Is College for Everyone?

College isn’t for everyone is an article written by W.J. Reeves, an English professor in New York. The article was published in USA Today on the 23rd of May, 2003. In this article, the author brings up aspects which discuss general college material, such as students, professors and admissions. In the beginning of the article, Reeves mentions how eager most parents today are about sending their kids to

college right after high school, due to the belief that college is the source for future success. Since this article was published in USA Today, the primary audience which Reeves tried to persuade were parents. Reeves uses personal experience and targeting concerns of the audience to persuade parents that college education for their kids is a worthless investment.

One aspect in which Reeves uses his personal experience to persuade the main audience is literacy. He mentions that “people are wrong about believing that colleges will not graduate students with poor writing skills” (Reeves 2). To prove the truth about the uselessness of college education, Reeves brings up an example from his past, where he grades a GMAT exam: “At one time, I scored the essay section of the GMAT, the required test for entrance into graduate schools of business where one would acquire an MBA. The test-takers were college graduates from every state and from countries around the world. Fully two-thirds of the essays I scored would not have passed my freshman composition class, yet I was expected to give a score of 4 (Passing) to such writing and, apparently, the graduate schools of business accepted such students” (Reeves 2). By pointing this out, Reeves sends parents a message that college education doesn’t play a big role in helping students acquire extraordinary writing skills for future success. This is effective because it leads parents to believe that spending so much money on their kids’ tuition is pointless due to the fact that their kids won’t become as literate as they were hoping them to be. They will seek alternative solutions for their kids’ education by hiring private, highly experienced tutors or sending their kids to community colleges. Both of these methods will save them money and give their kids equal or even better education than colleges.

Reeves makes a comparison between lessons he taught back in junior high school and his present college classes. He states that failure still occurs even though he teaches middle school material to his college students: “During the 1960s, I taught seventh-grade English in an inner-city junior high school. Now, I offer lessons on syntax and diction which I created for that junior high class to my present college classes, and I encounter failure in excess of 50%” (Reeves 3). With these statements, Reeves makes his strategy of using personal experience effective by giving parents an idea that most kids in college either don’t want to learn or simply just don’t try hard enough to become successful. The author also makes it clear that kids lacked motivation to learn back in junior high school and unfortunately, this carried on into college. After reading this, parents will refrain from investing in tuition, knowing that kids won’t benefit from college education because they can hardly pass basic middle school writing material. Also, Reeves brings up points about how it is just impossible for him to “fail more than half of his class” (Reeves 3). To back that up, the author uses an example from an article he read, where a Temple University professor notes that “if somebody flunks a lot of people then the administration doesn’t like it, and he does what he thinks will not put him out on the street without a job” (Reeves 3). This is translated as “inmates running the asylum” (Reeves 3), which basically means that students run the school and everything is done in favor of the students. This, however, isn’t good because if students get passing grades even though they flunked their classes, they will gain no knowledge and waste their time going to college. By bringing attention to such material, Reeves persuades parents that the education system in college isn’t so strict and fair. Most students will pass courses without any effort, due to the fact that professors are afraid of losing their jobs if they fail a high percentage of students. From Reeves’ personal experiences, parents will learn that they will be paying for their kids to just breeze through their classes, without learning anything.

Apart from using just his personal experience, the author also targets the concerns of parents by illustrating specific material about college education. Reeves points out that “certain educators determined that the understanding of grammar isn’t necessary to teach composition classes” (Reeves 3). Knowing that the statement wouldn’t be regarded as true by most of his audience, the author supports it with some examples from papers of graduate English students, looking to become English teachers: “A colleague of mine told me last year about a set of papers he had saved from his graduate class, written by individuals who were studying to be teachers of English. A reading of these essays exposed errors in verb tense, subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, run-ons, and fragments, all of which produce incoherence in an essay” (Reeves 3). In addition, the author also mentions that most composition instructors in college are “graduate students with no teaching experience” (Reeves 4). By providing such information, Reeves strikes parents with fear of their kids being taught erroneously by inexperienced instructors. The main audience will also get an idea that since instructors don’t possess necessary knowledge or teaching experience, their kids will lose the enthusiasm for learning, and will stop coming to class. Most importantly, by using the following statements, the author fills parents with the belief that the money which they spend on tuition, isn’t going to contribute to the improvement of their kids’ literacy, and should be avoided by all means: “Parents are not getting much bang for their buck. Their children learn no soft skills and do not become literate or culturally aware” (Reeves 4).

Another way the author targets the concerns of parents is by comparing the advantages of community colleges to higher education. He states that “the teachers at a community college earn a living by teaching. Therefore, the students are more likely to be taught by a full-time, professional teacher” (Reeves 5). Additionally, he says that “community colleges offer training in the technical field where there are jobs. It has also been estimated that 1,000,000 workers will be needed in the technical fields in the coming decades” (Reeves 5). Looking at higher education, it is “very expensive, taxing the resources of the already overtaxed, middle-class family” (Reeves 5). Apart from that, “how many job offers will come the way of a graduate of a four-year college with a 2.75 GPA in English, women’s studies, or history?” (Reeves 5) After reading this information, parents will lean more towards sending their kids to a community college instead of a 4 year institution, learning that the instructors are more professional, and that there is a good opportunity for their kids to acquire technical training skills. Parents will think that it will be an advantageous move for them to invest in a community college education, saving money and having their kids acquire something useful for their futures.

In conclusion, by combining personal experience and targeting the concerns of the audience with some key aspects of the article, the author changes parents’ opinion towards college education. After gaining a lot of experience in the world of education, Reeves picks out the best examples from his past to shock the audience. This makes them reverse their initial decision about investing in college education, and think of other ways to make their kids succeed. Besides personal experience, the author also targets the concerns of the audience, making them think of how the overpriced college tuition isn’t going to make them or their kids better off. After reading Reeves’ article, parents will begin looking for alternative methods to help their kids achieve success. Those would include hiring private instructors, investing in community college education, or following one of the author’s suggestions: “To have kids participate in job cooperative programs, linking high schools to the world of work. This way, their employers will pay for their further education and the kids will also take a major step toward becoming adults” (Reeves 5). College isn’t for everyone can help parents everywhere make wise decisions before spending their hard earned dollars on their kids’ college education.


Reeves, W.J. “College isn’t for everyone.” USA Today May 2003. Find Articles. 27 January. 2007 <>.