Friday, September 20, 2019

Which Country’s Higher Education System Is Best?

Many Americans crow that our higher education system is “the envy of the world,” even though it’s nearly impossible to point to any proof of that. In truth, however, some Americans look down on our system, saying that it is clearly inferior to that of other nations, such as Japan and Finland.

A recent study published by the American Enterprise Institute, “International Higher Education Rankings” by Jason Delisle and Preston Cooper prompts my title. The authors have undertaken a comprehensive analysis of 35 advanced nations, examining their higher education systems along three metrics: attainment, resources, and subsidies.

In the study, a nation’s attainment score depends on the percentage of its population that has earned some kind of postsecondary education credential. Its resources score is a measurement of its per capital spending on higher education relative to its economic capacity (GDP). Finally, its subsidy score is based on government higher education spending relative to the nation’s entire higher education spending—i.e., how much of the cost is borne by government compared with costs borne by students, families, and other parties.

So, which countries score highest on those metrics?

Delisle and Cooper find that the top five on attainment are, in order, South Korea, Canada, Japan, Ireland, and Australia. They are most successful in getting people through some tertiary education program. (The United States ranks 11th.)

The top five on subsidies are Finland, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, and Austria. Those countries do the most to keep the cost of higher education low for students. (The United States ranks 31st.)

And on resources, the top five are the United Kingdom, Slovakia, the U.S., Sweden, and Japan. They’re spending the most on higher education relative to their economic capability.

Sensibly, the authors conclude that from their analysis, it isn’t possible to state that any country’s system is best because they all must make trade-offs.

Finland, for example, is often lauded by American “progressives” because it makes higher education nearly free to students (the government covers 96 percent of the cost for students). So isn’t it the best? Delisle and Cooper say that it’s a mistake to leap to that conclusion. As they note in this piece, “Finland offers a nice deal for students only if they are lucky and talented enough to get in. In 2016, Finnish institutions of higher education accepted just 33 percent of applicants.”

By making higher education virtually free for students, Finland must accept a low attainment rate. (Is that harmful? Finland’s per-capita GDP is higher than Japan, South Korea, France, Italy, and many other nations, and just slightly below Canada, Australia, and Austria. The study doesn’t try to answer such questions.)

South Korea, on the other hand, has the highest attainment rate. The trade-off for that, the authors note, is that South Korea has such a high number of college graduates that average earnings for them aren’t much higher than for many South Koreans who don’t have college degrees.

Have the South Korean officials who created their country’s policy made a mistake? Should they alter their approach to be more like Finland? Or have Finnish officials made a mistake? Should they alter their approach to be more like South Korea? And what about the U.S.? Is our higher education system, heavily resourced though it is, deficient in not giving us a better attainment rate?

Given the fact that resources are limited, there will always be trade-offs between seemingly positive outcomes. That’s the big point that the authors hope political leaders and government regulators will take from their study: “Recognizing that trade-offs between desirable goals exist will force policy-makers to think critically about whether pursuing a certain goal is worth it.”

That is what policymakers ought to do.

The trouble is that government officials, elected and appointed, are very unlikely to do any such thinking, and even if they did, it is unlikely that they would make systemic adjustments to allow the nation to get the most educational value for the resources used.

I say that because governmental decision-making on education is inherently flawed. We cannot get the optimal trade-offs between different approaches to education (and between education and other goods) through government.

The best policy, in other words, is to have no policy. Leave higher education entirely up to the voluntary choices of individuals who spend their own money for the kind of education they find beneficial. That’s the way for any nation to develop its ideal education system—through the spontaneous order of a free society.

In the United States, we followed that approach for more than a century after the nation’s founding. Professor Richard Vedder, in his illuminating chapter on the early history of American higher education in the recent book Unprofitable Schooling, edited by Todd Zywicki and Neal McCluskey, points out that we enjoyed a highly dynamic, growing economy in the years when state involvement with higher education was minimal and federal involvement non-existent.

Vedder takes pains to refute the notion that the federal Morrill Act of 1862, which encouraged states to establish land grant universities, was the catalyst for our economic expansion following the Civil War. He writes that America “had the largest output of goods and services of any Western country before any significant number of students had even graduated from the new land-grant universities and colleges.”

Our growth rate surpassed the rest of the world despite the fact that we had no higher education policy and very few of our inventors, scientists, architects, and other professionals had been to college. Laissez faire worked just fine.

The problems with government action to supposedly improve higher education are the same problems that beset governmental intervention in all other markets.

First, government officials don’t bear the cost of their mistakes. If they spend too much on higher education or the wrong kinds of education, the waste doesn’t hit them personally, but is buried in the total burden imposed on the taxpayers. Individuals, in contrast, do bear the cost of their mistakes, so they think hard about the relative costs and benefits of education, and quickly make changes if they find that they haven’t chosen the best.

Second, government officials are prone to making decisions based on short-run, political considerations. Therefore, they are drawn to support measures (especially subsidies) that create immediate and obvious benefits they can boast about at the next election. Equally, they’re prone to ignore any long-run bad consequences that laws and regulations will have since they probably won’t be blamed for those consequences. Individuals, on the other hand, have to live with the long-run effects of their decisions and thus are more inclined to consider the future rather than just the short-run.

Third, government officials are often swayed by special interest groups that see opportunities to cash in on spending programs. Swarms of lobbyists roam the federal buildings where educational decisions are made, promising support for politicians who vote the right way on bills. The system inevitably becomes biased in favor of potent interest groups looking for more money and protection against change. Education consumers have little or no voice in governmental decisions, which often increase their costs and limit their options.

There are many other deficiencies in government policy-making, but those three suffice to make the point. Compared with free markets, governmental systems are certain to be costly, inefficient, and corrupt.

Let’s compare the higher education market with its massive government intervention with another important market where there is none: fitness. Being physically fit is a big part of many Americans’ lives, but the government leaves such decisions entirely up to individuals. (The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition has existed since the 1950s, but thankfully can only encourage people to do some things and not do others. If it disappeared, only a few bureaucrats would notice.)

We do not have subsidies for gyms or health club memberships. We do not have federally accredited fitness institutions. We don’t have national fitness goals. We don’t have a fitness system at all, but instead millions of individual choices regarding the best degree of fitness and the best ways of achieving it. Those choices involve personal knowledge and expense. That’s what makes our lack of fitness policy the ideal policy.

Americans like laissez faire when it comes to physical fitness, but it doesn’t give politicians reason to brag about their “accomplishments” for us.

To conclude, I have to take issue with Delisle and Cooper when they say in their subtitle, “no country’s higher education system can be the best.” Every country can have the best system, which is to say, getting the most educational value for the least expenditure of resources. They can do that by relying on the spontaneous order of the free market and ditching all governmental programs that interfere with it.


Prospects for Federal Higher Education Reform? Little in Short Run

I spent some time recently chatting with some major players in federal higher education policy, including three members of the U.S. Senate, concluding that almost no important changes will happen before the 2020 elections. The Democrats are not eager to act, thinking they can gain complete control of government in the next elections and enact radical progressive reforms in 2021. The Republicans feel stymied by a Democratic House, a President preoccupied by other issues (mainly his own reelection), and some division within their own ranks. The Higher Education Act renewal is overdue, not surprising as Congress rarely finishes appropriating funds before a fiscal year starts, much less update the Higher Education Act.

Big changes will not happen in the short term. For the Democrats, that means things like free college or, minimally, vastly expanded Pell Grants, killing off for-profit colleges, and restoring Obama era centralized controls over colleges and universities, including highly controversial “guidance” on the handling of sexual harassment cases. For the Republicans, it includes fundamental reform of federal student financial aid, including starting to privatize some or all of it. It might also include legislation promoting intellectual and viewpoint diversity on campus.

There are three useful smaller reforms, however, that have at least some chance of adoption. First, dramatically simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form is a no-brainer, one about which almost everyone except some government bureaucrats can unite. The over 100 question form has discouraged students to apply for aid and is frustratingly complicated. I sat in a meeting with the Secretary of Education more than a decade ago where dramatic FAFSA form simplification was the goal and yet, many years later, nothing has happened. The form should either disappear or be simplified to under 10 questions, with the IRS directed (with student authorization) to provide critical financial data needed by schools in determining need-based grants. The failure to even agree on this common sense, non-ideologically based matter is a good example of why Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with their central governing institutions.

A second reform that possibly could win majority support in Congress is “skin in the game” legislation that would make colleges liable for at least a small share of the liabilities they foist on the nation’s taxpayers when students default on student loans. Make the colleges into co-signers on loans as a condition for granting them. Some Democrats and many Republicans have agreed this should happen, and a bill, perhaps one offering added enticements for more liberal legislators (modest Pell Grant expansion perhaps partially financed from college “skin in the game” payments), would have a fair chance of passage. Honest accounting shows the student loan program is operating at a meaningful financial loss, one we can ill afford in an era of totally irresponsible trillion-dollar deficit spending endorsed by both parties. Appropriately packaged, college reform including simplifying the FAFSA and including “skin in the game” would have, I would think, a decent chance for passage and an opportunity for incumbents to vote for something moderately useful.

A third idea, one already being used at a few universities (Purdue, Clarkson, University of Utah) despite some possible legal ambiguities, is Income Share Agreements (ISAs), also used at many coding academies and other non-traditional post-secondary educational institutions. With an ISA, a prospective student signs a contract with an investor who provides financial support for a college education in return for some share of the student’s earnings after graduation for a specific length of time. Some legal experts believe some clarification in federal law is necessary before private investors will start offering this alternative form of financing college to students in large amounts. Democrats might like ISAs since they shift the risks associated with college financing from the student (who is liable for loan payments) to the investor (perhaps a large financial service company). Republicans should love ISAs because they provide a vehicle to partially privatize the dysfunctional federal student financial assistance programs. Merely clarifying that ISAs are enforceable contracts under federal law might lead to increased experimentation with them. Passing these three reforms would allow incumbent members of Congress to say “we did something about our poorly functioning system of financial assistance.”


Diversity the key to improved performance in schools

Is it now? Below is a press release from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership which says it is.  They have just done a glossy "Report" on the matter that they want you to know about.  In my experience, a "report" is what you put out when you can't get your claims into an academic journal.  Nonetheless I had a good look through the report and its associated documents in the hope of finding some claim backed up by a controlled study, hopefully one that was not so brain-dead as to treat many different sorts of people as all simply "diverse".

A serious approach to the question would have looked at different types of diversity.  Did Chinese teachers, for instance, get better results than Aboriginal teachers? I found no evidence of that kind. I found no evidence of any research at all that could be classed as scientific -- no controlled experiments at all.  It was all just pious hopes and vague generalizations.  The "report" is in short totally worthless.  It is a piece of boring old Leftist propaganda only

If I had to make generalizations of their sort I  would have said that teachers get best results when their background is similar to that of their students.  Chinese teachers are best for Chinese students, Aboriginal  teachers are best for aboriginal students etc.  that might not be so but it is at least scientifically examinable

A new evidence summary released today by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) highlights the benefits of championing a diverse school leadership workforce in Australia.

The report Spotlight: Diversity in School Leadership, points out that improved diversity in schools leads to a range of benefits, including helping teams work smarter, increasing innovation, and improving performance.

The report supports calls for school systems and sectors to take active steps towards increased quality and diversity within their leadership pools.

AITSL CEO Mark Grant said: “We know that an effective school leadership strategy that is focused on increasing the diversity of future leaders has considerable benefits. This is true for all leadership roles, in all geographical locations from rural and remote to metro areas.”

Workplace research shows that diversity in the teaching workforce can lead to improved outcomes for students academically and in their personal well-being.

The report shows that while diversity among school students is broadly representative of the Australian population, the profile of teachers and school leaders does not currently match Australia’s gender and cultural diversity.

The report found that more than 70 per cent of school teachers in primary and secondary schools are female, with male teachers making up just 18 per cent of primary school teachers, and 40 per cent of secondary teachers.

In terms of cultural diversity, while almost 25 per cent of Australian students come from homes where a language other than English is spoken, only 9 per cent of primary and 11 per cent of secondary teachers speak a language other than English at home.

Also, while almost 6 per cent of Australia’s students identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, only 2 per cent of Australian teachers identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and an even smaller proportion of those are in leadership positions.

“We know that diverse leadership teams improve performance, increase innovation, and generate creative approaches to problem solving,” Mr Grant said.

“It would be a tremendous boon for the education sector if teachers and leaders truly represented all of our community demographics, like different cultural and societal backgrounds, or individuals who identify as having a disability.

Improving diversity in schools begins with increasing diversity in Initial Teacher Education (ITE). As ITE students are the teachers and school leaders of the future, there needs to be just as much focus on diversity in this group as on the current teaching and school leadership workforce.”

“Today’s report highlights the importance of increasing the diversity in our schools. Leadership teams need to put a stronger focus on ensuring they reflect the broader community in their schools. One way this can be done is with recruitment processes that are better targeted to under-represented groups to achieve the broadest possible pool of high quality suitable candidates.”

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Neighboring schools, worlds apart

The writer of the article below for the Boston Globe pretends not to know why the pupils at the two schools discussed get such different educational results.  But they know why as well as I do:  One school is mostly black and the other is mostly white.  The black/white difference is one of the immovables in American education.  Nothing budges it.  That it is an inborn difference is fiercely resisted but no other explanation suffices to explain the facts

I am particularly amused in this case by the fact that the underperforming school has the most gracious buildings, while the high performing school has utilitarian buildings.  One of the recurring "solutions" that Leftists propose for poor school results is to give the bad school a whole set of new and stylish buildings.  They think that fancy buildings will somehow make the slow kids smarter.  It never does of course .  But in this case, such an explanation can be ruled out from the start.  On the building theory, the bad school should be the best.

In the end there is only one thing that makes a school good or bad: the quality of the students.  And that is what is at work here, sad to say.  Until the Left allow Americans to acknowledge the reality of black/white differences, most American blacks will never get an education suitable to their needs

The opportunity gap in our public schools is vast, a fact made plain in two schools, nearly neighbors but in different worlds. For those on the short end, the road up is made more difficult. The question is: Why?

PERCHED ON A hilltop, Brighton High looks like it belongs on a movie set: elegant arched windows, a sweeping staircase, paneled doors, and a row of cherry trees that frame expansive views of the neighborhood below.

It is also, by nearly every standard measure, a place that showcases the overwhelming struggles faced by Boston Public Schools.

In recent years, more than 40 percent of Brighton's students did not graduate within four years. The school's dropout rate outpaced the rest of the state by a factor of four. More than half the school's students were chronically absent, and the average student missed nearly 30 days of class.

More broadly, enrollment has plunged by more than half over the past decade, and today Brighton serves as an educational backstop - a high school of last resort. Its struggling student body is in some ways the inevitable result of a stratified district that funnels high-achieving pupils to a handful of elite exam schools while relegating others to a range of lesser classrooms, where performance and expectations often fall short.

Here at the lower end of that spectrum, many students have significant unmet needs beyond campus, ranging from mental health concerns to immigration anxieties. Most are poor, and many arrive at Brighton after struggling at other schools. Some, like Britney, come after failing to get into their top choice in the district's school assignment lottery. Some are sent there based on their academic needs. Others choose Brighton outright: It's estimated that roughly a third of incoming freshmen selected the school as their top choice this fall.

"We have a very complex population," said Brighton principal Robert Rametti. "We have some students who need more [academic] challenge, and then we have students who are dealing with homelessness."

Britney was disappointed but resigned when she discovered she'd be going to Brighton rather than her first choice, Fenway High. She knew the school had a bad reputation but still held out hope that, "like, it may have improved or something. I didn't really look into it."

Brighton had not improved. The school had been staggering for years by the time Britney arrived as a freshman, occasionally gaining broader public attention through tragedy - a student charged with murder, a coach who allegedly received death threats from students, a fetus abandoned in a bathroom.

Brighton's reputation suffered another blow in 2016, when the state officially branded it underperforming, requiring the district to develop a turnaround plan - twin factors that bring targeted funding along with the specter of state receivership if the school's outcomes don't improve.

"The ultimate question will be, can we make all of the gains they want," said Rametti, a former Brighton teacher who returned in 2017 to lead the school's turnaround effort. "That's to be seen, but we're making progress where we can."

Still, statistics can only describe so much. In Brighton's dimly lit corridors and overheated classrooms, a multitude of stories unfold daily, deeply human struggles too complex to be captured in the right-angled world of spreadsheet assessments.

Brighton, where nearly all the students are black or Latino, is essentially two schools: Roughly half its 600 students are still learning English. Many work full time. Some ventured to the United States alone, living in cramped quarters while helping to support their families. All are trying to bootstrap their way into English language proficiency - perhaps even a shot at college.

The other half of the student body are teenagers who've spent years in the Boston schools, many fighting their way back from academic failure, family catastrophe, or emotional crisis.

Binding it all together is a staff of young, idealistic teachers - many of them newly hired as part of the turnaround - who often work late, hoping to reach their students. It is a place where hope mingles with resignation, where aspirations fight for survival, where an emotionally distressed student may put her head down on a desk - and a sympathetic teacher may let her.

"There are kids who have significant mental health issues that don't get identified," said Brighton school psychologist Allen Cohen. "They don't go to a hospital. They live with those symptoms: the depression and anxiety."

This hilltop school also affords a clear view of the vast educational divide that separates many Boston students from their suburban peers - an educational inequity that is mirrored in urban and suburban districts across the country.

A SHORT DRIVE from the Brighton campus lies Newton South, a low-slung maze of orderly buildings, where students are offered a rich menu of academic and extracurricular opportunities on their path to the country's elite colleges.

Here the dropout rate is 26 times lower than at Brighton. Nearly every member of the school's affluent, mostly white student body graduates on time, and in 2018 fully 100 percent of 10th-graders scored proficient or higher on the English Language Arts MCAS, the state achievement test.

But Newton South, whose alumni include a Nobel Prize winner and several well-known actors, goes far beyond these baseline requirements. The school's speech and debate team has earned two state championships in recent years. The theater program, which is supported by a dedicated parent group, mounted a host of productions last year, including a student directing festival.

A community-supported scholarship fund provides financial assistance for low-income students to join their classmates in a variety of international programs: cultural exchanges with China and France, a service trip to Puerto Rico, expeditions to the Galapagos Islands to study ecology or to Sweden and Iceland to study climate change. A new initiative will eventually supply every student with a Chromebook. The school boasts more than 100 clubs - groups for would-be doctors and strategic financial investors, aspiring roboticists, attorneys, even cheese enthusiasts.

More than a quarter of Newton South students sit for final AP exams in a given year, and the overwhelming majority earn a qualifying score of 3 or higher. Meanwhile, students here outscore their statewide peers on the SAT by an average of 165 points - a gap that grows to roughly 430 points when compared directly to Brighton.

These two schools, so close as the crow flies, seem to inhabit entirely separate educational realms. At one, students select new and gently used clothes that have been donated to an onsite "store." At the other, students park in a lot that offers a charging station for electric vehicles.


'Ridiculous': Teachers spend their own money to buy supplies for first day of school

There's plenty of money to pay ever more education bureaucrats but who cares about the basics?  Leftists love bureaucrats but are totally uninterested in anything as boring as classroom supplies

Lauren Moskowitz's shopping list was the stuff of every kindergartner's dreams. The special-education teacher would need finger puppets, jumbo crayons and sidewalk chalk for her 5- and 6-year-olds.

About an hour and nearly $140 later, she exited a Target in suburban Washington, bags overflowing with school supplies.

She had paid for it all herself.

As students head back to school, the vast majority of teachers are buying their own materials to provide kids with well-stocked classrooms and conducive learning environments.

Ninety-four percent of American public school teachers reported paying for school supplies out of their own pocket in the 2014-15 school year, according to a Department of Education survey. Those teachers spent an average of $479.

Suburban Maryland teachers said their district does provide them with materials, but those don't last more than the first couple of months of the school year. Even then, the supplies cover only the bare necessities.

On a Sunday in late August, Moskowitz, a Montgomery County Public Schools teacher, swung around Target with her boyfriend, high school engineering teacher George Lavelle. Moskowitz teaches kindergartners with special needs at Carl Sandburg Learning Center in Rockville, Maryland, half an hour outside Washington.

Moskowitz said her special-needs classroom has more needs than other classrooms, but the county allocates cash only on a per-student basis across the district.

“Your money goes a lot further in a gen-ed school than in a special-needs school,” Moskowitz said. For instance, she said, adaptive scissors, for children with delays in fine-motor skills, cost more than regular scissors.

Food was a big part of Moskowitz’s list, from Apple Jacks to Veggie Straws to pretzels, because her students are often hungry during times that don't fall neatly into lunch breaks.

Along with baby wipes for students who aren't potty-trained, Moskowitz bought markers, sidewalk chalk and jumbo crayons – good for children in occupational therapy. She paid for it all out of her $90,000 salary, which accounts for her master's degree and 15 years' experience.


Oxford professor claims he should not be forced to retire because his research is 'blossoming'

An Oxford professor has claimed that his university should not have forced him to retire because his research is only just "blossoming".

Prof Paul Ewart, the former head of atomic and laser physics at Oxford's Clarendon Laboratory, claims that he was unfairly pushed out before his 70th birthday.

He is the latest academic to challenge the university's Employer Justified Retirement Age (EJRA) policy, which was introduced in 2017 to ensure that older professors retire and make way for a new generation of younger and more ethnically diverse scholars.

Prof Ewart, who worked at Oxford for 38 years until September 2017, claims that his "dismissal" was unfair and amounted to age discrimination.

He argues that his research was "blossoming" during his final two years, in which he published 15 papers and won leading roles in projects to create ultra-efficient engines, according to the Times Higher Education magazine.

Prof Ewart says he should be reinstated as a senior lecturer so he can continue on projects which will have "great importance for society, particularly in making a contribution to solving the problem of climate change and environmental pollution being driven by emissions from combustion".

He is the second Oxford professor to challenge the university's retirement policy. Prof John Pitcher, a leading Shakespeare scholar and fellow at St John's College at Oxford, claimed that he had been unfairly pushed out at age 67 to make way for younger and more ethnically diverse academics.

He sued the College and university for age discrimination and unfair dismissal, claiming loss of earnings of œ100,000 - but both claims were dismissed at an employment tribunal earlier this year.  The default retirement age of 65 was axed by the Government in 2011 but an employer can set its own compulsory retirement age if it is in the interests of the institution.

Oxford has said that its retirement age for senior academics - which was initially 67 and has now been lifted to 68 - is aimed at promoting "inter-generational fairness and improvements in diversity".

Academics can apply to the university to work beyond this in "exceptional circumstances", for example, to complete a particular project or duty.

Oxford carried out an equality impact assessment before bringing in the EJRA in 2011, which found that enforcing a retirement age would cut down the number of old, white and male staff and boost the number of young, female and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) academics.

Of the 221 academics due to reach the self-imposed retirement age of 67 in 2011-17, 84 per cent were male, the assessment found, and there was a "clear pattern" of greater ethnic diversity in younger age groups.

An Oxford University spokesman said they cannot comment on ongoing cases.


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Making Schools Less Safe, California Style
California politicians are up to their stupid legislative tricks again.  This time, the state Assembly has passed a law that says students from kindergarten to eighth grade can't be suspended for "willful defiance."

Senate Bill 419 will soon make it illegal for public and charter schools to suspend a student who disrupts school activities or otherwise "refuses to follow the valid authority of school personnel."

For example, if a sixth grader refuses to take off his hoodie in a classroom, it's defined as "willful defiance."

The good news, I guess, is that under the bill, students can still be suspended for violence or bringing a weapon or illegal drugs to school.

California schools were already prohibited from suspending kids in kindergarten through third grade, which, given their young ages, made a certain amount of sense.

But the new bill extends the suspension ban to eighth graders, and, if I know California, and I do, it won't be long before the suspension ban is extended to high schoolers who steal cars or deal heroin.


British students taking out payday loans 'to pay for gym memberships and avocados'

Students are taking out payday loans to fund holidays and "healthy food" like avocado on toast, new figures have shown.

Research by Moneysupermarket, a price comparison website, showed a 136pc uplift in the number of students taking out the costly, short-term loans to help fund their lifestyle at university.

Students are able to borrow as much as £9,000 a year but increased living costs appear to be pushing an increasing number towards payday loans, which come with notoriously high rates.

The firm asked students who started university a decade ago and those who began their studies since 2015 about their borrowing and spending. Just over one-in-four current students said they had borrowed from a payday lender compared to 11pc 10 years ago.

Students squeezed by high living costs reported spending their entire maintenance loan for a term, which can be as high as £3,000, in just five weeks and having to resort to loans and credit cards. A third said they choose to hide these debts from their parents.

Although drinking alcohol and going to nightclubs were still the most popular ways those surveyed spent their money, more and more young people are prioritising things like gym memberships and healthy food, the research said.

Going to the gym was the most popular choice after alcohol and nights out, with 33pc of today’s students saying they spent money on a membership, an increase of 50pc on a decade ago.

The surge in low-cost flights has caused a massive upturn in the popularity of student holidays with today’s students 68pc more likely to take a break, while the popularity of healthy food, like the notorious breakfast of avocado and toast, soared by 74pc.

Emma Craig, a money expert at Moneysupermarket, said the rising cost of living and the inability of students to make their student loan last were likely to be the reason for the increased borrowing.

“Payday loans are rarely the most cost efficient way to borrow and should be a last resort,” she said. “If you’re a student heading off to university this month, now is definitely a good time to think about how you’re going to manage your finances.

“If you think you may need to borrow money at some point, taking out a student current account with an interest free overdraft can be a good option.

“Before you decide which bank to go with, make sure you shop around to ensure you’re choosing the current account that’s best for you, particularly in the long run.”

More than a third of students are also relying on credit cards to fund their time at university, while visits to so-called “Instagrammable” restaurants, those which will look attractive for a social media post, are an increasing spending priority for students.

The Daily Telegraph reported last month that Ucas, which administers the university admissions process, was criticised for promoting a private loan company which specialises in lending to students.

Among the literature sent to prospective students was an advert for Future Finance, which offers loans at rates of 13.41pc, far higher than that of a normal student loan or the best available personal loans on the market.

At the time, Future Finance told the Telegraph it assesses individual affordability and promotes responsible borrowing, while Ucas said it always recommends the government-funded student loan as the best option.


Can American Higher Education Be Restored?

People who analyze and write about higher education generally fall into two camps. One camp consists of those who believe that our system is "the envy of the world" and just needs more public support to do its great work of improving our citizens and strengthening our economy. (For a sense of what that camp is about, read professor Steven Brint's book Two Cheers for Higher Education, which I reviewed here.)

The other camp consists of people who conclude that our higher education system draws in far too many students, poorly educates most of them, and costs too much. Unlike the first, which has, so far as I am aware, no conservatives or libertarians, in this camp you find people from all over the political spectrum. Former Harvard president Derek Bok, a liberal, has written Our Underperforming Colleges. And arguably the best-known among the critics is professor Richard Vedder, a thorough-going free market advocate.

Vedder has just written a new book entitled Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America that is a must-read for everyone who is interested in this important topic. In plain English (as opposed to muddy academic jargon), he explains that higher education is, for the most part, failing to live up to its promise, why that is the case, and what can be done to put things right.

The keystone in his analysis of our troubled system is government intervention. He writes,

Above all, I think today's higher education would not be in its current precarious position were it not for a mostly unsuccessful expansion of governmental involvement in the academy over the past generation or two, especially at the federal level.

One of the main tasks of economists is to trace the unintended consequences of laws and regulations that change the natural order of things, and Vedder proceeds to show that well-intentioned interventions, led by federal student aid, are at the root of our problems.

As he sees it, we have triggered three problems of crisis proportions.

First, our colleges and universities are extremely expensive. They're much more costly than they were before federal student aid programs were begun, ostensibly to make college "more affordable." They're also much more costly than are comparable institutions in other industrialized nations. Whenever the government subsidizes a good or service by putting money in the pockets of consumers to buy it, producers are sure to raise prices to capture most of that money.

Tuition would be far lower and there'd be no college debt crisis if it weren't for all our "generous" student aid programs.

Second, many students don't learn much of value during their college years. Academic rigor has declined severely (although not uniformly) so that students can get away with little work. Moreover, Vedder notes, "Learning about the core foundations of our civilization and acquiring knowledge based on widely accepted factual evidence have deteriorated."

Third, as a result of our huge overinvestment in higher education, we face a mismatch between student expectations for high-paying jobs that will allow them to pay off their college debts and labor market realities. There simply aren't enough "good jobs" for all the graduates. Worse, many of them lack the skills for the good and even mid-range jobs that exist.

In addition to those major unintended consequences, Vedder shows that numerous other problems also beset American higher education due to government intervention: perverse spending priorities, the obsession with "diversity," the overemphasis on athletics, a nearly worthless accreditation system, the erosion of free speech, and more.

We have made a terrible mess of the market for a college education. What can we do to fix the problems we've caused? The book provides many ideas for reform.

As I mentioned above, Vedder sees federal higher education subsidies as the root of our numerous maladies. "Serious cost control in higher education," he writes, "is virtually impossible without dramatically modifying these programs. In an ideal world, they would be abolished, and new, mostly nongovernmental approaches to financial assistance expanded."

Unfortunately, such radical change isn't politically feasible at present, but there are short- and long-run policy reforms that will help, and perhaps pave the way for eventually getting Washington out of the higher education market entirely.

Significant improvements in higher education depend, Vedder argues, on three "I" words-information, incentives, and innovation.

Currently, we lack useful information about our colleges and universities, especially their students' outcomes. People are focused on meaningless rankings because there isn't any place to look to see which schools best succeed in raising the level of student knowledge. Therefore, comparison shopping among schools is badly impeded.

To get them to collect and release such information requires pushing from the outside, and Vedder suggests that such pushing could come from accrediting agencies and/or government entities.

The former could require the needed information, but they have never exhibited the backbone it would take to compel change that many of their member institutions fear, so Vedder believes that the political process will probably have to step in. Public colleges are subject to state control and almost all private ones are captives of the federal Department of Education. If enough Americans demand pertinent information about higher education, we could get it through state and federal regulations.

As for incentives, most colleges are non-profit and while that word sounds nice to many Americans (conditioned to think of profit as somehow bad), non-profit organizations have severe incentive problems. But Vedder is guardedly optimistic that we can nudge non-profit schools to behave more like for-profit competitors, thereby squeezing out inefficiencies.

Greater external competition, he believes, will come both from for-profit colleges (which the Obama administration sought to cripple with discriminatory regulations, but the Trump administration has thankfully reversed course) and aggressively entrepreneurial non-profits such as the University of Southern New Hampshire and Arizona State University.

Significant improvements in higher education depend, Vedder argues, on three `I' words-information, incentives, and innovation.

Greater internal competition can be generated if college administrations adopt programs such as Responsibility Centered Management (RCM) that identify those parts of the school that are financial plusses and those that are draining away money. More schools will probably begin utilizing RCM as financial pressures mount due to falling enrollments.

Finally, we need innovation in higher education, which operates, Vedder observes, not much differently than when Socrates taught Athenians some 2,400 years ago. Even though there is strong evidence that new approaches (such as the "flipped classroom") lead to better results, colleges have barely changed at all. The reason why not goes to the problem of incentives. Faculty members don't have anything to gain by changing the way they have traditionally done things and their administrative bosses won't gain much by trying to compel them to change.

But Vedder thinks that innovation will come through heightened competition. The federal government can and should change (or even abolish) our accreditation system that holds back educational innovation. And as financial pressures mount on tuition-dependent schools, they'll have to choose between innovation and death. Until now, the "creative destruction" of market competition that Joseph Schumpeter wrote about hasn't been felt much in higher education. That's about to change.

Vedder is optimistic that we will restore the promise of higher education. That's because he's optimistic about the power of good, new ideas and institutions to displace old, ineffective ones. We will find better ways of teaching and certifying that students are competent, and we will adopt better models of financing postsecondary education than federal grants and loans.

America is a "can do" nation that has repeatedly shown its capacity for surmounting challenges. We love competition and innovation. That's what it will take to make our higher education system one that the rest of the world would really envy.

There is a small mountain of books analyzing our higher education system. If that's one of your concerns, place Restoring the Promise at the peak.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Majors Matter

By RICHARD K. VEDDER has just published its latest assessment of the financial attractiveness of 162 college majors. After talking to Bankrate's Adrian Garcia, I like how they do their analysis. It appropriately puts top emphasis on postgraduate earnings of students-70% weight in its rankings. But its also recognizes that job availability varies by major, so it puts a 20% weight on the average unemployment rate of graduates by major, using a Census Bureau definition of unemployment, albeit slightly different from that of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The last 10% of the rankings is based on the proportion of students going on to get further degrees. The more education it takes to acquire earnings, the costlier it is, so rankings are adjusted downward when a large proportion of majors go on for further education.

What were the top majors? A majority of the top 10 had the word "engineering" in the description, topped by "naval architecture and marine engineering." All were so-called STEM disciplines. Likewise, a majority of the bottom ten majors had the word "arts," culminating, in last place, "drama and theater arts." Most were humanities or fine arts disciplines, such as music, linguistics and comparative literature.

However, to conclude that "If you want to be successful in life, you need to major in a STEM discipline and avoid the classical liberal arts disciplines" could be a serious mistake. Political science and government majors ranked slightly above such STEM majors as mathematics, botany or plant science. History majors ranked 81, about the median of all majors. Economics and accounting were rated above physics, arguably the purest of the scientific disciplines. Psychology was the subject with the second greatest numbers of majors, but ranked a mediocre 140th. The most majors? "Business management and administration," ranked 67th, below such mainstream arts and science disciplines as economics, history and political science.

The median earnings for top ranked majors tend to be in the $80,000 to $100,000 range, while there are some majors where the median is under $40,000. That gap is larger than the average gap between the earnings of high school and college graduates. Education matters, but the type of education also matters, maybe even more. Moreover, although the Bankrate data do not show this, roughly equally as important as what students study is the question of where they study. According to the College Scorecard of the U.S. Department of Education, the average "salary after attending" is $89,700 at Harvard University, but well under one-third as much ($26,100) at Central State University, a Ohio state school. Part of the reason is that nearly everyone attending Harvard graduates (97%), while at Central State only 23% graduate within six years of entering.

People respond to incentives. The numbers above help explain some trends in higher education. The proportion of students majoring in the fine arts and humanities has generally declined over time as students become aware that, whatever their passion is for, say, theater or music, those majoring in these areas are, figuratively if not literally often starving artists. Meanwhile, engineering, despite its reputation as requiring lots of smarts and hard work, is prospering as a field. Similarly, increasing awareness of the differential outcomes by types of schools has led to an extraordinary flight to quality in higher education-applications are soaring for the top ranked schools, while lower quality institutions are often facing enrollment declines and even threatened financial ruin.

As a product of a liberal arts education with a heavy dose of the humanities as well as social sciences, I agree with those that say "money is not everything." My own daughter was one of those theater majors which ranked last on the Bankrate list, but she is very happy as a teacher, first of theater than of English at the high school level, not making tons of money but satisfied knowing her work is helping young people get ahead. There are many others like that. But resources are scarce, and public subsidies of higher education ultimately are increasingly scrutinized using cost-benefit criteria. Generally consumers should become more aware of the enormous differences in outcomes that occur within higher education itself. Therefore I hope prospective college students consider the Bankrate study as they choose colleges and majors.


The Latest College Lunacy: Correct English Grammar Is `Racist'

Just when we thought colleges could not spout loonier ideas, we have a new one from American University.

They hired a professor to teach other professors to grade students based on their "labor" rather than their writing ability.

The professor that American University hired to teach that nonsense is Asao B. Inoue, who is a professor at the University of Washington in Tacoma in interdisciplinary arts and sciences. He is also the director of the university's writing center.

Inoue believes that a person's writing ability should not be assessed, in order to promote "anti-racist" objectives. Inoue taught American University's faculty members that their previous practices of grading writing promoted white language supremacy.

Inoue thinks that students should be graded on the effort they put into a project.

The idea to bring such a professor to American University, where parents and students fork over $48,459 a year in tuition charges, could not have been something thought up by saner members of its academic community.

Instead, it was probably the result of deep thinking by the university's diversity and campus life officials.

Inoue's views are not simply extreme but possibly hostile to the academic mission of most universities. Forgiving and ignoring a students' writing ability would mostly affect black students. White students' speaking and writing would be judged against the King's English, defined as standard, pure, or correct English grammar.

Professor Noam Chomsky, called the father of modern linguistics, formulated the generative theory of language.

According to his theory, the most basic form of language is a set of syntactic rules that is universal for all humans and that underlies the grammar of all human languages. We analyze and interpret our environment with words and sentences in a structured language.

Oral and written language provides a set of rules that enables us to organize thoughts and construct logical meaning with our thoughts.

Not holding students accountable to proper grammar does a disservice to those students who overall show poor writing abilities.

When or if these students graduate from college, they are not going to be evaluated in their careers by Inoue's tailored standards. They will be judged according to their objective abilities, and it probably follows that if they fail to meet those objective standards, the standards themselves will be labeled as racist.

There's another very dangerous bit of academic nonsense happening, this time at the K-12 level of education.

A One America News Network anchor interviewed Mary Clare Amselem, education specialist at The Heritage Foundation, about the California Department of Education's proposed ethnic studies curriculum. The proposed ethnic studies curriculum would teach children that capitalism and father figures are racist.

The Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum also includes gross anti-Israel bias and teaches about a Palestinian-led anti-Israel initiative called Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. The curriculum also has students study issues of police brutality and asks teachers to find incidents of bias by police in their own communities.

According to an article by Shelby Talcott in The Stream, California's proposed curriculum called for students to study lawmakers such as Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, both of whom have supported the BDS movement and have been accused of anti-Semitic rhetoric.

The proposed ethnic studies proposal has been removed from the California Department of Education website.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said, "While I am relieved that California made the obvious decision to revisit this wholly misguided proposal, we need to know why and how a blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, factually inaccurate curriculum made its way through the ranks of California's Department of Education."

He added, "This was not simply an oversight-the California Department of Education's attempt to institutionalize anti-Semitism is not only discriminatory and intolerant, it's dangerous."

Brainwashing our youngsters is a serious matter. The people responsible for the California Department of Education's proposal ought to be summarily fired.


Australia: Muslim student slams `Islamophobic' lecture content

There ARE millions of Muslim extremists.  They are murdering one another all the time.

A Melbourne TAFE student says she was shocked to see a "sickening" quote from a prominent anti-Islam activist suggesting up to 300 million Muslims are "radicals who want to destroy and murder" included in online lecture materials.

Tayeba Quddus, 26, told the ABC she was left feeling "disempowered" to discover the quote from Lebanese-born American conservative Brigitte Gabriel in a lecture slide for a unit at the Holmesglen Institute focused on "managing diversity in a culturally competent environment".

The unit was part of the TAFE's Certificate IV in Youth Work and Certificate IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs.

"Given what happened in Christchurch, and a huge movement we have of far-right extremism and political campaigns that seek to vilify most Muslims, within that climate it's not very helpful to be discussing these things in a way that seems like it supports these ideas," Ms Quddus told the ABC.

"This isn't about free speech or trying to police what people are saying. I think it's more a matter of the teacher publishing overtly fearmongering material online that has no evidence, and the fact that that's completely inappropriate for (the lecturer) to have done."

The slide, titled "Most Muslims are peaceful", referred to a YouTube video of Ms Gabriel on a panel at The Heritage Foundation in 2017 where she was "asked a question that related to the peaceful Muslim majority".

"And her response could not have been any more perfect," the slide said. "It is true - not all Muslims are bad. Most are not. But the fact is 180 million to 300 million people are radicals who want to destroy and murder. You can't ignore those numbers."

Ms Quddus told the ABC she had already been disturbed by a classroom discussion earlier in the year where students shared false cliches about Muslims. She complained to her teachers but they initially left the material online.

She then took her complaint to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Shortly afterwards, Holmesglen Institute pulled down the material and apologised to Ms Quddus.

The TAFE, which has eight campuses across Melbourne, said in a statement the "inappropriate" content had been uploaded to the student portal but had not yet been delivered in lectures.

"We have called the complainant to acknowledge their concerns and issued an unreserved apology for the offence caused," the statement said. "The teachers involved are being suspended until the investigation concludes."

Holmesglen Institute says it is now conducting a "more thorough analysis of the context of the lesson itself within the unit is being carried out to ensure all content is appropriate".

"While we greatly regret the offence caused to our student, we have taken steps to rectify that offence," Holmesglen Institute chief executive Mary Faraone said.

"Furthermore, Holmesglen is using this incident as a catalyst to further review its professional development in diversity, cultural safety, and competency with the Institute's educators."

Ms Faraone added, "We welcome the opportunity to receive feedback, to assess it, and to act upon it in order to improve processes. This is an ongoing undertaking and we want to ensure that all students, staff and broader stakeholders of the Holmesglen community experience learning, in an inclusive way, and in a place that is committed to positive action."


Monday, September 16, 2019

Women Surpass Men To Comprise Majority Of The College-Educated Labor Force

U.S. women crossed a historic milestone this year. The Wall Street Journal reports that while men still make up a slim majority (53.4 percent) of the overall workforce, 2019 marks the first year women represent a majority of the college-educated labor force. This is a remarkable achievement.

Several factors contributed to U.S. women’s historical rise at this moment. For one thing, women have received 57 percent of bachelor’s degrees for the last two decades. With more women getting college degrees, naturally their share of the college-educated labor force has been steadily rising. According to the Journal, “Since 2013, the female share of college-educated workers has been around the 49% mark.” It took another six years for U.S. women to become a slight majority in this category.

Another contributing factor is the structural change of the U.S. economy, moving away from manufacturing-based business to service- and knowledge-based business, which has opened many more employment opportunities in fields that attract women, such as education and health care. The U.S. unemployment rate is at a historical low, and many employers have to increase wages in order to attract qualified workers.

With rising wages and more career opportunities, women’s labor participation rate is rising faster than men’s. From entry-level positions to C-suite, female workers have shown significant growth since 2015 at every level of employment in corporate America.

Your Choice of College Degree Affects Your Earning Power

Of course, when we talk about women in the workforce, one of the left’s favorite topics is the pay gap between the sexes. We’ve all heard the famous statistic that “a woman makes 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” They’ve used this number as evidence that the United States is a patriarchal society that discriminates against women or, even worse, that there is a war on women going on in America.

Yet this number is misleading. It compares an average of men and women’s earnings across all careers, without taking into account many factors affecting people’s earning power, such as what they studied in college, types of employment, hours worked, and time spent away from work.

A study by Professor Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago shows that women’s education choices will affect their earning power long term. It examined a group of people born in 1950 and found that “women in this group studied subjects that produced mean earnings about 14 percent below those in the subjects chosen by men.” It looked at another group of people born in 1985 and found that while the situation improved some, “women still chose degrees that resulted in 6 percent lower mean earnings.”

While more women attend and graduate college than men, many young women tend to choose majors in child development and psychology, work and family studies, social work, and education. These majors are known for some of the lowest starting salaries. Men tend to pursue degrees leading to higher pay, such as those related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

How much money one makes should not be the only factor for what one finds fulfilling in life, but if maximizing women’s earning power is the goal, we should have honest conversations with young women about how their education choices today will affect their future earnings.

The Choice Gap Gives Women What They Want

Bertrand also points out women generally prioritize family and prefer flexible work arrangements more than male employees do. But flexibility and taking a long time away from work comes with costs, usually in the forms of lower pay and limited career advancement opportunities. This choice gap is responsible for at least a quarter of the early-career pay gap between men and women. 

Bertrand didn’t find any evidence to support the left’s insistence that an institutional bias holds women back and prevents them from making equal pay to their male colleagues for doing equal work. On the contrary, when men and women work for the same number of hours and do the same type of work, women often make more than men do.

Time magazine reported young women who work full time out-earn men in their peer group by 8 percent on average. This reverse pay gap between the sexes is even bigger in major metropolitan areas: “Young women in New York City, Los Angeles and San Diego make 17%, 12% and 15% more than their male peers, respectively.”

More women in the labor force means more women are creating wealth. It is estimated that by 2030, women will control more aggregate wealth in the United States than men. So far, no activists, no politicians, and certainly no male workers are complaining about this reverse pay gap.

Women are not only creating more wealth these days, but they are also getting the kind of benefits they desire from eager employers. The Journal reports that U.S. companies are changing their benefit plans in order to attract female workers. More U.S. employers already offer paid family leave — the percentage has increased from 24 percent in 2015 to 40 percent in 2018.

One survey shows 17 percent of U.S. employers offered to cover the cost of egg freezing for their employees in 2018, and 66 percent of employers plan to offer a variety of fertility benefits by 2019. More and more companies also increase flexibility of their work arrangements to cater to women’s preferences.

The more women in the workforce, the more companies will increase pay and offer benefits that are clearly attractive to women. The more companies do so, the more women will join the labor force. If politicians and government agencies really want to help women, they should stop imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens on employers and focus on how to help our economy grow instead. In a growing economy, employers will step up to the plate to attract and keep their talented female workers.

Time-Tested Advice for a Successful Career

This is the best time to be an American woman. There’s no systematic discrimination or other external dark forces preventing you from being who you are and having a fulfilling life and a rewarding career. Success comes from within.

That’s what I learned from Heidi Ganahl, who overcame extraordinary adversity in life and founded Camp Bow Wow, a $100 million leader in the pet industry. Ganahl just wrote a new book, titled “SheFactor: Present Power — Future Fierce,” hoping to help young women “determine their goals and enjoy the journey they undertake to achieve them.”

Below are a few pieces of time-tested advice from her:

Tenacity — I’m stubborn and focused when I am passionate about something. I live, eat, and breathe my vision. I stay the course.
Support — My folks were married at 18/20, worked so hard to give my brother and I what we needed to succeed. They instilled in us an appreciation for how blessed we were to be born in this country, and to get an education and get out there and have fun accomplishing great things, including giving back.
Not Making it About Being a Woman — It was more about being a good leader, learning all I could from other successful folks, and working so hard to make my dream come to reality. It didn’t occur to me while building a $100 million brand that I was a woman and at a disadvantage. I just wanted to see my vision come to fruition.
Do What You Love — If you don’t do something you are passionate about, you won’t have that edge that keeps you working when you want to quit, you won’t have that love of what you do that drives you to get the job done.
I have no doubt any young woman who follows these pearls of wisdom will have a successful career and fulfilling life.


Democrats Broke Higher Ed. Now They Want a Bailout

Higher education in America today should come with the disclaimer, caveat emptor. The cost of tuition has more than doubled in the last two decades, with the value of a four-year college degree heading in the opposite direction.

The “fix” championed by Democratic Party leaders – a bailout for those already graduated, and “free” tuition for those entering the pipeline – will only make matters worse.

A part of this long-developing problem is simply supply and demand; the overabundance of bachelor’s degrees in the market means they are worth less in the eyes of employers. There also is more talent in the marketplace for specialized jobs, meaning graduates with narrowly tailored degrees in obscure fields are less likely to find employment regardless of how much they spent on those degrees. Moreover, employers cannot be sure about the quality of graduates; are they getting someone who is smart and capable in the workplace, or a lite snowflake who melts outside the “safe space” sanctuary of college.

It is a badly broken system, and cannot be remedied by the Democratic Party’s much-ballyhooed “bailout” proposals. 

The $1.6 trillion student loan crisis is not to be ignored or overlooked. The massive amount of debt shouldered by mostly young Americans has been shown to have a sweeping economic and social impact -- from delaying marriages and having children, to stunting small business entrepreneurship. Yet, a bailout of student loans, in the form of cancellation or forgiveness such as supported by almost all of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls, absolves from responsibility those whose policies caused the problem, while doing nothing to address the root cause. In other words, the standard Democratic strategy.

No one really believes that the quality of education has risen in proportion to its cost. In fact, the value of a degree in 2019 is far less than it was in 1999. Students may enjoy more lavish dorms, massive student centers, and cushy classrooms, but nothing of substance that translates to value in the working world. Students who arrive on campus for a classical education, end up paying for liberal vanity projects with zero real-world value -- expensive administrators tasked with “social justice” and leading “bias response teams,” along with liberal arts programs that pay inflated faculty salaries for teaching “courses” on Brazilian transgender prostitutes, and riffing on Twitter about Republicans being serial rapists.

The Democrats' drive to define college education a “human right” has helped to make student loans as easy to get as sub-prime lending in the mid-2000s.  This, of course, virtually ensures colleges and universities can continue to charge whatever they want, because students (and their parents) will somehow secure the dollars demanded. This warped arrangement carries virtually no risk for the lenders, since student loans are difficult, if not impossible to discharge in bankruptcy; with many guaranteed by Uncle Sam himself.

Why should the rest of America shoulder this burden, especially those generations who worked hard to repay what they owed? Why is an expensive education at a northern school (the top seven states for highest average student loan debt are in the north), for a degree the student should have known had no marketable value, but was simply something he or she “wanted to learn,” suddenly the responsibility of American taxpayers generally?

A bailout of student loans is a great marketing ploy by Democratic presidential candidates, but it represents nothing other than another higher education scam; one that rewards the perpetrators and punishes everyone else. Colleges will continue to charge astronomical tuition. Lenders will continue handing out money at zero-risk to them. And, irresponsible students will rest easy knowing that someone else will be picking up the tab for a four-year luxury vacation to study a field that only they care about.

The crisis in higher education is the product of liberal hubris and government meddling, and has produced an educational system designed more for the personal and political vanity of edu-crats, than for the benefit of our nation’s young people.

A bailout of this broken and corrupt system will greatly harm America’s global competitiveness in the decades to come. In fact, it already has.


Australia: World class education needn’t cost the world

This year's educational testing isn’t cold yet, but we already have more evidence that we are doing it wrong when it comes to schooling.

For those who swallowed the Gonski hoax, an apparent lack of funding is the culprit for our educational malaise.

But the OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report released this week conclusively shows we spend considerably more per student than the OECD average — even after taking into account differences in costs and teacher wages between countries. Many nations that achieve better than us spend less than we do.

By any measure, there is no denying Australia is a big spender, despite having little to show for it.

However, there is one exception — we spend the least in the OECD on vocational education. This makes it all the more disappointing that COAG last month decided to kick the VET can to 2020, rather than get to work now on the fix. According to Australian data released last week, the number of students taking VET in schools decreased by 7% since 2014, and school-based apprenticeships have declined by 13%. Despite schooling being awash with cash, it would seem that VET is being left behind.

We are also spending more time in class than our OECD peers, but appear to have the wrong priorities. We spend relatively less time on reading, writing, literature, and science — while we are dedicating more time to technology. At secondary level, we also spend less time on mathematics. Little wonder Australian students have performed poorly in the international PISA tests covering reading, mathematical, and scientific literacy.

To right the ship, we might heed the OECD’s Education Director, Andreas Schleicher’s, advice on what makes school systems ‘world class’. He includes: spending money wisely (rather than spending more); setting and delivering high expectations; recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers; aligning incentives; school autonomy; and developing capable school leaders.

If we are to take an honest look at ourselves against these traits, we are tracking well off course from the world class trajectory.

However, Australia can — and arguably should — have a world class education system. High performing countries that spend considerably less than us have shown it doesn’t have to cost the world.

Yet, this goes against the grain of our discourse — which foolishly assumes that the level of funding is the benchmark for educational success. Shifting the mindset from inputs to outcomes is a place to start if we genuinely aspire to be world class.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

Sagging admission standards at British universities

Universities must end unconditional offers being used to bribe students, the education secretary has said.

In his first major speech, Gavin Williamson urged higher education institutions to "get their house in order" and stop handing out places to school leavers which come with strings attached.

Speaking at the Universities UK (UUK) annual conference in Birmingham, he said: "I am delighted that some universities have already scrapped making so called conditional unconditional offers. "I hope and I expect that the rest are going to follow suit."

The number of unconditional offers has risen sharply in recent years, with students now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago.

Fierce competition between universities to attract students has seen sixth form pupils increasingly offered places regardless of their exam results.

Some institutions hand out incentivised offers - known as "conditional unconditional" offers - where they tell students that their offer will be unconditional but only if they accept it as their first choice university.

The universities watchdog has previously warned that applying "psychological pressure" or "creating an impression of urgency" in decision making could be a potential breach of consumer protection law.

The Office for Students (OfS) published a report in January that examined the impact of unconditional offers on students’ decision making. It found that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades by two or more grades.

Mr Williamson said there is "nothing to justify" the "explosion in numbers" of unconditional offers.

He said that universities should consider setting a minimum predicted grade threshold for students when making unconditional offers to ensure that they are only used for the brightest students those who are on track to get top A-levels.

He also suggested that universities could agree a maximum proportion of students who they make unconditional offers to, as a way of cutting down on the practise.

Mr Williamson used his speech to warn over degree class inflation, telling vice-Chancellors: "Grade inflation has become more entrenched. "When I was at university you could count the number of students on my course who got a first on one hand. I am sad to report I wasn’t one of them.

"In 1997 when I graduated 50 per cent of students gained a first or a 2.1. Last year 80 per cent of students did so."

He told university chiefs that while he respects the autonomy of the sector, he also needs to protect its reputation. "I want you to know that I will always speak up for your autonomy, I know that it is what helps foster the brilliance of our teaching and our research," he said.

"But I also need to safeguard our reputation so that everyone knows that they can trust the system, so we need to work together on some of these issues.

"If we don't tackle them, your hard-worn reputation for excellence will be undermined, worse still there is a risk that employers will begin to lose faith in grades and foreign students will think twice about investing their time and money in studying here."


The Mess of Federal Funds Is Changing the University

The modern American university has changed almost beyond recognition from the form it had even 100 years ago. It is larger, more “diverse,” more of a business, and more industrialized with relatively fewer teachers and more bureaucrats than ever before. Those changes have led to new problems. Higher education, if not broken, is at least seriously injured. Some critics feel the damage is fatal and the whole system should essentially be abolished.

I want to focus on just one cause and a few of its effects. The cause is the involvement of the federal government via the money which is now directly and indirectly funneled into universities, public as well as private.

Even public universities depend to some degree on external funds: The University of California-Berkeley was only 13 percent state-funded in 2014-2015; North Carolina State University received 26 percent of its 2013-2014 budget from the state and 35 percent from “gifts and contracts.”

The effects of this increased reliance on federal funds are loss of autonomy, altered priorities, tuition fees that increase faster than inflation, and a monstrous growth in employees who are neither teachers nor researchers.

But the variety of incoming money streams has naturally fostered a more (literally) business-like ethos. Many of the new entities I just described are market-driven—there is a demand for them—not knowledge-driven.

A business credential, for instance, is valuable—and money can be made for the institution. Similar pressures have led to foreign branches of U.S. institutions in places like China, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates.

Those changes have also affected the core of the university: natural and social science and humanities departments.

In a destructive turnabout, undergraduate students are now almost universally regarded as “customers” who, notoriously, are always right. They, in turn, no longer regard the university as a place to be respected with themselves as fortunate guests. Instead, as the hysterical Yale “co-ed of color” screamed at sociology professor Nicholas Christakis a couple of years ago: “This is my home and you came in here.”

Well, actually, no: No university, even Yale, is or aspires to be a student’s “home.” But that’s what happens when a university admits too many students who are, for one reason or another, unsuited to the rigors of a real university education.

What is to be Done?

The gusher of federal money has indeed had its desired effect: Many more young people now attend and graduate from college than was the case 20 or 30 years ago. But this very success has created its own set of problems. Americans seem to have difficulty understanding that a thing may be good, but more of it is not necessarily better. Every small town wants to grow. Yet few residents would want to, or be able to, live in Atlanta or New York. There is an optimum size for everything, and it is rarely at infinity.

The increase in federal research grants inevitably led to a change in perception. Getting a grant was at first a nice bonus; but after grant-getting became routine, not getting a grant became a penalty. The same thing has happened to college attendance, once a nice luxury for the few, now a “necessity” for the many.

Because so many people have one, a college degree is now available as a handy filter even for jobs for which a degree is completely unnecessary. College is now seen to be the only path to success in life. Now many young people sign up for cheap loans they probably can’t afford because they think that college is essential, and the future is far away and it will all be better then. Except that it won’t for very many of them and, unlike a mortgage, they can’t discharge their college loan through bankruptcy.

The system is, finally, beginning to crash; college enrollments are beginning to decline. To accelerate the process, pundit Tucker Carlson has suggested a couple of things: First, that colleges should also be on the hook for the loans that their students take out. Second, in the wake of Varsity Blues and growing resentment against “legacy” (children of alumni) and “donor-child” admits, colleges should be more open about their admissions process.

Tucker’s solutions might improve the current situation a bit. But neither will get the federal government out of higher education. Neither will reduce the ability of the government to intrude on what used to be private matters. As the Brits might say: The feds have them by the short and curlies! More decorously, we can say that universities have lost their autonomy, their freedom, for a mess of pottage thoughtlessly, accepted many decades ago.


'Crazy political correctness': Australian teachers are ordered to meet bizarre 'praise targets' for good behaviour

Teachers are being ordered to reward a minimum number of students for good behaviour as part of a bizarre new 'praise quotas'. 

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said teachers are being instructed to record positive behaviour reports on a state-wide database.

The OneSchool database records cases of injury, bullying or truancy in students, but schools are now urging teachers to record a minimum of 20 positive behaviour reports per week.

Mr Bates said schools want teachers to spend an equal amount of time rewarding positive behaviour as they do correcting bad behaviour, Courier Mail reported.

He said: 'The notion is you get better behaviour from rewarding children for good behaviour than constantly focusing on the negatives.'

Mr Bates claims the initiative, which is part of the state's 'positive behaviour for learning' policy, is a 'ridiculous expectation' for teachers.

As teachers already have a full-on workload throughout the school day, they may be expected to spend time at home catching up.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg slammed the move as being 'political correctness gone crazy'.

Mr Carr-Gregg said rewarding children for 'good behaviour' that was otherwise considered normal would breed a generation of 'wusses'.

'It is a reward for behaving like a decent human being, and that is bizarre,' he said.

He also said that having to note down every time children do something right or wrong would put an unnecessary load on teachers who already struggle.

Mr Bates explained that teachers in Queensland have been directed to report even small incidents between children through OneSchool.

While he understands that bullying is a 'pervasive issue', he noted that 'one incident of someone behaving badly does not bullying make'.