VOICES: Colleges exist to educate, not to entertain

My two children graduated the Ohio K-12 system and participated in what used to be known as the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option by taking college classes in their high school years. The older child decided not to pursue a college degree but a career in aircraft maintenance over 25 years ago at a nearby technical school in another county. She seems happy with her career decision and a good paying job in that field in Ohio. Her husband pursued a similar path in the rural Ohio county where he grew up. They have both moved into management or administrative positions in that field.

My younger child used the college program fulltime instead of taking classes at the local high school - except for a summer physical education class for required credit. He got an associates degree before his high school diploma and his bachelor’s degree from OSU about a week after receiving his high school diploma almost 20 years ago. He also seems to be happy and doing very well in his chosen career, a dual citizen still working on his educational credits in his host country, and serving in a financial management position in a construction firm. He says he is still happy that he pursued his education that way.

Critics of such academic programs, including within our education systems, are slow to accept that students and the community can benefit through various options and opportunities and paths to achieve education and career goals. Criticism used to point out the flow of the state portion of tax dollars from the local school district to the colleges. I say: TOUGH!

It also means it is less expensive for taxpayers and parents to educate their children that way by diverting a small percentage of (state) funds attached per student to the colleges instead (see Ohio Revised Code 3365.07). College programs allow increased opportunities in various fields, including foreign languages that two students (mentioned in a recent Dayton Daily News article) pursued along with their technical classes. If local K-12 systems do not invest in these types of opportunities more directly, so be it.

I am not a fan of the current college system, either. Many years ago, I got an aerospace engineering degree and a masters in systems management. Today’s escalating college costs and student loan debt have no rational justification. For example, an NBC News article in March 2020 pointed out “students are paying a rising cost, sometimes thousands of dollars, to support athletic programs - fees that don’t always appear on their tuition bills.”

So, who is dropping the ball? From my take, it is public officials and politicians from the federal government on down to the local schoolboards, overly influential alumni who think alma maters are there to entertain us, and donors who receive tax deductions the rest of us have to compensate for through our tax code and in student fees. Many taxpayers, including parents and students, approach these tax-exempt, non-profit institutions for handouts secondary to the primary academic purpose and mission that is supposed to be beneficial to and necessary for the common good.

Schools and colleges are not there to entertain us. They are there to educate. Until we collectively promote that mindset with individual accountability, we should not complain that our doctors, lawyers, plumbers, technicians, nurses, teachers and politicians do not seem to be as knowledgeable about their jobs as we would like.

We need to all be aware of what is going on and demand better accountability of purpose when we vote and participate in our educational systems. As a parent and a citizen, I needed the educational systems to support my own childrens’ education as well as that of other children - not their entertainment.

Mary Collier is a retired U.S Air Force major and aerospace engineer who lives in Beavercreek.

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