Sunday, December 02, 2018

The Right Way to Cut College Costs

College students must realize that only conservatism can save higher education

Total student debt hit an astronomical $1.48 trillion this year. The average graduate now leaves school with $40,000 in loans hanging over his head.

So is it really a surprise that Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) won over millions of young people in 2016? After all, he campaigned on student-loan bailouts and “free college.” Many students desperate for an answer now support this agenda — in the hope of escaping crushing amounts in debt.

Yet government intervention is what created the higher-education bubble in the first place. One of the biggest factors behind skyrocketing tuition rates is the federal subsidization of student loans. Every dollar loaned out leads to an average 60-cent rise in tuition rates, as universities seize the opportunity to jack up prices in the face of heightened demand. That’s why the cost of public colleges has soared in recent years — it’s up 213 percent since 1988, adjusted for inflation. So any student who is serious about addressing the rising cost of college shouldn’t be looking to big government for relief, but rather to universities themselves.

Purdue University, for instance, is proof that colleges can be affordable — if they’re run as they should be.

Tuition hikes hit Purdue students hard between 2010 and 2012. But when former GOP governor Mitch Daniels took over as president in 2013, he implemented comprehensive reforms that slashed the cost of attendance. Daniels signaled his intentions from the onset, taking a salary $130,000 lower than that of his predecessor.

Daniels then took a hacksaw to the bloated bureaucracy on campus, cutting $8 million from the school’s operating budget. He also slashed the cost of room and board by 5 percent, trimmed the fat from the campus dining program to reduce prices by 10 percent, and struck a deal with Amazon that saved students 30 percent on textbooks. Yet Daniels didn’t just cut costs — he reduced classes, too. He introduced Purdue’s now-famous “Degree in 3” program, allowing liberal-arts students to graduate a year early and reducing the cost of college by 25 percent. This lets some students save as much as $20,000.

The result of these reforms? Under Daniels, Purdue has frozen tuition rates since 2013, students and their families have saved over $57 million, and student borrowing has drastically fallen. The total in-state cost of attendance is now just over $21,182 per year — an affordable amount compared with many other top public universities. And that figure doesn’t include financial aid or scholarships, so the bill many Purdue students actually pay is even lower.

Despite what critics predicted, Purdue’s reputation hasn’t suffered after the budget cuts. In fact, under Daniels’s leadership, the university has risen from 64th to 56th in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

Although many Purdue students lean liberal, they’re having trouble denying the positive effects that fiscal conservatism is having on their campus — and their pocketbooks. When I talked with Bridgitte Buchanan, outreach director of the Purdue College Democrats, she told me she appreciated what Daniels has done to keep costs low for students, and she praised his Degree in 3 reform. Support for the university’s president is not partisan: Daniels is so popular on campus that students sometimes crowd around him at the dining halls and take pictures. It makes sense that conservatives would love him, but at least at Purdue, the Mitch Daniels model wins bipartisan support.

So in the face of an ever-expanding student-debt bubble, it’s time for this transformation to take place on the national level. Yet unfortunately, 77 percent of Millennials still support the “free college” proposals pushed by Democratic Socialists such as Senator Sanders. They ignore the alternative: reining in free-wheeling spending on campus and passing the savings on to students.

This is dismaying. Young people at colleges across the country are paying the price of administrative waste, bloated budgets, and frivolous expenditures. But they turn a blind eye to the solution, as do administrations across the nation. Students truly concerned about tuition rates and immense amounts of debt need to forget their infatuation with socialized higher education — and realize that fiscal conservatism is what will get us out of this mess.



What is a true education?

Jennifer Buckingham

A university student reflecting on her education recently published a disparaging critique. She condemned an “antiquated” model of education for rewarding her for learning maths and science instead of things she considers more important, such as “how to do a tax return, change a tyre, pay off a car, buy a house, nail a job interview, do CPR, start a self-managed super fund.”

As teacher and blogger Michael Salter pointed out, why shouldn’t this list of life skills include “caring for an infant? Caring for an aged parent? Sterilising formula bottles? Filling in a Centrelink form? Clearing leaves from gutters? Unclogging drains? Cooking a family meal? Or a thousand other things?”

The idea that our highly educated teachers should be spending precious class time on things that could easily be learned on a weekend from a relative or friend, or indeed by watching a Youtube video, is both nihilistic and utilitarian — two things a true education is not.

It would be easy to dismiss these sentiments as typically youthful lack of appreciation for the privilege of an academic education, but they are also endorsed by people of influence in education policy.

Schools and expert teachers exist to give children knowledge and skills that they are unable or unlikely to learn otherwise. While it might be true that many students will not make use of the maths they learned beyond Year 8, there is no way of knowing in advance which students will, and which won’t. Therefore, the most equitable thing is to provide all students with a strong maths education, so no student is denied the opportunity to study maths at higher levels for lack of a solid foundation in the earlier years.

Unfortunately, students — and their supporters — who think maths education is irrelevant might just get what they wish for. A report released this week by the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute shows a looming critical shortage of qualified maths teachers:  only one in four students currently have a qualified maths teacher in every year between Year 7 and 10, and this likely to deteriorate without immediate action.

Why does this matter? As Chief Scientist Alan Finkel told the International STEM in Education conference last week, maths is “fundamental to science, to commerce, to economics, to medicine, to engineering, to geography, to architecture, to IT… maximising your choices is not the same as maximising your ATAR.”

A good school education is about maximising choices for students in their life beyond school, not delivering a narrowly functional set of life skills.


Having a degree increases average earning by 26 per cent for women - but only 6 per cent for men, study claims

Women have a much higher salary return from a degree at the age of 29 than men, and almost always benefit in cash terms from attending university, the study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed.

Researchers found that a degree increases average earnings by 26 per cent for women, but only 6 per cent for men. In addition, in contrast to men, women see a salary premium for every subject – even ones which produce low earnings.

Women studying creative arts earn 9 per cent more than those who have no degree, while those studying social care earn 14 per cent more.

Experts say the trend can be explained by the vastly different paths men and women take if they do not go to university.

For women, not going to university often means having children earlier and therefore they are more likely to be working part-time or not at all by the age of 29.

There is also the issue of women choosing poorly paid non-graduate paths, such as beauty or childcare.

In contrast, men who do not go to university are more likely to choose male-dominated lucrative trades such as plumbing or construction.

Those with some years’ experience can earn £40,000 or more – much higher than many graduates.

The calculations for salary premiums took into account additional factors, such as the different levels of affluence and ability of people attending university.

The study also found the gender pay gap between men and women who have been to university is narrower than that of men and women who have not.

Examining the raw earnings only, the average salary at age 29 for a university-educated man is £36,000 while for a university-educated female it is £30,000 – a difference of £6,000.

For non-university-educated men it is £30,000, and for women it is £21,000 – a difference of £9,000.


Fun police strike again... Push to remove monkey bars from playgrounds after concerns they are 'too dangerous for children'

A set of monkey bars was once the staple of school playgrounds and parks across Australia.

But the humble play apparatus is now under threat from child healthcare experts who claim the equipment is one of the leading causes of injuries in young children.

One report from Monash University's Victorian Surveillance Unit claims there has been a 41 per cent increase in the number of monkey bar injuries leading to emergency room presentations.

Dr Lisa Sharwood, who worked on the report, told The Age there were 14,167 monkey bar-related injuries over the last 10 years - 81 per cent of which happened to kids between the ages of five and nine.Most of the subsequent hospital admissions were a result of upper limb and ankle injuries, she said.

A 2015 audit of child fractures at a Melbourne hospital also found more than half of the injuries were caused by children attempting to skip a rung on the monkey bars. 

There have been efforts in recent years to improve monkey bar safety, with an Australian Standards Committee limiting their height to 2.2 metres in 2014. The surface beneath the bars has also been made softer, with bark mulch now needing to be at least 40 centimetres thick.

But the chairperson of that committee, Professor David Eager from the University of Technology Sydney, believes the equipment should still be phased out in favour of space nets and spider webs.

The nets break children's falls and Dr Eager said injury rates have fallen as a result.

He told The Age: 'Monkey bars were OK when I was a kid 60 years ago, but they're not an appropriate form of play equipment in 2018. 'Most councils and schools have been pulling them out and replacing them with spatial nets but not as quickly as we'd like.' 


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