May 12, 2007

OPINION: Decidedly Undecided

Undeciding our future
Rise in ‘undecided’ as educational goal leads to frustration for all
By Miguel M. Morales

I’m scared.
I’m scared I’ll never graduate.
I’m scared the greatest moment of my life already happened.
But what’s really scary is that I’m not the only person at Johnson County Community College who feels this way.
Clearly, JCCC has a dynamic campus with incredible students, staff and faculty.
I’d choose this college over almost any in the country -- I guess I actually did.
We have great success with students who graduate and move on to university and into the workforce.
But we also have an increasing number of undecided students.
According to the college’s Credit Enrolment Summary, in fall 2005, 18 percent of students declared their education goal as undecided. In fall 2006, that number increased 13.5 percent.
Spring enrollment figures also support this undecided growth.
This semester undecided students increased 8.7 percent from 17.2 percent last spring.
Yet goals educational goals like job training, transfer to university, and personal interest have all fallen. In fact, the only goal that’s increased is the undecided goal.
This means we have more students like me on campus.
And more of us undecided decide not to go to class.
Some of us make choices by not making them.
Perhaps we really don’t want to graduate and move on or maybe anything and everything is more interesting than sitting through a lecture.
I don’t know -- I can’t decide.
It’s easy to support students who declare a major, select a transfer university, and research the courses needed to fast track their chosen path.
But what about the rest of us?
Some of us make choices by not making them.
Yes, that’s flawed logic but for the undecided, having circumstances decide our fate is the easiest choice when we feel like don’t have support.
Our culture has done a great job of pressing the importance of going to college.
Therefore, the undecided can postpone life decisions for years by telling family, friends, and employers, “I’m going to college next semester.”
Then something unexpected happens like a boss who gives us the day off so we can register for classes because he wants to know our availability, which is exactly how I ended up at JCCC.
But for whatever reason, the undecided make it to campus. Then we’re confronted with the expectation of adhering to a predetermined timetable -- graduate or die.
We, the undecided, understand that life is full of hard choices and if anything is worth having its worth working for. We have that drive in other parts of our lives.
We just need help making the right choices succeeding in college.
Our fear is that even with so many people available to support us, we won’t get help.
Or worse -- that we’ll get it and still fail.