The beauty of the internet, aside from bringing volumes and volumes of data to many people who would never have access to such information in the past, is that we get the opportunity to have brushes with greatness on twitter.
I’m not talking about trolling celebrities, getting lewd photos from Anthony Weiner, or even getting a “you’re fired!” tweet from Donald Trump. I’m talking about the really famous intellectuals. Like Joyce Carol Oates. Thankfully, twitter has a way of telling me somebody is important even if I do not know who they are. It’s called the “verified” button.
And, thanks to the internet, I now know that Joyce Carol Oates is actually famous. (Good job, twitter!) In 2010, she was awarded the National Humanities Medal.
I scoured the internet, and I couldn’t find any credible sources for her claim of a 1 percent graduation rate, other than a retweet from a News Corp employee who shared a stat provided by an Occupy Wall Street twitter account.
The Washington Post, my hometown newspaper, owns/owned a competitor to the University of Phoenix — Kaplan. They report that the overall graduation rate for the college is 16 percent. Online-only students have a graduation rate of about 4 percent.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that schools like Phoenix and Kaplan “compute and publicize their own alternative graduation or ‘completion rates,'” and that the institutions argue “that these better reflect the nature of their student bodies and their institutional missions.”
Be that as it may, Oates’s claim of a 1 percent graduation rate could be true after statistical manipulation — but I just haven’t seen that it’s true. This comparison is apples to oranges. Harvard isn’t the same as the University of Phoenix. It’s like comparing a privately-run GED equivalency program to a private high school like Sidwell Friends in Washington, or Saint Ignatius in Cleveland.
Some critics contend that Ivy League schools, like Harvard, suffer from grade inflation and bad professors. What does a diploma mean if your professors are bad (like Cornel West) and your grades are inflated? If you graduated from Harvard, it doesn’t matter.
There’s no doubt that Harvard-accepted students are bright people. But, as Oates questions, should “anyone” who gets into an Ivy League school be given a guaranteed diploma?
The obvious answer is no.
Acceptance to a school — whether it’s Harvard, Hagerstown Community College, or Hamilton College — shouldn’t guarantee you a diploma. A school’s exclusivity or selectivity shouldn’t negate the hard work by its students from acceptance to senior year.
Graduation should be earned, not given. Whether you attend the University of Phoenix or Harvard.
While all of my friends who attended Ivy League schools graduated, I highly doubt they’d advocate Oates’s position: “anyone who does [get in] should graduate.”