Why they don’t finish college.


By David Joel Miller.

The prize does not always go to the fastest, the best or the brightest.

Recently there has been some pressure on the college system, especially the community colleges, to account of the fact that a large number of students who start college do not finish and of those that do frequently takes far longer than the recommended number of years to finish up that degree.

This pressure makes sense when we think of what it takes to run an institution of higher learning. The public resents subsidizing students who want to keep going to school and yet never finish and start working. The objective of the community college among other things is to help people learn skills that will lead to employment so students who just keep on going but never graduate seems like an abuse of the system.

Having been one of those students and then having had the opportunity to return a few decades later to teach some classes let me try to explain what is going on here.

So let me tell you a story. This is a story about an athletic scholarship but the principle would be the same regardless of the student’s goal. And since you may remember that I am a story-teller at heart forgive me for any inadvertent embellishment.

There was this kid, Jess was his name or so they tell me, that lived up in the mountains. He liked to go out along the trail that led down to the old country store. He liked the hill so much he would find most any excuse to run down that hill to that store. Jess would run every chance he got just for the pure pleasure of it. Every day people would see Jess running, there goes that fool boy running again they would mutter and off he would go.

Running up and down those hills was the best thing in Jesse’s life. He did not try to run real fast, no point in that, cause he just like being out there in the woods on the trails. But he was getting stronger and stronger. Real strong runner the people in town would say.

Now down in the valley there were these bunch of people and a whole parcel of schools. One school in particular they had this great big fancy running track. They had some track club run there most every weekend. This kid name of Arnold, Arnold T. Spingate, his dad took him there all the time. Arnold’s dad was a runner and he wanted his son to be one also.

So starting at age 5 Arnold T Spingate, his father signed him up in a running club. By six he was running in competitions most everywhere. And was that boy fast. He won most times he ran. Only one problem Arnold did not like to run, he only did it cause his dad pushed him. The more dad pushed the harder Arnold ran and the harder he ran the more he won. You would of thought that this would make dad proud, but no mater how much Arnold won dad pushed him some more.

Now on the other side of town lived a kid name of Lee, you were expecting the poor side weren’t you? Well they weren’t exactly poor, not poor like Jess up in the mountains but they did not have the money like Arnold’s family. But one thing Lee had, was parents that loved him and that encouraged him. He also had an elementary school P. E. teacher that told him the way to be something someday was to go to college and the way to do that was get a scholarship, an athletic scholarship if you could.

So Lee decided in one of them early grades he was gona win a scholarship to a college. He wasn’t real big, no good at football and not real strong like the wrestlers, but he was passable at running and so day after day, week after week, while all the rest of the school did them team sports Lee just kept on running. He was not for sure the fastest but that did not stop him he just kept running.

So you can see where this is going can’t you. This big fancy college down at the end of the valley, they had them some left over athletic scholarships so they sets up this race and they invite the runners from anywhere about that want to come try out. Their plan was to find the best runner and offer them a scholarship to come run track for their school.

Now the week before the big race, last-minute like Jess hears about this race while hanging out at the country store. He gets some teasing bout how he was always running so he decides to give it a shot and signs up for this big race.

Arnold never had a say in it. His dad had the application all filled out and ready to sign before Arnold T. Spingate ever saw it. Arnold does not want to race, getting tired of this. His friends are all going to a party the night before the big race and he wants to go. His dad wants him to race.  So they strike a deal. Arnold can go to the party he just needs to be home by ten P. M. so he can rest up for the race.

Now Lee hears about this big race from his school coach. This is what he has been waiting for. He keeps on training as hard as he can. Lee’s family, they didn’t have much money so he doesn’t even ask them for help, but Lee does mow a couple of lawns to earn that bus fare to the school where the big race will be.

Well the day of the race Jess shows up in a pickup driven by his uncle who bright him down from the mountain. Lee rides the bus and gets there just in the nick of time. And Arnold he shows up in his dad’s fancy new car. Arnold does bring along this great big hangover to keep him company. His dad is of course furious.

Seems Arnold was so used to winning, the way he figured it, he could stay out as late as he wanted and on this occasion he tried drinking like his buddies. Arnold has won so many races he figures he will win hangover or no.

So who do you like to win this race? The kid whose father has had him running and winning since he could walk? Or the kid who runs day and night all over the hills, who does it for the fun of it. Or that kid who no one thought had any talent, including him but he has stuck at it for all these years working and practicing for this shot.

So if you were thinking at this point that I picked those names, Arnold and Lee and Jess because of some big name politicians, why you would be wrong. If you was figuring these was their real names, well you’d be wrong about that too.

What I hope you got is that the people who finish college are not the smart ones, they usually get sidetracked and start parting. We know F students drink twice as much as A students. The ones who go because they like to learn, they don’t always finish school ether. They get bored with all those required subjects and many times they don’t know how smart they are cause they have never been told they could do anything and so they quit before long. The ones who finish college, why those are the ones that just keep going class after class till they get it done.

Who won the race you ask? How would I know? I never did hear that. You will need to figure that one out for yourself. But keep asking yourself how many others never got to race. Cause if college is only for the winners how do we know who should get the chance to race?

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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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