Night College

Speaking of education fads, Greg Toppo over at USA Today reports that:

A handful of colleges across the USA are offering “midnight classes” that cater to the schedules of students with children, inflexible jobs or just a yen to stay up all night. On overburdened campuses, the late-late classes have the chance to use space that’s booked during conventional hours.

[Community College of Baltimore County psychology instructor Joy] Goodie calls her Intro to Psychology class “Insomniac Institute.” It meets weekly this semester from 12:01 a.m. to 2:55 a.m. She says two kinds of students take the class: those, like her, who are up late anyway and those who mistakenly thought they were signing up for a noon class. They couldn’t transfer out.

This is a terrible idea but it comes from a rather common assumption about college life. Students stay up late, colleges reason, why not have them take classes during the time when they’re already up?

Well the reason is that students stay up late doing things other than going to class. Notably, they like to spend this time studying and socializing, both of which are valid and important parts of the college experience.

When colleges schedule classes for students during this valuable time, students have to schedule the things that they normally do at midnight for other times. Sure they’ll find a way to adapt, but they might not adapt they way you want. Indeed, they’ll probably just stay up later.

Furthermore, presenting this option as a valid policy is a little misleading. Goodie indicates that a significant portion of her students take late classes because they wanted noon classes and then the college deceived them and won’t let students fix the problem. That’s just cruel. Some of those students have jobs and responsibilities too. Forcing students to be in class until three in the morning interferes with such things.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer