Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The 'Investment' of Higher Education

What do Harry Potter, Lady Gaga and Star Trek have in common? Each is the subject of courses offered at supposedly serious American colleges and universities. It's no wonder then that according to a recent survey by Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, only 11% of today's business leaders "strongly agree" that college graduates offer the skills needed in the real business world, while 88% want more connection between the business and college arenas. Apparently, studying the intricacies of Lady Gaga's unique wardrobe won't support a family in the real world -- shocking, we know.

Meanwhile, Gallup found that 96% of college and university chief academic officers are "extremely or somewhat confident" that their schools produce job-ready candidates. We wonder how many of these administrators have ever worked outside academia. Barack Obama wants the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college grads in the world by 2020. Just what we need -- diploma-toting experts in the invented Klingon language who, sadly, think the world needs their "knowledge."

All this is not to say higher education is worthless. The survey found 95% of the general public thinks some post-high school education is necessary, but the vast majority believes such education should focus more on useful skills. The question is what is a college education worth? The nation's student debt has far surpassed credit card debt and now exceeds $1 trillion -- up from $253 billion just 10 years ago. And as college tuitions continue to skyrocket, making those loans even more necessary, perhaps one of those useful skills would be knowing that paying money to study the science of superheroes may not be the best investment.


ObamaCare’s Growing Threat to America’s Education System

 The ObamaCare credibility gap continues to grow as new evidence of broken promises comes to light. Despite the administration’s repeated pledge health care reform would not harm employment, the New York Times reports teachers and school workers are already experiencing cuts to hours and income thanks to the president’s fatally flawed law:                      

*    Indiana schools curb student services, cut worker’s hours:

    Vigo County has reduced field trips for children and cut back transportation to athletic events. School employees who had two part-time jobs totaling more than 30 hours a week — for example, bus driver and basketball coach — were required to give up one of the jobs.

 *   Connecticut school districts forced to make tough choices:

    Mark D. Benigni, the superintendent of schools in Meriden, Conn…said in an interview that the new health care law was having “unintended consequences for school systems across the nation…Are we supposed to lay off full-time teachers so that we can provide insurance coverage to part-time employees?” Mr. Benigni asked. “If I had to cut five reading teachers to pay for benefits for substitute teachers, I’m not sure that would be best for our students.

*    New Jersey college instructors experience reduced hours, less pay:

    William J. Lipkin, an adjunct professor of American history and political science at Union County College in Cranford, N.J., said: “The Affordable Care Act, rather than making health care affordable for adjunct faculty members, is making it more unaffordable…and our hours are being cut, which means our income is being cut. We are losing on both ends.”

*    Ohio part-time faculty see less work:​

    The University of Akron, in Ohio, has cut back the hours of 400 part-time faculty members who were teaching more than 29 hours a week, said Eileen Korey, a spokeswoman for the school. “We have more than 1,000 part-time faculty,” Ms. Korey said. “Four hundred would have qualified for health insurance. That would add costs that we cannot afford.”

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has heard similar stories from teachers, professors, and school workers nationwide. The president’s health care law is hurting America’s students and threatening the strength of our nation’s education system.


Four in ten miss out on first choice school: British population rise fuels demand for secondary places

More than four in ten children in some areas were yesterday denied their preferred secondary school amid mounting competition for places.

Tens of thousands of ten and 11-year-olds found they had  missed out as allocations were announced by councils across the country.

Many areas reported a rise in the number of applicants and a corresponding decline in the number of pupils being assigned their first choice schools.

The allocations to more than half a million families are likely to see a surge in appeals.

Research by the Mail shows a booming population in many towns and cities is fuelling rising demand for secondary places.

In London, where the demand for secondary school places rose 5 per cent in a year, 31 per cent of youngsters were rejected by their first choice school – up slightly on last year.  This rose to 42 per cent in the boroughs of Westminster and Hammersmith & Fulham and 41 per cent in Wandsworth.

In Bristol, the population of secondary school age youngsters shot up 8 per cent, leaving 23 per cent of children without their first choice school – compared with 18 per cent in 2013.

Under the admissions system, parents list their school  preferences.  They are then allocated places according to the schools’ admissions criteria, which are mainly based on a family’s proximity.

Other factors can include random lotteries or ability banding – measures aimed at preventing middle-class parents playing the system by moving into catchment areas.

Banding involves all pupils being tested, with a set number of bright, average and low ability children admitted.

Competition is particularly intense for places at grammar and faith schools, as well as flagship free schools and academies, which are funded by the taxpayer but free from local government interference.

Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, saw 1,863 boys sitting the 11-plus test, competing for 160 places.  The West London Free School, founded by journalist Toby Young, had 1,124 applications for 120 places.

Matt Richards, senior director of, said: ‘Most people are happy with a good school, they don’t necessarily want an outstanding school, but if there isn’t one in your area then you have a problem.  ‘There are areas where schools are still failing.’

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Every parent deserves the chance to send their child to a good school.

Parents may list up to a certain number of schools in order of preference on their application form - in London boroughs with larger numbers of schools that can mean up to six schools, while in other areas they may be allowed to list a smaller number - for example, parents in Bristol can list a maximum of three.

Unlike with primary schools, where catchment areas are all-important and house prices go up as a result, where you live is not usually as important a factor in most secondary applications.

There is no guarantee that children will be offered a place at their first or even third choice school - some will be offered a place at a school they did not apply to and have no wish to go to.

There is a deadline date of 17 March (in most local authority areas) for parents to respond to the offer they are given, either to accept the school place offered or to appeal a decision or place a child on a waiting list.  Places become available at schools when parents decide to send their child to a private school, look elsewhere for schools or to home-educate their children instead.

Parents who have appealed a school's decision not to offer their child a place will have their appeal heard by an independent panel.  They will first check your child meets all the school's admissions criteria, and should come back to you with a decision within a week.


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