Charles Lee

On Aug. 9, 2010, President Barack Obama spoke at the University of Texas at Austin exclusively on education in America. He’s been expressing his concerns since 2009.

In 2009, the International Monetary Fund (ranked the United States as the second largest economy. Yet, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the 2008 graduation rate of four-year institutions of higher education was an average of 57.2 percent. Other studies, like the OECD Education at a Glance2010 edition, showed even lower percentages as low as 30 to 40 percent. However, 38.5 percent of Americans ages 55 to 64 have at least an associate’s degree.

These statistics mean the primary people leading the U.S. economy are very aged. There was no Steve Jobs, Bill Gates or Warren Buffet in the last decade. These were the people that built economies in cities where it was barren and created mega-corporations that dominated the world’s economy for years.

Here is one motivator for higher education: there is a strong positive correlation between education and income. Not only is it true for income, general factors such as political participation, health, crime and many others also have a stake. The list of these correlations is very long, so it is probably safe to say education is one of the fundamental players in modern society.

It is not because the youth of the United States are lacking intelligence, it is probably because many of us have lost the motivation to excel academically. The United States has many rigorous university programs that are very challenging to students and many of these programs are at the top universities like the prestigious Ivy League schools. However, universities should invest in redesigning curriculums in a more student-friendly manner. Not with an easy-A manner by lowering academic standards, but by creating merits for students who do well.

Recently, The Miami Studentpublished an article about the university trying to raise the current graduation rate from 83 to 85 percent. This matter is very delicate because there are limitations to what the school can provide for students to do well academically, especially with budget cuts from the government. Scholarships are a great motivator for everyone, especially for students thin on cash. Lowering tuition costs for students could also help graduation rates because students would be less inclined to feel pressure from their parents.

Helping freshmen adjust to college life is another example of how to accomplish higher graduation rates. First-years should understand that college can be fun, but there are obligations to fulfill. An education is not a right but a privilege that not everyone receives.

Since many of the study habits formed during the first year determine study strategies for the following school years, the university should make career guidance courses mandatory for entering first-years, as well as regular study and review sessions from graduate or upper-class students.

The education environment should be a symbiotic one for both undergraduates and graduates. Graduates should take opportunities to teach and apply their solid knowledge and undergraduates can benefit from mentoring both academically and career focused.

With all of this in mind, I am personally not the biggest fan of the institutionalization of people and how GPAs classify and represent students. But it is true in society that people are constantly reviewed, and GPA is one of the fastest and effective ways to catalog names on a list. So, do well in class and make your life easier.