Friday, August 30, 2013

Why Democrats Love Failing Schools: Because Unions Pay Them To

It is now official. For all their talk about education’s failings, and all their feigned interest in bettering the educational system, liberals once again have proven that they hate giving the disadvantaged the same opportunities as the privileged. According to Fox News, the Justice Department is trying to stop a school vouchers program in Louisiana that attempts to place children in independent schools instead of under-performing public schools. So, apparently it’s all about “the kids”. . . Unless Teacher’s Unions are set to lose a dollar.

Louisiana is one of a few states that have implemented a very limited voucher program. Vouchers, on their own merit, should be a championed idea for underprivileged minorities and low income families. With educational dollars meant to better the learning process for students throughout the state, vouchers were given to 570 public school students so that children in impoverished and underperforming schools might reap the same benefited education as some of the most privileged in the state. However, in papers filed in US District Court, the Justice Department said that the vouchers “impeded the desegregation process."

Right. Imagine the horror on Martin Luther King Jr.’s face when he learned that low-income students were given the opportunity to attend some of the most exclusive and impressive academies in the state. The federal government is arguing that allowing students to attend independent schools under the voucher system “could create a racial imbalance in public school systems protected by desegregation orders.”

Anyone else find it ironic that the first black President’s administration is blocking a reform effort that is poised to dis-proportionately benefit minority communities?

According to Fox News: The Louisiana Governor, Bobby Jindal -- who last year expanded the program that started in 2008 -- said this weekend that the department's action is "shameful" and said President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder "are trying to keep kids trapped in failing public schools against the wishes of their parents."

Tough words. . . And accurate.

The Louisiana Supreme Court already found, earlier this year, that the state could not use the allotted voucher money. As a result the Republican governor had to find the $40 million in other public funds to move the project forward and help the 8,000 students already enrolled in the program.

The objection by the DOJ is just one more case where Democrats and Liberal groups have tried to limit the ability of minorities to move out of failing schools. A hypocritical maneuver for a group that claims the mantel of moral superiority on the issue.

The reason is far more simple, and insidious, than most would think. The Liberal/ Democratic agenda is closely aligned with Teacher’s unions. And like all unions, they are working to protect due paying positions above all else. And yes: That means the Unions would rather preserve their jobs than work for the betterment of your child’s educational experience. After all, over 95 percent of political donations from Teacher’s Unions went to Democrats; and based off of Democrat run cities like Chicago, New York, LA, and Detroit, that’s a horrible investment. On a purely economic analysis, it would seem the Democrat Party is far more dedicated to keeping the Union happy, than honestly improving student education. As a consequence, the lobbying arm of the union is not focused on the interests of students. . . But don’t take my word for it:

So. . . Apparently losing a teacher’s tenure is “too high a price to pay” for a more effective educational system for our youth. And to think they act like it’s “all for the children.”

The most terrifying part of the story: The case is scheduled to be heard by a judge who has already ruled that parts of Jindal's 2012 expansion were unconstitutional. So, we have a Judge who is opposed to using public education monies for the purpose of educating the public (as opposed to feeding Teacher’s Unions), about to rule on a law that runs contrary to the fundamental concerns of the Obama Administration. If the Judge, or the DOJ, were actually interested in improving education, they would applaud any attempt to move students from failing schools. They, instead, seem far more interested in preserving the failing status quo.

After all, our ruling elite don’t send their kids to underperforming schools. So, really, why should they promote opportunities for the rest of America’s youth without first bowing to politically connected Unions?


Obama Plan Encourages College Admissions to Discriminate Against Families Earning $60,000+

President Barack Obama’s college reform plan, released by the White House on Thursday, would encourage colleges to discriminate against applicants who come from families with total incomes of $60,000 or more by awarding colleges higher federal ratings and increased federal aid for admitting a higher “percentage” of students who receive federal Pell Grants, which the Department of Education says are for "low-income" students.

According to a study by the Congressional Research Service, in the 2007-2008 school year, only 2.3 percent of undergraduates who were still dependent on their parents, and whose total family income was $60,000 or more, received Federal Pell Grants.

According to the College Board, in the 2010-2011 school year, only 5 percent of all Pell Grants were distributed to dependent students whose total family income was $60,000 or more.

Colleges that admit and graduate a higher “percentage” of students on Pell Grants--as the Obama plan would encourage them to do--will necessarily admit and graduate a lower percentage of students who are not on Pell Grants.

A college that based its admissions policies solely on the merit of the individual applicant--and did not consider the applicant’s family income or eligibility for a Pell Grant in deciding whether to offer the applicant a place at the school--could be penalized under the Obama plan with less federal aid for itself and for its students if its merit-only admissions policy resulted in a student body with a lower percentage of Pell Grant recipients than other schools.

The Obama plan also would reward colleges for having higher overall graduation "rates" and for graduating a higher "number" of students on Pell Grants--which could provide colleges with an incentive to lower the academic standards for earning a diploma.

"The Federal Pell Grant Program provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate and certain postbaccalaureate students to promote access to postsecondary education," says the Department of Education. "A Federal Pell Grant, unlike a loan, does not have to be repaid."

“In FY 2009,” the CRS reported, “an estimated 76 percent of all Pell Grant recipients had a total family income at or below $30,000.”

If a family of three included a father and a mother, who both worked 40 hours a week for the minimum federal wage of $7.25 an hour, and an 18-year-old son going off to college who did not work a single hour the entire year, the total annual income of that family would be $30,160. That would put them slightly above the income level of three-quarters of Federal Pell Grant recipients.

The fact sheet released by the White House on President Obama’s college-reform plan says Obama wants to establish a federal rating system for colleges and then tie federal aid to colleges to that rating system. The fact sheet lists as the first criteria Obama wants to use in rating colleges the “percentage of students receiving Pell Grants.”

The fact sheet also says Obama wants “to give colleges a bonus based on the number of Pell students they graduate.”

“His plan will measure college performance through a new rating system so students and families have the information to select schools that provide the best value,” say the White House fact sheet. “And after this ratings system is well established, Congress can tie federal student aid to college performance so that students maximize their federal aid at institutions providing the best value.”

“These ratings will compare colleges with similar missions and identify colleges that do the most to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as colleges that are improving their performance,” says the Fact Sheet.

“The Department [of Education] will develop these ratings through public hearings around the country to gather input of students and parents, state leaders, college presidents, and others with ideas on how to publish excellent ratings that put a fundamental premium on measuring value and ensure that access for those with economic or other disadvantages are encouraged, not discouraged,” says the fact sheet.

“These ratings will be based upon such measures as: Access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants; affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.”

President Obama’s plan would give more federal money to the student and to the school he or she attends if that school scores highly on the new government rating system that will be based in part on the percentage of Pell Grant students enrolled and graduated.

“The Administration will seek legislation using this new rating system to transform the way federal aid is awarded to colleges once the ratings are well developed,” says the Fact Sheet. “Students attending high-performing colleges would receive larger Pell Grants and more affordable student loans.”

“To encourage colleges to enroll and graduate low- and moderate-income students, the president will propose legislation to give colleges a bonus based upon the number of Pell Grant students they graduate.”


Australia: Push to end expulsion of homosexual students from private schools

Seems a pity that there can be no refuge from them

Controversial laws that allow private schools to expel students because they are gay could be abolished if the two main parties are allowed a conscience vote on the issue, the MP seeking to overturn the laws says.

Under the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act, it is unlawful for public schools and educational institutions to discriminate against or expel students on the basis of homosexuality, transgender status and other traits, but private schools and colleges are explicitly exempt from these provisions.

Independent MP for Sydney Alex Greenwich will introduce the private member's bill to the NSW Parliament on Wednesday to remove the exemptions, and said he hoped a conscience vote would be granted if the two main parties did not back the bill outright. "I have spoken to a number of government members and opposition members who are keen on it," he said.

Though few, if any, cases of students actually being expelled under the laws are known, students at religious schools say their complaints about homophobic bullying are sometimes ignored by staff and have been told they should convert to heterosexuality, according to a recent senate submission by Dr Tiffany Jones from the University of New England's School of Education

Mr Greenwich said schoolchildren should be free from harassment and discrimination.

"Students suffering from bullying by their peers because of their [lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or intersex] status are less likely to report the matter to teachers if they know they could be expelled," he wrote in a discussion paper on the issue.

"A school that can by law discriminate is less likely to have processes in place to deal with this type of bullying if it is reported."

Both the Coalition and Labor said they would examine the details of the bill before taking a position.

Labor's education spokeswoman, Carmel Tebbutt, said she had '"sympathy" for what Mr Greenwich was trying to achieve.

"I respect the religious beliefs of faith-based schools, however, it is important that all students are treated fairly and are not subject to discrimination," she said.

But several authorities representing private and religious schools have already voiced opposition to removing the exemptions.

Ian Baker, then-acting executive director of the NSW Catholic Education Commission, told Fairfax Media in July that the fact that so few, if any, cases of students being expelled were widely known was testament to the fact schools tended to treat such students with sensitivity.

"It speaks for itself,’’ he said at the time. "It’s exercised with great caution and consideration. The objective is not to punish, but to protect the rights of those families who send their child to a school based on a religious faith.’’

The executive director of the Association for Independent Schools NSW, Geoff Newcombe, also defended the right of schools to decide who they enrolled, provided they were operating within the law.

Greens MP John Kaye said his party strongly supported Mr Greenwich’s move and pointed out private schools received significant government funding: "The least they could do is obey the common standards that apply to the rest of society.’’


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Before night fell

In 1964 Hampden-Sydney College, in Southside Virginia, was fairly typical of American schools and particularly of the small, good Sothern schools of the region: Randolph-Macon College for men in Ashland, co-ed William and Mary in Williamsburg, and Randolph-Macon Women´s College in Lynchburg among others.

H-S, as we called it, was entirely male, both as to students and professors. This had the great advantage that we could concentrate on the job at hand, as for example learning things, instead of pondering the young lovely at the next desk. These latter were available at Longwood State Teachers College (now of course Longwood University), seven miles away.

Hampden-Sydney was not MIT. Average SATs were perhaps 1150 if memory serves. The students were chiefly drawn from the small and pleasant towns of rural Virginia, and would go on to become doctors, attorneys, and businessmen. Yet H-S embodied (and may still) a, by today´s standards, a remarkable philosophy of education, and showed that reasonably but not appallingly bright young can be educated. So did most colleges.
It was then believed that higher education was for the intelligent and the prepared, for no more than the upper twenty percent, perhaps fifteen ore even ten percent of graduates of high school.

At Hampden-Sydney, “Prepared” meant “prepared.” It was assumed that students could read perfectly and knew algebra cold. There were no remedial courses. The idea would have been thought ridiculaous if anyone had thought it at all. If you needed remediation, you belonged somewhere else. Colleges were not holding tanks for the mildly retarded.

The purpose of a college, it was then thought was to turn college boys—we were then called “college boys” and “college girls”—into educated young adults. Part of this meant that we should act like adults, which meant as ladies and gentlemen. This concept, currently regarded as odd and even inauthentic, meant deploying good manners when appropriate, not dressing like the contents of an industrial dumpster, and avoiding in mixed company the constant use of sexual reference in words of few letters.

Hampden-Sydney then provided a liberal education, which is simply to say an education, everything else being vocational training. A belief seldom stated but firmly held was that if you didn´t have a reasonable familiarity with literature, history, the arts and sciences and the like, you belonged to a lower order of existence. College should provide the familiarity. The faculty believed that teenagers, which most of us were, didn´t know enough to decide in what education consisted, or what we needed to learn, so there were a great many required courses. These varied between BA and BS programs,  but, for example, a student majoring in history took two years each of two languages, one of them ancient (Latin or Greek), surveys of philosophy, art, a math course, and two of the sciences.

The latter were not Football Physics or Chemistry for Cretins. They were the same courses the science majors took.
The students were then all white and so could be graded on their academic performance.  Rigor was considerable. I can still read French after two years with Dr. Albert Leduc who, judging by the workload he imposed, we suspected of being a sadist who spent his spare time pulling the wings from flies. Freshman chemistry amounted to P-chem lite, heavy on quantum theory and endless, endless, endless solution of laboratory problems of the sort encountered in the real world. It was hard. A remedial student would not have lasted thirty seconds.
Such was schooling in 1964. Then came the Sixties, which actually started in mid-decade and didn´t have their full effect for some time. But everything changed.

A proletarian egalitarianism emerged across the country, urging that everyone should go to college. A tidal wave of the dim and unready washed onto campuses. To facilitate their entry, admission standards had to be lowered and, to keep them in, academic standards. Colleges, which began calling themselves “universities,” discovered that there was money in these unstudents, and expanded to house more of them. (The students ceased to be college kids and became “men” and “women,” while increasingly acting like children.) To recruit politically desirable black students, affirmative action arose and, when these recruits sank to the bottom, “black studies” were instituted, having no definable standards and teaching nothing. “Women´s Studies” followed, allowing girls who lacked scholarly interests to enjoy indignation without suffering the unaccustomed pangs of thought. These quickly became departments of virtuous hostility to men and whites (for who is more sexist than a feminist, or more racist than a black?)

Since these young generally lacked either the curiosity or acuity for genuine studies, they wanted to be amused. Courses entitled The Transcendentalists of New England or Europe from 1926 were too boring, assuming that the purported students had heard of Transcendentalism or Europe, so they demanded and got The History of the Comic Book in American Culture. Such courses amounted to Remedial Sandbox, but sounded like college courses. It was enough.

These enlarged children were paying for college, or at least their fathers were, and they wanted value for money. That meant grades. Soon everybody was getting As and Bs. What they were not getting was an education but since they didn´t know what one was, they didn´t notice. They called themselves men and women, without behaving as such, but that was close enough. They attended a College-Shaped Place, so they figured they must be going to college, and they got great grades, so they must be learning something.

 Those in the Victims Studies departments rejoiced in extended adolescent rebellion against their parents while engaging in disguised indolence, thus joining the historically comic class of the pampered and bored who imagine themselves  as being in some vanguard or other.

Thus died American education. A few outposts remained, and remain, but very few. Men and women of my age are the last fully schooled generation.  What are we to feel other than contempt for these intellectually bedraggled victims, not of their beloved sexism and racism but of a demented egalitarianism that thinks that pretending that everyone is educated is better than allowing those capable of it to be so. How much sense does this make?  


Tutor reveals Ivy-admissions madness of rich penthouse parents

Though I worked for 15 years as an independent college-applications counselor all over the United States and Europe — with students whose parents thought nothing of flying me in every weekend to try to make Harvard say yes — nowhere was the college-admissions race more competitive than in New York City.

Here the frenzy is amplified by money and power as it only can be in New York; college admissions are the culmination of a scramble that begins with nursery school. Here, too, the opportunities for obsessive parents to break a student’s heart seem sharper than anywhere else.

My abiding memory of tutoring New Yorkers is of sitting with one girl as night fell late in October. Tears coursed down her cheeks and onto the hem of the distinctive skirt of her elite private school. She was too upset to sip from the mug of hot chocolate her housekeeper had brought up. Her parents were working late, as they always did, and other than the staff, we were alone in the house. Spread on a table before us were college essay drafts.

“It’s hopeless,” she sobbed. “I’ve got nothing.”

From her bedroom window, where we sat, an unobstructed view of Central Park stretched north to the autumn sky.

How does a young woman with so much come to feel she’s got nothing? My students were almost all thoughtful and diligent, but their parents had fallen into a terrible trap, having raised their children to reach for the stars without teaching them how to so much as stretch out an arm.

For many of the children of the most ambitious, wealthiest parents in the city, the college-admissions process begins when a child is 2, with the hiring of a consultant to deliver nursery-school acceptances.

Once in school, if the child is slow in any subject, parents hire tutors. If the tutors fail, the parents will knock on doors until they find a learning specialist who agrees to identify a trumped-up deficit in a student’s capabilities — in other words, to label the child in some way learning-disabled — after which the parents will force their excellent school to exempt the child from certain obligations, so she no longer has to take four years of math, say, or timed tests.

The college list will be drawn up no later than sophomore spring, and it will include only trophy schools — the Ivy League, Duke, Stanford — selected not for fit but according to where the parents have influence. If a parent went to a college, it’s a “legacy school,” and it goes at the top of the list. If they know a trustee, that’s in Position No. 2. And so on down the line.

By junior spring, the “early decision” school is chosen, meaning a single application will be made by Nov. 1 with the promise that the student will attend if admitted. Statistically, this is the best chance a student has of acceptance at top schools, and it’s not a problem to apply so early for students who have had years to tour their choices and who don’t have to fill out financial-aid forms.

The summer before a student’s senior year, the parents work to secure the golden ticket — a recommendation letter from a trustee of the first-choice school — while the student interns for an exclusive institution (a neuroscience lab, a political office) or performs community service in a far-flung locale (building schools in Bangladesh).

Finally, after 15 or so years of parents managing every variable, there comes the time when a student is expected to do something all by herself: fill out the actual application. Write an essay in her own voice.

By this point, our coddled child has no faith in her own words at all. Her own ideas and feelings, like a language she has not practiced, have fallen away.

Her parents wanted more than anything to protect her, to give her the world. Instead they’ve taken away her capacity to know it.

Faced with that blank page, the students panic. They freeze. Their entire lives have been pointed toward this one test of their worth: Who wouldn’t suffer writer’s block? The parents yell. Everyone sobs.

That’s when they called me.

I had been an independent college-applications adviser for almost a decade when I moved to Manhattan in 2007. For the three years that followed, I tutored some of the city’s most elite high-school seniors, working under the radar, a hired gun who slipped in and out of penthouse apartments and jogged up the side steps of brownstones like someone’s mistress.

From 2000 to 2010, more than 90 percent of my students were accepted at their top-choice schools. My name was shared among wealthy families who would not have dreamed of hiring one of the big college-application consulting shops; they wanted exclusivity, someone other students couldn’t have.

In fact, often I was asked to create false invoices (substituting, say, “child-care services” for “educational consulting”) when I billed my $7,500, all-in fee. Five days a week, from August to December, I took the 6 train from Midtown to 68th or 77th and walked west to Park or Fifth, where I sat with wealthy students struggling to free themselves from their parents’ dreams so they might have some hopes of their own.

One father requested that my meetings with his son take place in the Midtown offices of his private-equity group. His son would take the train in from Greenwich and meet me there. I offered to meet the boy somewhere easier, but no. It wasn’t safe, the father explained, as he led me into the vast glass space of his office, where his son was sitting; in fact, he had personally walked to Penn Station to meet his son’s train and escort him here.

Then he took out his checkbook and asked me, in front of the boy, what I’d charge to write his essays.

You see the logic? I love you so much I won’t risk letting you take a cab in the city, and I wouldn’t dream of letting you use your own voice to apply to college. But you can’t expect a student to write effectively in the first person if his own father has no interest in what he might say.

One young man had been flown in from Paris to work with me. He was very bright, but his English was not good enough for a top American college. Even if we could get him in, he’d struggle. His mother would not hear of this. She was engaged in a ferocious divorce from her diplomat husband, and while the blond boy and I sat there, working in the two-story atrium of their living room, professionals in slim suits wandered the apartment with notepads and cameras, making appraisals of every item that might be removed.

One evening, the mother met me when I arrived.  “We will say he’s black,” she said.

Excuse me?  “My ex-husband, he’s not seeing the application, so we’ll say what we want. We lived four years in Senegal. Our name is exotic. So, we will check the box and say he is black.”

I said this was not a good idea.  “Why not?” she pressed me. “Can they ask for proof?”

Her son sat silent as a stone, blue eyes fixed on his notebook, while the appraisers’ cameras flashed on the Picassos on the walls.

In the months to follow, I failed to dissuade the mother of her plan. Her son was not admitted.

She, like so many others, was dumb-struck, devastated, when it didn’t work out. (This is why, year after year, new clients kept calling: They hear the horror stories of wonderful kids who got in nowhere.)

These parents haven’t anticipated that college-admissions officers might be able to hear the hollow pretense of the packaged student, the shellacked essays full of an editor’s semicolons but lacking a heart.

They don’t know a trustee’s letter can also be a curse: One trustee of an Ivy League school confided in me the secret code she shared with the dean of admissions. If she felt obligated to write the letter for social reasons, the student was referred to formally — Miss Cabot, Mr. Peabody. If she believed in the student, he or she was called by name.

“I’ve had about 100 percent success both ways,” she told me.

The girl whose bedroom window opened onto Central Park struggled all fall. She was writing boring essays about her community service (she interned relentlessly at charities all over the East Side) and sweating her “B” average.

She did not know that she was all but guaranteed admission to her top choice — let’s say it was Yale — where a building already bore her name. She didn’t think she could get in, and if it weren’t for that building, she’d have been right.

But her parents could not imagine her going anywhere else. The whole process seemed to my student a trap: She had to gain admission to and attend a school where she knew she didn’t belong. How could she write an honest essay?

We got out of that penthouse apartment and walked the park as winter bore down. I noticed she knew a great deal about Central Park; her nannies had taken her here often, of course. But there was more. And one day she confessed to me her secret: Afternoons, after school, she directed her driver to several pet stores in the city, where she bought the most miserable, chewed-up, sickly gerbils and hamsters she could find. She carried them in their cardboard boxes to the grassy spots in the park and set them free.

“I know they probably get eaten that first night,” she told me, crying. “Rats. Raccoons. Pale Male. But still, imagine that one day of freedom. It’s better than whatever would have happened in that store.”

And just like that, we had a college essay. She wrote about the rodents, yes, but she also wrote about the gardens she knew so well, and how the city of her birth had grown up around the park. She covered Manhattan history and the biology of raptors in 500 words. It was terrific.

Her parents were horrified. They forbid her to submit the essay — what would Yale think? But she did so anyway.

You’ll know how this story ends. She got into Yale, of course, early decision. But her real success was in giving the admissions officers the kind of honesty that is harder and harder to find in these days of tiger parenting. And, I like to think, in clearing a path to her own life, she graduated and became an apprentice gardener with the city Parks Service. She’ll have to work her way up to Central Park, her own front lawn, but she is finally doing what she wants to do.

This is the biggest secret to success in the college applications madness: It’s not about getting kids in. It’s about allowing them to grow up.


71.4% of Full-Time College Students Get Federal Aid, Averaging $10,500 a School Year

As President Barack Obama was preparing this week to embark on a bus tour on which he intends to propose ways to “fundamentally rethink and reshape” the higher education system in the United States, the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics released a new report on the financial aid paid to American college students.

In the 2011-2012 school year, says the report, the federal government provided 71.4 percent of full-time college students with some form of taxpayer-funded aid for their education.

According to the report, 55.2 percent of full-time college students in the 2011-2012 school year took out direct federal student loans, 47.4 percent received a federal grant, and 10.5 percent were in some type of federally backed work study program.

On average, full-time college students received $10,500 in federal aid during the year.

The average value of the direct student loans made to a full-time college student in 2011-2012 was $7,000, according to the report. The average value of the Pell Grants made to full-time students was $4,400.

While 71.4 percent of full-time college students received federal aid in the 2011-2012 school year, 24.0 percent got aid from state governments.

In addition to the average of $10,500 in aid the federal government paid out to full-time college students during the school year, the state governments gave the full-time students they aided $3,300 during the year—with $3,200 of that being outright grants.

The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act--one of the two bills  (together with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) that made up Obamacare--included language terminating the program through which the federal government guaranteed student loans made by private lenders. After enactment of Obamacare, all federally guaranteed student loans were made directly by the U.S. Treasury.

"Under the DL [direct loan] program, the federal government essentially serves as the banker--it provides the loans to students and their families using federal capital (i.e., funds from the U.S. Treasury), and it owns the loans,” the Congressional Research Service explained.

At the end of March 2010, the month Obamacare was enacted, the outstanding balance on federal direct student loans was $169.526 billion, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for that month. By the end of July 2013, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for that month, the outstanding balance on direct student loans had grown to $618.508 billion.

Since Obamacare was enacted, the outstanding balance on federal direct student loans has increased by 265 percent.

The NCES study was based on a survey sample of approximately 95,000 undergraduate students. The study said that in the 2011-2012 school year there were 26 million undergraduate student in the United States.

“So what the president believes that we need to do is we need to fundamentally rethink and reshape the college--the higher education system, and we need to find a way to build on innovation,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at Tuesday’s press briefing.

“So the president on this bus tour will lay out some fundamental reforms that would bring real change to the way that we pay for college education in this country,” said Earnest.

“Now, the proposals that the president is going to lay out are not going to be popular with everybody, but they are going to be in the best interest of middle-class families,” he said. “And the president is looking forward to having that discussion over the course of Thursday and Friday in addition riding on a bus.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

U.S. government sues to block vouchers in some Louisiana school systems

The U.S. Justice Department is suing Louisiana in New Orleans federal court to block 2014-15 vouchers for students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders. The first year of private school vouchers "impeded the desegregation process," the federal government says.

Thirty-four school systems could be affected, including those of Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes. Under the lawsuit, the state would be barred from assigning students in those systems  to private schools unless a federal judge agreed to it. A court hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

The statewide voucher program, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, lets low-income students in public schools graded C, D or F attend private schools at taxpayer expense. This year, 22 of the 34 systems under desegregation orders are sending some students to private schools on vouchers.

Last year, at least 570 students were affected; the program has expanded since then. The federal petition would require the state to analyze this year's vouchers to see how they affected school desegregation. (Read the petition.)

The Justice Department's primary argument is that letting students leave for vouchered private schools can disrupt the racial balance in public school systems that desegregation orders are meant to protect. Those orders almost  always set rules for student transfers with the school system.

Federal analysis found that last year's Louisiana vouchers increased racial imbalance in 34 historically segregated public schools in 13 systems. The Justice Department goes so far as to charge that in some of those schools, "the loss of students through the voucher program reversed much of the progress made toward integration."

In Tangipahoa Parish, for instance, Independence Elementary School lost five white students to voucher schools, the petition states. The consequent change in the percent of enrolled white students "reinforc(ed) the racial identity of the school as a black school."

While the federal petition would let courts approve vouchers in those school systems next year, Brian Blackwell, attorney for the Louisiana Association of Educators, said it likely would take a lot of time, effort and evidence to persuade the judges.

State Education Superintendent John White took issue with the suit's primary argument and its characterization of the program. Almost all the students using vouchers are black, he said. Given that framework, "it's a little ridiculous" to argue that students' departure to voucher schools makes their home school systems less white, he said. He also thought it ironic that rules set up to combat racism were being called on to keep black students in failing schools.

The voucher program started in New Orleans in 2008. A large number of participants still live in the city.

White also pointed out that the schools in the voucher program must comply with the terms of 1975 court case, Brumfield v. Dodd, that prohibits the state from giving public money to private schools that uphold segregation or discrimination.

The voucher program has been controversial since its inception last year, with multiple suits filed to block it. After the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled in May that the state could not use the money it allots for each student in public schools, Gov. Bobby Jindal found about $40 million in public money elsewhere to cover the almost 8,000 2013-14 enrollees.

Jindal blasted the Justice Department's suit Saturday.  "After generations of being denied a choice, parents finally can choose a school for their child, but now the federal government is stepping in to prevent parents from exercising this right. Shame on them," he said. "Parents should have the ability to decide where to send their child to school."

The case has been assigned to Judge Ivan Lemelle. He ruled in November that elements of Jindal's 2012 education overhaul were unconstitutional,  because paying to implement the voucher program would hurt Tangipahoa Parish's ability to pay for the programs it uses to comply with its federal desegregation order. The state's appeal in that case is pending.


Average U.S. Public School Teacher Paid More in School Year Than Median Household Earned in Full Year

The average public school teacher in the United States is paid more in base salary alone for just the work he or she does during the school year than the median U.S. household earns in an entire year.

In the 2011-2012 school year, according to a newly released report by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the average base salary for a full-time public school teacher in the United States was $53,100 for the regular school year—not counting any earnings made for summer work.

In 2011, the latest year estimated by the Census Bureau, median household income in the United States was $50,054.

Thus, the average base salary paid to a public school teacher for the regular school year was $3,064 more than the income the median household made in an entire year.

According to the NCES, many public school teachers are paid additional money—over and above their base salaries—by the public school systems that employ them. For example, 41.8 percent are paid an average of $2,500 during the school year to work in extracurricular activities; 4.4 percent get an average of $1,400 during the school year in compensation based on their students’ performance; and 7.9 percent get an average of $2,100 during the school year from other school-system sources.

Also, 16.1 percent of public school teachers have a second job outside the school system that employs them as a teacher. These teachers earn an average of $4,800 during the school year from those outside jobs.

When all sources of teacher income are taken into account, according to the NCES, the average teacher income during the 2011-2012 school year was $55,100.

If two public school teachers were married to one another, and each earned only a public school teacher’s average base salary of $53,100; their combined income would be $106,200. That is 212 percent of the nation’s median household income.

A teacher’s average earnings, as calculated by NCES, excluded any income from retirement pensions.


The biggest embarrassment to higher education in America

It seems a student complained to Prof. Adams that he is “the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America.”  Prof. Adams’s reply to the student is reproduced here in total, so you can enjoy every splendid syllable of his smack down:

Dear Edward:

I want to take the time to thank you for writing and telling me that I should be fired from my position as a tenured professor because I am “the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America.” I also want to thank you for responding when I asked you exactly how you arrived at that conclusion. Your response, “because you insist that marriage requires one man and one woman,” was both helpful and concise.

While I respect your right to conclude that I am the biggest embarrassment to higher education in America, I think you’re wrong. In fact, I don’t even think I’m the biggest embarrassment to higher education in the state of North Carolina. But since you’re a liberal and you support “choice” – provided we’re talking about dismembering children and not school vouchers for those who weren’t dismembered – I want to give you some options. In fact, I’m going to describe the antics of ten professors, official campus groups, and invited campus speakers in North Carolina and let you decide which constitutes the biggest embarrassment to higher education.

1. In the early spring semester of 2013, a women’s studies professor and a psychology professor at Western Carolina University co-sponsored a panel on bondage and S&M. The purpose of the panel was to teach college students how to inflict pain on themselves and others for sexual pleasure. When you called me the biggest embarrassment in higher education, you must not have known about their bondage panel. Maybe you were tied up that evening and couldn’t make it.

2. At UNC Chapel Hill, there is a feminist professor who believes that women can lead happy lives without men. That’s nothing new. But what’s different is that she thinks women can form lifelong domestic partnerships with dogs and that those relationships will actually be fulfilling enough to replace marital relationships with men. I can’t make this stuff up, Ed. I don’t drop acid. Well, at least not since the late 1980s. But I promise this story is real and not an LSD flashback.

3. At Duke University, feminists hired a “sex worker” (read: prostitute) to speak as part of an event called the Sex Workers Art Show. After his speech, the male prostitute pulled down his pants, got down on his knees, and inserted a burning sparkler into his rectum. While it burned, he sang a verse of “the Star Spangled Banner.” I believe that stripping incident was almost as embarrassing as the other one involving the Duke Lacrosse team.

4. A porn star was once paid to give a speech at UNCG. The topic was “safe sodomy.” After her speech, the feminist pornographer sold autographed butt plugs to students in attendance. I’m not sure whether the ink could contribute to rectal cancer. I’m no health expert. But I do know it was pretty darned embarrassing when the media picked up on the story.

5. A few years ago at UNC-Chapel Hill, a feminist group built a large vibrator museum in the middle of the campus quad as a part of their “orgasm awareness week.” I think that was probably the climax of the semester, academically speaking. But they certainly weren’t too embarrassed to display a vibrator that was made out of wood back in the 1920s. Keep your batteries charged, Ed. We’re about halfway done.

6. A feminist administrator at UNC-Wilmington sponsored a pro-abortion event. During the event they sold tee shirts saying “I had an abortion” to students who … well, had abortions. That’s right, Ed. The students were encouraged to boast about the fact that they had killed their own children. That’s how the UNC system is preserving the future of our great Tar Heel state.

7. The following semester, that same UNCW administrator sponsored a workshop teaching students how to appreciate their orgasms. I learned art appreciation in college. Today, college kids are taught orgasm appreciation. I will let you decide whether that’s an embarrassment to higher ed., Ed.

8 A few years ago, a UNCW English professor posted nude pictures of under-aged girls as a part of an “art exhibit” in the university library. The Provost then ordered the nude pictures to be moved away from the library and into the university union. This decision was made after several pedophiles had previous been caught downloading child pornography in the university library just a few yards away from the location of the display. The English professor was incensed so she asked the Faculty Senate to censure the provost for violating her “academic freedom.” The faculty senate sided with the feminist professor. The provost was later pressured to leave the university.

9. A different feminist professor at UNCW accused a male professor of putting tear gas in her office. She was later caught putting her mail in a microwave oven. She did this because she thought people were trying to poison her with anthrax and that the oven would neutralize the toxins. She was not placed on leave for psychiatric reasons. Instead, she was designated as the university’s official “counter terrorism” expert.

10 And then there is Mike Adams. He thinks marriage is between a man and a woman.

So those are the choices, Ed. You can simply write back and tell me which of these professors, groups, or guest speakers has caused “the biggest embarrassment to higher education” – either in North Carolina or in America altogether. Or you can just concede that our system of hire education is the real embarrassment because it has been hijacked by radical feminism. And please pardon any puns – especially those that take the form of ms-spelled words.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Liberal Way: Making Education Cheaper No Matter What it Costs

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output.”-- Milton Friedman

Whatever else Obama studied at Accidental University, it wasn’t economics.  If it had studied economics, he’d understand that the more the federal government throws money at higher education, the higher the costs are going to go.  The College Board recently released statistics that bear this out.

During the Slight Depression of ‘09 and ’10, when deflation was the problem, state and private universities saw “the largest one-year percentage increase in the constant dollar published price for tuition.”

Published prices climbed almost 6 percent in the 2009-2010 school year over the 2008-2009 period.

“Over the past five years,” writes FoxNews, “the tuition sticker price at public four-year colleges is up 27 percent beyond overall inflation, according to a College Board survey. At private schools, the average student's cost has risen 13 percent beyond overall inflation.”

The culprit is the huge increase in government money made available to students, regardless of their ability to pay back the loan.   Obama created a kind of subprime loan for kids to young too know the difference.

Remember all those Internet ads that told us “Obama wants you to go back to school”?  Obama made a big pile of cash available to wannabe students through direct loans, Pell Grants, work-study programs and tuition tax credits, to… ahem… “low income” families through the stimulus program that brought record college enrollment.

The “low-income” limit to qualify for the tuition tax credit was $80,000 for single filers; $160,000 for joint filers.  Under this definition apparently 90 percent of American families qualified as low income.

"The number of students applying for financial aid increased by 10.5 percent this past year," Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of a website devoted to student aid issues, said in 2009. "That's a record increase. That's 1.4 million additional students.”

So, anywho…yes, tuition prices went up; way up.  Supply and demand, remember?

But here’s the most astonishing thing. I swear you won’t believe it.  Obama says that he wants to fix the mess he made.

“Even as we put more money into the Student Loan Program,” said a teleprompterless Obama in 2010, even as tuition was booming, “we are also trying to reach out to university presidents and administrators to figure out how can we reduce the inflation in higher education -- because the fact is, is that the only thing that has gone up faster in cost than health care is -- guess what. Higher education. And the problem is, if we're not thinking about ways to curve the inflation, then even if we put more money in, what that money is buying becomes less and less. And so trying to find creative ways for universities to do more with less is going to be important.”

Got it?  More money equals more costs, which means that universities are going…to…have to…find…huh?  I guess that what happens when a community organizer tries to explain economics to subprime student loan victims.

Well then, let’s just fast forward to today and look at what he’s come up with to “curve” those costs after consulting with university administrators.

“The average student who borrows for college now graduates owing more than $26,000.  Some owe a lot more than that,” Obama told students in Buffalo yesterday. “It becomes hard to start a family and buy a home if you're servicing $1,000 worth of debt every month.  It becomes harder to start a business if you are servicing $1,000 worth of debt every month, right?”

Right, Mr. President. So what are you gonna do about it?  "We need to rate colleges on best value so students and taxpayers get a bigger bang for their buck," he said.  Huh?

"We need ratings not rankings to give students some guidance about which colleges are producing value," one senior administration official speaking on background before the speech told the UK’s Guardian.

Ratings?  But what about inflation? What about the trillion dollars in student loan debt students have?  Helloooo?

Did they disremember what this speech was about?  Nope.  Costs and interest rates and money supply apparently don’t fit into inflation calculations when you’re community organizing, not economizing.

So prepare for college costs to rise, not fall, and prepare for the final, federal takeover of college education.

Because one thing about liberals: Once they get a bad idea in their head, like "saving money", there’s no stopping them until they impose it on everyone else.  Regardless of cost.


Inclusion Means Excluding White Males

Mike Adams

Dear Chancellor Miller:

On May 9, you announced that you were initiating a process to "rethink" our university's approach to diversity and inclusion. Then, on August 16, you announced that eleven individuals agreed to serve on your Chancellor’s Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. For the following reasons, I find the composition of the committee to be deeply problematic.

1. Your inclusion committee is 0% white male. I have written three books dealing with campus diversity issues. I have been invited to speak on issues of diversity (largely ideological) at 78 college campuses. Over the last ten years, I have written nearly 900 columns, the majority of which have dealt with diversity issues. I am certainly among the most qualified people you could have invited to serve on your diversity committee. But you did not reach out to me. There is but one explanation for this. You have deliberately excluded white males from your discussions of inclusion. If there is a non-racist or non-sexist explanation for the fact that your committee is 0% white male, I'd like to hear it.

2. Your inclusion committee is 82% female. Over a decade ago, our school launched, at taxpayer expense, a new Women's Resource Center. It was strange, given that the student body was then 68% female. Put simply, we need to stop pretending that women are a minority here at UNC-Wilmington. If you want to be inclusive then you should include more men on your inclusion committee. Men are the real minority here at UNC-Women Everywhere.

3. You need to be sensitive to religious diversity. If you do a little quick research on you will find something interesting. There is one professor you placed on the committee who teaches in the area of religion. A student recently accused him of grading students down for "answering too religiously." The anonymous accusation doesn't amount to guilt. But ask yourself whether Professor Burgh would be on the committee if he were even once accused of race or gender insensitivity, instead of religious viewpoint discrimination. Then think about why this country was established. It wasn't founded on principles of racial or gender identity politics. It was founded on principles of religious freedom.

4. One cannot support both inclusion and domestic terrorism. Bill Ayers was an education professor who used to make pipe bombs for the purpose of blowing up his political enemies. He stopped doing that when some of his fellow domestic terrorists blew themselves up in the process of making one of the pipe bombs. Just a few years ago, one of our education professors signed a petition in support of Ayers, the unrepentant domestic terrorist. You have now placed that professor on the inclusion committee. Of course, we should all agree that blowing up one's political enemies tends to run contrary to the spirit of tolerance and inclusion that you wish to promote. So I would respectfully suggest that you should have appointed a professor who opposes domestic terrorists, rather than one who publicly supports them.

5. There are no white students on your committee. There are two Hispanics and one black student on your committee. One works with El Centro Hispano. One works with the Black Student Union. Oddly, however, you don't have any white students on the committee who also work with the White Student Union, which, of course, does not exist. That's probably why you excluded white students from your efforts to be inclusive. You didn't want any white students asking tough questions like "hey, where's the white student union?" Or "where is El Centro Gringo?"

Your announcement letter continues, saying "We must not waiver in our commitment to create a diverse and inclusive campus environment. I believe most of us agree there is much more to be achieved in these areas." This is just nonsense, Gary. What you are saying here is that you think most people agree with you that there should be more spending in the area of "diversity and inclusion." But you only arrive at such conclusions because people who diverge from your opinion are excluded from your committees, and your circle of influence. That is how bad decisions are made. You should ask students if they are willing to suffer through more tuition increases to fund further expansion of diversity initiatives and see what they say. But make sure you don't exclude all white students from the survey like you excluded them from the committee.

Your letter concludes with your assertion that "It is extremely important that this be a fully transparent and inclusive process." Does this mean you will let me attend the first meeting of your new Chancellor's Committee on Diversity and Inclusion? Additionally, will you let me ask tough questions and publish the committee's answers in my weekly column?

If you won't answer my last two questions in the affirmative, then I ask that you at least be honest about what you're really up to, here. In that case, you could just hang a sign outside your meetings saying "Inclusion in Progress: No White Males Allowed."


The Aussies are just like us, so let’s stop kicking them out

By Boris Johnson (Mayor of London)

It is outrageous that an Australian teacher is deprived of a freedom that Britain  legally confers on every French person

I was giving a speech the other day in Melbourne Town Hall, and at the end someone came up and thrust a long letter into my hand. It was one of those letters that all politicians get – with a problem so seemingly complicated and intractable that the only answer is to smile wanly and invite the supplicant to go down the corridor and knock on the next door of our vast and unfeeling bureaucracy.

Then I read it again, and I realised that her problem was actually rather simple. It was disgraceful. The more I thought about it, the more infuriated I was. She is called Sally Roycroft, and she is a teacher. For the last few years she has dedicated herself to improving the lives of kids in Harringay and Tower Hamlets in London, and she is proud of the results.

She has raised their literacy and numeracy attainments by two notches in six months; attendance levels are good. The children show every sign of wanting to learn from her – and she loves teaching them. Her problem is that in spite of all her efforts she has been effectively kicked out of Britain. What is her crime? That she isn’t French. Nor is she German, or Polish, or Croat, or Italian, or Greek, or Portuguese.

She isn’t a citizen of any of the 27 countries of the European Union. She is Australian; and she has been told to bog off by the authorities in our country because it was, they said, too much of a palaver to go through the business of “sponsoring” her to stay.

That is the infamous consequence, as we all know, of a historic and strategic decision that this country took in 1973. We betrayed our relationships with Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New Zealand, and entered into preferential trading arrangements with what was then the European Economic Community.

This country is now quite properly approaching a renegotiation of that decision, and it is time to review the logic of what we did. When Britain joined the Common Market, it was at a time when the establishment was defeatist, declinist and obsessed with the idea that we were being left out of the most powerful economic club in the world. In those days – when olive oil and garlic had barely appeared on the dining tables of Britain – it was assumed that in order to be “internationalist” it was enough to be European. Well, it is perfectly obvious, in 2013, that that is no longer enough – and that we need to seek a wider destiny for our country.

Thanks in part to the misbegotten euro project, the EU has turned into a microclimate of economic gloom, with colossal unemployment and misery in those many parts of Europe that are being brutally deprived of the safety valve of devaluation. Since 1988, when Jacques Delors and others launched their frantic drive for monetary union, Europe has shrunk in importance and in its contribution to world output – from about 29 per cent to about 19 per cent today; and that is in spite of the considerable expansion of the EU.

There has been growth, to be sure. In fact, the world economy has grown by something like $10 trillion since the global financial crisis began in 2008. But that growth has taken place everywhere else – in Africa, in Asia and, above all, in the very Commonwealth countries that British negotiators so snootily disregarded in 1973.

We need to raise our eyes beyond Europe, forging and intensifying links with countries that are going to be growing in the decades ahead – countries that offer immense opportunities for British goods, people, services and capital. And you could not do better than by starting with Australia.

This is not just a phenomenally beautiful and relatively underpopulated country with stupendous natural resources. By fluke of history it happens to be intimately cognate with Britain. I don’t just mean that we once supplied them with the dregs of the Victorian penal system, or that we have cricket and rugby in common. I mean that we British are more deeply connected with the Australians – culturally and emotionally – than with any other country on earth.

As I walk around Sydney today, I see advertisements for the recipes of Jamie Oliver. I meet people who watch Top Gear, who have fundamentally the same view of the world, basically the same set of assumptions, the same sense of humour, and – though Australians have in many ways adorned and improved modern English – we have the same language.

Apart from anything else, they voted in 1999 not just to remain part of the Commonwealth but to retain Her Majesty the Queen as their head of state.


Monday, August 26, 2013

Richard Vedder: The Real Reason College Costs So Much

 The expert on the economics of higher education explains how subsidies fuel rising prices and why there's a 'bubble' in student loans and college enrollment.

Another school year beckons, which means it's time for President Obama to go on another college retreat. "He loves college tours," says Ohio University's Richard Vedder, who directs the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. "Colleges are an escape from reality. Believe me, I've lived in one for half a century. It's like living in Disneyland. They're these little isolated enclaves of nonreality."

Mr. Vedder, age 72, has taught college economics since 1965 and published papers on the likes of Scandinavian migration, racial disparities in unemployment and tax reform. Over the last decade he's made himself America's foremost expert on the economics of higher education, which he distilled in his 2004 book "Going Broke by Degree: Why College Costs Too Much." His analysis isn't the same as President Obama's.

This week on his back-to-school tour of New York and Pennsylvania colleges, Mr. Obama presented a new plan to make college more affordable. "If the federal government keeps on putting more and more money in the system," he noted at the State University of New York at Buffalo on Thursday, and "if the cost is going up by 250%" and "tax revenues aren't going up 250%," at "some point, the government will run out of money."

Note that for the record: Mr. Obama has admitted some theoretical limit to how much the federal government can spend.

His solution consists of tieing financial aid to college performance, using government funds as a "catalyst to innovation," and making it easier for borrowers to discharge their debts. "In fairness to the president, some of his ideas make some decent, even good sense," Mr. Vedder says, such as providing students with more information about college costs and graduation rates. But his plan addresses just "the tip of the iceberg. He's not dealing with the fundamental problems."

College costs have continued to explode despite 50 years of ostensibly benevolent government interventions, according to Mr. Vedder, and the president's new plan could exacerbate the trend. By Mr. Vedder's lights, the cost conundrum started with the Higher Education Act of 1965, a Great Society program that created federal scholarships and low-interest loans aimed at making college more accessible.

In 1964, federal student aid was a mere $231 million. By 1981, the feds were spending $7 billion on loans alone, an amount that doubled during the 1980s and nearly tripled in each of the following two decades, and is about $105 billion today. Taxpayers now stand behind nearly $1 trillion in student loans.

Meanwhile, grants have increased to $49 billion from $6.4 billion in 1981. By expanding eligibility and boosting the maximum Pell Grant by $500 to $5,350, the 2009 stimulus bill accelerated higher ed's evolution into a middle-class entitlement. Fewer than 2% of Pell Grant recipients came from families making between $60,000 and $80,000 a year in 2007. Now roughly 18% do.

This growth in subsidies, Mr. Vedder argues, has fueled rising prices: "It gives every incentive and every opportunity for colleges to raise their fees."

Many colleges, he notes, are using federal largess to finance Hilton-like dorms and Club Med amenities. Stanford offers more classes in yoga than Shakespeare. A warning to parents whose kids sign up for "Core Training": The course isn't a rigorous study of the classics, but rather involves rigorous exercise to strengthen the glutes and abs.

Or consider Princeton, which recently built a resplendent $136 million student residence with leaded glass windows and a cavernous oak dining hall (paid for in part with a $30 million tax-deductible donation by Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman). The dorm's cost approached $300,000 per bed.

Universities, Mr. Vedder says, "are in the housing business, the entertainment business; they're in the lodging business; they're in the food business. Hell, my university runs a travel agency which ordinary people off the street can use."

Meanwhile, university endowments don't pay taxes on their income. Harvard's $31 billion endowment, which has been financed by tax-deductible donations, may be America's largest tax shelter.

Some college officials are also compensated more handsomely than CEOs. Since 2000, New York University has provided $90 million in loans, many of them zero-interest and forgivable, to administrators and faculty to buy houses and summer homes on Fire Island and the Hamptons.

Former Ohio State President Gordon Gee (who resigned in June after making defamatory remarks about Catholics) earned nearly $2 million in compensation last year while living in a 9,630 square-foot Tudor mansion on a 1.3-acre estate. The Columbus Camelot includes $673,000 in art decor and a $532 shower curtain in a guest bathroom. Ohio State also paid roughly $23,000 per month for Mr. Gee's soirees and half a million for him to travel the country on a private jet. Such taxpayer-funded extravagance has not made its way into Mr. Obama's speeches.

Colleges have also used the gusher of taxpayer dollars to hire more administrators to manage their bloated bureaucracies and proliferating multicultural programs. The University of California system employs 2,358 administrative staff in just its president's office.

"Every college today practically has a secretary of state, a vice provost for international studies, a zillion public relations specialists," Mr. Vedder says. "My university has a sustainability coordinator whose main message, as far as I can tell, is to go out and tell people to buy food grown locally. . . . Why? What's bad about tomatoes from Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio?"

Mr. Vedder notes that, by contrast, "you don't have to worry about this at the University of Phoenix. One thing about the for-profits is that they are laser-like devoted to instruction." Although for-profits like the University of Phoenix and DeVry spend more money on marketing, they don't contain as much administrative overhead.

'The Obama administration has been beating up on [for-profits] pretty hard for the past two to three years," Mr. Vedder says. "It's true that drop-out rates are disproportionately higher at the for-profits, but it's also true that the for-profits are reaching the exact audience that Obama wants to reach"—low-income minorities, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.

Today, only about 7% of recent college grads come from the bottom-income quartile compared with 12% in 1970 when federal aid was scarce. All the government subsidies intended to make college more accessible haven't done much for this population, says Mr. Vedder. They also haven't much improved student outcomes or graduation rates, which are around 55% at most universities (over six years).

Mr. Vedder is skeptical about the president's proposal to tie federal aid to graduation rates, among other performance metrics. "I can tell you right now, having taught at universities forever, that universities will do everything they can to get students to graduate," he chuckles. "If you think we have grade inflation now, you ought to think what will happen. If you breathe into a mirror and it fogs up, you'll get an A."

A better idea, Mr. Vedder suggests, would be to implement a national exam like the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) to measure how much students learn in college. This is not on Mr. Obama's list.

Nor is the president addressing what Mr. Vedder believes is a fundamental problem: too many kids going to college. "Thirty-percent of the adult population has college degrees," he notes. "The Department of Labor tells us that only 20% or so of jobs require college degrees. We have 115,520 janitors in the United States with bachelor's degrees or more. Why are we encouraging more kids to go to college?"

Mr. Vedder sees similarities between the government's higher education and housing policies, which created a bubble and precipitated the last financial crisis. "In housing, we had artificially low interest rates. The government encouraged people with low qualifications to buy a house. Today, we have low interest rates on student loans. The government is encouraging kids to go to school who are unqualified just as it encouraged people to buy a home who are unqualified."

The higher-ed bubble, he says, is "already in the process of bursting," which is reflected by all of the "unemployed or underemployed college graduates with big debts." The average student loan debt is $26,000, but many graduates, especially those with professional degrees, have six-figure balances.

Mr. Obama wants to help more students discharge their debts by capping their monthly payments at 10% of their discretionary income and forgiving their outstanding balances after 20 years. Grads who take jobs in government or at nonprofits already can discharge their debt after a decade.

"Somehow working for the private sector is bad and working for the public sector is good? I don't see on what basis one would make that conclusion," Mr. Veder says. "If I had to make some judgment, I would do just the opposite."

He adds that the president's approach "creates a moral hazard problem. What it signals to current and future loan borrowers is that I don't have to take these repayment of loans very seriously. . . . I don't have to worry too much about getting a high-paying job." It encourages "sociology and anthropology majors compared with math and engineering majors."

Can online education, which is being pioneered in some science disciplines, substantially reduce costs? Mr. Vedder says it can, but government won't do the innovating. "First of all, the Department of Education, to use K-12 as an example, has been littered with demonstration projects, innovation projects, proposals for new ways to do things for decades. And what has come out? Are American students learning any more today than a generation ago? Are they doing so at lower cost than a generation ago? No."

Innovation, he says, is being driven by entrepreneurs like Stanford computer science Prof. Sebastian Thrun, who founded the for-profit company Udacity that offers "massive open online courses" (MOOCs). Mr. Thrun began teaching artificial intelligence, first at Stanford and then at Udacity. Mr. Vedder notes that he quickly got "200,000 people to sign up for it. And it's a great course and people are learning like crazy."

Where the government can help, Mr. Vedder says, is to get out of the way of progress and encourage slow-moving accreditors to allow innovations to move forward more rapidly. But ultimately, the way to improve college affordability is for the government to disinvest in higher ed and wean students from subsidies.

Mr. Obama is dead set against that. "He wants to maintain that world" of nonreality in which demand is impervious to cost, Mr. Vedder sighs. "That world has to change."


For many young British university graduates, the jobs just aren't there

No 'grit’? After drawing fire from a top Tory, graduates frustrated by a lack of career opportunities.  But many don't help themselves by the courses they choose  -- "classical art"??

As figures reveal that more than a million 16 to 24-year-olds are not in work, and half never have been, Hurd says he believes young people aren’t getting jobs because they lack the required confidence, self-control and grit. He also criticised schools for focusing solely on education and ignoring the social skills sought by employers.

Some business leaders from the CBI and Federation of Small Businesses have since appeared to back his comments. But many of those million-plus young people not in education, employment or training (Neets) are not simply lazing goggle-eyed and hopeless behind games consoles. Instead, they have won places at top universities, graduated with good degrees – and then stalled.

The Treasury may have heralded news yesterday of a revised 0.1 per cent rise in growth by claiming that Britain is “moving from rescue to recovery”. But for many top graduates fighting to get into a career, meaningful paid work has simply dried up.

“I’ve applied for about 30 jobs in the past month and you definitely start to lose motivation pretty quickly,” says Sophie Bradford, 23, (below) who has a 2:1 degree in classical studies from Royal Holloway University and an MA in classical art and archaeology from King’s College London.

“I thought Hurd’s comments were very easy for a well-educated gentleman to say, somebody who didn’t have to go out and get a job when they were young, but fell into something that was probably lined up for him.

“Some people are lazy and some just assume that they deserve a job. But I’m quite a proactive person. I ring companies and speak to people and try to keep them on the phone asking questions. It can get a bit depressing. I’m applying for lots of jobs for which I’m over-qualified. With every one I go for, I now assume that they already have somebody else in mind.”

After graduating in September 2012, Sophie, who has worked in PR and retail since she was 15, moved to Newcastle where her boyfriend had been offered a recruitment job.

“What was available was very limited,” she says. “In London, there are jobs, but the problem is the number of people you are up against. In Newcastle, there aren’t that many opportunities.”

She plugged away working for free for weeks and eventually got a job at a PR firm on an initial £12,500-a-year contract (rising to only £13,500 after a three-month probation). She has now moved back to London in the hope of better prospects. “I’m a bit stuck,” Sophie admits.

She is not alone. Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency last month revealed that 9.2 per cent of graduates – almost 26,000 – were not in work or further study six months after leaving university last summer. The data showed that graduates from Derby and Northampton universities were more likely to be in work than Oxbridge graduates, although thousands were opting for menial work rather than what they had trained to do.

More than a third of new graduates working in the UK were found to be in these “non-professional” jobs, which don’t necessarily require a degree. Around 9,695 people were working in “elementary occupations” such as office juniors, hospital porters, waiters, road-sweepers, window-cleaners, shelf-stackers and lollipop men and women.

Alexander Bower, 22, who graduated from University College of London this year with a First in modern history, is aiming to get into advertising. He says many of the jobs available are either unpaid internships or at small, start-up digital firms.

“I’ve had three interviews and I’m waiting to hear back from two,” he said. “The third is work experience. I could do an internship with a London museum but that would be for free. The problem then is: how do I support myself when I’m getting no wages and have no prospect of a job at the end of it?

“The last month has been psychologically difficult. You are just sitting at home looking for jobs on the internet. But claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance is not something I want to do at the moment. I don’t feel like I’m at that point yet.”

Murad Saidov, 23, could be a poster boy for youthful grit. He graduated from Keble College, Oxford in 2012, with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst in the commodities team. Seeing so many of his friends struggle to get into careers, he decided to leave the bank and set up his own graduate recruitment firm, Seed Jobs.

“Too many bright young people I knew were either still looking for a job or in one that they really wanted to leave. I’ve spoken to more than a thousand young people and recent graduates looking for work in the past few months alone,” he says.

“In most cases, they don’t lack the confidence or people-skills needed to get work, as politicians such as Nick Hurd suggest. If anything, they have lots of self-belief, but little idea of where to channel it.”

Saidov says he feels career services for students are not providing the right support in how to write CVs and prepare them for interviews. Meanwhile, too much emphasis is placed on top graduate schemes that only one in 10 students will ever make it on to. He advises students to send out as many applications as they can and not to be afraid of trying out different options during their twenties, as there is time to settle on a career later on.

Good news, perhaps, for fellow Oxford University graduate Vivian Le Vavasseur, who in the past year has worked as a life-drawing model and a dog walker while attempting to get into commercial law. The 23-year-old, who graduated with a 2:1 in music, says he has submitted 14 applications and completed two internships, but has had no lasting success.

“The climate is difficult and I’ve done quite a few random jobs,” he says. “I’m just going to carry on plugging away and hopefully something will come out of it.”

Many of today’s bright young things are well aware of how tough the situation is, but are still determined. They will sweep roads, clean windows, stack shelves, or shiver in the nude for community art studios while putting up with endless rejection emails and the constant battle to get on the career ladder. Just don’t say they lack grit.


Australia: The cost of waiting for education can be $4500 for parents wanting their children to attend private schools

What does that tell you about "free" government schools?

PARENTS spend up to $4500 to secure a private school place in Queensland, with many putting their children's names on multiple waiting lists.  Some schools send out bills of more than $1500 years in advance.

An investigation of enrolment application, confirmation and advance school fees shows parents pay the most, between $4000 and $4500, to secure and keep a spot at Brisbane Grammar School, the state's most consistent top academic performer in NAPLAN and OPs.

The $4000-$4500 includes a $400 application fee, which does not guarantee a place, and a $1600 confirmation fee, which confirms enrolment and is payable up to three years before a student starts. The fees are non-refundable.

Parents are asked to pay an advance fee of $2500 for Years 8 to 12, or $2000 for Years 6 and 7, depending on when they start.

The fee, which is charged once and is non-refundable, apart from exceptional circumstances, comes off a student's first year of school fees.

Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS), another consistent top academic performer, also charges a $2000 advance fee, which comes off the first year of fees, but is refunded if the school finds a replacement.

Families of girls starting Year 7 in 2016 at BGGS have received an invoice already for their $1600 confirmation fee, while the advance fee for students starting next year had to be paid by June 10 this year.

Most Independent schools analysed charge non-refundable application or confirmation fees.  But some did not charge any. 

In the Catholic sector, application and confirmation fees range from $0 to more than $2000, with St Joseph's College, Gregory Terrace, charging an enrolment bond of $2200 for Year 8.

Most state schools do not charge fees before a student starts.

An Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) survey What Parents Want in 2011 found just over one-third of parents had their child's their name on a waiting list for more than one school, with about 13 per cent choosing three or more.

ISQ executive director David Robertson said enrolment fees were fair given schools' administration costs and to ensure parents were serious about enrolment and "actually making a commitment".

"In proper planning terms, a school plans their forward enrolments by several years ... So I think, in that respect, it is justifiable," he said.

Mr Robertson said the fees were also small in comparison to what parents would pay overall during their child's time at the school.


Australia:  Former water polo champ adds daughters' names to private school waiting list at eight weeks of age

HARPER Miller is only 10 weeks old but she is already on a high school waiting list.

For some parents, deciding where to send their child to school is a vexed process but not for Carly Miller.  The former Australian women's water polo squad member and Brisbane Girls Grammar School (BGGS) student has fond memories of inter-school sports carnivals and of camaraderie and competition among every girl, every day to be their best, whether it be in the classroom or on the sporting field.

"I do think that everybody strives to be the best that they can be," she said of students at her former school.

"I think that there is a healthy competition at Grammar, so you are encouraged to give it your best shot and, obviously because your parents are paying a lot of money for you to be there, you want to do the best you can.

"I revelled in the sporting side of things at Grammar and made some really good friends that I am still in contact with today and I also think it is just a great school. It offers something to everybody, I believe."

The mother-of-three put her two daughters' names down on the BGGS waiting list within eight weeks of their birth "just to ensure that we didn't miss out".

"I would hate them to miss out on the opportunity if that is where we can afford to send them one day," she said.

"I had such a great time there. It's just a great environment to be in."

She said a good education was extremely important, providing a great foundation in life, which opened up doors and she wanted that for her children.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Obama's College Affordability Plan? Base Financial Aid on Government Formula

President Obama will pressure colleges and universities to change their behavior by ranking them according to a government formula that measures tuition, minority enrollment, graduation rates, student debt, and graduates' earnings.

"We're going to start to rank universities, understand who's doing a good job and who's not, and ultimately start to move financial aid, move resources, towards those universities that are very serious about this mission," Education Secretary Arne Duncan told MSNBC Thursday morning.

"Right now, we put out about $150 billion dollars in grants and loans each year, but it's all on inputs on the front end, not on the back end; and we have so many universities that are trying to do the right thing; we have states that are starting to invest more: We want to incentivize the good acctors, and say to those that aren't serious about containing costs, that aren't serious about graduation rates, 'Hey, you have to change your behavior."

Duncan says he hears frequent complaints from "hard-working, middle class folks" that college is too expensive -- "it's just for rich folks. And the president just sees a real problem with that," Duncan added.

On Thursday, President Obama will take his college affordability plan on the road to New York and Pennsylvania. Duncan appeared on morning news shows to give a general preview of what the president will say.

"This is about shared responsibility," Duncan told MSNBC. "We need to continue to invest -- going to college is the best investment we can make, but be very, very clear -- we cannot do it by ourselves. They have to reinvest -- universities have to do a better job of both containing costs and building cultures, not just around access but around completion."

Duncan praised innovations such as colleges mmoving to three-year degrees; dual enrollment programs that allow high school juniors and seniors to take college-level classes; and technology (online classes) to drive down costs and increase passing rates. "So there's a tremendous amount of innovation we see as we're traveling the country," he said. "What we haven't done, is we haven't seen those best practices go to scale. So none of this is easy, but it's happening in the real world. We just want to see this become the norm, rather than the exception.

"Again, I think hard-working am families deserve and need the chance to go to college, but they can't be saddled with massive debt in the back end. It's simply not fair."

Duncan said a rating system in which colleges are ranked among comparable institutions will bring "greater transparency."

"We have 7,000 institutions of higher education -- we have the best system of higher education in the world -- we just want young people to have much better information so they can make the best choice to pursue their dreams."

The New York Times reported on Thursday that tying financial aid to college ratings would require congressional legislation.

would be tied to financial aid, so that students at highly rated colleges might get larger federal grants and more affordable loans. But that would require new legislation.


WH: Obama Looking ‘to Fundamentally Rethink and Reshape’ Higher Education

No arrogance there, of course

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the White House briefing on Tuesday that President Barack Obama believes America needs “to fundamentally rethink and reshape” its higher education system and the he will be going on a bus tour on Thursday and Friday to make some proposals Earnest said “are not going to be popular with everybody.”

After noting that average college tuition costs have risen dramatically in recent decades, Earnest said: “So what the President believes that we need to do is we need to fundamentally rethink and reshape the college--the higher education system, and we need to find a way to build on innovation.

“So the president on this bus tour will lay out some fundamental reforms that would bring real change to the way that we pay for college education in this country,” said Earnest.

“Now, the proposals that the president is going to lay out are not going to be popular with everybody, but they are going to be in the best interest of middle-class families,” he said. “And the president is looking forward to having that discussion over the course of Thursday and Friday in addition riding on a bus.”

In 2010, when Congress passed Obamacare, language buried in the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, one of the two bills comprising the health-care reform plan, terminated the federal government’s program that guaranteed student loans made by private lenders, leaving just the Federal Direct Student Loan (DL) program.

"Under the DL program, the federal government essentially serves as the banker--it provides the loans to students and their families using federal capital (i.e., funds from the U.S. Treasury), and it owns the loans,” the Congressional Research Service later explained.

At the end of March 2010, the month Obama signed Obamacare and gave the Treasury a monopoly over federally guaranteed student loans, the outstanding balance on federal direct student loans was $169.526 billion, according to the Monthly Treasury Statement for that month. At the end of July 2013, the outstanding balance was $618.508 billion.

Since Obama signed the Obamacare law, the outstanding balance on direct student loans—money students and former students owe to the taxpayers—has increased by 265 percent.


I abhor bigotry, but why should we demonise schools that don't want to promote gay lifestyles?

What about bigotry against Christian beliefs?

Stephen Glover

The biggest social change of the past ten or 20 years must surely be the general transformation in attitudes towards homosexuality.

It was not very long ago that a homosexual embrace or kiss on television sent some newspapers and politicians into orbit, and a thousand angry pens into hyperdrive. Now we live in a world in which civil partnerships are accepted by most people as perfectly normal. Soon we will have gay marriage.

Most gay MPs no longer huddle beneath the parapet. The ‘gay vote’ is now considered so powerful that David Cameron sought an audience last week with the gay panjandrum Stephen Fry in an East End pub to discuss the ill treatment of homosexuals in Russia.

But some gays, it seems, still feel they are the victims of discrimination. Gay rights activists have identified some 40 schools across the country which allegedly state in their sex-education guidelines that governors will not allow teachers to promote homosexuality, or are ambiguous on the issue.

Stonewall, which campaigns for homosexual rights, is indignant, and suggests that these schools are reviving the language of Section 28, the law introduced by the Thatcher government in 1988 aimed at ‘loony left’ councils, some of which were energetically promoting homosexuality in schools.

Section 28 banned councils from using taxpayers’ money to fund books, plays, films or other material to promote homosexuality. Though its wording was hardly draconian, and no prosecution was ever brought under it, Section 28 has assumed mythic proportions in the minds of gay activists.

Despite opposition from rebels of all parties in the House of Lords, as well as from the Roman Catholic Church and other religious groups, the law was removed from the statute book by the Blair government in 2003. In 2009, David Cameron apologised for the Tories’ original championing of Section 28.

How much has changed in ten years. The Department for Education is evidently embarrassed by the reports about the 40 or so schools, and various Tory, Lib Dem and Labour MPs are quoted as saying they must be brought into line, and we must not go back to the antediluvian past.

Many of these schools ‘outed’ by campaigners are self-governing Academies. Some have hastily backed down, while others have gone to ground. None seems to be eager to justify itself in public.

Yet the British Humanist Association, which has somehow got in on the act, huffs and puffs as though a major crime has been committed. Its spokesman speaks of the ‘pernicious’ Section 28, and the need to bring these errant schools to heel.

Meanwhile Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall, has circulated an email in which he announces a new series of training events for staff in primary and secondary schools this autumn ‘to equip teachers with the tools and confidence to tackle homosexual bullying’.

In fact, there’s no evidence of any homosexuals being bullied at any of these schools. Perhaps this is just Mr Summerskill’s way of saying that his organisation stands ready to re-educate teachers who show signs of straying from the new orthodoxy.

What strikes me about this story is that some of the representatives of a group that was once undoubtedly the victim of persecution are now showing a degree of intolerance towards people with whom they do not agree.

There are more than 30,000 schools in this country. A mere 40 or so have been identified as being either opposed to the promotion of homosexuality or ambiguous on the issue. This is a minuscule percentage, though of course there may be others.

And yet there is outrage, simulated or not. The campaigner Peter Tatchell, whose bravery in several spheres I admire, declares that ‘this is spookily similar to Section 28 in Britain and the new anti-gay law in Russia’.

Really? None of these schools appears to be demonising homosexuals. Grace Academy, which runs schools with a Christian ethos in Coventry, Solihull and Darlaston in the West Midlands, is quoted by The Independent newspaper as saying: ‘The governing body will not permit the promotion of homosexuality.’

The two Crest Academies for boys and girls in Neasden, North-West London, have a similar rubric, as does the Castle View Enterprise Academy in Sunderland, though it has now deleted its guidance from its website.

Not one school cited by campaigners denounces homosexuality, or suggests that gays are in any way reprehensible. They simply do not want to promote it on an equal basis with heterosexuality. Of course, there may be schools, particularly Muslim ones, that take a harder line.

In my perfect world, schools would not offer any view about any sexual orientation.  Certainly no teacher ever did in an explicit way at my school. It should really be a matter for parents. But I accept that the State has long since arrogated to itself the right to instruct — I will not say indoctrinate — children in these matters.

What, though, if some parents do not agree with the State on grounds of conscience or religious belief? The whole philosophy behind Academies is that they should be self-governing and independent, and as free as possible from government diktats imposed by Whitehall.

Most of us, I think, would abhor any educational establishment that encouraged its pupils to discriminate against homosexuals, or any other social group. Apart from being morally objectionable, such an approach would break a number of laws.

If there is evidence of any teachers in a state school — or indeed any school — preaching hatred against gays, or stirring up prejudice against them, they should at the very least be dismissed, and preferably prosecuted.

But shouldn’t parents who have reservations about the promotion of homosexuality on equal terms with heterosexuality be free to send their children to schools where their views are reflected, as well as respected?

Such views were held by a majority of people until quite recently, and they are still held by many decent folk who don’t think that homosexuals are inferior or deviant or to be pitied in any way. Nonetheless, all things being equal, they would probably be happier if their children turned to be straight rather than gay.

Don’t such people have a right to influence their children’s values according to their own beliefs and consciences, rather than having them imposed by gay campaigners or commissars from the Department for Education, who extol freedom so long as it is the kind of freedom of which they approve?

Gays should be free to live and work and play just as non-gays are, and it is a credit to our society that at last they are able to do so. They have been abominably treated in the past, and perhaps a few of them still are.

But those gays and non-gays who believe in freedom of conscience should defend the rights of their fellow citizens so long as their own rights are not threatened.

Section 28 is dead and buried, and rightly so. But prejudice and intolerance live on. And they have a strange propensity to flourish among the people who were once their victims.