Point Park’s ‘Career Ready’ objective is falling short of the mark for a key reason

Written By Amanda Andrews, Editor Elect

I have been in school for 16 years. 

That is a very long time, relatively speaking, given that I am 21 years old. It means a majority of my life has been spent in classrooms, ideally gaining a whole swath of knowledge so that I might be a productive member of society. And I have learned quite a bit, considering that I now know how to read and write, have a fair (if not in-depth) understanding of history and politics and can rely on Google whenever I don’t know how to apply basic math or science concepts in my everyday life. 

That is essentially the foundation of what K-12 education realistically provides us—a “holistic” education. When I set out to attend college, I went with the idea that I would choose a career path that suited my interests, receive specialized training, and start gaining the connections needed to be successful in my field. 

But as I have gone through the motions of semesters at Point Park, I have realized there is a distinct problem in how higher education is handled—or at the very least, how education is handled at this university. Talking with other students, I know I am not alone in my dissatisfaction. 

Let me just start by saying Point Park is a truly unique institution. I would not have chosen to go here and stayed if I had thought there was nothing going for it. We have one of the most highly recommended dance programs in the country. Our campus is in the center of a metropolitan area, and class sizes are small enough that you can actually get to know your instructors. Most importantly, our teaching faculty is mostly made up of part-timers or adjuncts. 

Adjuncts can be great. They are often still working in their field or only recently retired, so they have current knowledge of their industry and can offer a variety of networking opportunities for students that full-time faculty, most likely, cannot. 

At the same time, adjunct professors, in my experience, expect much more out of their students. While challenging students is a good idea, most of the professors I have had who subscribed to this mentality have taken it too far. They seek to challenge their students’ mental and physical health as well as their ability to perform. If a student “cannot handle it,” these professors will even go so far as to tell that student to drop out of their class—a problematic sentiment for a university that is trying to raise its enrollment, not actively decrease it. 

This is all indicative of the core problem that many students have been experiencing with some adjuncts. 

There are a good number of adjunct professors at Point Park who grade their students on what those students already know coming into the class, and then those teachers do nothing to add to or improve upon that knowledge. Instead, they keep grading on students’ pre-existing knowledge (or perhaps a lack thereof) and somehow expect it to magically become better with each crippling letter grade. 

I know why this is happening. Part-time instructors are used to a certain standard of performance in their workplaces. They see the classroom not as a learning environment, but as a representation of the real-world work environment. 

While integrating some real-world experience in learning is great, that is not what higher education is all about. For higher education to be effective, it requires actually conveying how to curate and develop skills. It necessitates teachers providing concrete insights into problem-solving. Not “I expect you to know how to do the thing, so go do it.” This is why an undergraduate degree is required for many full-time positions—there is the expectation that you will obtain from professors an in-depth understanding of the necessary skills for the workforce in your four years at a university. 

If a student is taught nothing new and yet is expected to get better, they are being set up for failure. And it is an even more maddening issue when you consider how much money we are shelling out each year to gain our degrees.

The obvious solution is not just submitting bad reviews about these kinds of professors. There are so many of them that teacher evaluations are simply not enough on their own to change the issue.  

I am calling attention to this because I genuinely believe some of these adjunct professors have no idea that they are perpetuating this phenomenon. 

Perhaps it’s time for Point Park as a whole to redefine whether they are actually making students “career ready” or trying to force them to be “career ready” too soon.