Opinion: Finding the meaning of college

Fitchburg State library
Students study at the Fitchburg State library.

By Andrew Marciello
What exactly does college mean to students here at Fitchburg State? It’s a question I have long attempted to find a comprehensive answer for in my time here. I’ve heard answers ranging from “a time to meet friends and socialize” to “a chance to reach the next step on the salary ladder.” Most people just said it seemed like the next step after high school.
I wonder if that’s what college has become now: a placeholder for four years of your life, where you spend your time getting drunk and trying to figure out what the hell to do with your future.
There was a time when college was seen as a privilege – when the opportunity to be educated was enough to draw people in. I mean, that is why they make you pay thousands of dollars and devote four years of your life to it. It’s a service.
But in today’s culture, it seems like so many people just expect to go to college. It’s not a conscious choice, but rather a predetermined step. Parents start their kids’ college funds sometimes before they’re even born. The idea of a student has been subverted to a college kid. And yes, I do see a difference. Students are here to somehow better themselves, to learn something, to grow. College kids are here because they were supposed to go to college. Students work hard enough to make sure they can keep coming. College kids work hard enough to make sure they don’t get kicked out.
The only reason I raise the issue is because the mass of college kids makes the student’s life hard. It’s hard to take as much as you can out of a class when you’re surrounded by girls taking snapshots of themselves with their Macs and posting it on each others’ Facebook pages. Ignoring the fact that they’re sitting two feet from one another, it’s just discouraging to realize that someone so disinterested in their education will receive the same degree as someone focusing their full attention on it. It sort of devalues your own achievement when someone just limping along with the bare minimum is regarded with the same respect. It raises the question in the student’s mind, “Why even try?”
Perhaps it’s the teachers’ fault for not being as hard with their grading or assigning more difficult projects, but they’re under just as much pressure from the administration. I’m sure if professors held all their students to the academic standard they would like to, most would not succeed. And poor graduation rates would cause the school bad publicity and would most likely cause the school to receive less funding.
So, it’s in the school’s best interests to have high graduation rates, and it’s in the teachers’ best interests to keep their job. And because there is no high standard, there’s no motivation for students to do anything above the bare minimum. The college system seems to be designed to foster mediocrity.