Saturday, April 23, 2011

Education Department Financial Aid Rules Backfire, Harming Students

The Education Department tried to restrict the use of financial aid by for-profit colleges by barring them from getting more than 90 percent of their funding from federal financial-aid programs.

How did they respond? By raising tuition, so that at least 10 percent of their students’ education would not be paid for by federal loans and grants. Thus, financial aid actually encouraged them to increase tuition, radically increasing their students’ future indebtedness.

The net result was to “create a perverse, no-win ‘Catch-22’ that could prevent low-income students from attending college,” by encouraging such colleges to raise tuition to outstrip rising financial aid by more than ten percent.

Over the past three years, the federal government has increased student aid by more than 40 percent. As a result, students are entitled to as much as $15,000 in grants and loans during their first year of study. The result has been to drive up tuition at some colleges by even higher percentages.

For example, Corinthian College has diploma programs in health care and other fields that can be completed in a year or less. Until earlier this year, many of those programs had a total cost of about $15,000, which meant that federal grants and loans could cover nearly 100 percent of their cost. In response to the Education Department’s rule, the college raised tuition to comply with the 90/10 rule.

As a result of increasing federal financial aid, colleges have been able to increase tuition faster than inflation, year after year, secure in the knowledge that they can rake in ever-rising government subsidies and skyrocketing tuition. College students are learning less and less even as higher education spending explodes.

Students have little choice but to pay inflated tuition bills into the education industrial-complex, as they vie with each other for scarce entry-level jobs by acquiring ever more degrees that show their ability to jump through hoops and master difficult (but largely useless) skills. The net result is an educational arms race in which people compete to see who can acquire the most paper credentials. There are now 8,000 waiters and 5,057 janitors with PhD’s or other advanced degrees, and millions of Americans have useless college degrees.

The Education Department recently made college officials’ lives more difficult by trying to alter the burden of proof long used by many colleges in sexual harassment cases (despite the lack of any legal basis for doing so), and by seeking to discourage procedures such as cross-examination that safeguard accuracy and due process in campus disciplinary proceedings.

Another recent Education Department rule that is likely to backfire on students is discussed here (the so-called “gainful employment rule”).


Massachusetts Pro-Life Group Riled by State-Funded Sex Education Website

A state-funded sex education website that claims getting an abortion is "much easier than it sounds" has angered a Bay State pro-life organization that says the site glorifies the controversial procedure.

Linda Thayer, a former Boston teacher and vice president of educational affairs for the Massachusetts Citizens for Life, told Fox News that the website, is a misuse of state funds and claimed it downplayed the medical procedure. She also claimed the website provided a "road map" for teenagers to get an abortion without informing their parents.

"Any minor girl who reads this website, whether she's pregnant or not, basically gets a road map on how to get an abortion without telling her parents," Thayer said on Wednesday. "They're really setting these girls up if they follow through with an abortion." also downplays the potential physical complications associated with abortions, claiming that the website's characterization of abortions as "safe and effective" to be a "deceptive sleight of hand," Thayer said.

On the site, Maria informs readers that she was "overwhelmed" by different birth control options when she and her boyfriend began having sex.

"I did some Internet research, but I got overwhelmed with all the different birth control options (the ring? the cap? the patch?.. what’s the difference?!)," the site reads. "I decided to talk to my aunt – she’s a doctor and knows a lot about this stuff – and she helped me figure out what was best for me."

Abortion, meanwhile, is characterized as a "pretty hot topic" that some believe is wrong while others believe it can be a "good and responsible" choice.

"While everyone is entitled to their opinion, it can sometimes be hard to get truthful information because some people may try to get you to think the same way they do," the website reads. "What’s important is how you feel about it. One of my friends who had an abortion told me that it was a difficult decision to make, but she felt that it was the best choice she could make for herself, her boyfriend, her family, and her future."

The website also claims that abortions are "more common than you might think," with roughly 4 out of every 10 U.S. women having at least one abortion by the time they reach age 40.

"My Aunt Lucia says that abortions are safe and effective, though some people may experience temporary discomfort," Maria says on the website. "She also says that early abortions have less risk than those done later in the pregnancy."

The website has been produced since 2008 by the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts with $100,000 in annual grants from the state Department of Public Health. Those funds also cover a sex-crisis hotline and other outreach efforts, according to the Boston Herald.

Calls by to the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts were not immediately returned on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Haag, chief of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts, defended the website in a statement issued to the Boston Herald. “We feel strongly that the issues that are addressed through the Maria Talks Web site are essential in safeguarding the general, sexual health of youth by informing them of their risk for unintended pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections," Haag's statement read.

The Massachusetts Department of Health also released a statement defending the site. "The website strives to provide accurate, complete, and non-judgmental information about all aspects of sexual health, including sex, abstinence, birth control, pregnancy, pregnancy options, sexually transmitted infections, sexual violence, and information for gay, lesbian, and questioning youth," the statement read. "The website is intended to be accessible to teens through the site's narrator, 18-year old Maria, who provides accurate information in a youth-friendly way."


The black headmistress who saw lynch mob in a British parent's poster and called police

For a poster advertising a primary school parents’ meeting, it is certainly unusual. Using models, it depicts scientist Charles Darwin surrounded by an angry mob wielding flaming torches and makeshift weapons. According to the school governor who created it, City executive David Moyle, it is a satirical joke about pushy middle-class parents demanding higher standards.

Yet when black headmistress Shirley Patterson saw it, she believed it represented her surrounded by white parents. She reportedly compared it to a scene from Mississippi Burning, a film about the Ku Klux Klan’s racist lynchings, saying it left her ‘fearing for her and her family’s safety’.

She called the police, claiming harassment. Then a council inquiry spent weeks determining the race of the Charles Darwin figure. Now Mr Moyle has been suspended from the governing body of Goodrich primary school in fashionable East Dulwich, south-east London, and is considering withdrawing his two younger children.

Although the police realised Darwin was white, and said no crime had been committed, Southwark council insisted it had ‘appropriately’ investigated the ‘deeply disturbing’ poster. The Labour authority refused to reveal details of its inquiry – which involved half a dozen officers at a time when 500 jobs are set to be cut.

And it will not discuss how a model of a white, bearded, Victorian scientist could be confused with a black 21st century headmistress.

But a friend of Mr Moyle said: ‘Southwark council summoned David for a meeting and told him the posters amounted to harassment. ‘A two-week investigation was carried out into the toy Charles Darwin’s ethnicity, before it was ruled “indeterminable”.

‘But the council inquiry, carried out by a whole team of officers including the assistant director of access, inclusion and education, Pauline Armour, ruled the poster was “an image of violence and intimidation”, and “deeply disturbing and damaging to children”.’

Last night Mr Moyle, who is also a volunteer cricket coach at the school, said: ‘The poster and subsequent events have taken up way too much of my time this year. I was very surprised and disappointed that the school executive tried to criminalise me over it, especially in light of the amount of time my wife and I have given to Goodrich over the last eight years.

‘If there was a perceived problem with the image I would have thought they could have spoken directly to me about it. ‘And as an ardent supporter of local government, I was taken aback by the reaction of the council, who not only fully endorsed the disproportionate reaction of the school management, but also contrived additional charges about the poster that had no relation at all to the original complaint.

‘The only people involved who have applied common sense to this incident are the police and the parents of the school, and to them I am grateful.’

The friend added: ‘David is really angry. He feels he can’t have his children in a school where the headmistress tried to have him arrested. The posters were supposed to be poking fun at parents, representing them as a peasants’ revolt. ‘And the parents, teachers and police saw nothing racist about it. But once the council got involved it escalated.’

Mrs Patterson, 53, replaced a popular long-term headmaster of Goodrich school when he retired in 2007. Ofsted inspectors rated the school, which has around 700 pupils aged three to 11, a lowly ‘satisfactory’ in 2008.

In January, newly-elected parent governor Mr Moyle, who lives nearby in a £650,000 Victorian house with wife Lisa, a former treasurer of the parents’ association, and their sons aged 12 and ten and daughter of eight, was asked to advertise a meeting. He found the image on a website mocking ‘creationists’ angered by Darwin’s theory of evolution, and stuck posters around the school.

The next week he was told Mrs Patterson had complained to the National Union of Teachers.

The friend said: ‘Mrs Patterson was previously at a school where lots of children come from migrant families and English is not their first language. ‘But East Dulwich is quite gentrified, and a lot of middle-class parents here want schools that rival prep schools. ‘They want academic excellence.

‘She feels everyone is against her and has over-reacted to a poster she thought symbolised her.’

Mrs Patterson, who lives with her daughter in a £250,000 flat in Camberwell two miles from the school, refused to comment.


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