids onto the HVCC campus every fall, knowing that 5,000 of them are only delaying an inevitable path to the workforce or something that is not college based? Why can’t HVCC at least reject and accept?

Don’t we want our most elite students going into college, so that the degree earned is still in high demand and considered important? There’s just no selectivity left in college. Everybody goes to college! Everybody has a 4-year degree! If they can’t get in the traditional way they just back in another way (community college, etc). There are no jobs and a billion college grads. Now on top of this Mardi Gras of graduates, we have students coming out of community college with an associate’s degree. Great!

Why does everyone need a ribbon in this society? If you work hard and hit the books for 4-6 years you get to go to college. If academics aren’t your area, but you can fix an elevator or unclog a clog, let’s put you to work on that, sans the 12K in debt from HVCC. Believe me, I need more guys who can fix my brakes and repair my roof than I need people holding degrees in communications and psychology waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory. It’s college inflation. The same way when inflation happens with money, people start blowing their noses with hundred-dollar bills. If there are too many degrees and too many kinds of degrees, people just stop caring. If you have a degree, I want to know you are the best of the best, a professional. I want to know you paid big bucks for it and studied very hard for it. I don’t want to hear about you having time to bust up cars on Hudson Ave. or deciding to stop your education at an associate’s. When that happens, all trust in the piece of paper is lost.

Speaking of nobody cares: Now on Facebook @ the Cat's Pajamas

Brian Huba

P.S. Heard U Albany faculty/students picked up garbage in the Pine Hills neighborhood last week. Great! Heard U Albany is canceling Fountain Day this spring. Ummm . . . Okay. Great! One question: When are you throwing out/dismissing the students who already turned themslves into police for rioting and destroying property last Saturday? That's what I want to know.


  1. Brian you are ignorant.
    Many jobs are available to folks with a 2 year degree.
    Just because you aren't familiar with them from your "classroom" life doesn't mean they don't exist.
    Ever heard of the manufacturing industry?
    Machinists, draftsman, (some) engineering.

  2. The same amount of jobs exist whether you send 500 kids to college or 5 million.
    I'm sure the thousands of graduates standing around without jobs isn't because they earned a degree.
    The big shot graduates just need to suck it up and pay their dues by doing a job they might be over-educated for, for a few years.

  3. Takes a few minutes and do the research on how to get more jobs for these kids back to this country...CEO's from GE, the steel industry and the like.
    Not enough of our college grads in the U.S. can find jobs because of the major they chose.
    U.S. is being killed by China and India with math and engineering jobs (manufacturing). Until these kids stop chasing the get rich quick wall street type degrees and get back to math and science we may never get manufacturing jobs and industry growth back to this country.
    So if you want a job in a growing industry when you graduate major in math, science, engineering and forget the stupid accounting degree.

  4. Although I appreciate your position here Brian, I do disagree with your statement "Don’t we want our most elite students going into college?..." We don't just want educated rich kids. Bright kids from economically challenged families must also be given the opportunity. I would agree that educational standards for admission should be more stringent yet at the same time, we must encourage not the "elite" but the brightest to obtain degrees.
    Going to college is a privilege not a right, I agree. However to convert back to the elitist past when only rich kids got degrees is not the answer.
    Would you say that Janie Doe for Uptown Troy, a young woman who has carried straight A's throughout high school hasn't earned the privilege of a college degree? You're argument seems bent towards only allowing families of means this privilege. That's prejudicial.

  5. Great Post! Two-year degrees are excellent starting points for four-year degrees but also allow you the option to venture out into the workplace with your own skills and knowledge that will allow you greater earning potential than a high school diploma.

  6. The guy that wrote this article should never be allowed to write anything that is to be presented to the public again! All of his facts are wrong, the drop out rate, how community colleges work, why they are in existence. Shameful writing.