If You Have to Pay It’s Probably Not Legit

One of students recently emailed me about an offer he received to join an honor society.  The invitation required a $75 to access all of the wonderful networking opportunities the offer touted.  The student emailed me to find out whether or not the offer was legitimate, and I’m glad he did.

If you have to pay for the privilege of being honored then it’s not an honor.  You are paying for access to an organization.  In some cases it’s worth it to join something that has a cost.  Many people are members of sororities and fraternities, or join other social clubs that have dues.  However, these aforementioned organizations are groups where you are joining a community.  They aren’t purporting to give you something if only you’ll fund them.

The pay for membership tactic is similar to the “we’ll honor you, and because of it you should buy our book to see your name in print” tactic.  A particular group has been getting people to buy books no one cares about at least since I was a high school student.

Just ask yourself.  How prestigious can it be if in order to accept I have to pay?

Why Giving Financially is Important

I get it.  Being a first generation student and making it to graduation can be really hard.  Once you do cross the finish line to graduation you work hard to get that first job, which may or may not pay a fantastic salary.  Considering all of that giving back to your alma mater may be the last thing on your mind.  You’re no billionaire so what does your gift matter?

Giving, even a little, consistently can make a world of difference.  Your $10 on top of someone else’s $25 could mean that a student who is a first-generation student, just like you were,  can afford books for a semester.  It may mean that a student can afford a bus ticket home.  Your funds may also go toward improving campus resources such as libraries, or being able to hire more stellar faculty.

At one time I thought I couldn’t afford to give, and I called up my alma mater’s development office and asked how I could give a small amount in a way that was meaningful to me.  They listened, and set up a way for me to give in a specific way.  If you don’t ask then you won’t know that your university can accommodate your requests.

It gives me great joy to know that someone else may be able to afford their education because I gave up a couple of meals worth of eating out.  It feels great to know that I’ve contributed to the lifeblood of my university.  I know that instead of complaining about things that can be improved on campus I’m directly doing something about it.  I’m sure your university would be happy to hear from you as well.


Higher Ed and the State of the Union

President Obama’s State of the Union address discussed various higher education issues.  What stuck out most for me was the emphasis on community colleges and training.  I agree that community colleges are vital to getting more people educated, and that getting more people formally educated is a national imperative.

However, the section that concerned me most was the following:

My administration has already lined up more companies that want to help. Model partnerships between businesses like Siemens and community colleges in places like Charlotte, and Orlando, and Louisville are up and running. Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need to become community career centers, places that teach people skills that businesses are looking fo right now, from data management to high-tech manufacturing. (Washington Post)

There are many schools out there that train students for the workforce.  I have serious concerns with companies fully dictating education.  An education is more than job training, and regulating community colleges to training takes away their ability to educate students at a cheaper rate.  In higher education we encourage students to take advantage of community colleges for their general education requirements because they are far cheaper than most four year institutions.  However, if they become career training centers we are taking away that benefit.

Job training is healthy for the country.  We want more people to learn skills and be able to move into the workforce.  However, if all students receive is training then what happens when industry changes directions again? Will these students be able to adapt because they’ve been taught to think critically, or will they have to pay for more training?  There used to be a time when companies trained their own employees.  For example, my brother is a machinist and was sent to learn his trade by his company.  He was not required to pay to learn his company’s methods.

In addition to the cost and limited training, these programs are not transferable.  There are several companies working with community colleges to develop programs geared directly toward jobs in those companies.  But what happens when those students then decide they want to move on? Those courses are not transferable to other jobs, nor are they transferable to a four year institution.

Getting people into the workforce is a wonderful goal, but paying to get trained with skills that aren’t transferable is a concern.