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Andy Rooney: The College Year

Are College Kids Being Challenged Enough?

A weekly commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney:

As a grandparent of two college freshman it occurs to me, after several long dinner-table conversations over the holidays, to ask whether colleges are giving parents their money's worth.

Parents are so pleased to have a child accepted by a college that they don't ask any questions of it once they're in.

College schedules make me suspicious. I've looked at dozens of them in these books we have, with all sorts of college information in them.

Stanford University, just for example - one of the best:

  • This year, classes began on Sept. 26, a Wednesday. The next Monday is October and that wouldn't have sounded good.
  • Thanksgiving vacation of course.
  • Beginning Dec. 7, Stanford students are off for 32 days.
  • A month after that winter vacation, they get a much-deserved spring break of 18 days.

I don't know how they stand the pressure.

Our granddaughter is at a good private college. She's in class for three hours on Mondays, an hour and 10 minutes Tuesday, three hours Wednesdays and an hour and 10 minutes on Thursday. She has no classes Friday - or weekends - a total of eight hours and 20 minutes a week of classroom hours for about 26 weeks, for about $40,000. State schools are more reasonable, of course.

Our grandson goes to my college and I'm pleased about that.

I saw quite a bit of him because he had a four-day fall recess in October, right after he got there. His Thanksgiving vacation was Nov. 20-26. Classes ended again on Dec. 7 and he's off now until Jan. 21. This gives him time to think - and sleep quite a bit, too.

Then he's back in school until March 16, when he gets another eight days off.

Classes end for the summer on May 3, which isn't summer at all, of course. The faculty has this same grueling schedule.

Our grandson isn't wasting much time on traditional courses like literature, history, science or philosophy. He takes really big subjects like The Foundation of Political Thought, Revolutions of the Atlantic World and a required course called The Challenge of Modernity.

I have an idea for colleges. Hold classes on all the days of the year that businesses in town are open. Students could finish in three years instead of four and their parents could take the fourth year off - from paying tuition.

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