Open Letter to the Ministry of Colleges and Universities: The State of our Post-Secondary Institutions.

Post Secondary education is one of the most prestigious and challenging times of our lives. This is where many students expand their knowledge, grow as adults and meet new and diverse groups of people. The idea of a university or college education comes associated with the idea that it will provide you with the tools in order to get a much higher paying job and life style. Our universities used to be a challenge to get into, it used to mean you had accomplished something in order to get in. Unfortunately the idea of a small select few getting in has been left to the sidelines for the idea of mass production education. Universities across Ontario (with the exception of a few) are taking everyone and anyone into their programs in order to fill their seats. As a university student myself I have wondered how some people were accepted into university. Their marks and work ethic have left so much to be desired and it provides me with anger to potentially see someone bottom feed their way through to get a degree the same as mine while I put so much effort into getting top marks.

One of the issues surrounding the new mass production education is the individuals that they let into the facilities. It used to be a challenge in order to get into university you needed to get the marks in order to succeed but this has changed. Individuals with a 60% average in highschool are being admitted to these courses in order to fill the seats. I was a 60% average student in highschool, I did as little as possible throughout highschool because I hated it. My parents wanted me to go to university in order to get a education but I knew it was a bad decision because I wouldn’t put in the time or the effort. If we are accepting students who clearly do not care and don’t want to put in the effort then we devalue the institutions that are supposed to be for higher learning. The mass production of education means that every year that university degree is worth less and less because the standards are lower. To me it is unacceptable to allow students who don’t want to put in the time or the effort into a post-secondary institution simply to take their cash. We should not be allowing universities and colleges to take on students simply for the purpose of using them as cash cows. With Canadian household debt at 163% of income this is not something we should condone, we should allow or practice.

We do need to make an exception in some cases to allow lower income individuals and those from visible minorities to enter these institutions. Education is an important factor for improving ones life and if we can lift lower class individuals and visible minorities into the middle class we are benefiting ourselves for years to come. Individuals who can show that their marks were as a result of something other then their own laziness like family responsibility, poverty, income issues should also be provided with the opportunity to show their work ethic in these institutions.

A post-secondary degree or diploma is something that used to be hard to achieve and used to be something one felt proud of getting. As time goes on I feel less and less proud of my ability to achieve a university degree; I felt the same way with my college diploma. Post-secondary institutions make way too many accommodations; allow for to many students to continue on when they should have failed long ago. I know in my college courses that there were numerous students who should not have been there till the end. Their inability to academically succeed, progress as students was noticeable by more then just the students. Often times weaker students were paired with stronger students for activities and scenarios because the teachers knew that they would be able to pull the weight of the weaker student. In my mind this is unacceptable, a business would not accept a weaker employee who slowed down the others. This would be considered dead weight and let go but yet the college continued to allow them to progress on while barely; if at all meeting the requirements.

I have seen this again in my university experience; teachers and the university allowing individuals to progress when they should have been let go. Teachers allowing for extensions past their set deadlines and then stopping their percentage penalty after a short period. This often does not properly provide consequences for the students and means that they can wait till after that period to to hand it in. If a paper is 2 weeks late and still accepted it but only loses that 1 weeks penalty; what is the pressure to finish after that first week. The university also allows students to continue on under academic probation which because of so much bureaucracy has 0 true consequences. I personally believe that if a student is unable to consistently meet a base requirement of -5% of their course minimum that they should be let go. We need to protect the students who are coming out of the university and their degree. The mass production education is negatively harming students who have provided effort for their degree. In the end a degree of a 50% and a degree of 90% is the same piece of paper. This is extremely damaging to the reputation of the institutions, the students and employers who look to these institutions to provide high quality workers.

University professors may be good researchers, they may be good at bringing in research dollars and notoriety but often they are poor professors. The system of tenure where a university professor cannot be let go for poor performance in academics is a travesty to students. I can name a couple of professors myself who I feel and many others feel are unworthy of teaching. They are simply too poor of educators to do the job and should be let go. Yet, due to tenure and other bureaucracy they continue to teach and provide a poor level of knowledge to students. A perfect example of this is a teacher (who I will not name) who was under scrutiny for sexist, racist and other comments before we attended his class. He provided sexist comments in that class again, called a student multiple inappropriate comments and after a complaint to the head of the department with 50% of that class as signatures of his poor performance he continues to teach. He does so because he has provided the school with a large amount of money in terms of research grants and other funding. Its a terrible thing to see universities focus solely on money rather then the quality of education that they are providing for their students. Universities need to look to individuals in the field of the topic to teach classes much like colleges do. A university professor (Who I feel is a very good teacher) who has never completed a law degree shouldn’t in my mind be teaching a course on criminal law. I would have personally preferred a recent law school graduate or a lawyer/police officer. This real world education is much more valuable then what a teacher reads from a book and then regurgitates to students.

University semesters are simply too short for their own good. Often times professors are forced to condense their teachings in order to meet the demands placed on them. 12 weeks of 3 hour classes doesn’t provide in my mind enough time to truly learn in enough detail the items we need to know for the future. I would like to see if expanded by another 2-4 weeks and expand classes from 1.5 to 2 hours. This would allow us to truly get an understanding of what the topics are we are supposed to be learning. I want to hear every detail; I am paying for it and I hate to see teachers cut content because of time restrictions; in the end students lose. Those that are dedicated to going to class consistently and doing their homework would in my mind be ok with spending the additional time. It would expand our knowledge of these subjects and make us better at the things we do. The lost money for students during this time would be a major drawback but the expanded knowledge would in itself be a valuable tool and provide for future income growth.

Universities and Colleges are filled to the brim with ineffective studies; students and the economy are paying dearly for it. Thousands of students each year come out of university or college and start to look for a job often times with ‘useless degrees’ or into fields swamped by new applicants. The government and universities need to do a much better job of offering degrees into careers and job fields that have significant growth or are going to have high rates of turnover. I can name 4-5 fields of study at the university I am currently at that are irrelevant. A significant portion of the studies in this university are surrounding education and providing Ontario with more teachers. Ontario simply doesn’t need teacher and thousands of students are being pushed out into the world with a degree that while valuable is overpopulated. We need to offer more programs and services to students that will help them enter the job market right away. Technology is a big field for Ontario and it is continuing to grow. A technology based business program would be beneficial as our society moves online. It would also have the added benefits of allowing students to have a business degree which could be used to start up technology companies. These kind of real world studies need to be implemented by more universities, students are drowning under a wave of irrelevant studies. These students are also causing the way in which people look at degrees to be of a lower category since so many people have them.

The process of applying and getting into graduate school is simply put: stupid. Every individual school has their own process, their own system and their own requirements. The government needs to come together to make this process simpler for students who are looking to get a Masters or a PHD. The process does not need to be easier but the government needs to make it simpler to apply and to find the proper schools. The current process as it is; is way beyond broken and is desperate need of repair. The process of going through each individual school’s website, finding the proper information from different ends of their school and then trying to find a professor is pushing away intelligent students. Attempting to find all this information has taken me hours which other students who have a 2nd job, a family or other responsibilites don’t have the time to lose. Changing the way that we can apply to graduate school and the collection of information will make these programs harder to get into because of increasing applications. This increase in applications means universities can pick and choose who they take and the research they conduct. All of which would have valuable aspects for the individual, the economy, knowledge bases and the university.

University and College can still be a important part of a students life but they need to change and learn to say no. They need to let lose students who simply do not care about their studies. They need to reduce the number of people they bring in to these courses because they want to fill seats. They need to change the studies they offer and be more closely related to the needs of the economy and the market. They need to do a better job of protecting the integrity of the degree in which they provide. Not everyone deserves a degree, this thinking is killing students and causing them to take on insurmountable levels of debt. Its time that the government takes this issue seriously and works on fixing the university and college system.