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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Who deserves a free ride through college?

Posted Monday, February 22, 2010, at 2:20 PM

Do you believe college is for everyone?

Should everyone, or anyone, get a free ride through college?

I used the GI Bill and part-time work as a construction laborer to get through college...in three years. I'm not bragging on the three years. There simply was no money for anything other than studying.

Allow me to say I met people in college who were just having a great time and I learned a lot from co-workers on construction sites who really encouraged me.

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Great blog, Bo. This is a subject on which I have very strong opinions, opinions that others have found insulting and elitist.

College is NOT for everyone and any 'free ride' that is not merit based is despicable. I also feel that the 'dumbing down' of a college education by incorporating majors that are more correctly called 'trades' and de-emphasizing traditional courses of study (math and physics most notably) that truly challenge and develop the intellect have made a college degree much less valuable than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

That said I still would not hire an individual that does not have a four-year degree as a believe that a real education is necessary before one should ever be considered a professional.

-- Posted by gottago on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 2:32 PM

People who use the GI bill or academic or athletic scholarships aren't getting a free ride IMHO. they are trading a skill or set amount of time for the ability to attend college.

College isn't for everyone. Part of the (successful) college experience is the sacrifices it take to get there and complete the program. A free ride negates that.

-- Posted by quietmike on Mon, Feb 22, 2010, at 2:52 PM

gottago..Are you saying that going to the tech school is not good? Do you believe that getting a scholarship is a free ride?

-- Posted by rebelrosecountrymom on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 10:02 AM


Notice I said 'merit based' scholarships. Those are such that require a top-tier GPA and ACT score. The laughable benchmarks that the lottery scholarship demands hardly describe the 'best and the brightest' and these students should NOT be entitled to a free ride. Lottery funds should have been used to reduce tuition spikes that keep costs high for every student.

Also note that I said universities should not offer courses of study that are more suitable for trade or tech institutions. The extremely task-oriented individual is not on par with the more cerebral one. Teach those that want to learn a specific task that particular trade and leave the ones who want to think and solve problems without the simple regurgitation of information in the university setting.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 10:42 AM

Ask the craftsmen, and for that matter the engineers, if the job of translating ideas into working models only constitutes the "the simple regurgitation of information". I suspect it takes as much creativity, cebrebal activity, and problem solving as any other endeavor.

-- Posted by devan on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 9:29 PM

Engineering is a much different profession than any craft. A four or five year engineering degree is heavy in higher math and some types of pure science (physics, geology, chemistry) ...it is a strongly academic course of study. A craft focuses narrowly on that particular endeavor without much cross-referencing of disciplines and rarely involves understanding of the theory of mathematics, physics, or chemistry. A craft is, at the end of the day, a more 'surface' understanding and much more 'task' oriented.

While the day-to-day activities of the craftsman and the engineer are very similair and maybe identical, the approach is not. I would much rather understand the complex mathematical relationship of why a brige is stable (and be able to use these numbers to predict other systems) than to just know that if I follow a certain protocol for building said bridge it will indeed be sound.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 9:55 PM

My son finished high school last May and started tech school July 6th and it is a 22 month course put into 13 months. Then last year during his Sr. year and going to the school all day he then week to weilding school 3 nites a week.We are very proud of him for doing what he is doing. We are hoping and praying that when he finishes everything he will get a good job that will carry him far. He is hoping for the same thing.

-- Posted by rebelrosecountrymom on Tue, Feb 23, 2010, at 10:35 PM


I'm sure he'll do fine. Good luck.

-- Posted by gottago on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 7:50 AM

No, college is not for everyone. The value of continued education should be to better prepare one not only for a better job, but also to expand and provide more depth to the core knowledge the person already has. There is value in both technical schools and academic colleges - depending on the individuals chosen path.

My concern is with the lottery money given to students to continue their education in college. Georgia's lottery money is called the HOPE scholarship. After 5 years of providing monies to students for college, they did a study to see where that money was going. They discovered that more than 60% of the dollars were spent on remedial courses (reading, writing, math and science) Remedial credits do not count towards a degree. They further discovered that a large number of HOPE students failed to complete their second year. Based on that study, it was recommended that HOPE dollars could be better spent and produce better prepared collegians if some of that money were spent to revamp the curriculum, provide better learning tools in grades K-12.

A scholarship is of no value when the recipient does not have the proper skill set to succeed. I wonder where the TN lottery dollars are being spent? Are these dollars going to remedial college courses also to teach in college what should have been provided in K-12?

-- Posted by amalphia on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 8:31 AM


It was much the same in Tn and the state took the shameful action of lowering the GPA so students could keep the scholarship.

I offer that K-12 does a great job preparing students that SHOULD be going to college. While it's been a few years since I graduated HS, I was able to CLEP test out of 21 hours...something that would have been unlikely if K-12 wasn't doing it's job. My experience wasn't unique as I knew of several students who tested out of GE hours and know of many who do the same now.

I truly believe that a portion of lottery funds should be evenly dispersed to the universities to better prepare for the influx of students. Having worked at a large university for years before lottery and an equal number of years after, I could see the stress that such an increase caused. Parking, classrooms, and student services were all inadequate thus resulting in a greater expenditure to upgrade or build. Such costs were passed on to ALL students...completely avoidable (or at least costs could be reduced) if part of the funds were used for such.

Again, I do believe a portion should go to the truly college worthy in the form of scholarships. An ACT score of 25 or above and a GPA of 3.6 or so and stong extracurriculars should be the minimum. Anyone taking remedial courses doesn't even BELONG on a campus of a four year school and I have strong doubts that they belong in college at all.

-- Posted by gottago on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 9:53 AM


I agree that the lower GPA for lottery scholarships has increased the number of students in college and it has stressed the university infrastructure, both physically and academically. Scholarships should be awarded to those students who are prepared and meet certain academic criteria, but who economically would be excluded from attending. I have often wondered if the scholarship money was limited in a way as to cover only courses that would be credited towards a degree, would some students pass on the money or would they apply themselves more ardently to catch up? Would the less than qualified would find a way to pay for the remedial courses themselves and then apply for the lottery scholarship, if they really wanted to get an higher education?

In regards to K-12 learning. I work with children currently in the TN school system and was disappointed with what I saw. Sixth graders who could not read or write in script/cursive. When questioned they told me and it was supported by the teachers - they don't require it. Gross plagiarism on essays and again finding out that it is permitted. Middle school children who could not write an essay. These observations are not just from Bedford County as I interface with schools all over the Mid-State region. I believe that the education we got years ago surpasses what is being provided today. I believe I am lot older than you and by high school graduation I had studied Latin, French, Thesis writing, Trig, Calculus, Biology and Physics with electives in music, art and (as a girl) the obligatory Home Ec. This was all accomplished in a regular school day. Yes, I did skip a lot of college freshman courses because of the education I got in the public schools I attended as did many of my peers. How many children can do that today without taking on the additional college credit courses (which, if I am correct require additional fees?)

-- Posted by amalphia on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 11:58 AM

Great points, amalphia.

I sooo wish we would have had Latin in high school or even in middle school. It would facilitate learning another language, esp the Romance languages.

My biggest gripe with the lottery scholarship is that upon its inception the required credit hours for graduation was dropped 10%...from 132 down to 120 hours. This was done to increase the liklihood that students would graduate in 4 years without depending on summers or credit overloads or them having to pay for any additional semesters on their own. To me college should require some financial sacrifice on the part of the student himself AND the parents.

-- Posted by gottago on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 9:34 PM


I love the benefits that Latin has provided. The ability to determine the meaning of a word that I have never seen, read or heard before delights me.

Sorry, I can't remember where I read it, but I thought I read that they are discussing raising the credit hours to 14 a semester in order to be considered a full-time student. I'm not sure what impact that would have on the lottery scholarships. It seems to me that everyone is working at cross purposes when it comes to higher education. First we lower the GPA required to qualify for a scholarship. Lower the required credit hours to graduate, but raise the semester hours for full-time students.

This looks more like one of those math problems I hated in school. They seem to be playing a numbers game to avoid addressing the real issues surrounding the current higher education problems.

Just my opinion.

-- Posted by amalphia on Wed, Feb 24, 2010, at 10:24 PM

Having been in the workforce for 3 decades I believe that a Colleg degree does a lot to hinder an unsuspecting employers efforts.

I know several "degreed" people who are utterly worthless in their job and only occupy that position because they hold a degree that is listed as a requirement by Human Resources. I have seen much better options in available people who have a deep understanding of the products and processes being used but are passed over simply because they did not have the degree.

Sometimes, the latter person will carry the educated one through his career analyzing and making his decisions for him.

I am not knocking a college education by any means. However, a free ride at college seems to lead towards a free ride in the workplace. Unless society can overcome the blind assumption that a college degree means the person knows what they are doing, then our workplace and job market will continue to suffer.

Indeed, college is not for everybody. The application of knowledge (wisdom) is what is needed. Knowledge can be obtained many ways. A degree...only one way.

-- Posted by Liveforlight on Thu, Feb 25, 2010, at 11:25 AM

I think first of all we should define "Free Ride"

Where college is concerned I am not sure there is such a thing as a free ride. My taxes have been paying to fund Pell Grants for nearly 30 years now. Only students with financial need, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education, are eligible for Pell Grants. If we do not believe Low income students should receive Pell Grant money then they can never possibly bring themselves out of poverty.

The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2010-2011 award year is $5,550. The maximum can change yearly and depends on program funding. How much you get will depend not only on your EFC but also on your Cost of Attendance (COA), whether you're a full-time or part-time student, and whether you attend school for a full academic year or less. You may receive only one Pell Grant in an award year. At MTSU the cost of tuition is 4584 per year if you stay on campus it is another 6514 the fees run 1404. Keep in mind this is just MTSU. UTK is 6850 tuition and 7254 room and board. So you see this free ride isn't such a free ride at all. There will still need to be funds either by student loans or scholarships. Also keep in mind if you do not live close to the school you are attending most colleges require Freshman to live on campus.

You can check the cost of college at any school you wish here http://cgi.money.cnn.com/tools/collegeco...

As far as the Hope Scholarship goes it isn't a free ride either... lottery money pays for this if you do not approve of this the way to stop your money from going to higher education is don't play the lottery.

There are a lot of other programs that are mismanaged and misappropriated funds other than the college fund . We should be concerned with sending our children, our future, to college we should not be worried about who gets a free ride and who doesn't.

-- Posted by Dianatn on Fri, Feb 26, 2010, at 6:59 PM

gottago, I wish I had seen this before it became so stale. As usual, I take offense to your elitist insight, but in this particular instance, it is somewhat personal.

For you to claim that only the most academically adept deserve a higher education, would be akin to me expressing my desire that only those with strong moral fortitude, and some grounding in empathy, are themselves deserving.

This past semester, for a myriad of reasons, I began attending some classes myself. Unfortunately, my math testing was very weak, and I was required to take remedial classes. That being understood, math is not the only subject offered, nor does it affect my proclivities within a host of other studies. Furthermore, I daresay few educators that I will meet (excluding math in the immediate future) will fault me my inadequacies, or even once question my abilities.

When a student arrives for education, they come as they present-a package deal. We can hope that the education provided to them rounds them out, with both knowledge and understanding, but to preclude one group's opportunity based on what they may (or may not) learn is backwards to say the least.

I also think a 3.0 is hardly a laughable GPA for the children who receive lottery. Depending on course load and classes, it is quite respectable for a majority, particularly when considerations are made for the weak primary and secondary educations that same majority receives.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Tue, Mar 2, 2010, at 12:25 AM


Yay, there you are!

First of all, congratulations on returning to school. I, too,doubt that anyone would question your abilities.

I think, however, you failed to read all the posts on this particular thread. I posted that I believe the INITIAL requirements to be entirely too low to deserve such a large chunk of aid...aid that is, indeed, unavailable for older,returning students.

My question is, why should an entering freshman with mediocre acadamic credentails be entitled to more aid than an extremely intelligent high performer like yourself? Shouldn't the lottery funds be distributed to the universities to keep costs down for all or maybe should smaller amounts given to all students (grad students, too) uniformly?

Further, while not posted here, I believe the 3.0 is a suitable benchmark for MOST majors. Students with real majors including any of the pure sciences, math, or engineering should be allowed a 2.75. Those classes are generally more rigorous and tend to feature faculty that are unwilling to 'cut any slack'.

College is 'higher education', it's always been intended for those that are a cut above and the rarity of holders increased the value. College not time to play catch up and it's not meant to be dumbed down for everybody. Never should graduation hours been reduced.

I do wish there was room in the lottery for older students. While they may need to touch up their skills (at a CC, not a university) they do tend to be better students...less likely to skip classs and more likely to participate in the lecture. We all remember that 40-something that 'blew the curve' or answered every question, LOL. Personally, I could see the difference in myself from being an 18 year old freshman to a 27 year old grad student. Priorities change and focus improves. Maybe a little life expereince and work expereince helps,too.

It's clear we'll never agree on this but I don't apologize for my 'elitist' opinions.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Mar 2, 2010, at 8:44 AM

Not even in my wildest dreams did I hope to elicit an apology from you, or even hope to soften your position. I know better by now. I was however hoping for the smallest degree of discomfort being imparted to you by my comment. It is easy to make judgments (regardless of intention or quality) based on statistics, but quite another to be so rigid when dealing with individuals.

You are right, we will likely never agree on this, or many other related subjects. Even if we both make considerable concessions, we will remain on entirely different pages. I think the difference lies in our very definition of education and the ensuing reasons that it remains important to each of us respectively.

We both view education as a means to an end, but the end that I seek has less to do with status and economic quality of life, and more to do with the abstract benefits afforded to individuals who are fortunate enough to receive one. This list of reasons to support universal education is one that is long and principled. The list of reasons to limit it is exactly the opposite, with little distinction if those limits are imposed at primary, secondary or post secondary levels.

I will grant you that colleges should not be "dumbed down" but by the same token, neither should the education provided to the majority within the lower levels of education. When you encourage public education that caters to the most apt, then expect only those who are "a cut above" to receive a higher education, you have in effect, created a very efficient caste system that will propagate itself indefinitely, while producing one self-fulfilling prophesy after another.

I also think the weight of the decisions to streamline programs and neglect the classical approach to a full education should be borne by the entire range of institutions responsible, and not the students who are themselves obliged to work around those paradigms. Unfortunately, we have simply come to the point where public education must improve, or institutes of higher learning must adjust their standards downward. I would personally prefer the former, but even the latter must be a better choice than neither.

-- Posted by memyselfi on Tue, Mar 2, 2010, at 7:18 PM


I left my post rather abruptly this morning and didn't finish it. Sorry 'bout that, someone was demanding his morning walk and soon he will be wanting his nightly one, so i'll have to hurry.

The thought I omitted this morning is this. Once in the not-so-distant past a high school education at least demanded a decent living, now one will get next to nowhere. That once important benchmark has become completely meaningless...everyone has a high school diploma. I certainly don't want to see the same happen to a college degree.

I must emaphasize, not for reasons of 'status and economic gain' do I believe such but for protection of the purity and of the spirit of true learning. One who seeks education for education's sake continues his learning journey by not only taking courses, listening to lectures, or reading books in his field of endeavor as the 'status and economic' guy does but by doing the same in other areas of human knowledge. Not comman these days is it?

I truly believe our world is changing...other countries are quickly outpacing us in producing the next generation of engineers, scientists, and statesman. While it's nice to indulge the utopian fantasy that by educating everyone equally we will be able to solve the world's problems that require hard solutions, it's hardly realistic and it's just not happenin'. I'm not saying, nor have I ever advocated, that we deprive everyone else of an education and we must do the best we can with thse students but it's imperative we push the best and brightest just a little harder and spend more resources on them. Thus, maybe by setting the standard higher we push the lower functioning to rise to the occasion, so to speak.

Again, sorry so abrupt... gotta walk him (and me too for that matter). Good luck with your classes. :+) Would I be too forward to ask what you're taking? I'm not trying to start an arguement, just curious.

-- Posted by gottago on Tue, Mar 2, 2010, at 9:41 PM

When I went to school (ages ago) the focus of K-12 was for students to reach their potential. As my children progressed through school, the concept of "reaching one's potential" seemed to slip away. Instead, when I voiced concerns about the level of learning, I heard words like, "They are proficient, they have passing grades." Or phrases like, "they meet the schools requirements for that subject."

One of my children begged to repeat their junior year in High School. They claimed they were not prepared to graduate. The school system refused their request claiming that their GPA demonstrated proficiency and they felt it inappropriate to allow them to repeat a grade, just so the student would be better prepared for college. My child, sought out a private school that would allow them to repeat the junior year courses and take senior year courses where they had demonstrated proficiency. Yes, the student was tested by the private school and the results supported my child's assessment of skills. Fortunately we were able to pay for the "privilege" of allowing them to reach their potential and go on to college.

I feel we need our future generations operating at their potential, not just proficient. Not everyone has the same potential, but I believe the we would be in a better place if the focus was on potential (regardless of the level) and not just on proficient.

I don't know the solution, but I think it has to start in the lower grades.

-- Posted by amalphia on Wed, Mar 3, 2010, at 11:54 AM

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Bo Melson is a retired sports and police beat editor of the Times-Gazette. He passed away November 15, 2014, at age 81.
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