Friday, December 24, 2010

Report: One in four flunk Army entrance exam

Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The report by the Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will become too small.

"Too many of our high-school students are not graduating ready to begin college or a career, and many are not eligible to serve in our armed forces," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Associated Press. "I am deeply troubled by the national-security burden created by America's underperforming education system."

The effect of the low eligibility rate might not be noticeable now - the Department of Defense says it is meeting its recruitment goals - but that could change as the economy improves, said retired Navy Rear Adm. Jamie Barnett. "If you can't get the people that you need, there's a potential for a decline in your readiness," said Barnett, who is part of Mission: Readiness, a coalition of retired military leaders working to raise awareness of the high ineligibility rates.

The report found that 23 percent of recent high-school graduates don't get the minimum score needed on the enlistment test to join any branch of the military. Questions are often basic, such as: "If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?" (The answer is 2.)

The military-exam results are also worrisome because the test is given to a limited pool of people: Pentagon data show that 75 percent of those ages 17 to 24 don't even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn't graduate from high school.

Educators expressed dismay that so many high-school graduates are unable to pass a test of basic skills. "It's surprising and shocking that we are still having students who are walking across the stage who really don't deserve to be and haven't earned that right," said Tim Callahan of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, a group that represents more than 80,000 educators.

This is the first time the Army has released this test data publicly, said Amy Wilkins of the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based children's advocacy group.

The study examined the scores of nearly 350,000 high-school graduates, ages 17 to 20, who took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam between 2004 and 2009. About half of the applicants went on to join the Army. Recruits must score at least 31 out of 99 on the first stage of the three-hour test to get into the Army. Marines, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard recruits need higher scores.

Further tests determine what kind of job the recruit can do.


The Obama administration’s misguided war on for-profit colleges

In Forbes, economist Richard Vedder of Ohio University documents the blunders behind the Obama administration’s war on for-profit colleges that wiped out $8 billion in value for shareholders.

Earlier, former Congressman Bob Barr wrote about the topic. Forbes also has articles on how America is saturated with unnecessary college graduates, and how government-subsidized higher education is increasingly becoming a bad bargain for state taxpayers.

As Vedder notes, the government is foolishly attacking for-profit colleges even though non-profit colleges have even worse outcomes in terms of leading to gainful employment for their students. Moreover, some public colleges have drop-out rates that exceed 90 percent.

At Reason magazine, Nick Gillespie explains how claims that elite colleges use to justify their inflated tuition are based on a statistical fallacy.

We wrote earlier about how college tuition is increasingly a rip-off, since most of the people who have ended up in college due to increasing college-attendance rates in recent years have ended up in unskilled jobs (such as 5,057 janitors with Ph.D’s or advanced degrees), and since the current college debt bubble dwarfs the housing bubble. (100 colleges now charge $50,000 or more a year, compared to just 5 in 2008-09.)


Shrinking British universities

There will be a freeze in university places next year and 10,000 fewer places the following year as the higher rate of tuition fees comes into force, the government has announced, meaning that hundreds of thousands will fail to get onto degree courses. David Willetts, the Universities and Science minister, said that teaching budgets would be slashed by almost £400 million, equivalent to 6% of the overall budget, next April, more than a year before fees rise to a maximum of £9,000.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the announcement was a “Christmas kick in the teeth for the sector” and warned that British universities face falling behind on the world stage. The union said the cuts, outlined in a grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), will force academic institutions to freeze staff pay and cut courses.

Mr Willetts said that “extremely challenging” public spending constraints meant that public expenditure costs had to be controlled by controlling student numbers. The fine on over-recruitment comes despite Mr Willetts' criticism of a similar policy implemented by Labour last year, which he said at the time would add "real pressure" to the sector and was "very bad news" for Britain's universities.

There has been a substantial rise in applications for places in 2011 as students battle to enter higher education before the new fee cap is introduced. At the end of November, applications were up by around 12% on the same period last year, meaning that some 235,000 people could be without places next autumn.

The grant letter, from Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, and Mr Willetts, said that total funding from loans and HEFCE grants would fall by around £600 million in 2011, from £9.8 billion to £9.2 billion. That figure will rise to £9.412 billion in 2012, when a larger proportion of the cash will be made up of Government loans to cover students' tuition fees, to be repaid when they reach an income of £21,000 after graduation.

Teaching grants will be cut from £4.9 billion to £4.6 billion in 2011. This will drop to £3.8 billion in 2012, which will be offset by raised tuition fees. The figures are based on assumed average fees of £7,500 per year.

Ministers insisted that universities continue to receive "significant public funding", with the total budget from Government grants and tuition fees rising from £9 billion to £10 billion by 2014. They suggested that in order to save money, universities collaborate “through greater sharing of research equipment and infrastructure”.

Mr Willetts said that despite the tough fiscal scene, institutions would be able to cope with the cuts and that in cash terms, there would be a “modest recovery” of funding going into universities in 2012, providing that they could attract the necessary number of students.

“We believe there is scope for efficiency savings within English universities and that they can handle cuts on this scale,” he said. “With the increase in revenues we expect universities to get from fees and loans, the aggregate effect could represent a rise in cash terms.” He said the rise in fees should create incentives to improve the quality of teaching.

Gareth Thomas MP, Labour’s Higher Education Spokesman criticised the government's "triple whammy" imposed on universities - cuts in teaching funding, in research funding and in capital investment. He said: "Even within the terms of their own reckless approach to cutting the deficit such big cuts were not needed. Every other country in the G8 is increasing their higher education, science and research budgets despite their economic challenges.”

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said the coalition’s Christmas message to the sector was “funding cuts, higher fees, fewer university places, a pay freeze and attacks on staff pensions”. She said: “After weeks of attacks on students and universities through budget cuts and increased tuition fees the coalition has delivered a real Christmas kick in the teeth to the sector by announcing these cuts to funding and student places and attacks on pay and conditions.

“The government seems to think that the sector will be able to deliver more for less and students will be happy to pay three times the price. “That is absolute madness, especially when we consider the increased spending on higher education in the vast majority of developed and developing countries around the world. “Put bluntly, by cutting funding and access to university, attacking staff pay and conditions and charging students record fees we are going to be left behind.”

Aaron Porter, NUS President, said that fines for over-recruiting would see hundreds of thousands of highly qualified students “missing out on places and being left between a hostile jobs market and tripled tuition fees if they dare to reapply".


No comments: