Posts Tagged ‘higher education’

The President recently released a proposal to expand federal funding for community colleges by 60 percent over the next 10 years:

And on July 14, Obama unveiled the American Graduation Initiative, a 10-year, $12 billion plan that mirrors much of the Brookings report in calling for a significant increase in investment in community colleges. […]

Of the $12 billion Obama hopes to direct to community colleges, $9 billion would go toward a pair of new grant programs that challenge schools both to find innovative ways to connect student learning to real-world job options and to develop new methods for helping more students complete degree programs. These grants are to be tied to a yet-to-be-determined performance measurement system, which will require colleges to track and report results.

(See here and here.)

Community colleges play a vital role in bringing higher education to students who cannot afford or do not feel prepared for a four year college. Tulsa, in particular, benefits from the excellent and well-equipped Tulsa Community College. Because our city lacks a public, four-year university, TCC fills an important gap by serving students pursuing a (two-year) Associates degree as well as those who plan to complete a Bachelors degree (both OSU-Tulsa and OU-Tulsa allow TCC transfers to complete their junior and senior years at their campuses).

And just noting from personal experience, many of my high school classmates in rural Arkansas attended community colleges to pursue a career or to explore their interests at a lower cost than the available four-year options.

(Hat tip to the Institute for Research on Poverty’s Poverty Dispatch, which has re-designed their site and is really a much better product than the old semi-weekly email. Kudos to them.)


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Matt Yglesias, of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, took in stride my comment that policy writers missed the point of that CEA report – it was about reforming workforce programs, not about the growth of healthcare and education jobs (which we already knew all about).

He writes:

But Micah Kordsmeier explains that the important part is the ideas for “unlocking the limited success of job training and re-training programs.”

That makes sense! America does a hodgepodge of training and retraining initiatives under the Workforce Investment Act and “[r]esearch suggests that WIA participants benefit from the program, on average, although quality is uneven.” In essence, if we can build on the things that work and cut out the underperforming programs, we’d be in much better shape. They also make the key point that the best way to make sure that “post-high school” people have the skills they need is to make sure that they actually graduate high school with a solid basis of knowledge.

Image used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user (and aforementioned writer) myglesias.

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Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has proven himself an avid reader of our little blog! You see, in response to my highlighting of this morning’s Quote of the Day, about how the most important reform in post-secondary education is the advancement of early education, the good Chairman has introduced the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act.

SAFRA will lower the costs of higher education and help more Americans complete college by reforming the federal student program so that the federal government provides student loans directly rather than through private financial institutions subsidized by the tax dollars. (See here for more background.) Basically, the federal government’s Direct Loan Program is more efficient than the private student loan market and so tax dollars are wasted on needless subsidies to these companies – many of whom only exist thanks to the subsidy. SAFRA will eliminate these subsidies and capture the savings for other educational uses, primarily an increase in need-based Pell Grants.

So now we see how this is an important post-secondary reform, but how does it advance early education? Early Ed Watch is on the case:

Miller’s legislation would capture a portion of those savings — $10 billion over 10 years — to fund Early Learning Challenge Grants. […]

summary of the bill posted online earlier today says that to win these grants, states would need to commit to build comprehensive early childhood systems that include:


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“The most important ‘post-high school’ education and training reform is a strong early childhood and elementary and secondary education system.”

– From the Council of Economic Advisors report “Preparing the Workers of Today for the Jobs of Tomorrow

By the way, you are owed a substantive post from me and you shall get it. Get excited!

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Chad Aldeman writes for InsideHigherEd that selective colleges and universities ought to scrap their admissions systems and replace it with a lottery:

Each year, thousands of qualified applicants bombarded the admissions office, and, even after setting a relatively high standard, the admissions office had far too many qualified applicants to choose from, and very little time to do so. During admissions season, each officer was expected to sort through 50 distinct applications per day, five days a week. At eight hours a day, not counting breaks, meetings, visitors, and phone calls, the admissions officer had roughly 10 minutes to devote to each applicant (eight hours a day times 60 minutes per hour divided by 50 applicants). Ten minutes, unless, as my friend points out, they were athletes or legacies.

At many institutions, in other words, it is a far more random process than colleges would like students to believe. The myth of a meritocracy, on which the selective admissions system is built, is substantially a lie.

Selective colleges did not mean for this to happen; rather, they are victims of their own success, along with the emergence of a truly national higher education market and the rise of a rankings-driven consumer culture. But, there is no going back now, so colleges should embrace the unavoidable randomness and go from a lottery-like system to a true lottery.

A lottery would destigmatize admissions rejections (and dramatically reduce pressures on high school students), eliminate favoritism for children of alumni and donors, stop preferences for students that don’t need financial aid, provide equal opportunities to less socially connected students, and allow universities to transfer their spending on admissions departments into more productive areas like scholarships.

But because the lottery would rely on minimum eligibility standards such as GPA and SAT scores, the system would reinforce the biases found in testing. Aldeman would probably argue that the current system already does this and that this system is simply more transparent about it. It would also, I think, encourage an even greater flood of applications, thus even further lowering the odds of a student being admitted to her preferred institution. After all, how many students meeting minimum SAT requirements would choose NOT to apply to Harvard if it were simply a lottery?

What are some of the likely implications of this sort of thing on the least advantaged students? Would the benefits to low-income and under-represented populations (such as equalizing the playing field) be worth giving up the ability to explain one’s unique circumstances and demonstrate a likelihood for success? Or does that really not matter anyway in today’s admissions world?

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