Essay #3 (revised)

Mollie Jutkowitz

Professor Alvarez

English 110

27 April 2012

 

How Can Queens College be Improved?

Inevitable Struggles in College

While college is a place of higher education, there are still institutional problems that exist within each school. Some of these problems effect the overall way in which a college runs, although many of the problems effect students personally and inhibit their education. However, not all students are affected in the same way or to the same extent. In addition, not all schools face the same challenges or issues, and these are often shaped by the size and type of the student body. For example, Columbia University, a private university, would face issues very different from those that come up in Queens College, a college part of the City University of New York. Social inequality exists in many American colleges, and depending on the school effects different students in different ways. Along with social inequality in college, comes educational inequality. Even within the same college or university, some students have an educational advantage over others due to their family background or other such factors. There are many ways to deal with these problems that exist in colleges, and some institutions are more successful at alleviating these issues than others.

In this essay I will argue that although Queens College is a very good school, it can be improved in multiple ways. Many of the classes I have taken in Queens College are very large lectures, which makes it difficult for both the students and the professors. In such large classes, there is not enough student-teacher interaction or guidance by the teachers for their students. In addition, while the very wide range of the student body can be a very positive attribute of the college, it can also present problems. With such a wide range of students, it can be difficult for professors to create a proper class level. Lastly, the diverse student body creates social inequalities, where some students have more opportunities than others. Even within the same institution, some students in Queens College have advantages over others due to factors such as having gotten a better high school education, their proficiency in English, or their financial situation. Since Queens College is a specifically diverse school, this problem of some students having advantages that others do not is particularly relevant. Like all colleges, Queens College has its many benefits, but at the same time has areas in which it can be improved.

How Scholars View Problems in Higher Education

 In “The ‘Cooling-Out’ Function in Higher Education,” Burton Clark describes what he calls the “cooling-out” function.  This refers to students, often in two-year colleges, that have set goals for themselves that are too high to achieve. As a result of feeling as though they have failed, they often give up or drop out of college altogether. Through the “cooling-out” function, the goals of these students are readjusted to become more realistic and attainable. According to Clark, “Certain social units ameliorate the consequent stress by redefining failure and providing for a “soft” denial; they perform a “cooling-out” function…The cooling-out process observed in one college includes features likely to be found in other settings: substitute achievement, gradual disengagement, denial, consolation, and avoidance of standards” (569). Clark is defining what he calls the “cooling-out” function, in which the goals of students that are too high are reduced in the least “painful” way. He says that in order to bring such students to the realization that the goals they have set are not realistic and to help them readjust these goals, certain steps must be taken. These steps include things such as the student choosing a similar but different career path that is more realistic and speaking to people, such as teachers or counselors, for help. For a student who is struggling, the ability to interact with his or her professor and get help is very important both regarding the “cooling-out” function and more generally. As Clark says, interaction and guidance from professors is very important in the “cooling-out” function. However, this interaction is not only important for students who are readjusting their goals, but this applies to students who are struggling with material as well. Classes in four-year colleges are often very large, not allowing for this important interaction. Students often feel that as a result of the class size, they cannot approach the teacher for needed help or guidance. Although Clark mainly discusses two-year colleges, his idea of the importance of professor guidance and interaction applies to students in four-colleges as well.

In college, the student body is often very diverse and while this has many advantages for students and professors, it causes problems as well. One of the main problems caused by the wide range of students is the varying level students have academically, making it difficult for teachers to moderate the level of classes. Burton Clark discusses a similar issue in the same article, The “Cooling-Out” Function in Higher Education. He says, “This “hard” response is found in the state university that bows to pressure for broad admission but then protects standards by heavy drop-out. In the first year it weeds out many of the incompetent, who may number a third or more of the entering class” (571). Clark is discussing what often happens to students who are unable to succeed and will not finish college. He says that these students are often “weeded out” within the first semester or year of starting college, due to their inability to meet the standards needed. This problem goes back to the college or university not being selective enough and admitting too wide of a range of students. As a result, there is a varying level of students causing the professors to be unable to cater to each student’s needs and level. In the same class, some students may be struggling to understand the material while other students are not challenged at all. Some students will do the work and succeed, while other students will work just as hard but not be able to succeed. The professor is unable to fit the class to all students as a result of the very wide range of each student’s ability. As Burton Clark says, colleges and universities often admit a wide range of students, although do not consider the effect this has on students’ ability to learn.

In addition to the academic issues caused by a diverse student body, a wide range of students also brings about great amounts of social inequalities. Some students have advantages over others as a result of their financial situation, the education they received in high school and before, their ability to speak English and many other factors. Jospia Roksa addresses the effect working either part or full time while in college has on students and the way they perform. In her article entitled Differentiation and Work: Inequality in Degree Attainment in U.S. Higher Education, Roksa says, “Students beginning their educational journeys in community colleges, as well as students from less advantaged family backgrounds, are more likely to dedicate longer hours to paid employment, which has negative consequences for degree attainment” (293). According to Roksa, college students who do not focus only on schoolwork and studying, but need to spend time focusing on other things as well, do not perform as well as students who are focusing solely on school. In addition, Roksa says that students who come from “less advantaged family backgrounds” are at a disadvantage as well and this could be as a result of their financial status or the quality of their prior education. Not only are these students at a disadvantage, but students who do not need to work have an unfair yet inevitable advantage. Roksa points out that students from more “advantaged” families are more likely to successfully finish college and obtain their degree, while those who have to work are less likely to have such success. Although these students all attend the same school, their experiences are often different due to factors the school cannot control.

 

Problems at Queens College

As a result of the size of the student body at Queens College, many of the classes are very large, some up to 110 students. Two of my courses this semester, Psychology 101 and Media Studies 101, are both about this size. Since some of the classes are so large, the professor often does not know the names of the students, and the students are often just a number to the professor. In my two large lectures this semester, many students stopped coming to class after the first few weeks, when they realized there was no attendance taken and the professor did not know their names. In addition, the professors posted their notes on the Internet, so students were able to access them without showing up to class. The students that continued coming to class often sat towards the back of the room and did other work instead of paying attention. The large class size caused the students to feel as though they cannot participate in class or ask questions. In addition, students often feel that since the class has so many other students, they cannot approach the professor for help or guidance. While Clark focuses mainly on junior colleges, or two-year colleges, students in a four-year school like Queens College need this help and guidance as well. In a smaller class with more participation and interaction with the professors, students are much more likely to seek out needed guidance from their professors. Just as Clark says guidance helps students set more realistic goals, guidance is often helpful for students who are not changing their goals, but are struggling with material, for example. When students began to realize that the class size inhibited the guidance they needed, they stopped coming to class, as it did not seem helpful. In order to improve student-teacher interaction and guidance for students, many of the classes at Queens College should be reduced in size.

     

 

Queens College has a very wide range of students, which presents both positives and negatives towards students’ education. As a result of the diversity, students have a wide range of academic abilities yet are still in classes together. In many of the classes I have taken there are students who are struggling significantly with material, while at the same time there are other students who aren’t having trouble at all. This makes it difficult for the professor to set the level of the class, as the ability of the students varies greatly. The students who are struggling constantly ask the teacher to go over the material so he or she can better understand. This causes the students who are having no trouble at all to be bored and often not pay attention. As Burton Clark says, these less strict standards of admissions cause the “weeding-out” of many students within the first year of starting college. Although most students that are admitted to Queens College do not drop out due to their inability to graduate, the wide range of students does present a problem regarding class level. In a more selective school, such as Columbia University, this would not be such a problem as the level of the students is more similar. In order to help eliminate this problem at Queens College, specific classes that professors are unable to find an appropriate level for students should be split. Higher-level students should be placed in one class, while the lower level students are in another. Having less selective standards of admissions in a school such as Queens College allows for a more diverse student body, presenting both many positives along with many difficulties.

 

The student body at Queens College ranges from students who do not work at all to those who work a part or full time job in addition to going to school. Additionally, there are some students who immigrated to the U.S. and do not speak English fluently, while there are native born American students who speak English as their first language. Through my time at Queens College, I have noticed students speaking many different languages, some students who work and others who do not. All these differences among students within the same institution create a great amount of social inequality. As Roksa says, the students who need to work either part or full time in addition to school are less likely to succeed compared to students who do not work. This social inequality does not apply only to working and non-working students, however applies to other inequalities as well. The “negative consequences” Roksa discusses can additionally result from proficiency in speaking English or how well a student was prepared for college by his or her high school. The students at Queens College who do not have to work, or who speak English fluently have a large advantage over students who may not speak English as fluently or who need to work in order to pay for college. The wide range of students at Queens College includes each one of these students, those who have advantages as well as those who are disadvantaged. As a school with a very diverse group of students, there is a great amount social inequality among the students at Queens College.

 

Despite the Inevitable Problems

The problems that exist in Queens College are problems that exist within many institutions, as shown by the articles written by Burton Clark Jospia Roksa. With the many benefits and positive aspects of Queens College, come inevitable problems existing in many institutions. As Queens College has a very large student body, many of the classes are very large as well. As a result, students often feel they are unable to participate, or even approach the teacher for needed help or guidance. The very diverse group of students brings along both many benefits and problems that would not exist in less diverse schools. The wide range of students makes it difficult for the teacher to challenge some students, while at the same time not making the material too difficult for others. In addition, the wide range of students at Queens College creates a large amount of social inequality. As a result of multiple factors, certain students have advantages over others, creating this social inequality. Despite these inevitable problems schools such as Queens College will face, Queens College is a very good school with the many benefits outweighing the problems.

 

Works Cited

Clark, Burton R. “The
‘Cooling-Out’ Function in Higher Education.” The American Journal of Sociology 65.6
(1960): 569-576. Print.

Roksa, Josipa. “Differentiation and Work: Inequality in Degree Attainment in U.S. Higher Education.” Higher Education 61.3 (2011): 293-308. Print.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar