Friday, September 18, 2009

Paying students for academic achievement

This months started off with a "show me the money" theme, both for pre-college and college level kids. First we had a story on NRP, asking whether paying for grades cheapens education, and then we had a story from Indiana University's Pressroom on their "incentive grants" for students who do well in school.

I fall somewhere in between the two positions of to pay and not to pay. When I was in school I did not get money from my parents for bringing home a good report card, however I did get certain allowances, like being able to play computer games (on my 68040 Performa - no FPU!) and being in a better bargaining position when it came to buying new video games. When I was in college it was expected that I was an adult and I was responsible enough to value the education that I was paying for.

Of course what it comes down to is this: Whether in K-12 or in College, we end up paying for education. Nothing is free. If you want to reward kids for doing well in K-12, encourage team building and not solo activities. If the whole group does well - reward them with an extra field trip per year or something along those line. Cash is ephemeral, I can blow it all on candy, but a field trip can be educational at least and the whole class can benefit. If you just dole out cash for grades at the school level you are encouraging one-up-manship. This isn't a bad thing to know how to be better at something compared to someone else, but it's more beneficial, IMHO, to help out your fellow man and learn those life lessons early on.

When it comes to college, and getting an "incentive grant" - well that is a different story. If the college is really interested in offsetting costs for college students, they shouldn't really raise tuitions and fees and then act like it's in the best interest of the student to do well in order to get money back. According to Indiana U. most of their students would qualify for this money. So, in essence this program is like those silly store rebates that you have to mail-in and wait 6-8 weeks for. Most people don't fill them out and there lies the money making aspect of this scheme.

So should students get money for grades? No they should not. However, there are other incentives that can be put in place. The world does not always revolve around cold hard cash.
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