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US/ Sad Stories of College Students

EDITH BOGUE comments on the sad stories of the end of the semester in college, when students realize that they do not have what it takes to pass. How can we fix the system?

(Fotolia) (Fotolia)

I am flooded with sad stories this week. And I am not unique: it’s true for every professor I know. It’s the end of the semester.

Over the last 15 weeks, I have sent several messages and reports to one young man who showed up for class less and less often and did poorly on an exam. A young woman who showed occasional flashes of brilliance nonetheless never did any of the computer work for her statistics class. Another student comes to class about once every two weeks but acts surprised when I express my concern about her situation.  Another is there every day but, from her comments, it’s clear she either doesn’t read or doesn’t understand the textbook. None of them – in spite of notes and verbal encouragement – have come for help from me or from the other resources on campus. They’re scared, distracted, or unrealistic.

I’ve heard from some of these students; the tales are sadly similar. They boil down to “I intended to change my pattern but I never managed to do it.” One wrote that he is cutting class because he had the chance to work overtime and earn more money.  Another is driving a father with addiction problems all over the state so he can receive care – but losing her own future in the process. It was only supposed to happen once…

Each of these students – if they are allowed to return in the fall – will have to pay tuition to take these classes over again. They probably have student loans; they may owe as much as $4000 for the credits they won’t receive for my courses. They’ll pay the same amount again for their next attempt.  None of them are slow-witted; all of them could easily have passed – even excelled – had they been in class and done the work.

Now it’s the last week, and the email begins to pour in.  My students have written messages saying “I know it’s hopeless but …”  A colleague received a request to go over all the failed exams with a student.  Someone asked a professor in another department to give her a B even though she earned a D, saying “I need it to keep my scholarship.”  This is the season of desperate last-minute hopes.  I dread this week every semester.

I have to think about all the things I teach in the Family and Society course – about the importance of having two parents throughout childhood, or how rough-and-tumble play with a father – but not a mother – prepares them to handle the emotional jostles of life.