Selling class credits is the financial life support system at many private colleges and universities--particularly those devoid of large endowments. Without that cushion of the millionaire- and billionaire- alumni generosity, they are vulnerable to have to play what I call "the credit game."
LIU Post, the sister campus to LIU Brooklyn has an endowment of $43 million. In practical terms, this is about $6,000 for each of it's $7,000 students. Princeton, on the other hand, which has an endowment of around 22 billion, has $2 million per each of its students. So you can see why some private universities have to take desperate means to stay afloat. I see them comparable to the musician who has a huge monthly overhead, so every gig is crucial--even the crappy ones. Picking and choosing is not an option. These schools tend to be more on the costly end of affordability, compared to their public owned counterparts. Their income primarily comes from student tuition. This is where colleges find themselves in compromising positions. Every student that they reject is potential money that won't go towards paying for the basic infrastructure of the university. And of course, in order to maximize their recruitment efforts, they have to loosen the reigns of academic excellence. At some institutions, low performing students serve two financial purposes: (1) to provide scholarships for high performing students and; (2) to pay bills and teachers' salaries. It's a sad but definite truth. The institutions, on the other hand, are shielded from the accusation of any wrongdoing under the guise of providing educational opportunities for students who represent a broad spectrum of learning abilities. In other words, they give students who probably should not be in college a chance to strive for the American Dream, and sometimes they do realize it. There's always the possibility of defeating the odds. But in many cases, they end up going heavily into debt for a degree that may or may not have real worth. This, unfortunately, is a very harsh reality.
And unfortunately, many students simply view a college degree as an accumulation of credits that they can cash in on the job market. Recently I was registering a student, a non-music major who was interested in taking one of the music appreciation classes I teach. When I began describing the class to him, he said, "Oh yeah, that's the class that costs $4,000." And I thought this is a sad moment in higher education when a class is viewed through the lens of money instead of the lens intellectual enlightenment. And these two disparate perspectives on classroom learning also determine the level of learning commitment. Love, passion, and genuine interest will always trump indifference and concerns of financial worthiness.