It’s rare when I agree with the contents of an editorial in the Albuquerque Journal, but the criticisms of the sorry state of academic standards at the University of New Mexico in the Journal's lead editorial November 30 “New Regent for UNM is a Pivotal Decision” ring all too true. According to the editorial, UNM President Louis Caldera was “rebuked” by the Board of Regents last summer “for the modest suggestion that admission for incoming freshmen be deferred if they need remedial work in at least one of three courses – the work of a summer school session.”
The Journal argues that “coddling students who are on the road to failure doesn’t do them – or the institution – any kindness. Fewer than one in five of freshmen who need three remedial courses manage to earn a college degree. That contributes to a dropout rate that holds UNM’s academic standing low, which scares off many students with the discipline and ambition to take an educational opportunity in both hands . . .” It’s also terribly unfair to all students - qualified and not - as well as faculty asked to fill the basic skills gap.
Declining Standards. . . mushrooming enrollment
Does the Journal have it right. Just in the past few years, UNM student standards have declined and enrollment has mushroomed. Worse, full time and part time faculty positions have not increased to meet the demand, each department is supposed to turn a profit so classes are too large, grad students teach too many courses, adjuncts are poorly paid, decent classrooms with appropriate equipment are scarce, and the local community (at least in the foreign affairs field and I suspect others) could be far better used.
Who gets short-changed? The students and the state itself. Somewhere along the line the importance of training “human capital” is ignored. What is wrong with requiring pre-entry remedial courses for students who either through their own folly or the failures of the American K-12 educational system do not belong in a university?