Thursday, October 13, 2005

Helping the Poor Earn Doctorates

LOL. With a 1.7% success-rate! Yes: 1.7%, not even 17%. Does government get any dumber than this? They could have got more like a 70% success-rate if they had required a minimum IQ of 120 in those they helped but IQ is of course anathema. All men are equal, don't you know. -- Post below lifted from Thomas Reeves

Since the 1960s, the federal government has made dramatic and costly efforts to assist the education of minorities and the poor. The list of programs includes one designed to help low income and underrepresented students reach graduate school and earn a Ph.D. The results have not been encouraging, and one wonders why.

The Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program, operated by the United States Department of Education, was first funded in 1989-90. It provides participants with research grants, academic counseling, seminars, summer internships, and assistance with admissions and financial aid. The grants are made to participating colleges and universities. Campus officials find promising undergraduates, usually in their sophomore year, and steer them toward the McNair Program. According to the enabling legislation, at least two-thirds of the participants must be low-income and first-generation students. The remaining third may consist of those who are "underrepresented in graduate education," meaning those of Hispanic, African-American, or American Indian/Alaska Native descent. Of course, one applicant may fit both categories, and in 2001-2002, 71% of the participants were Blacks and Hispanics. Whites made up 18% of the people in the Program, while fewer than 5% were of Asian, American Indian, and other origin.

In 1989-90, 14 projects were funded, serving 415 people and costing $1.5 million. In 2001-2002, the last year for which we have data (, there were 156 grantees serving 3,774 students. The cost was $35.8 million.

The bad news is that in 2000-2001, 24% of participants failed to complete their undergraduate degrees, and only 39% of those who graduated were accepted into graduate programs (up from a mere 13% in 1998-1999). Of that number, 16% earned Master's degrees and only 1.7% earned a doctoral degree. Another 2.4% received a "terminal degree." Of course, earned doctorates often take many years to complete, and it may be that in time the 1.7% figure will rise a bit. More whites and American Indian/Alaska Natives were successful than members of other ethnic groups.

McNair Program leaders claim that it has helped produce nearly 500 people with earned doctorates. Whether the results warrant the cost, however, remains debatable. This is not a major expenditure of the Department of Education, of course, but it still should be accountable to the taxpayers.

One would hope that in the future, McNair Program reports will spend less time reporting the ethnicity, color, age, and sex of Program participants and more on the specifics of how promising students were identified and the means by which they were assisted. Moreover, we do not know what fields the nearly 500 doctorates were in. Are these disciplines truly academic and scholarly? Are the graduates moving into fields in which there are serious shortages? (An American Indian student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in this program wants a Ph.D. in history in order to be the historian of his tribe. Another student, of Arabic descent, apparently thinks she needs a doctorate in order to be a translator in a hospital.) One would also like to see the financial side of the Program broken down to include its administrative costs. Whole bureaucracies on hundreds of American campuses exist to feed on state and federal programs of this sort, and they have never been known especially for their efficiency and effectiveness.

It would also be helpful to see specific descriptions of some of the participants. Are the long-neglected poor whites in the trailer courts being courted as eagerly as urban blacks and Latinos? Why are Asians so poorly represented? And why in 2000-2001 were 69% of participants women? Perhaps federal dollars are being invested very wisely. But we will need a lot more information in order to reach that conclusion


Post lifted from the Adam Smith blog

The Department for Education and Skills is opposite to the Adam Smith Institute, in that it is on the other side of Great Smith Street and a mere stone's throw away (no we don't). It is opposite in another sense, in that it believes social engineering to be a legitimate function of education. It has been trying to pressurize universities to admit more applicants from poorer backgrounds at the expense of more qualified ones less socially deprived.

The ASI takes the view that if schools are not equipping their students well enough to get them into good universities, then they could use some improvement. The DfES takes a different tack, and tries to get admission rules changed to admit more poorer-background students despite their under-performance. To that end they have recently called for some university places to be left open until A-level exam results are known. In the UK admission is often granted provisionally on the basis of predicted results, and the DfES case was that socially deprived students tend to be under-estimated. By leaving places open, those who surpassed expectations might secure admission.

Astonishingly, it seems their research shows the opposite of what they told us. Tony Halpern in the Times tells us that:

"The DfES-commissioned study shows that poorer teenagers were the most likely to have their predicted results exaggerated by their teachers. Teachers at state schools overestimated the true performance of their students far more than those in the independent sector."

Dr Geoff Hayward, who produced the report for the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, said that he was "mystified and annoyed at the way the DfES had presented the research." He said it did not support the notion that poorer students were disadvantaged under current admission practices. His group found that 51 percent of poorer students had grades over-estimated by their teachers, versus 41 percent of the richer ones.

This looks very like breathtaking and wilful deceit by ministers mis-reporting evidence in order to justify their actions. In addition to the question of propriety, there is another question. If keeping those university places open does not help poorer students to gain admission, then why are they doing it? If poorer applicants perform proportionately worse than anticipated, surely they would be better relying on their predicted grades to secure places, rather than the poorer actual grades?

(Natalie Solent writes on the matter in more detail)


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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