Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Americans split over public education for illegal immigrants, poll shows

Maybe it's the recession. Maybe it's the fight over Arizona's tough new law to step up apprehension of illegal immigrants or the headline news about border violence. For whatever reason, Americans are in no mood to coddle people who are in the United States illegally, even if they are hardworking and peaceable.

Even K-12 education for children brought to the US under the radar by their parents – a benefit that the US Supreme Court has said states cannot withhold – does not enjoy majority backing. Support for educating such children stands at 47 percent, compared with 49 percent who oppose it.

The results may hearten two gubernatorial hopefuls who have urged challenging the relevant 1982 high court ruling: Republican Terry Branstad in Iowa and third-party candidate Tom Tancredo in Colorado. Other GOP candidates for governor have said they would push for tough laws like Arizona's, but Mr. Branstad and Mr. Tancredo alone appear ready to test the Supreme Court education ruling that discrimination based on immigration status serves "no compelling state interest."

Regionally, support for educating young illegal immigrants is weakest in the West, which has absorbed the lion's share of newcomers in the past generation. Forty-two percent of Westerners support public schooling for such children, compared with 47 percent in the South, 50 percent in the Midwest, and 52 percent in the Northeast. For illegal immigrants, the findings in the Monitor/TIPP poll get worse:

* One in 4 respondents says the immigrants should be eligible for food stamps and Medicaid (health care for the poor).

* Eighteen percent are willing for illegal immigrants to receive access to public housing. That issue came to the fore with news reports that President Obama's aunt from Kenya, who stayed in the US illegally from 2004 until gaining asylum this year, lived during that time in Boston public housing.

* Support for allowing undocumented college students to qualify for federal or state education grants is just shy of 18 percent.

Legislation was recently introduced in the Senate to tighten borders, crack down on employers of illegal immigrants, and provide an eventual path to citizenship to undocumented workers who are otherwise law-abiding. Past attempts to bring similar bills to the Senate floor have failed, and the new bill is not expected to fare any better in what remains of the current Congress.

The Monitor/TIPP poll was conducted Sept. 7-12 and has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.


Useless Arts and Humanities degrees in Britain

Students taking arts and humanities degrees could be worse off than those who leave school or college at 18, according to research. Male graduates with poor degree grades in the subjects can expect to earn less over their lifetime than those entering the workplace with A-levels, it was disclosed.

The study – the largest of its kind so far – found a strong overall wage "premium" attached to a university education. Average debts accumulated while studying were usually outweighed by a sharp hike in lifetime earnings, researchers said.

Ministers insist that school leavers can earn an average of £100,000 more by going on to higher education. But researchers found significant differences depending on gender, degree grade and course subject. Female graduates earned far more than those leaving school or college at 18, irrespective of their degree, it was claimed.

The study, by Lancaster and Kent universities, said “huge negative effects” were associated with arts, humanities and social science courses taken by men, particularly if they fail to gain at least a 2:1 degree.

The conclusions come just days after the publication of a major report into the future of higher education. Lord Browne, the former head of BP, recommended the abolition of the existing cap on fees combined with a dramatic cut in direct state support for degree courses. It suggested universities would be required to more than double fees – from £3,290 to £7,000 – to maintain current funding levels.

But the latest report suggested a degree still represented a worthwhile investment. Prof Ian Walker, from Lancaster University’s Management School, said: "The strong message that comes out of this research is that even a large rise in tuition fees makes little difference to the quality of the investment.

“Those subjects that offer high returns – law, economics [and] management for men, and all subjects for women – will continue to do so. Those subjects that do not – especially other social sciences, arts and humanities for men – will continue to offer poor returns."

Researchers compared the fortunes of around 80,000 people – graduates and those who left school or college after their A-levels – between 1997 and 2009. It found a large earnings premium for women, regardless of their subject or degree grade. The report took account of student debts and higher tax returns.

Average woman with a degree in the arts, humanities or social sciences, as well as “combined” subjects, could expect to earn £25,000 more per year on average, said the report. This was equivalent to some £1m more over their working life.

But the report found the premium for a man could be less. Men leaving school with A-levels earned an average of £35,000 a year, according to the study.

Those taking law, economics or management degrees could expect to earn an additional £30,000. The earnings premium for students taking combined degrees was £16,000 and those with science, technology, engineering and mathematics was £5,000.

But the study found the earnings premium for arts, humanities and social science degree – which can include fine art, music, drama, history, philosophy and theology – can be “effectively zero”.

It said students failing to gain at least a 2:1 – considered a “good” degree – can earn even less. It said the extra earnings associated with arts and humanities courses were “so low that they turn negative in the case of a bad degree”.


Cambridge University 'may go private'

Cambridge University may be forced to go private amid fears a rise in tuition fees is not enough to allow it to compete with elite institutions in the United States, it was claimed yesterday.

The university is considering the possibility of breaking free of Government control following claims a proposed reform of higher education will undermine its global standing. It comes just days after a review of university finance called for the existing £3,290 a year cap on tuition fees to be scrapped in conjunction with the axing of almost all direct state funding for degree courses.

The move – outlined in a report by Lord Browne, the former head of BP – would give universities the power to levy higher student fees to make up for the loss of taxpayer funding. It is claimed as much as 80 per cent of direct support for degree courses – £3.2billion – will be cut in this week’s Comprehensive Spending Review along with a further £1bn of research funding.

But some top universities fear that Lord Browne’s review stops far short of plugging the funding gap – prompting widespread concerns over standards. Under the review, universities seeking to charge more than £6,000 face harsh financial penalties, effectively ruling out fee rises much above £12,000.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is believed to favour even tighter controls and could impose a £7,000 cap when the Government’s formal response to the review is published in coming weeks.

According to reports, some universities could go private in an attempt to boost resources. A Cambridge source told The Sunday Times: “We have a deficit of £96m a year. We are not competing with Leeds, we are competing with Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford.”

Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP and former chairman of the Commons education select committee, told The Sunday Times: “I was told by Cambridge they may privatise themselves because they are so aggrieved by the cuts and by Lord Browne’s proposals.”

But a Cambridge spokesman dismissed the report as “pure speculation”. “The university has reached no official position on these matters,” he said. “It will only take one when it has seen the Government’s response to the Browne review and the detail of the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

Other top universities have considered going private in the past. Speaking earlier this year, Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, which represents 20 top institutions, said it was a possibility for some universities. “That would require a lot of consideration and we would hope not to have to go there, but we would certainly have to consider more radical options,” she said.

Breaking free of state control would result in the loss of all direct funding for degrees. Students could also lose access to Government grants and subsidised loans. But it would allow universities to charge unlimited fees as well as escaping Government scrutiny over the admission of more students from poor backgrounds.

In submissions to Lord Browne’s review, Oxford and Cambridge both called for a rise in tuition fees amid claims they were losing £200m a year by subsidising degree courses. Oxford said it currently cost £16,000 a year to teach each student, but fees and taxpayer contributions only accounted for half. Cambridge said it had a funding gap of some £9,000 for each of its 12,000 undergraduates in 2010/11.

Universities fear losing ground to the best in the world without further funding. Just five institutions – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and Edinburgh – were named among the top 50 in an recent international league table.


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