Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Ivory Tower Basement, continued

This post is a continuation of yesterday's, in which I discuss an article in the June issue of The Atlantic Monthly.

A main point of Professor X's article, "In the Basement of the Ivory Tower", is to discuss the implications, including the "morality", of admitting students to classes that the students are apparently incapable of passing. This is a fascinating topic because it gets to the heart of some cosmic societal issues related to who can have, should have, and/or must have a college education, and what makes a course or experience 'college level'.

Students who have poor reading comprehension and/or writing skills cannot pass Professor X's introductory-level writing and literature classes. Despite being angst-ridden about the subjectivity of grading student papers, Professor X has a specific set of standards for what is required to get a passing grade on the assignments in his class, and some students cannot meet those standards. We could argue about whether his standards are too strict, but I'd rather keep this discussion more general.

Professor X points to the supposed financial gain for a college if a student has to take a course over and over, prolonging the time during which the student is enrolled at the college, and he mentions that administrators at his colleges don't seem to care that many of the students in his classes fail. Issues such as these provide some of the motivation for asking whether it is ethical to continue teaching students who fail. The question is particularly relevant to Professor X's colleges, which he describes as "colleges of last resort".

Professor X writes: "We [Americans] are not comfortable limiting anyone's options." That describes how I feel about the issue. If the alternative is to limit access to college classes, that is more disturbing to me than the situation in which students fail the same courses repeatedly. It's bad enough that some students don't have access to higher education owing to lack of ability to pay the tuition, fees, and other costs. Various colleges have various admissions standards, but I think there should be some colleges that accept anyone who is able to meet the most basic requirements of class participation, in person or online.

Earlier this year, I was traveling in a country that has long had excellent universities in its major cities, but is trying to expand and strengthen its higher education system in smaller cities and other areas. This is controversial, and a widely expressed opinion in the urban universities is that this expansion is a mistake because the regional universities won't be any good; the faculty will be mediocre and the students will be those who aren't good enough to attend the elite universities.

Broadening the university system sounds like a good plan to me. Why not increase access to higher education? The elite universities won't be harmed -- no resources are being taken from them -- and people who for various reasons can't attend the elite universities will get a university education. I like the organization of the U.S. system, in which there are many options in terms of university/college size, programs/emphasis, location, and admissions standards.

There will always be some students who can't succeed at the 'college level'. But is it immoral to let them try (again and again)? It is immoral if the educational system is dysfunctional and consists primarily of an accounting office to take your money so you can hurl yourself at impossible tasks taught by an implacable instructor.

If, however, a student makes a good-faith effort to pass a class, if the college has educational resources to help struggling students, and if the instructor makes a good-faith attempt (within the limits of what is reasonable in terms of time and effort) to help students succeed, it would be immoral to limit someone's access to a college education on the basis of their being unable to write a research-paper "grounded in history" (as required by Professor X).

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Which is more immoral:

Limiting a person's access to a college degree after he or she demonstrates incompetency at doing so?

or

Continuing with the fraud that a college degree is available to anyone who can pay for it, who has the fortitude [both psychic and financial] to hammer away [again and again] until finally passing a class that should have been easily passable by the average college student?

That's the true moral crux of the matter. Professor X is not exactly in favor of disallowing certain students from having the opportunity to attempt a college degree. The question remains: Does a university have the obligation to inform a student that continuing to pursue a degree is no longer a viable option after a series of failures?

Keep in mind that each failure costs *someone* money. Wouldn't a parent be better off paying for a child's tutor [thus insuring someone else's academic success] instead of failing 5 courses?

PhysioProf said...

We have a real love-hate relationship with highly-competitive winner-take-all type systems in this country.

Americans are obsessively enamored with professional sports--where literally millions of youngsters work their tails off thinking that some day they will be a professional athlete in the "big leagues", and maybe a few thousand make it in one sport or another. Americans can't get enough of "reality teevee", where thousands and thousands of people apply to be on these shows, and then a couple dozen get on the show, and then through a merciless process of personal and public humiliation, they get winnowed down to a single "winner". Americans are obsessed with extreme wealth and celebrity, thinking that if only things were just *slightly* different, they'd be in the back of the limo sipping Cristal with Paris, Trump, and P Diddy.

But when it comes to the mundane reality of ordinary life, schools, jobs, hobbies, etc, all of a sudden, people are no longer interested in this kind of pyramidal "meritocracy" (real of otherwise), and want *everyone* to be able to *win*, so long as they "put in the effort". Schools are encouraged to "build self-esteem" rather than teach children to "compete to succeed". Post-docs complain because there are simply no guarantees that if you just work hard, you will some day become a PI. Students complain when they fail courses and are not given degrees, because they "tried really hard" and "really need the grade/degree".

So, to get back to the question at hand, do I think it is immoral for low-end colleges to take tuition from students who in all likelihood will *never* master the material required to graduate, or put any of that material to use in their daily lives? No, I don't think it is a specific immorality of such colleges. But I do think it is a manifestation of a duality present at the core of our national being, one that leads to all sorts of denial of reality. On the one hand, Americans love the idea that there are elite international institutions like Yale and Harvard with exceedingly high academic and social standards, where the societal elite naturally go, but were "normal people" can also go if they just "pull themselves up by their bootstraps". But on the other hand, Americans also love the idea that *anyone* can go to some college or another and get a degree if they can pony up a little cash.

We want there to be elite statuses and institutions in this country, but we want everyone to be able to obtain and enter them, respectively.

Anonymous said...

One of the problems with "education for all" is that students expect to pass if they made a good-faith effort. This is probably everywhere, but perhaps more so in community colleges where the effort is often bigger.

Passing a course has more to do with meeting certain standards than how much the student tried. If someone is borderline and tried really hard then sure. Problem is there are too many students who try really hard, but are nowhere close to meeting standards.

Mister Troll said...

"College" and "university" are not necessarily synonymous outside of the US, which I do think changes the discussion of broadening access to higher ed.

To play someone's advocate, the students described by Professor X do have access to university-level education. The issue seems to be whether it is right to continue advising these students to re-enroll. The students may be willing (and some of course will surprise everyone, including themselves), but they're unlikely to do well.

I think it's possible to take advantage of people even when they are willing.

My take: at some point, the students should be advised very bluntly. They should have freedom to continue trying, if they wish, but the university should be reluctant -- nay, should make it difficult -- for this to be accomplished.

EliRabett said...

Retention is a very serious issue and there actually is useful information out there to which faculty pay little attention. For example, the single best predictor of success in general chemistry (the entry level science course for most students) is their last grade in math. There was an article in Science on this not so long ago

At our place we give a math placement exam (MPE). We have tracked student grades on this exam to their grades in GChem. It turns out that there is a minimum grade on the MPE below which the students simply fail, and above which we can't tell how they will do. I have a friend who has done the same thing at his place and has years of data with the same result. Our MPE is slightly better for us than the SAT Math test but YMMV.

We have also found that students who fail or withdraw or get Ds do a lot better in GChem when they retake it.

In other words, stopping students from committing gradicide requires taking some time to figure out what is causing them to fail, rather than simply saying "these are the worst students in the world", but you have to devote some time and effort to it and there are too many faculty who would rather not.

Anonymous said...

Part of this topic is what gets taught in an introductory literature class at a community college compared to a big state university version of the same course. I agree we should not limit people's access to higher education -- plenty of people bloom at older ages, or only have the motivation to do the work required to succeed in college later in life (say, when they can get a pay raise if they take some classes). But if you know that more of the class has educational deficiencies in the CC setting as opposed to the Big State U setting, how much should the instructors bend to accommodate and remediate the students, instead of covering the 'required material.'

When I adjuncted at a community college as a PhD student, I felt very underprepared for the challenges I faced in an intro class. I could lecture and teach my subject area -- I had engaging group activities, I gave frequent feedback opportunities, I copied all my Big State U instructors' tactics (and those discussed in the CoHE)... but I didn't, and couldn't, do what the students needed most. They needed me to spend 1-2 weeks teaching study skills, and they needed me to be a more seasoned educator who would know how to intervene with particular kinds of educational dysfunctions, like test anxiety. If I had taught them how to read a textbook more effectively, that would have made a much more long-lasting impact on their lives than if I succeeded in teaching them any particular concept in my discipline. This would be true even if they decided college wasn't for them at some point.

It's a very real dilemma for CC professors to determine how much instructional time to allot to these life skills that aren't part of the actual curriculum, how much the actual curriculum has to be diluted to accommodate these additions -- one professors at 4 year colleges encounter far less.

thm said...

Professor X writes: "We [Americans] are not comfortable limiting anyone's options." That describes how I feel about the issue.

Although thinking more broadly, we are comfortable limiting options, specifically for athletics (and to a smaller extent, music performance). Many varsity sports at the high school level, and most at the college level--even at NCAA Division III or NAIA schools--have tryouts and the underperformers are cut.

Of course, the role of athletics in the mission of the university is a whole separate issue, and shouldn't really be comparable to the role of introductory English composition, but there are many (particularly those advocating for expanded participation of women in sports) who argue that participation in athletics builds leadership and confidence and other skills thought to improve one's viability in the job market. So the systematic limitations of students' options for athletic participation does raise similar issues.

L said...

I think I could not agree with you less. Unless you understand "access" to mean something other than I understand it to mean.

I think I can even leave aside, in my argument, the question of whether an individual can understand the material in a college course (that is, the question of "intelligence" or innate potential). What I am thinking about here is whether an individual does understand the material (regardless of ability).

What's the floor? How deep does the basement go? If I am to teach a college course in, to pick one example not at random, introductory psychology, are there people I should not admit to the course? Are there people whose level of understanding is low enough (again, regardless of "intelligence") that they will not be able to get real benefit from the course? (More practically, are there people who will, even/especially if they are really motivated, suck up so much of my time and effort that my ability to give to the rest of the students is diminished?)

In my view, there really are people who, objectively, do not have the ability to participate profitably in a college-level course.

So (I think you might ask) what's the harm in giving these folks access to college courses? Well, the harm is (I would say, out of my limited experience) that college administrators do not like to fail lots of students. It looks bad. It upsets people. (A reputation for being "selective" is much more easily accomplished by just not admitting many people -- not by failing droves of the ones you did admit.)

So what happens is that people are passed by fiat, or the standards are lowered, or by hook or by crook, people pass classes. And then they start being awarded degrees. And then everyone's degree means much, much less than it used to.

Don't you see this happening? You're a tenured prof at what sounds like a Big R1 [State?] University. Isn't that where these things happen all the time?

I myself am a grad student at a Big R1 State U. And when I taught Intro Psych in my first year, I had students who were literally incapable of writing a whole English sentence. Many more could barely write sentences, but were totally incapable of writing paragraphs -- by which I mean "complete thoughts". The vast majority could write paragraphs, but could not string together three pages' worth of paragraphs into a unified, narrative whole.

Things do not, apparently, improve as you move along in this university. A friend of mine taught a fourth-year course in psychology and found herself describing to her class that "a sentence has a noun and a verb."

Being able to write a sentence is something I think of as an entry-level skill for the second grade. Being able to write a paragraph definitely should happen by the end of third grade. Being able to write a three-page paper that at least has rudimentary flow should happen by the end of sixth grade. But it's not happening by the time people are awarded a bachelor's degree.

So what does it mean to have a college degree? Apparently it means "This person does not necessarily have the ability to write a complete sentence in the English language." And I state that without the least hyperbole, and, perhaps, without reference to the students' "intelligence". The problem, in my eyes, lies with administrative structures that fail to ensure basic skills exist before instruction at the college level begins.

Which is why I do agonize about "access". To me, "access" to college courses should be granted on the basis of being minimally able to do the work -- not just show up and, optionally, breathe.

Helen said...

This is a narrowly-focused example, but as an engineering undergrad I was required to take one from a list of certain courses in other departments, which was well and good. Most of them had prerequisites I hadn't had, which was also fine. I took one that had prerequisites that I had already taken. It was known to be a challenging course, which was fine.

When the term was advanced enough that it was too late to change, I found out that the professor was presuming a more extensive prerequisite set than was published anywhere. I spoke to him to ask for what specific texts I should study in addition to make sure I had the material he expected.

His response was an impatient, "Your xxx book." I told him I didn't have one, and which particular book would he recommend? I had already explained I was majoring in another field. That got an exasperated statement that I should have taken an xxx course and therefore I should use that book. I told him that no xxx course was listed anywhere in any prerequisite information, and which xxx book would he recommend?

The conversation devolved into the prof repeating in an irritated fashion that the course was geared towards those majoring in his field and xxx knowledge is presumed, while I kept repeating that that's fine, but xxx should be added to the prerequisites, and in the meantime, since I know nothing about xxx, could he please tell me what book or books would be adequate to meet his expectations?

He never would answer the bloody question.

I explained about the list of courses, from which students in my major had to select one. In response to his dismissive assertions that his course was for students in his field, I suggested that perhaps his department should then ask mine to take his course off that list. I also kept suggesting that the prerequisite list be amended so as to be accurate, while he kept insisting that it shouldn't be because his course was for his field's students.

Yeah, moral, not so much.

Helen said...

"Which is why I do agonize about "access". To me, "access" to college courses should be granted on the basis of being minimally able to do the work -- not just show up and, optionally, breathe."

That sums up what I was talking about in my previous comment. I wanted an honest listing of required skills/knowledge for beginning the course.

A dance instructor I know has given up on listing any kind of previous classes as prerequisites to advance to higher-level classes, because students and their parents are always trying to jump ahead anyway. Instead she has a dance exam you have to pass to advance a class. It works much better.

I'm seeing a similar problem in engineering -- prerequisites are usually listed as courses, not skills, but if you get students who didn't master the contents of those courses or some of the expected content wasn't covered, then there's a mess. I'm thinking listing skill prerequisites instead or as well might be a good thing.

amy said...

I related to much of what Professor X said. I taught at a community college for a while, and now teach at a second-rate state school. I have encountered many students who have serious "deficits" in reading comprehension and writing abilities. The moral question is not primarily whether I should fail them, or whether they should be allowed to attend college. The question is whether universities should be allowed to profit from such a situation. When I taught at a CC, I had students who were motivated and mature (much more so than the average student at state-U). I could have helped them improve their literacy skills. But the dang school stuffed 70 students into the class and had no writing expectation (this was a philosophy class!). The salary was minuscule. I was provided with no office in which to give office hours, and I was paid only for the hours of class (not for any time spent outside of class). In order to survive, I had to give multiple choice and short-essay exams; working with individual students on rough drafts of papers would have been impossible. The students struggled with the material, but I just couldn't see failing a bunch of them when I hadn't been able to give them the individual attention they needed, so I relaxed my grading standards.

My tenure-track job isn't a heck of a lot better. I teach three 50-student sections per semester, and these classes are supposed to be "writing intensive." Ha! The university only gives a cursory glance at my teaching evaluation numbers, and rests almost all of the tenure decision on publications. So what am I supposed to do? If I give challenging assignments and genuinely help the struggling students improve, I'll be working 40 hours a week just on teaching. When am I supposed to do research? The truth is, my university doesn't give a crap about education; it's the dollars they want. And that's the real scandal here, which I'm glad Prof. X highlighted.

kt said...

This is an interesting track for discussion, but what I'd taken away from the article was something different: why must we expect a college education as a standard indicator of competence?

From a utilitarian point of view, you don't need Homer to be a secretary. You don't need calculus to work in retail. You don't need biochem to be a dispatcher. I have friends who are extremely competent at their jobs, and smart and capable of college-level work, too, who will never be able to advance in insurance or retail or whatever field they might be in because they haven't got the magic piece of paper. This is not particularly sensible.

(I'm not arguing for letting people practice medicine without medical school, etc. There are plenty of fields in which you can learn as you go without hurting anyone. I'm also not arguing for restricting availability: my father came to the US because of restricted educational options, and I've benefited from open enrollment in areas as diverse as choir and the International Baccalaureate program in high school.)

While plenty of people make it through college without demonstrating writing competence or grammatical ability or mathematical insight, there are also plenty of people trapped under the sheepskin ceiling these days. Many of these people, when they get the money and the time, go to community college. It is (as Professor X said) "the right thing to do." It's our accepted path to success in America. Why? Is community college (or even the state university) really going to make you a better firefighter?

I am all in favor of education. I am very much in favor of objective standards in grading, as well, and if someone hasn't got the prerequisites for my class I advise them to start elsewhere and inform them of the possibility of failure. I feel good about grading performance on competence and effort. Why, then, can't our businesses and corporate structures also feel good about promoting people based on demonstrated competence, rather than the possession of degree X?

Dr. Lisa said...

It's a very real dilemma for CC professors to determine how much instructional time to allot to these life skills that aren't part of the actual curriculum, how much the actual curriculum has to be diluted to accommodate these additions -- one professors at 4 year colleges encounter far less.

This is true, but community colleges are also more likely to have "basic skills" classes that students can be referred to. I think that was one of my major problems with the article. Prof. X had students who weren't qualified for Eng 101, so why didn't he refer them to take, say, Eng 098? There are remedial classes that do not count towards a degree, but will provide students with the skills they need to succeed. My problem was that Prof. X seems content to complain, but not to act.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lisa, you're assuming such a class as "ENG 098" exists at Professor X's school. It often either does not, or the student was passed along without the skills necessary for more advanced coursework. Can a professor actually tell a student to go retake a class already passed? Not at any school I ever attended or taught at.

Also, it might be that Professor X was teaching that mythical "ENG 098" course. Imagine the repercussions of that possibility.

I've actually taught one of those sorts of courses before, and it's amazing how deficient some students [even seniors!] can be at some rather basic college-level skills.

Samia said...

I'm not really sure what to think...some instructors complain that they don't even feel free to fail incompetent students(for fear of negative, highly weighted evaluations that can affect job security). Now the problem is that students are trying multiple times to pass certain classes? I don't get it. Where should we draw the line? How many times, and how many ways, will we let someone fail some arbitrary test before deciding they "can't" hack it in college? Who gets to decide that?

Why can't we keep access to higher education as open as possible while realistically advising students about their chances of passing a class?

Doctor Pion said...

The main reason college (often just "some" college) has become required for so many jobs is that HS degrees have come to mean very little. Despite all of the nattering about accountability and NCLB, that remains true in my state. Employers still believe the credential our CC offers, even if it is "just" an associates degree.

Our CC, like all CCs, has no admission standard other than a HS diploma or GED. The first thing you learn at a CC is what employers know: a HS diploma means almost nothing as far as literacy or numeracy, even with a HS graduation test. We have an elaborate placement system to deal with this, and part of that includes exit tests to try to catch any students who might have been "passed along" in those crucial pre-college skills classes.

However, we all know the phenomenon of the student who did well in class A but then can't remember any of it a month later at the start of class B. They don't get the concept of a "prerequisite". The cram-and-forget approach emphasized in our high schools (partly due to the NCLB tests) might bear part of the responsibility. Thanks to Steven Zucker I know this is even a problem at Johns Hopkins, but it is worse for our students. I've recently mused about whether we should adopt a new terminology and will explore that further this fall. I beat to death the connection between my class and the next ones in engineering, and have seen the positive effects in the success of my graduates, but am always looking for better ways to get this idea across to more students.

BTW, I'd love to know more about the Math Placement Exam (MPE) that Eli Rabett mentioned. We have a way for students to audit a class they have credit for (like when you get a student who passed calc 1 in 1990), but don't do much to catch ones who need it.

I don't see the issue in the way Anonymous 1:45 AM does, although there are likely plenty of "diploma mills" still out there (and one of Prof X's schools could be one). Some reputedly pass students who can't even read. [One major university reportedly did that for a star athlete.] The dichotomy posed is a false one, since those two situations are not the only result of open access. There are students who need two tries to get through each in a series of core classes, but who finally make up for having attended a truly awful HS (you have no idea how awful) and go on to earn a solid degree from a good university. Our worst students go on probation or get suspended if they repeat a class too many times, so they can't go on forever.

Ms.PhD said...

I haven't read this article you're talking about, but as usual, I have an opinion.

I personally think there is a lot to be said for grouping students according to whether they have fulfilled a certain level of pre-requirements.

I agree that everyone should have access to education, and this should be one of our priorities.

I think that rather than having half the class fail all the time, students should be required to take placement exams.

Those requiring remedial work should be offered remedial courses, pro-rated for what they can afford.

Then when they are ready, they can 'graduate', as it were, to 'regular' classes, for which they pay whatever tuition they can afford.

That way, they don't 'bring down' the 'regular' classes, but they also don't get left behind.

And I think there should be a limit on letting students re-take a class. Maybe twice. Maybe three times, tops.

Maybe that's idealistic.

I do think our higher-ed system is ridiculously expensive in terms of tuition, since most of that money does NOT go into teaching or resources that directly benefit students. But that's purely from the point of view of a former student who went to an expensive college.

p.s.

It's not that we postdocs (PP, I'm talking at you) complain about working hard and not getting jobs. It's that a meritocracy, enforced earlier, would be a good system and much more fair. I would have rather have not gotten into grad school than be here now, a senior postdoc who feels like the system has been leading us all on. What we have right now is NOT a meritocracy. If scientific or academic competition were the only measures of success, I would not complain.

Dr. Burt said...

I'll start off by saying that we (teachers) should all try harder to reach the stragglers. It's just hard to find the time and patience to track down the ones that don't seem to care or respect the discipline to which you have devoted your life. I have found that pleading with the stragglers to come to office hours early and often just doesn't work. They only visit:

a. day before the exam (can you teach me 1/2 a semester right now?)
b. day after the exam (Is there ANYTHING I can do about my 23/100? I'm just a poor test taker)
c. day after final grades (Is there ANY extra credit or something I can do to turn my "D" into, like, a "B" or something?)

With that being said, we (colleges) do have a way of limiting entrance into college ... it's called the SAT and the ACT. Unfortunately, admissions officers are afraid to (or under pressure to not) send that letter to Sallie Firstyear and Tommy Freshman saying "I'm sorry, you're just not cut out for college." Why do enrollments go up EVERY YEAR? I'm sure we are getting more applications but we're also lowering the bar.

I can (almost always) use the score on the MATH ACT as an accurate predictor of success in my general chemistry classes. We set a strict guideline that you have to have such-and-such a MATH ACT score to get into general chemistry for science majors. Part of this is that there is math involved in chemistry. Part of this is that if you can't REASON through a math problem then you can't reason through chemistry problems. If they don't have the score then they have to take baby gen. chem first and we can give them a little time to see if they are serious about the sciences.

YET, every year students somehow manage to make it onto my rolls having bypassed the MATH ACT pre-requisite. Why? Because advisors want to give Tommy Freshman a "chance to pass."

I like the way it was done at Big Public University where I got my Ph.D. If you didn't have the test scores to get in after H.S. then you get the option to go to a "branch campus" and take some first year courses. If you succeed, then you can apply for transfer to the main campus. Great way to see whether students are serious or not BEFORE letting them into the big show. I guess I'm saying that more of that should go on. Let the poorer students scrape by at community college or the University of Phoenix. If they can excel there, then promote them to the majors.

Anfa said...

I took pre-req courses to enroll in an accelerated science PhD; 5 at a CC and then I did OChem at the big state U. My GenChem lab partner worked in a large internationally known chemical company; I hadn't set foot in a lab in 30 years but had taken and passed GChem previously. Partner flunked: I got an A. Both of us worked full-time and went to night classes. The difference- reading and writing skills. The prof, who was very gifted and very dedicated, frequently complimented my reports, which I worked hard on and treated as I would a work document. Similar situation in OChem- the lab professor was very happy with my work and flunked another student whose reports revealed the fact that he could barely string a sentence together never mind follow directions.
Yet in my doctorate program, I was always struggling for exam grades despite putting in lots of time, being prepared by reading ahead and asking questions. It was extremely disheartening to not get the high grades I had when younger, yet in written reports and later in clinical rotations, my work consistently earned "excellent" remarks. It was justifying that after struggling with school exams, I did extremely well on my licensure exam.
It angered me to realize that the program consistently had to adjust the bell curve when 60% of the class failed exams. Students who failed (D=65 was the fail point) were encouraged to try again next year but not told that they needed to score>90% in every repeated course in order to move on. They definitely were encouraged to come back and the college made a lot of money on these "doomed students".
But the one thing they all had in common was poor command of the written word. And the inability to handle the written work seemed to be a good predictor that these students would not do well in a science field that relies critically on the ability to communicate well both verbally and in writing.
There has to be a bar, and a standard set. And the institution has an ethical responsibility to
refrain from enrolling students who will not be able to handle those standards. Rather than pre-submitted essays, a good way to assess writing skills would be to ask the student during the interview process to sit and jot down 2-3 paragraphs on a random topic. A written dance exam, if you will.

Åkerbäret said...

Coming from a country where the last few governments have suddenly become obsessed with dragging just about everyone through college whether they want to or not, and where it's impossible to fail a course (your grade will only say "course not finished" if you failed), my opinion is that it's great that everyone that wants to give it a try can go to college. However, someone that has not passed a course after two or three attempts is highly unlikely to pass it and is just wasting everyone's time.

A comment regarding increasing the number of universities and colleges in a country. In a place like the US where the university education is largely funded by private money, like tuition fees and donations, that might not be a problem, but in a small country where university education is funded entirely by taxes (tuition fees are illegal here for universites and collages) it's a rather serious problem. One reason is that the number of students in the entire country does not increase endlessly, unlike apparently the number of colleges, so now all colleges or universities have a lack of students and consequently a lack of money for education. Another is that the total sum of money that all universities and colleges have to share does not automatically increase just because the number of colleges and universities increase. There are benefits, but there are also very serious drawbacks.