Arts and Culture Editor
Some students have the privilege of focusing solely on their academic work, while other students are also responsible for jobs on top of their coursework. Both of these types of students receive the same degree and must take the same amount of classes. This arrangement is inequitable to students in lower financial classes who must pay for their own college education. This is also a disgrace to a system that claims to appreciate the individual experiences that students contribute to their university.
As someone who pays out of pocket for college expenses because my parents do not qualify for private loans, I understand what it is like to still be wearing a work uniform at 1 a.m. while frantically trying to complete assignments until passing out becomes inevitable. Rather than pleading to do less work than other students, I ask that I be granted the option of using my work toward my degree. Stated differently, to ensure all students get a fair shot at graduation, those whose college expenses cannot be covered by financial aid should be awarded credit for their jobs.
Supposedly, the purpose of general education classes is to strengthen critical thinking and to reinforce foundational skills that act as a precursor to higher learning. Does a job not entail similar processes? Would it be such a stretch to offer students credit equivalent to one general education class if a student can demonstrate what they have learned at work through a paper or project?
In some cases, a student’s job can even be related to their main field of study. For instance, my academic field is secondary English education. To help pay my tuition and fees, I work thirty hours per week as an assistant teacher at a childcare facility. I learn a lot about classroom management, lesson planning, development psychology, how to work well with other staff members, and many other skills that will contribute to my success as a high school English teacher. Perhaps my work experience has even provided me with knowledge that may be valuable to other students.
One method of giving students academic credit for their jobs that I will propose would be to allow the student to create and complete four assignments, such as written projects or speeches. Upon completion, the student should present their work to another group of student workers. Finally, the student would present their work to an appointed board of professors who would decide if the student should receive credit for their work. Students and faculty members would both grade the presenter based on a rubric containing standards for what constitutes meaningful learning and adequate communication of knowledge. The student assessors and professional assessors could hold a meeting to compare their decisions,with the meeting’s results determining the presenter’s grade.
A sign of being well-educated is the ability to take responsibility for one’s own learning and to successfully display independent discoveries. Perhaps, the main issue with my proposal is that extra work from staff members would be required. Why should professors grade assignments without being paid? To this question, I must admit I am not sure how my suggested system would function in terms of who does the grading. Maybe students could pay a small fee to present their work.
Why continue to live under the misconception that learning is only valid when led by one educator? Is there no value in learning from one’s peers? I would venture to say that education is a bit too structured. Discussion-based courses in which education becomes a collaborative endeavor between students and appointed teachers are most impactful. Sometimes the most meaningful discoveries occur in less structured environments.
What about internships? Why don’t student workers just rely on an internship? Well, in the real world of “pay tuition or be kicked out of your classes” a short internship is just not enough.
What about scholarships? Is the notion that educational opportunity is based solely on merit misleading? The truth is, scholarships are not always easy to get and are often presented in small amounts. If financial aid should be brought up, my response would be that not all parents help their children through college, even if they possess the means to do so. Finally, I will pose this question: If college prepares students to positively contribute to society, then why shouldn’t their current contributions be accounted for?
A successful learning environment synthesizes the classroom and the outside world. While the purpose of college should be to receive a higher understanding of an academic subject rather than a precursor to the workforce, in reality a degree serves as an entrance ticket to many careers. Why not take what a student has learned from their contributions to society and acknowledge the academic value of those contributions?