POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES
The answer is simple: behave like colleges and universities in the first place. Higher education is supposed to mean something.
Despite America's great institutions, the nation has a huge number of highly questionable colleges and universities. Post-secondary education has become seriously debased in the United States.
Part of the problem is the post-war idea of "my kid's goin' to college," no matter whether he or she is genuine college material. The whole American education system has stretched itself to fit this notion.
Inflated grades in high school are a scandal in the country. There are places where 70% of the students end up on the honor roll, reducing the concept of distinction to meaninglessness. Universities can't even depend on transcripts to tell them anything. That is why the SAT/ACT tests have become important. The tests function as filters.
But many places either do not use these tests or weight them very differently. Also, even the prestigious universities use special criteria for some, as for example the sons and daughters of the well-off.
We have institutions giving "degrees" in subjects like circus or recreational management. We have colleges where half the students are in a soft subject like education. They churn out what might be called bare-foot teachers for the thousands of poor public schools in America. Because standards of admission are low, they are naturally admitting many who can't finish even a soft course.
Can any thinking person truly believe George Bush got into Yale by his competitive standing? Can anyone believe he honestly graduated without either paid assistance with his assignments or a great deal of "consideration" from instructors under pressure from administration? Many such admissions end up leaving or being kicked out eventually. Bush managed to slip through.
The American tradition of athletic scholarships, always a very questionable practice, has become a disgrace. Young people of absolutely no academic inclination or potential are given scholarships to play for teams whose function is donation-gathering.
It's just a cheap trick, and it effectively cheapens the meaning of university because again administration needs for money and prestige (in athletics) over-ride academics.
If schools want teams to garner donations from alumni, they should simply pay the players for what they do. This would bring more benefit to them and more credit to the institution. As it is, the young people either do not graduate or graduate with meaningless degrees in return for bringing in the crowds to "homecoming."