Obama is right to address college costs

David Snyder

Last Thursday, President Obama made a speech, in Buffalo N.Y. In his speech, he addressed college education , and its enormous cost. It is a very rare event when I agree with Mr. Obama, but here is one big point that we can agree on.

College loan debt is out of control in this country. Much has been said about it this year, because it has passed credit card debt in stifling middle class families. The number of students who are in default is astonishing.It would not be fair to make the American people pay for the debt rung up by those who spent college money recklessly.

So why is it so expensive, and why are so many turning away from their obligation to pay it back ??

As a parent of two college boys, I can speak about this issue from experience.

I have been teaching for 16 years (aviation), and my wife has been a teacher for just as long. My wife has a masterís degree in education. My oldest son is getting a degree in, (oddly enough) education. We take education very seriously around my house.

When you try to decide which college to send your children to, you probably spend some valuable time visiting colleges. Reading about the colleges and what they have to offer, weighs into the decision. Any input from friends, neighbors, or relatives, is valuable as well.

One thing that seems to be missing in the picture is a record of how well the colleges teach. Sure, they can show you lists of doctorates belonging to some of their professors, but this is no measurement of how well they teach.

I have seen pilots who can fly a jet blindfolded but couldnít teach. President Obama wants to give colleges a report card on how well they teach. He wants to hold back federal dollars from those who canít graduate a reasonable number of students per starting class.

Teaching is an art. Itís is an art that takes a lot of skill and patience. Knowing your subject matter is an important start. Being able to share your knowledge with those who have paid dearly to learn it is a big jump from learning it yourself.

Some professors think it is about projecting your knowledge onto a PowerPoint slide or being able to shout it across a large room. It is not. Michael Vick doesnít get paid to throw the football as far as he can. He gets paid to throw the football and have it caught by someone in a green shirt. Itís not about projection, teaching is about the reception on the other end.

When I went to college (just a few years ago, O.K., 30), I had a teacher who was from Korea. He probably knew statics, as well as a NASA scientist. No one in my class could understand his strong accent. More than half the class, including me, had to drop the course. A year later, the college dropped the teacher. How many students were turned away from aeronautical engineering because they couldnít understand the teacher?

My younger son, is attending a well-known engineering college in Philadelphia. Apparently, the quality of teaching has not improved in 30 years. I have no doubt that many colleges use instructors (professors) who may have multiple degrees, but cannot get the information across to our precious youth.

College professors need to speak on the level of the students in their class. They need to be loud enough for all the students in the room to hear. They need to look back, and make sure that everyone is keeping pace with their lecture. They need to stay focused on material that leads to passing the final examsand the need to speak in clear English, so that our children can learn at the pace they were designed to learn at.

Conventional wisdom where I work, is that if 5 percent of the class is doing poorly, then those few must be day dreaming, or goofing off. If 50 percent of the class is doing poorly, then the teacher is using poor techniques, going off on tangents, not speaking loud enough, going too fast for the class, or maybe just not speaking in a clear manner. When colleges realize this, even big famous colleges, Education will improve and they will make more money with higher retention. College loans will be re-paid by students who have received good paying jobs. Our children will not get frustrated and quit college, and our society will prosper greatly.

I will be asking U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts to back the President on this one. I hope that all of my readers, especially those who have college aged children, will write to their congressman and both of our senators and ask the same.

David Paul Snyder is the flight training manager for two Israeli business jets. He is a former pilot for PanAm and is former chairman of the Bucks County Airport Authority.