When College Was Enough

I came of age when graduating from high school was still a big deal. Neither of my parents attended high school as they had to work as teenagers. So, having five children that graduated from high school was an accomplishment for parents who worked hard all their lives and strove to make a better life for their kids.

Graduating from high school, notwithstanding, I was encouraged to go to college. It wasn’t because I possessed such a brilliant mind that had to be shared with the universe. It was more because it was such a grand step to take towards a promising future.

In addition to having parents that supported the notion of my attending college, I also had siblings who set a high bar for achievement. To keep pace with them I knew I had to go to college. The gang of friends that I had the pleasure and good fortune to latch on to was also pushing and prodding me along the way to college because I couldn’t let them go without me.

It was peer pressure all around.

As I entered my senior year of high school in 1967 I identified two colleges that I wanted to attend.

My brother Johnny attended St. John’s University in Queens and that became my first choice. The fact that my good buddy was going to be there with me made the choice easier.

While Mike and I would be attending St. John’s University, my other friends would be (or soon would be) attending Fordham University, Manhattan College, and Iona College. Only two of our friends ventured away from home.

For us going to college had nothing to do with rock climbing walls or sixty person hot tubs and if our parents had enough money to bribe our way into the Ivy League they sure wouldn’t have spent it on bribing our way into the Ivy League.

To be honest, back in 1967 I didn’t know what the Ivy League was.

All of my friends went to college and the only thing we debated was the quality of the basketball programs. We took for granted that the quality of education was a given. No matter where you went you would be afforded the opportunity to learn.

You were going to be exposed to ideas and people who were serious thinkers. You were going to have to work hard to keep pace. It wasn’t going to be all basketball games and beer rackets, though in my first two years I wouldn’t have thought anything else mattered.

The fact is I did learn at St. John’s and I did grow and I had an explosion in maturity that helped me make up for those first two years and was able to proceed from there to a lifelong journey of learning.

I think that is all my parents could have hoped for and the good news is that they didn’t have to bribe anyone to get me to that point of awareness.

Yesterday’s story about the college admissions scandal had no impact on me. Having worked at Universities for over thirty years, I saw firsthand how much has changed since 1967.

These parents who bribed officials to get their kids into “elite” schools had no illusion of getting their children an opportunity to learn. They were only concerned in the name of the school on the sweatshirt. They were only concerned with the logo on the diploma. These schools are not elite but they do serve elitist,

As millions of students have accrued over a trillion dollars in student loan debt to give this story any airtime on news channels is a misuse of the airwaves. More attention should be given to the increasingly dangerous reliance on student loans to and other federal programs to keep these elite schools open.

If the government wants to eliminate this type of fraud, make the penalty fit the crime. Eliminate federal aid eligibility for schools that continue to abuse the admissions system.

Also, parents wake up! Don’t get suckered in by glitz and glam of the elites. There are hundreds of colleges and universities that offer quality education where students learn much more the notion that money can buy anything.

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