(Editor’s Note: SeeThruEdu has confirmed that the author, who (for obvious reasons) requested anonymity, is in fact an undergraduate student.)
At some colleges, dissatisfaction with the manner in which professors are teaching their classes has led businesses to begin to teach these classes privately. These aren’t merely tutors helping students with their homework; companies teach entire courses, class for class, test for test, just off campus. Companies like 4.0 and Go and A+ Tutoring have sprung up around Texas A&M in the last two decades. According to one A&M student, “You can take pretty much your entire freshman and sophomore years at one of these places.”
This is how it works: Tutors collect old tests and homework from specific classes. They’ll get the textbooks and look at the syllabi so that they offer classes exactly paralleling the classes being taught on campus. The only difference is that, with the tutors, students actually learn the material. “I learn exponentially more from my tutor than my professor,” says Lucas T., a student at Texas A&M University. “[It’s] not that they know the material better or understand the concepts better; it’s that they understand the students better.”
The tutors are usually highly qualified in their field (for instance, CPAs will teach accounting classes) but, more importantly, they are also dynamic teachers. Instead of a 200-plus-students lecture hall, these students study in an intimate setting with a highly skilled instructor with extensive knowledge of the material.
And guess what? It’s much cheaper than the traditional class setting. In-state students at Texas public universities pay about $8,000 in tuition in a year, or $800 per class. A highly skilled tutor will teach you that same class for $150 to $300.
Why are some students learning more in these classes than in traditional settings? Because the modern university system incentivizes research and publication, not teaching. Publications play a large role in determining promotion, tenure, and salary. In their study of university incentives, Backes-Gellner and Schlinghoffe find that this research focus forces faculty “to neglect important parts of academic activities such as teaching, advising and community services.” It’s called “Publish or Perish”—churn out the papers or watch your career collapse. As a result, professors are teaching less and students appear to be learning less. In their shocking study, Academically Adrift, Roksa and Arum find that 36 percent of college students demonstrate no significant improvement in complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and writing after four years in college.
Too many professors publish while too many students stagnate.
We shouldn’t blame faculty. After all, they are just following the incentives of the system. Professors should, of course, perform research and publish papers. But they should also teach. The higher-education system is broken when a new industry arises to do professors’ jobs for them.