Societal pressure may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates

With one in four students dropping out of high school, miles of foreclosed homes and scarce job prospects, the city of Las Vegas has a full plate of problems to combat. For those students who make it past high school graduation and go on to UNLV, there are more challenges to face.

Currently, the four-year graduation rate at UNLV sits at a mere 14%. Compared to the national average of a 64% six-year graduation rate, UNLV’s six-year graduation rate doesn’t measure up at 39%.

Mark Riggins, a business and accounting teacher at the East Career and Technical Academy within the Clark County School District who also serves as the Director of the Educational Taskforce for the Clark County Republican Party, believes that societal pressure to go to college may be to blame for UNLV’s low graduation rates. “The idea that everyone should go to college is a disservice [to society] because we’re telling kids that you’re not important if you don’t go to a university.”

UNLV College Libertarians president, Lou Pombo mirrored Riggins sentiments, saying, that societies have many facets, “Everything can’t be an intellectual class, that’s impossible.” According to the Executive Director for the Nevada Youth Coalition, J.T. Creedon, “I never wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a musician. That’s not a typical university major and it’s better suited for a technical school. There’s definitely a stigma attached to some private technical schools, such as University of Phoenix, which may not be accepted by an employer or might not be accredited.”

Others argue that Las Vegas’ chief industry, the service industry, has more than a little to do with UNLV’s low graduation rates. Andria Coleman, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts at UNLV said, “It’s the reality of this town that you can make $90,000 [a year] parking cars or $3,000 a week stripping… even though this is a college town, you can make a whole lot more money without a degree.” Pombo agreed, saying, “You need some type of working-class and [students] realize that in this town, they can make more money being in the working class than with a degree.”

While some students skip college altogether, others are showing up for a year and leaving as evidenced by UNLV’s first-year retention rate of 76%. This is just slightly below the US average of 77% and much lower than the 84% that Nevada’s western neighbor, California, boasts.  Creedon explained, “There needs to be an emphasis on steering people in the right direction. Students just go to college and have no idea what they want to do with their life because everybody tells them that college is the way they should go.” “It’s a mistake to think every kid has to go to college… not everyone is cut out for it,” lamented Riggins.

Creedon was concerned about university staff not steering undecided students in the right direction. According to Creedon, “the advisors don’t help [incoming freshman] adequately with finding out which path to take. We need more front-end work to help these incoming students if we want them to stick around.”

UNLV Justice, Lance Arberry said that it’s important for UNLV to work to raise their graduation rates, saying, “Obviously, 14% is really bad for our university. It needs to change.” Creedon wants people to remember that while 14% is low and that a 100% graduation rate would be the ultimate goal, there are other factors to consider. “There are still a lot of people who want acting lessons or use pro tools but don’t enroll in a degree program but they reached their professional goal which wouldn’t be reflected in the graduation rate.”

Students look to author for answers for the future

As students filed in to the classroom, you could see the eagerness on their faces. They would soon ask the man at the front of the classroom the magic question; what should they do to make their careers take off?

With job prospects scarce and a culture of people that no longer work at a job or two for a lifetime, students look to anybody for advice.  That Thursday afternoon, somebody was here to tell them about the industry and how he went from a student to a published author. Students were on the edges of their seats.

Kurt Divich, a former UNLV communications major from the class of ’95 spoke of how he began his journalism career. “I was a comm major and at the time, you didn’t have to specialize. I used to tell employers that I specialized in whatever they were looking for at that particular job.”  Students snickered and smiled at the idea as they furiously took notes.

Although Divich know works as a financial journalist, he didn’t begin his career in that field. After a stint at Applebee’s restaurant, he went into the public sector. He told the students that he, along with his wife and mother of his four children, feel strongly about gay marriage and that they lobby for gay rights. “I started out working in the Parks and Recs department, and then I worked for the Democratic Party.” He counseled students to do various jobs, including those in politics, and then use that experience to hone their journalistic craft.

After a 20-minute speech, Divich went around the room and asked each student what they were planning to do after college.  Students sat wide-eyed and clung to every word that came out of Divich’s mouth as if it were gospel truth. He advised each student for their chosen path, telling the group that “what you want to do and what you would be good for isn’t always the same thing. Look for your strengths and specialize in that area.”

As the period came to an end, students looked as if they had some direction in their life. With bags packed, they awkwardly approached Divich to ask a few last minute questions. When they left class, they went out into the world as if they had hope for the future and a mission to “make it” in the field of journalism.

If the government tells you how to spend your money, is it a free country?

While this court case was decided back in 2010, people are still upset about this ruling. My politics class required us to write about it, so here goes.

Citizens United v. FEC

 “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

 – 1st amendment of the US Constitution

 In the case of Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court was justified in ruling that parts of BCRA were unconstitutional.  Prior to this ruling, Citizens United would be prevented from airing a documentary 30 days before an election, while allowing, for example, a media conglomerate, the right to promote candidates.  To limit the rights of certain entities to publish information, expressly goes against what this country stands for.

America was founded on principles that maximize freedom from government. This country was made for people to be autonomous. Through the limiting of governmental powers, establishing a system of checks and balances and allowing representatives and people to make decisions, rather than a single leader, the founding fathers created the closest thing in existence to a “free” country.

When a government dictates what is allowed to be said or how an entity can spend their money, the entity, whether a business or a person, is no longer autonomous. The exchange of information in the marketplace of ideas is severely limited when the government, rather than the people, acts as the gatekeepers to information.

It was never the government’s job to dictate how a private entity spends its money. Unfortunately, there are people in our country that want to limit freedom. They want the government to be able to be in control of what messages make it out into the public. Regardless of what type of entity, whether it’s you or your family’s restaurant, or the union your friend belongs to or your favorite charity, these people wanted to dictate and limit others’ ability to spend the money they earned on promoting their ideas.  People who want to restrict entities’ ability to spend their money as they deem fit, have motives that run counter to the Constitution.

According to Steve Simpson, from the Institute for Justice, “The larger & more powerful the government, the greater the incentive is to spend more & lobby more to take control of that government.” To prevent corrupt governments issuing monopolies on information, it’s imperative that corporations, unions, families and people are allowed to bring their ideas to the masses. Freedom of speech puts power in the hands of people, rather than that of governments and their cronies.

The first amendment was put in place so that people, not governments, could share information, without a governmental filter, to make the most informed decision about choices that affect their lives. The Supreme Court was justified in breaking down an unconstitutional barrier to free speech. This ruling was a victory for people over oppression and tyranny.