Via my web surfing the other night, I came across this blog post on Macleans.ca, “Let’s make first year free.” It’s a short piece, but here’s a quote:
In fact, the only real problem with students trying and failing at university—besides bruised egos—is that the students in question will have spent a lot of money with nothing to show for it. Indeed, they may even be saddled with thousands of dollars in debt.
So here’s a better solution: make the first year of university instruction free.
Students take their first year of study without paying tuition fees and get a chance to see if the university environment is right for them. They may pass their courses but still decide to pursue other options and do so as somewhat better educated citizens. Or, they may fail and learn from that experience. In either case, the path is clearer and the bank account is not too depleted.
Better still, they might do very well, and then put down their money in later years with the confidence that comes with early success.
It’s an interesting idea. Obviously, someone/some entity would have to do something to pay for this and there are a lot of devils in these details, but I could see it ultimately being a win-win for students and for universities that took this approach. First year students could try out college for free, which a) might inspire students who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and simultaneously b) give students a chance who really don’t want to be here an “easy out.” What I mean by that is I see a lot of students in first year classes who are only here because they felt like they had to be here (because of parents, because of some sort of invisible force of society that said that “everyone” needs to go to college, etc.) and it would be good to give those students a chance to try college and then dropout without being saddled by thousands of dollars of debt.
And I think it could also be a win for universities like EMU because a) it would be an incentive for students who succeed in that first year to stay here and finish their degree (why transfer at that point?), and b) we could probably keep up higher level of standards in first year classes because the cost of “failure” for students would be greatly decreased. Like I said, an interesting idea, though I don’t think this is going to happen obviously.