Friday, November 03, 2017

California dream sours. Private education soaring;  Public sector struggles

Today, California’s higher education system struggles with budget cuts and an uncertain future. The reasons are many.

The percentage of Californians seeking to go to college gradually increased, and so did the overall number of high school graduates. Consequently, the expansion in college enrollments over a little more than a half-century was incredibly large.

In 1960, for example, the total enrollment for all institutions in the state was 234,000. By 2015 University of California enrolled 253,000 students at 10 campuses, California State University enrolled 395,000 students at 16 campuses and the community colleges enrolled 1,138,000 at 113 campuses. This was a sevenfold enrollment increase since 1960 – the most among all states in the nation.

In contrast to 1960, student fees and tuition increased while state general fund subsidies per student tapered. In 2015, tuition charges at UC were $12,240, a tenfold increase over 1960.

During the past four decades, California’s public colleges and universities have endured lean budgets. The start of this came about in 1978, when passage of Proposition 13 placed a ceiling on property taxes, which, among others, had helped provide revenues to the state for meeting expenditures for public education.

Today there are concerns that the public universities, as a result of budget cuts, are soon going to be “public no more.” As education scholar Brendan Cantwell notes, even the preeminent research university, Berkeley, has been hit by budget cuts. At the same time, the state’s outstanding private colleges and universities have soared in terms of academic standards, selective admissions, tuition revenues, new construction and federal research grants.


Irish college students pay the second-highest fees in Europe

Third level Irish students pay the second-highest fees in Europe according to a European Commission study.

In total, 42 European education systems were reviewed with a focus on charges for "first cycle" or undergraduate higher education courses.

Only students in the UK pay more than Irish undergraduates with our neighbours having the highest fees required for students to gain a third level education.

Students in Ireland have to pay €3,000 per year to study for an undergraduate degree in university.

11 systems charge nothing at all for first-time undergraduates, including Germany, Denmark, Finland, Greece and Croatia. Another 14 systems charge less than €1,000 per year.

France charge students just €184 every year, whereas universities in Austria require their students to pay €725 per year.

Spain, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands are included in a large grouping of systems that charge between €1,000 and €2,000 per year.

Irish students pay €3,000 which is the second-highest but pales in comparison to those in the UK. Scotland provides free third level undergraduate education, but the rest of Britain can expect to pay up to €10,000 per year.

The UK uses a student loan system, but no longer offer a maintenance grant to undergraduate students from low-income backgrounds.

The study by the European Commission also found that a lot of European countries provide tax relief for students and families to help with the cost of college.

In Ireland, child benefit stops when a child in full-time education reaches 18-years-old but many European countries provide child benefit for full-time students up to the age of 24 or 25.

In all, a total of 17 European countries offer families tax relief or special allowances or both to help offset the cost of attending college.

The countries that offer tax and child allowances to all include Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Switzerland, and Portugal.

Students in Denmark pay no fees at all, and if they live away from home while studying receive a grant of €800 per month.

Germany also provides free undergraduate education and students are entitled to a combination of grants and interest-free loans of up to €735 per month.

Many countries in Europe offer grants and fee waiving systems for low-income students, just like in Ireland.


UK: Record numbers apply for places at Oxbridge and medical schools

Britain’s universities appear to have avoided a repeat of last year’s post-Brexit slump in applications, with figures showing record numbers of students competing for prestigious Oxbridge and medical school places.

Led by increases in prospective students from inside and outside the European Union, as well as higher numbers applying from England and Wales, Ucas received more than 61,000 applications for places by its early October deadline.

The total – the highest on record – marks a turnaround in the numbers applying since last year when Brexit was blamed for a fall-off in applications especially among EU students, which were down by 9% in October 2016.

In England the enthusiasm comes from this year’s students taking A-levels who are applying for places on the most competitive courses in record numbers.

“At a time of uncertainty it’s encouraging that UK higher education remains so attractive, not only to UK students but also those from EU countries and internationally,” said Clare Marchant, the Ucas chief executive.

“However, we’ll need to wait until after the 15 January 2018 deadline to understand what the overall demand for UK higher education looks like,” she added.

The early deadline is reserved for applications to high-demand courses requiring interviews and entrance exams, such as medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences, as well as undergraduate courses at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

About a third of the October deadline applicants are applying to study medicine. This year there were nearly 21,000 applicants to medical schools, the largest number since 2014.

The improvement in both EU and non-EU numbers comes after UK universities have ramped up their overseas student recruitment strategies. Many universities that had placed little effort into recruiting EU students – for which they receive the same tuition fees as UK students – have become more active in the past year, to prepare for post-Brexit competition.

International students from outside the EU saw the biggest surge as their numbers rose by 12% – an additional 1,350 applications – well above the increases of about 1% seen in recent years.

EU applicants for 2018 places were up by 6%, partially reversing the fall of 9% last year but still remaining below the levels seen in the years before the Brexit referendum result.

“With 6,610 applicants at the October 15 deadline, there are more applicants domiciled in the EU than in Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales combined,” Ucas analysts noted.

The large increases in terms of numbers came from England, with a 7% rise compared with the previous year. That means about 2,500 more students from England are applying to the most competitive courses, adding to the highest total in five years.


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