An effective incentive for graduation
If the educational leaders in New Mexico really want kids to graduate they should aim the incentives on graduation. How about a graduation lottery?
It is college graduation weekend, with all of those happy graduates ready to hit the trail. They are the success stories, at least those who get a job. For the ones who don’t, there is always another degree to pursue forestalling entry into the job market. Many students just drift away from college without a degree.
The Lottery Scholarship pays tuition for certain New Mexico students and, despite all of the hoopla, it is only a semi-good idea. For one thing, the primary idea should be to get the students to graduate. College is supposed to be an alumni mill, cranking out alumni in increasing numbers. This being graduation time, that is what we focus on. But the Lottery Scholarship is focused on attendance. The incentive is to go to college, not graduate. When you graduate the money stops.
It is the same way that New Mexico colleges compensate for teaching – by the number of classes taught, not the number of students who graduate. If the educational leaders in New Mexico really want kids to graduate they should aim the incentives on graduation. How about a graduation lottery?
Picture this: At each graduation, before awarding the degrees, some names are drawn. There are the usual dinners and car washes, but then come the better prizes. Several (lucky?) students get free tuition on their next degree. Even better, several get their student loans paid in full. Then will come the moment that has caused all of the media attention. One lucky graduate gets one million dollars paid over 20 years. I bet that would spice up the ceremony.
How the entry tickets are calculated is even better. Every college credit a student takes translates to one entry, so changing majors several times is not quite so bad, as long as the student eventually graduates. Further, they could even get three tickets for each A, two for each B and one for each C. Sorry, nothing for a D.
On a larger scale, perhaps the school leaders would factor more tickets for harder degrees. Electrical engineers would be envied because they earn 10 times the number of tickets for each A as someone in a “less demanding” program. At graduation one student may have accumulated 5,000 entries while a classmate only has 1,000. Again, only those who finish get to be in the drawing. Each college would be reinforcing graduation rather than just time spent in college.
Graduation point lust
Look at some of the other benefits: Every action deemed important at college could be quantified into entries. Picking up trash, voting in student elections, being pleasant while standing in line, eating vegetables, and of course, paying parking tickets. Everything worthwhile on campus could contribute to your total number of entries. Instead of a few thousand entries, students could earn millions. We could call them grad points, one point equals one entry. Imagine, “How many GPs do you have?”
“Oh, I’ve got about 16 million. I figure 20 million is what the lucky stiff who won last year had, so I’m trying to max out above that.” And they could.
It would discourage cheating because each student is trying to get as many GPs as possible. They would not dilute the pool of entries by helping someone cheat. There would be GP lust, pure and simple. There could even be a counter effect so that when students do things wrong they lose points. There could be a spitting assessment so that dippers and chewers of tobacco are fined one entry each time they spit on the sidewalk. The campus would be driven by graduation.
New Mexico colleges would also benefit because the national news media would come to graduation to see the lucky “millionaire” each graduation. Songs on the radio would talk about unrequited grad points. Maybe there would be a movie-of-the-week about a poor starving philosophy student holding little hope of employment after graduation. Then s/he is lifted up with the money and never has to eat Ramen Noodles again.
It would put New Mexico on the map! Every student would graduate. This is an idea that could revolutionize higher education. All of this because we reinforce graduation instead of attendance.
Swickard is co-host of the radio talk show News New Mexico, which airs from 6 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday on a number of New Mexico radio stations and through streaming. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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