Sunday, January 01, 2017

Is college a scam?

By Natalia Castro

Millennials are quickly realizing college is not all it’s cracked up to be, or rather, all it’s priced up to be. College was meant to assist students to enter the workforce with a competitive edge which would drive up higher employment, instead Millennials are failing to enter the labor force, often returning home to their parents with nothing but debt.

Billy Williams became social media famous for dropping out of school after his 4.0 first semester, in his Facebook post he claimed, “Yes I have dropped out after finishing my first semester (with a 4.0 GPA). And it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Not because I am averse to learning, but actually the exact opposite.” He explains that college is a scam, forcing students to pay outrageous prices for classes which aren’t providing the same returns.

And he is not completely wrong.

College graduates are finding themselves unable to put their degrees to work, LeAndre Martinez of the Huffington Post explains that “I am 23 years old. I’ve got $60,000 in debt from student loans. I make around $10 an hour working as a cook, and I live off of about $20 a week after I cover rent and other expenses. Since I graduated, my degree has been pretty much useless. When people see that I have a degree, it’s like it doesn’t even mean anything. Every job that I’ve done, it’s kind of been by personal relation or word of mouth.”

Martinez is not a lazy millennial, but a product of a weak economy and a diminishing labor force.

Investors Business Daily of Dec. 2016 explains, “40 percent of [Millennials] still live with their parents, a 75-year high. They can’t afford to live on their own… This may well be the challenge of the coming decade — to re-skill and retrain younger workers so that they can find better, higher paying jobs and move out of their mom and dad’s house and into their own digs. They’re just bearing the brunt of decades of failed economic policies that have cut U.S. economic growth from 3 percent-plus to below 2 percent, and caused family incomes to stagnate.”

The economic stagnation of the last decade could well result in economic devastation for the next several decades as the Millennial unemployment problem tears a gigantic hole in the overall workforce.

Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows labor participation for 25-34 year olds has dropped from an annual, unadjusted average of 84.6 percent to 81.6 percent since 2000, accounting for 1.3 million millennials who never entered the labor force on a net basis if labor participation had remained at the same rate.

This is matched with a growing population among this generation, the population of 25-34 year olds has increased an additional 4.8 million since 2000 to 43.5 million, but the labor force has only increased 2.7 million to 35.5 million, an absorption rate into the labor force of a miniscule 56.7 percent for the additional population.

Millennials are now the largest and most college educated generation in American history, yet just over half of them appear to be entering the workforce. This is creating an unsustainable drag on the American economy.

However, the problem extends past this alarming drop in labor participation, because for many who aspire to pursue high level careers, a college degree is still a necessity.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also tells us that without a college degree it is significantly more difficult to obtain any level of employment. While finding employment is becoming increasingly difficult for younger Americans as is, without a college degree it is even harder. Not because of the degree’s worth, but the stigma surrounding a lack of a degree.

This pressure has pushed Millennials to attend college, garner high levels of student loans, and when they fail to find good jobs, then return home to their parents.

The idea of the American dream proposed that each generation should be more successful and have more opportunities than the last, but with diminishing employment opportunities and escalating levels of student debt, the current economic climate is ruining this possibility. In the New Year, all Americans should hope the Trump administration will be able to turn around the economic tide that has burned our nation with slowing growth the past 16 years. An entire generation depends on it.


Rep. Meadows targets campus rape rule as unfair to 'often-innocent accused'

Incoming Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows recommended that the Trump administration roll back 2011 campus sexual assault guidelines that “deny the often-innocent accused basic due process rights.”

The North Carolina congressman issued a report this month on 230 rules that should be targeted for repeal or change in the first 100 days of the Trump administration, then published an updated version last week with more than 70 additional rules.

One new entry is an April 2011 guidance document from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights setting out standards for how universities should handle sexual harassment and sexual violence complaints.

Meadows’ updated report says the guidance “has pressured colleges to spend hundreds of millions of dollars and to create vast campus bureaucracies” to investigate sexual assault and date rape — “the incidence of which may be overstated.” The guidance “virtually
dictates one-size-fits-all procedures which provide less protection to the accused,” the report claims, and denies the rights of “the often-innocent accused.”

Meadows' office did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Sofie Karasek, director of education at End Rape on Campus, said Meadows' assertions are dubious at best. “There is a huge amount of evidence that campus sexual assault is a problem,” she said, and little evidence of false rape accusations. Karasek said, “The number of false rape accusations is between 2% and 8% — on par with the rate of false accusations for other crimes.”

As far as the suggestion that universities spend “hundreds of millions of dollars” on new bureaucracies to address sexual assault, Karasek said, “I think that’s a mischaracterization at best and just plain false at worst.” What is true, she said, is “there are certainly many schools that are using their resources to address this problem — they are using resources in order to keep their students safe and ensure they have equal access to education.”

Meadows is not alone in his concern about the Department of Education guidance. Last year, Mollie Benz Flounlacker, vice president of the Association of American Universities, told a Senate committee that the guidance created significant confusion among colleges. The guidance established the expectation that campuses would adjudicate sexual assault allegations based on the “preponderance of evidence” — a lower bar than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that applies in criminal cases. The guidance was not developed with public input, and universities were confused about what it required, “but it took OCR more than three years to issue further clarification. In the interim, campuses were forced to intuit what OCR wanted them to do," Flounlacker said.

Though the guidance was not issued through a formal rulemaking process, it is treated as “compliance requirements under the law,” Flounlacker said. “It is essential that all stakeholders, including colleges and stakeholder groups, be allowed to comment on and inform policies.”

The AAU does not doubt the prevalence of sexual assault on campuses. The group published a survey of 27 campuses in 2015 that found nearly 25% of female undergraduates reported some form of sexual assault or sexual misconduct.

An advocacy group called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has argued for years that the Education Department guidance violates students' due process rights. By reducing the burden of proof for sexual assault cases, the guidance by definition reduced the amount of certainty needed to issue punishment, said legislative and policy director Joe Cohn. "It is uncontroversial that there are both people who get away with things that they have done and there are innocent people who are getting expelled," Cohn said. In response to the department's guidance, campuses are "actively reducing due process protections, which is increasing the margin of error."

Cohn said "it is perfectly appropriate to repeal" the 2011 guidance "as long as they really do go through the process of trying to view this from both sides" and adopt policies that protect the rights of both the accusers and the accused.

Meadows' report carries the logo of the House Freedom Caucus, but it is not an official Freedom Caucus report because the other members of the group have not voted to adopt it. Alyssa Farah, the caucus communication director, told USA TODAY last week, "While the Freedom Caucus strongly supports undoing President Obama’s harmful regulatory regime, the group did not assist in the drafting of this report and has not yet taken an official position in support of it."


Strict classroom discipline improves student outcomes and work ethic, studies find

The debate over the relative benefits of Eastern and Western styles of school education has been kicked off again by two new studies which find evidence that strict discipline in the classroom produces better academic outcomes and a stronger work ethic in students, in results that could have implications for Australia's sliding academic performance internationally.

The lead author of both studies, associate professor Chris Baumann from Macquarie University, said the findings suggest Australian classrooms should return to the more strict discipline approach that was pushed out by "permissive" education in the 1970s.

In the newest study, "School discipline, school uniforms and academic performance", published in the International Journal of Educational Management, the researchers crunched OECD data on classroom discipline, finding that strict, high-discipline countries were the highest performing countries academically. They also found uniforms correlate with better discipline in the classroom.

"The argument does not mean that we have to be super strict, of course we have to care for our students and have a loving approach," said professor Baumann, "but it does seem that discipline has been overlooked a bit."

And the related study, "Work ethic formed by pedagogical approach", published this year in the Asia Pacific Business Review found that in all the Asian countries studied, strict discipline was a statistically significant driver of a strong work ethic, defined as a positive attitude to work.

Most Western countries are falling behind East Asian countries in education outcomes. Australia's performance in the OECD's latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results means that an average 12-year-old Korean student's maths and science problem-solving abilities are equivalent to that of an average Australian 15-year-old.

East Asian education systems are heavily influenced by the ancient Chinese tradition of Confucianism, with its emphasis on respect for elders, harmony and collective values.

In practice, this was likely to mean clear and enforced classroom rules, a focus on manners, punctuality, respect for teaching staff, consequences for poor performance or incomplete homework and an enforced dress code, professor Baumann said.

Western education, on the other hand, was less concerned with formalities, respect for teachers and collective discipline, instead focusing on the individual child.

The often-heard counter argument is that Western systems are better at promoting play, creativity, innovation and questioning authority, which might have harder-to-measure benefits. But professor Baumann is sceptical about this.

"The likely outlook is that Western countries may sooner or later aspire to a balanced pedagogic approach to education, where the playful elements remain, but discipline might be tightened up again since the successes in Asia suggest strict discipline and a focus on academic performance 'pay off', and the results of our study point in that direction."

Dr Jennifer Buckingham, education researcher from the Centre for Independent Studies, said it was important to "be cautious in making those broad comparisons when the demographics and the context is really different – it's so hard to ascribe cause and effect when there are so many other factors at play".

She suggested a key overlooked factor may be the high use of private tutoring in countries like Korea and Singapore, which could have a bigger role than the school systems in driving student outcomes.

However, "there's not much doubt that families' cultural emphasis on education is really important in terms of academic success", she said.

"The value that's placed on academic achievement that is seen in east Asian families is certainly a factor when you're looking at the demographics of selective schools [in NSW] for example."

The countries studied in the work ethic research were Australia, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Britain and the US, using surveys of at least 500 respondents per country.


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