Jonathan Crimmins

Jonathan Crimmins

Every so often I get comments about my columns. Sometimes the emails come as though the sender is enjoying a happy hour, others come with tips or questions. One such email came in this past week from a regular reader about what sort of classes we have to pay for in our local colleges and university.

What a great question. If you were reading last week I talked about preparing the future workers of today with the education for tomorrow and the importance of getting the right education. Well, among the course catalogs and the class descriptions I wonder what is lurking out there. Awaiting the young minds and, more importantly, their checkbooks in the halls of academia.

Well, from a pure monetary standpoint, you have two worlds. The public colleges and universities. For value you cannot beat going to one of Maine’s community colleges. Tuition per year for a community college is less than $3,000. Comparatively, at Orono, tuition is going to set you back almost $9,000. I guess, though, you cannot put a price tag on being at the flagship of the system. Once you add in the fees, room, board and all of the other costs, going to Orono might set someone back more than a $100,000 for a four-year degree.

For that $100,000 I bet that the school has some classes that are really going to prepare the youth of Maine for a great, high paying job after school, right? I mean they must have a way to pay off that debt, right? What classes could you take? What is offered?

In one semester you could take the ever-popular Cultural Perceptions of Nature. You could follow that up with, Who Owns Native Cultures? Hmm, hard hitting and ever so preparatory. Maybe the Anthropology department is not your forte.

How about a major in the Human Dimensions of Climate Change? That major must be very topical this time of year. Given the bitter temps in the last several weeks, I might have sought out an independent study and burned as much Styrofoam as I could to hasten a little global warming.

If that is not your sort of thing there is always a major in Romance Languages. Surely a course of study that puts you on the high-income job trajectory. As a fringe benefit to that degree you also learn how to fashionably wear a beret. Bravo!

If you find that nothing is really striking you, other than the impending threat of financial ruin upon graduation, there is the Interdisciplinary Studies degree. The description for this degree might as well read, “I cannot make up my mind and just want to finish out my time in purgatory with something to put on my wall.” This program is for students who cannot achieve their goals through, “any departmentally based major program.” If this is your only option perhaps you have chosen the wrong school.

You can work on a minor in Canadian Studies. Wait, what? Yes, remember for that $100,000 total you can spend your time learning about America’s unofficial 51st state. I have loved my time traveling to Canada. Montreal was great and there are few places more beautiful than Prince Edward Island, but is sitting in a class on the Intro to Canadian Literature or the Franco-American Women’s Experience going to pull down that major coin for you? It seems like Loonie-cy!

You can minor in Marxist and Socialist Studies. This means you can fail learning about a system that failed, unless your idea of post-graduation success means driving a 1955 DeSoto straight off the streets of Havana. I am sure that this is the sort of path that every HR manager is salivating over when they read resumes.

In just a short amount of time I have become depressed reading the course catalog for our state’s university system. Remember besides the students that are walking away from school with a mountain of student loans and regrets, we the taxpayer are paying for much of this insanity. We are willfully allowing these schools to build up unrealistic ideas of what students need to succeed and then allowing these schools to dictate what it is they, the schools, need to be successful.

And to think this is just the academic side of the equation. I did not even mention how much money is siphoned off to make sure that we have some really mediocre sports programs at some of the colleges.

The next time the state university system talks about tuition hikes or funding increases, ask yourself if your son and daughter are getting their money’s worth? Is the juice worth the squeeze? Is the degree worth the effort and money?

Ask yourself if the students are being prepared for a world far removed from academia? I bet the answer is no.

That’s my two cents…

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at j_ [email protected]


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