Monday, November 10, 2014

These 7 Countries Will College Educate You for Free

The cost of college tuition has skyrocketed, with huge increases over the past five years as college aid has been reduced by state budgets. In Arizona, for example, this increase in tuition has been 77 percent. In Georgia, it's 75 percent, and in Washington state, 70 percent.Two-thirds of American college students graduate with college debt, and that debt now tops $1.2 trillion. By every indication, college is now more expensive than it has ever been, out of reach of not only poor Americans, but even middle class ones. While various reforms made in the past few years may have helped slow the growth of college costs, they continue to outpace Americans' ability to pay.

Experts say, is the source of parents' frustration today. A college education seems unaffordable at the worst possible time - when "people are really struggling," says Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute who has spent much of her career studying trends in college costs.

Although this is happening in the world's richest country, there are many places abroad where college is virtually free. The Washington Post's Rick Noack points out seven places where Americans can study for free or at very low cost - and in English! Students just have to be willing to leave the country, and you wouldn't even have to learn a new language! :

1. Brazil: Brazil's universities charge registration fees, Noack notes, but they do not require regular tuition. Many of them also offer courses in English.

2. Germany: Germany has 900 programs in English, and is eager to attract foreign students to tuition-free universities due to the country's shortage of skilled workers.

3. Finland: Finland doesn't have tuition fees but the government does warn foreigners that they have to cover living expenses. Imagine going to college and only worrying about room and board.

4. France: France does charge tuition - but normally around 200 dollars at public universities. A far cry from what you'd pay in the United States, even in a state school.

5. Norway: Norwegian students, including foreigners studying in the country, do not have to pay any college tuition. Be forewarned, however, of the harsh winters and high cost of living.

6. Slovenia: If Eastern Europe is more your thing, Noack notes that Slovenia has 150 English-language programs, and only charges a registration fee - no tuition.

7. Sweden: Sweden, a country which has so successfully solved so many of its social problems that there are now U.S. Sitcoms about the glories of moving there, has over 300 English-language programs. Although college there is free, cost of living may be pricey for foreigners.

Although Noack's article focuses largely on countries where English speakers can easily gain access to low-cost or no-cost classes, it's worth pointing out that even some of the poorest countries offer tuition-free college when our very-rich society doesn't. In Mexico, public college is nearly free; if a country in the midst of a deadly drug war that has killed thousands of people can still afford to provide an education to its citizens, why can't the United States?


Sen. Tim Scott Calls for a 'Revolution': School Choice

Sen. Tim Scott, the first black Republican elected to a full term in the Senate from South Carolina, says putting more poor students in better schools is a priority for him.

"Why not give more parents choice? That would lead to revolution," he told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday.  "Had it not been for education, I would not be sitting here today," Scott said.

"I think of education as a gateway to the American dream. I want to open that gate wider for kids living in poverty, wider for those folks in middle-income America, who are sandwiched -- think about it -- the folks who are taking care of their parents and their kids, they need access to a better education system that sometimes they cannot afford...I'd love to give parents the tool of choice. When parents have choice in education, I think their kids have a better chance of success."

Scott said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has done a "great job" of changing things in his state, where 90 percent of students in New Orleans are in charter schools. "I'd love to see that throughout this country," Scott said. "I am a great advocate and champion...on that issue."

He also hailed the District of Columbia's opportunity scholarship program, a voucher system that has produced a much higher percentage of college-bound students than ordinary public schools.

"I want that to be the case for every child," Scott said.

While the American Conservative Union gives Scott a lifetime rating of 97 percent, the NAACP has given him an F on its annual scorecard, but Scott shrugs it off:

He noted that 40 years of Democrats controlling Congress has only produced greater poverty among black Americans. (According to the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey, the poverty rate for all African Americans in 2012 was 28.1 percent, an increase from 25.5 percent in 2005.)

"These are classic examples that the policies of the left have not worked," Scott said on Thursday. "I will tell you that if I have an F on the NAACP scorecard, it's because I believe that progress has to be made, and the government is not the answer for progress."

Scott said he was poor growing up, but he had a mentor at Chick-fil-A who taught him "that the brilliance of the American economy happens through business ownership and entrepreneurial spirit, so whether you own the business or not, success is possible, if you A) have a good education; B) have a strong work ethic. For the average person, can these two key components come together and form a strong foundation. That is the way that you eradicate poverty."

Scott said big-government social programs and various nonprofits, all working on poverty, have only produced more of it.

"The key, it seems like, is individual freedom and economic opportunity. Fusing those together in an agenda that focuses on education seems the way forward."


Arne Duncan: Gov't-Funded Preschool a 'Social Movement' Like Civil Rights, Gay Marriage

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says government funded universal preschool is a “social movement” and compared it to civil rights and gay marriage during a speech in Los Angeles last month.

“At the end of the day for me this is really a social movement,” Duncan said when discussing federally subsidized preschool at the LA Universal Preschool (LAUP) forum on Oct. 21.

“If you look at social movements, we all celebrate what happened in the 1960’s. The civil rights movement was extraordinarily powerful, life transforming, earth shattering. But the question I have is, why didn’t the civil rights movement happen in the 50’s or the 40’s or 30’s or 20’s?” Duncan said.

“If you look at the movement now around gay marriage and marriage equality and gay rights that California is absolutely helping to lead. That’s fantastic it’s happening now, but why didn’t that happen two or three or four or five decades ago?”

“Think how very different so many of our American citizens – how different their lives would have been if they would have had the opportunity to live outside the shadows and to marry who they loved.”

Duncan continued, “So for me, the question- I know that access, universal access to high quality early learning is coming, it is the right thing, it’s a triumph of common sense but I don’t want to be talking about the victory 40 years from now.”


Australia: Courage is needed right now to fix childcare

Peak childcare services body Early Childhood Australia this week released a report claiming that increasing quality standards are "not the only driver" of rising costs in childcare.

The report claims that the quality rating a service receives bears no relation to the fees that service charges. Instead, rent - which is obviously higher in the inner suburbs than on the suburban fringe - plays at least as much of a role in costs. It's doubtful anybody collapsed in shock at that information.

However, what cannot be categorically denied is that the burden of the National Quality Framework on providers' operating costs comes mostly from the increases in mandatory minimum standards.

The quality ratings assessment process, while time-consuming and a bureaucratic burden for many providers, sits on top of mandatory minimum standards. It is complying with these new minimum requirements in the areas of staff-to-child ratios and staff qualifications requirements that has the biggest marginal impact on providers' operating costs.

My new report released this week, Regulating for Quality in Childcare: The Evidence Base, canvasses the available evidence from Australian and overseas studies that specifically examine the links between structural 'inputs' such as staffing arrangements, the quality of service actually being delivered, and children's real outcomes.

It finds that in Australian studies, the only links that exist between structural inputs and child outcomes are for staff-to-child ratios, where smaller groups of children being looked after by a single carer have a small impact on their socio-emotional and behavioural outcomes.

By contrast, neither staff-to-child ratios nor higher staff qualifications had an impact on their socio-emotional, behavioural, or cognitive outcomes. Only one Australian study showed a link between staff qualifications and improved behavioural outcomes for older children (which is more likely to be a preschool effect than a childcare effect).

The overseas evidence is similarly inconsistent. One study suggests that staff-to-child ratios increased the quality of relationships, but only for younger children. Similarly, only a single study suggested higher staff qualifications resulted in improvements. Several other studies showed no statistically significant effects.

This is hardly a rock-solid evidence base on which to build an expensive policy. It certainly does not, as many like to claim, represent an 'investment' that yields clear benefits for all Australian children.

There have been reports that the Productivity Commission has stepped away from its initial recommendations to ease these staffing requirements. This is a mistake. The government should take a long, hard and sceptical look at whether there's evidence of benefits that justify the costs.


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