Friday, December 20, 2019

Three Encouraging Takeaways from the State of College Admissions

From Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy to the Lori Loughlin admissions scandal, higher education admission policies have been second-guessed and re-evaluated for much of the year. But a National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) survey of over 447 four-year institutions offers some insight into the trends governing these policies. Three trends in particular offer some encouragement on the elusive and sometimes controversial college admissions process.

1. High School Grades Matter Most

Want to get into college? Get good grades. According to the NACAC survey, 75 percent of colleges attributed “considerable importance” to high school grades when making admissions decisions. That’s up from 52 percent of colleges in 2008.

This is encouraging, especially in light of research showing that high-school grades consistently predict college performance. In 2018, an American Enterprise Institute report found that among students with similar SAT or ACT scores, those with higher high-school GPAs are more likely to graduate from college. This makes sense, the authors note, because earning good grades in high school requires the same disciplines—showing up to class, turning in assignments on time, taking quizzes, etc.—that students need in college.

Another study evaluated the relationship between high-school grades and college completion for 17,753 Chicago Public School students. The study found that grades strongly related to rates of college graduation. Students with high-school GPAs less than 1.5 had a 20 percent probability of graduating, but students with GPAs of 3.75 or higher had an 80 percent probability of graduating.

These findings suggest that colleges are right to focus on high-school grades when making admissions decisions and that students looking to attend college should pay attention to high-school performance.

2. Tests Still Matter, But to Fewer Schools

According to the NACAC, fewer colleges depend on SAT/ACT scores when making admissions decisions than in years past.

In 2011, most (59 percent) of schools reported that standardized test scores were an important part of their admissions process, according to the NACAC. Since then, the number of schools holding that view dropped to 54 percent in 2016, to 52 percent in 2017, and to 46 percent today.

These drops are consistent with research questioning the predictive power of ACT/SAT tests. A 2014 study, for example, examined the performance of 122,916 students at 33 colleges and universities. The study found that students with strong high-school GPAs generally performed well in college despite moderate standardized test scores. However, students with weak GPAs and strong test scores earned lower college GPAs and graduated less often. Researchers concluded that high-school GPA thus strongly and consistently correlates to college cumulative GPA, while standardized test scores are much less consistent predictors of performance.

Another study found that SAT scores can be misleading. The study found that at 16 percent of colleges, performance predictions based on SAT math scores proved inaccurate. Similarly, when researchers compared black and white applicants’ scores on SAT critical reading, they found predictions were wrong at about 20 percent of colleges.

The NACAC’s findings suggest that while many schools still rely on standardized tests, they are rightfully becoming less popular.

3. Race/Ethnicity Not as Significant As You Might Think

Despite recent controversy around Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies, NACAC’s survey revealed that most colleges (58 percent) do not consider race as a factor in admissions.

This position is not only popular—73 percent of Americans believe that colleges should not make admissions decisions based on race—but also reasonable in light of the challenges race-based policies have introduced. Law professor Richard Sander and legal journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr. found, for example, that affirmative action policies have resulted in minority students enrolling in colleges and universities where their academics put them toward the bottom of the class. As a result, they earned lower grades, avoided challenging subjects like science or engineering, and lost self-confidence, causing them to abandon their career aspirations.

Affirmative action policies have also triggered questions around self-worth. In his autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote:

I simply took it for granted that Yale [Law School] was giving me a break because I was poor (and especially since that poverty was in part due to racial discrimination), in the same way that other students were given preference because they came from wealthy families or had parents who’d gone to Yale.

But before long, Thomas wrote, “I realized that those blacks who benefited from affirmative action were being judged by a double standard. As much as it stung to be told that I’d done well in the seminary despite my race, it was far worse to feel that I was now at Yale because of it.”

While college admissions policies continue to be questioned, the NACAC’s findings suggest that, at least in some ways, higher education is learning from its mistakes and is improving its admissions processes for tomorrow’s applicants.


Blood-sucking bureaucracy at universities

An extraordinary student campus protest happened the other day at my school (Ohio University), one quite unlike any other I have attended in six decades of hanging around college campuses. A fairly large group (at least 200) of students were protesting—nothing new there. Student protests happen multiple times each year, and my university is fairly typical in that regard. But usually the issue is unhappiness over some national policy (ranging, over my lifetime from the Vietnam War to some of Donald Trump’s rather maladroit statements) or some unpopular university rules constraining student behavior.

What was unique was what the students were protesting: the downplaying of academic matters and the critical role of the faculty in university life, as manifested in proposed budget reductions. Amidst a period of enrollment decline and necessary budget downsizing (also rather commonplace in academia these days), students were protesting the projected dismissal of many popular professors, while the administrative staff is largely untouched. A second source of student irritation is the over $20 million my university spends subsidizing intercollegiate athletics (about $1,000 for each student on the main university campus) –an amount roughly equal to the size of immediate budget reductions. The students’ message in summary was “college is firstly about education and learning.”

From my reading of national data, Ohio University seems pretty typical. Forty-five years ago when I was new minted as a full professor, there were over two faculty members for every campus administrator –defined as persons with some managerial or professional responsibilities but who do not teach. Today, the number of administrators exceeds the number of faculty members. If we went just one-half of the way back to the faculty-administrator ratio of 1974, we could easily eliminate the immediate $20 million budget problem and run a wealthy budget surplus to help deal with likely future declines associated with falling enrollments.

Ohio University (OU) spends $200,000 annually for an administrator, highly competent to be sure, to oversee a relatively modest portfolio of real estate investments. A generation ago, OU had nearly as large a real estate portfolio, but somehow someone was able to handle those investments as part of broader administrative duties. OU has a new “office of strategy and innovation” with multiple six digit salaried administrators, to teach how to think about the future. Like most schools, while OU shows indifference or contempt for God, it worships at the feet of the diversity and sustainability deities, employing a double digit number of administrators concerned with those matters. It inefficiently runs a host of enterprises having little or nothing to do with learning, everything from a movie theater to a print shop and, of course, multiple sports teams who entertain usually very modest numbers of spectators at a gargantuan cost.

The statistics on administrative staff actually understate the trend. Virtually all self-respecting universities hire consultants for any slightly non-routine matter. Not only do we use consultants when we hire the university president, but also when we hire deans and other factotums. My university’s performing arts series hired a consultant to decide how it could change its program of cultural offerings, on a campus filled with creative people in the arts, theater, business, etc. Administrators hire consultants not only to reduce their workloads, but also to provide employment insurance: if the result is a disaster, administrators blame the consultant for the failure. Somehow a generation ago we did a better than decent job of hiring administrators through advertising and internal search committees. Why not now? Partly, because we are lazy: on my campus hardly anyone worked the day after Thanksgiving, and virtually no one will work between December 24 and January 2—why not? They do in the Real World.

Why has this happened? The answer is simple: outside (third party) money made it possible. The biggest culprit nationally has been the explosion of federal student assistance in the form of grants but most importantly loans. The higher tuition fees that occurred has funded all sorts of things at the periphery of learning more than learning itself. Presidential candidates seem to try to outbid each other throwing more money at higher education (“free college”), rather than reforming a system that is highly inefficient, with few incentives to achieve excellence and efficiency.


When the Battle Is Feelings Vs. Facts, Feelings Win on Campus

The mainstream press has not shown much interest in the struggle of college journalists to report accurately on free-speech and free-press issues on campus. On November 13, The New York Times weighed in with a long news article on student coverage of a speech at Northwestern University delivered by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Some students, apparently eager to disrupt or cancel the speech, forced their way past police and were photographed by Colin Boyle, student photographer for the Daily Northwestern, the campus newspaper. Later, one student, Ying Dai, complained to Boyle on Twitter: ‘’Can we stop this trauma porn? I was on the ground being pushed hard by the police. You don’t have to intervene, but also you didn’t have to push a camera in front of me, top-down.”

Boyle deleted the photo and editors of the Daily Northwestern apologized for posting photos of students on social media and for using the school directory in attempts to contact students.

[Are Colleges Turning Out Our Most Self-Absorbed and Fragile Generation?]

The Times story says the newspaper’s response set off a national firestorm: “Professional journalists derided the apology and weighed in to note, often incredulously, that the “Northwestern journalists had been doing some of the most basic, standard work that reporters have always done—watching public events, interviewing people, and describing what they saw.”

That’s an accurate description of what professional reporters do, but The Times spends a lot of time describing “empathic” reporting and leaving the impression that two valid reporting systems are now in conflict, a humane one in sympathy with marginalized individuals and groups generally on the left, the other marked by cold professionalism and absence of human feeling.

Ying Dai, the complaining student, resented being photographed while in a painful position and did not reflect the fact that she hadn’t sought national attention for her role in the protest. Was she entitled to a more flattering photo while breaking through a police line to disrupt the speech? The student demand for more sensitive reporting is often a request that other sides of an event not be heard. At Harvard, students protesting the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency bristled when they learned the Harvard Crimson wanted to get a response to the protest from the agency. The Crimson editors stood their ground, and the protesters launched a boycott of the paper, joined by, among others, the Harvard College Democrats. The protesters argued that allowing the agency to comment might endanger undocumented students in the crowd. But it amounted to a demand for more favorable coverage or outright censorship.

Demands for “empathic” reporting often seem like arguments against exposing members of vulnerable groups to normal and fair reporting methods. One worry is that student journalists may take these demands with them as they graduate and become mainstream journalists. If so, what will keep reporters from building sympathy around feelings they happen to have for people in the news?


Thursday, December 19, 2019

Restoring the Greatness of Higher Education in America

Graham Walker

As a college professor for many years, I saw firsthand the array of problems undermining higher education.

Perhaps the biggest relates to the lifeblood of most colleges and universities both public and private: federal funding.

Financial dependence on Washington, D.C. has caused even excellent private institutions to step away from open inquiry and moral principle. Their dependence on the federal dollar means acquiescing to the demands of accrediting agencies, the Department of Education (depending on who’s in charge), and the ideologies of education bureaucrats.

When I became President of a private college that did not accept federal funding—hoping to avoid this dilemma—I got an even closer look at these challenges. For one thing, I found it nearly impossible to compete with our tax-subsidized peers.

I can recall interacting with parents of prospective students—even those who supported the mission of the college and were defenders of free-market liberty. They often made it plain that they wanted a net price reflecting the tax subsidy that other schools were getting. I couldn’t blame them, because the entire higher education system is designed to run on the fuel of government funds.

The current federal funding scheme is undermining the academic integrity of colleges and universities—and cannot help but have corrupting consequences for American life.

This is why I resonate so much with our Senior Fellow Richard Vedder’s bold proposals to restore higher education. Among other solutions, he lays out several recommendations for ending or significantly revising federal financial aid in his recent Independent book, Restoring the Promise: Higher Education in America.

The solutions from this book have already reached a significant audience, having been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Fox News Channel, and many more national outlets.

Dr. Vedder and I also had the privilege of discussing these reforms with Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her senior staff earlier this year.

Dr. Vedder’s magnum opus fills a substantial hole in the literature analyzing the glaring threat to American liberty that is higher education.

Via email from the Independent Institute:

Why Should Taxpayers Foot the Bill for Liberal Indoctrination?
It’s gone this far because we were silent

Are we literally paying our liberal academic institutions to indoctrinate our kids? This was the disturbing and irresistible question plaguing the long drive home last week from college orientation. I doubt I am alone in this wake-up call. Here is what I saw and what you can do.

Like many other women, I am preparing to send my youngest child off to college. I am so proud of him and his decision to join the Army ROTC and study engineering. He will be attending a revered Virginia institution known for its military Corps of Cadet’s program. The centerpiece of the campus is the military parade field featuring beautiful pylons bearing the founding principles of the school: words like honor, duty, brotherhood, and “ut prosim” (that I may serve). The war memorial also bears the names of all known cadets who have given their lives for our nation since World War I.

Established in 1872, Virginia Tech has an honorable and proud tradition in my home state. Virginia Tech graduates are some of the most accomplished and wonderful people I know. Hokies shine around our nation as leaders and are a great credit to their school. I know many to be people of faith, and many, many are conservative.

Which is why parents were shocked to experience what can only be described as extreme and overtly leftist propaganda spewed at our children’s orientation. The opening “University Welcome” event for students and parents separated families immediately in the auditorium. No one present expected the event to begin with prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance — heavens, no! But one might expect to remember the names of fallen cadets on the pylons or maybe even a moment of silence to recognize the 32 dead and 17 injured resulting from the 2007 shooting on Virginia Tech’s campus, the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. Nope, didn’t happen.

Instead, the administration made the stunning choice to open new student orientation with a moment to recognize two Native American tribes on whose land the university was built (i.e., stolen). And with that, the parent and student eye-rolling began.

What followed went from slightly bothersome to downright alarming. The next two hours were filled with speaker after speaker who introduced themselves with not just their names and titles but also preferred pronouns. As in, “Hi, my name is Penny Nance, and I identify as ‘she’ and ‘her.’” At first parents were slightly surprised; by the end, they were mad. The funny thing is that every person on the stage looked exactly as you would expect them to identify. No plot twists. It was at that point I noticed all the new students’ badges contained not just their names but also their preferred pronoun because the school had made it part of the students’ registration for the event. The heavy-handed diversity lecture that followed seemed rather tame in comparison.

Parents leaving the venue were in shock.

The rest of the day was filled with the same two-track program, parents versus children, allowing the university to share specific sets of information with both. Parents were given the hardline against underage and excessive drinking, but new students, according to students present, were assured that campus police are there to help them navigate wayward behavior that was implied to be a normal situation. I am told that one student dared to raise his hand to point out the inconsistency but was quickly dismissed.

Identity-group politics were constantly dignified and showcased. Every imaginable identity group has a club or even dedicated space on campus except for anything remotely religious, although clubs exist. It’s apparently way cooler to be a minority trans woman with food allergies then it is to be simply known as an American college student. It was interesting to note that there was Halal food available but no certified kosher meals. Religiously observant Jewish students? Tough luck. But if you are vegan, you are in business.

After dinner, parents were sent off to oblivious sleep while students were lectured on not making assumptions about each other’s gender or sexuality. “Be open to new experiences,” they urged throughout the day. “Parents, don’t be shocked if your kid comes home changed,” they intoned. Were they suggesting students ought to be fluidly “exploring” their gender and sexuality, as if it were some expected adventure? In the era of “Me Too,” that seems off-message.

Sitting in that room were hundreds of parents who have saved and sacrificed to send our children to what we are constantly assured is a top educational institution. The attitude that often comes across is how “privileged” we should feel that our college student was even selected to attend such a fine and prestigious university. Lucky us.

Let’s not forget, all Virginians pay taxes and thus have equity and stake in what our children are taught. Alumni are deeply invested in the reputation and direction of their alma mater. I doubt they are okay with what appeared to be a new “woke” version of their school. Here’s the problem: Virginia Tech and most other public universities have forgotten that they work for us.

They must hear a clear message: Every religious family whose time-tested and traditional values on human sexuality they want to subvert; every Christian, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, or conservative teacher or university employee; and every student whose privacy they are violating have rights, too. Why should a young man or woman struggling with identity issues be forced to disclose those to a university to be prominently displayed on a name badge? Gender dysphoria is real and the small number of students struggling deserve to be treated with dignity and kindness.

Why should a teacher’s First Amendment rights be violated by being bullied into using the made-up terms they/them, Zie/Zim, Ey/Em (or about 60 more) instead of she/her or he/him? Why should a Christian or Muslim student be bullied into violating their consciences and into compliance of a small group attempting to control thought by forcing a speech code that is nonsensical to everyone short of the gender-identity political warriors apparently running the school? The reordering of centuries of grammar usage is a messianic and offensive overcorrection. And here is where it gets real: Why should taxpayers foot the bill for liberal indoctrination?

We shouldn’t, and if we all demand it, we won’t have to anymore. The Republican Party still is in control of the Virginia Assembly and Senate. One line in an appropriations bill would assure the rights of students and teachers in this madness. Virginians deserve better. We do not bow to the ascendancy of the liberal, ivory-towered academic’s worldview over ours. We can both care for and love struggling kids who don’t feel included and maintain our sanity.

Virginia Tech is known for its excellence in the sciences, yet it has caved in to a minority social-justice warrior (SJW) activist ideology and stooped to denying basic scientific facts about human biology.

I have called out Virginia Tech in this op-ed, but other schools in Virginia and around the nation have the identical issue. This is rampant. Parents, donors, and alumni: If you “identify” with this experience, it’s up to you. We have reached this point because most are silent, too afraid of the social-media harassment and bullying tactics of liberal activists and professors. Speak up. First, send screen shots, video, or your story to CWA at We won’t give your name without permission, but we will tell your story.

Secondly, contact your state legislators and demand legislation prohibiting the forced use of speech codes. The state controls most of the funds for public universities and can prohibit the use of those funds for nefarious means. Finally, contact the president of your or your child’s institution.

I have requested a meeting with Virginia Tech President Timothy Sands, who, incidentally, is originally from San Francisco and is a Cal Berkley graduate. If parents, students, and alumni would simply call and complain, it would at least wake up “the woke” to the fact that conservatives attend their schools and are sick of the madness. It’s gone this far because we were silent.

When do we say “enough?”


Should the federal government subsidise students, or make college free?

The Leftist dilemma

A curious thing seems to be eternally recurring in the Democratic presidential primary. Polices that not long ago looked like far-reaching progressivism are now deemed moderate milquetoastery by the party’s left flank. A public option for health insurance bores when compared with Medicare for All, a proposed singlepayer set-up. Comprehensive immigration reform is deeply unfashionable next to decriminalisation of illegal immigration and the abolition of the nation’s immigrationenforcement agency.

The same has happened with the debate over higher-education costs. Pete Buttigieg, the moderate mayor of South Bend, Indiana, newly rising in the polls, would like to expand subsidies significantly for public institutions. But he proposes to extend free tuition only to families making less than $100,000 a year (70% of all households), not to all students. For this, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a popular lefty congresswoman, has accused him of parroting “a gop talking point used to dismantle public systems”. “Just like rich kids can attend public school, they should be able to attend tuition-free public college,” she added.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s preferred candidate, Bernie Sanders, is offering a maximalist solution to the problem. Not only would all tuition fees at public institutions be eliminated, but all $1.6trn of existing studentloan debt, from both public and private universities, would be cancelled. Elizabeth Warren, another leading progressive candidate, has a similar plan, though with a few more conditions on debt forgiveness. She reckons her plan would cost $1.25trn over a decade, paid for by her (at this point somewhat overextended) wealth tax, whereas Mr Sanders thinks his would cost $2.2trn, which he would pay for by hitting “Wall Street speculators” with a 0.5% tax on all trades of stock.

Arrayed against this sort of solution are the ideas of ideologically moderate contenders like Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Mr Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who would like to subsidise higher education more without making it entirely free. Unlike the debates over Medicare for All and immigration, the agitation of the progressive wing over free college probably does not run the same risk of electoral backlash; few Americans are committed to the current system of university financing. Finding the optimal solution, however, requires a clear understanding of two matters: the scope of the current problem and the best way to target the benefits of enlarged subsidies.

The stereotypical embodiment of America’s high university costs, much loved by journalists, is the part-time barista with a liberal-arts degree and a sixdigit debt. Such luckless espresso-pullers undoubtedly exist, but they are far from typical. The average recipient of a bachelor’s degree in America graduated with $16,800 in outstanding debt. Though this is 24% higher than it was in 2003, it seems unlikely to trigger the kind of indentured servitude so often imagined.

One reason that public perception and reality are so misaligned is the preoccupation with the costs of elite private colleges (which have indeed rocketed). In 2000 tuition at Harvard cost $31,400 per year without financial aid in current dollars. Today it costs $46,300. In part because America devotes considerable public dollars to higher education—spending twice as much as a share of gdp than Britain, for example— costs are lower than imagined. After aid and tax benefits are taken into account, private colleges charge an average of $27,400 each year in tuition and fees. Instate public college costs much less—about $15,400 on average—whereas local twoyear colleges cost just $8,600.

A universal college benefit would disproportionately help families that are already comfortable. Even among young Americans (those between the ages of 25 and 29), only 37% have a bachelor’s degree or a more advanced one. They are disproportionately white and wealthy. There are clear public benefits from higher education, but also considerable private benefits, given the large wage premium college graduates enjoy over less-educated workers. Nor would free college do much to advance racial minorities. Racial inequalities in educational attainment, which persist in the present cohort of young Americans, probably owe more to the quality of earlier schooling than the anticipated cost of college. For that reason, universal pre-kinder-garten may be a more effective use of resources than universal free college.

Few countries in the world guarantee free college, but in most countries college is cheaper than in America. One outlier is Denmark, where colleges are not only free, but international students also receive a monthly stipend of 6,166 kroner ($914). That could make for a nice Democratic presidential platform in 2024.


Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Students’ Test Scores Unchanged After Decades of Federal Intervention in Education

Federal “Highly Qualified Teacher” mandates. Adequate Yearly Progress requirements. Smaller learning communities. Improving Teacher Quality State Grants. Reading First. Early Reading First. The dozens of other federal programs authorized via No Child Left Behind. School Improvement Grants. Race to the Top. Common Core.

All of that has been just since 2000. Over those past two decades, while federal policymakers were busy enacting new federal laws, creating mandates for local school leaders, and increasing the Department of Education’s budget from $38 billion in 2000 (unadjusted for inflation) to roughly $70 billion today, the math and reading performance of American high school students remained completely flat. That is to say, stagnant.

The U.S. is now above the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development average in reading, but alas, not because U.S. reading performance has improved. Rather, other countries have seen declines in reading achievement, despite increases in education spending.

In mathematics, however, U.S. performance has steadily declined over the past two decades.

Those are the findings from the Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA exams, released last week.

As The New York Times’ Dana Goldstein reported:

About a fifth of American 15-year-olds scored so low on the PISA test that it appeared they had not mastered reading skills expected of a 10-year-old, according to Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers the exam.

What’s more, the achievement gap between high- and low-performing American students has widened.

The international findings mirror last month’s National Assessment of Educational Progress report, which revealed that math and reading scores across the country have continued a yearslong stagnation, with students largely showing no progress in academic achievement.

Just one-third of students in the fourth and eighth grades reached proficiency in math and reading nationally on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which is administered every two years.

As with the Programme for International Student Assessment’s findings that the achievement gap stubbornly persists for American students, the National Assessment of Educational Progress highlighted similar findings within the U.S.

The scores of students who are among the lowest 10% of performers on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have dropped significantly since 2009.

The stubborn achievement gap is not new, but the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the Programme for International Student Assessment provide additional data points on its persistence.

As Harvard professor Paul Peterson writes in The Heritage Foundation’s new book “The Not-So-Great Society”:

The achievement gap in the United States is as wide today as it was in 1971.

The performances on math, reading, and science tests between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged students differ by approximately four years’ worth of learning, a disparity that has remained essentially unchanged for nearly half a century.

One of the more recent, major pieces of federal intervention sold as a way to improve American standing in education was the Common Core State Standards Initiative promoted during the Obama administration.

Common Core national standards and test, proponents argued, would catapult American students to the top of the math and reading pack. It was time, they argued, for the U.S. to have the same “epiphany” Germany did in the late 1990s, and adopt centrally planned national standards and tests.

Germany now lags the U.S. in reading, according to the new Programme for International Student Assessment data, and is far below Canada, a country that does not have national standards.

Indeed, our neighbor to the north has performed consistently well on the Programme for International Student Assessment since 2000, significantly outpacing the United States, and has neither national standards, nor a federal education department.

Canada’s is a decentralized education system, in which Canada’s 10 provinces set education policy.

The fact that Common Core didn’t catalyze improvements in the U.S. isn’t surprising. Large-scale government programs rarely, if ever, do.

But neither have the myriad federal programs created since No Child Left Behind in 2001, nor have the more than 100 federal K-12 education programs created since President Lyndon Johnson launched his Great Society initiative in 1965 designed, ostensibly, to narrow opportunity gaps between the poor and the affluent.

Heritage’s Jonathan Butcher and I detail Yuval Levin’s theory of government failure in “The Not-So-Great Society.” Levin explains that large-scale government programs fail for three reasons:

“Institutionally, the administrative state is ‘dismally inefficient and unresponsive, and therefore ill-suited to our age of endless choice and variety.’”

“Culturally and morally, government efforts to ‘rescue the citizen from the burdens of responsibility [have] undermined the family, self-reliance, and self-government.’”

“Fiscally, large-scale federal programs supporting the welfare state are simply unaffordable, ‘dependent as it is upon dubious economics and the demographic model of a bygone era.’”

Federal government efforts to improve education have been dismal. Even if there were a constitutional basis for its involvement—which there isn’t—the federal government is simply ill-positioned to determine what education policies will best serve the diverse local communities across our vast nation.

The sooner we can acknowledge that improvements will not come from Washington, the sooner we’re likely to see students flourishing in learning environments that reflect their unique needs and desires.


Cutting Tuition Prices So Students Can Borrow Less

In the past few years, large public universities have garnered headlines by freezing tuition. Purdue University, the Pennsylvania State System, and every public four-year university in Virginia have all frozen tuition and fees. And three University of North Carolina schools—UNC Pembroke, Western Carolina University, and Elizabeth City State University—have cut tuition to $500 per semester for in-state students. That reduction is a boon to students and parents who must foot the tuition bill. But it is made easier by taxpayer subsidies; state universities aren’t entirely tuition-dependent for their revenues.

Small private universities often find it more difficult to keep tuition down, but it can be done. Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina is one example. Belmont Abbey cut tuition 33 percent in 2013-2014, to $18,500, where it has stayed for six years. In an interview with the Martin Center, Belmont Abbey president Bill Thierfelder and CFO Allan Mark explained how and why they made such a dramatic change.

Thierfelder said that making tuition affordable has always been a priority for him. When he arrived at Belmont Abbey in 2004, he cut tuition for the college’s non-traditional program. As a Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey has always prioritized keeping its doors open—a tradition that began with the Benedictine monks who founded the institution. Belmont Abbey has always attracted students from the middle class and those with large families. Keeping it affordable was a necessity.

Thierfelder and his team considered cutting tuition for the school’s traditional program in 2004 as well but found that other small private schools that had tried to do so had failed.

“It’s the Chivas Regal effect,” he said. People often associate higher tuition costs with a better standard of education, even if that’s not the case. But after the recession, parents and students starting looking for universities that were less expensive. Now, Thierfelder says, “65 percent of the market stops looking at schools with a sticker price above $24,000.” It gave the school an opening—an opportunity to lower tuition without being hurt by it.

The plan worked. Belmont Abbey saw its revenues actually increase in the first year after the tuition cut. The increase allowed the school to start an Honors College and offer Honors College Scholarships. It also provides institutional aid to more than 90 percent of its students. At the same time, students are borrowing less. According to Thierfelder, it’s a form of good stewardship—for the students and for the college.

The school has always paid careful attention to its expenditures. “General administration is very lean,” Thierfelder said. “We don’t have layers. We just have very hardworking people who believe in our mission and vision.”

Thierfelder also noted that many colleges and universities are in debt because of their buildings. “We are different,” he said. “Very cautious about expansion. We refurbish, expand, reuse. We are keeping things up to date, but we won’t overspend on it. We’re very careful about the financing. And always looking at the bottom line.”

The tuition cut spurred additional changes to make the school even more efficient by integrating departments, cross-training people, and recapturing unused space. The changes saved $1 million in general administration.

Enrollment has also increased since the cut. This year’s freshman class was the school’s largest-ever at 430. Ideally, Thierfelder said, enrollment will grow to somewhere between 1,800 and 2,200. That size will allow Belmont Abbey to remain personal but also offer students more options.

“Our students leave with Aristotelian friendships. We don’t want to lose that,” Thierfelder said.

Those friendships are just one part of what makes Belmont Abbey special. And one reason that Thierfelder believes the school will be able to weather the coming demographic decline.

Belmont Abbey differentiates itself from many universities today that give students almost unlimited choice—with little direction. It focuses on the kind of education that prepares students to “lead a good life.”

“Foundationally, we believe in seeking the truth, wherever that is found—sciences, humanities,” Thierfelder explained. Belmont Abbey professors teach students to “think, reason, follow the truth.”

But that’s not all. “Getting a technical education is good, but does not teach you to live a good life. The ability to make a living and provide for yourself and your family is important, but not enough,” Thierfelder said. Belmont Abbey includes moral formation in its mission. “It’s more than just the intellectual,” he explained. “It’s body, mind, and soul.”

Belmont Abbey believes its plan will continue to attract students even as the market shrinks. “The challenge for all small liberal arts schools is to be true to your mission and responsive to the marketplace,” Thierfelder says. “If your mission isn’t noble, honorable, and worthy, you probably won’t make it. If you just offer a generic product, you won’t survive. Small, personal liberal arts colleges must inspire, compel, draw people in. That’s what we do.”


Did You Know? College Textbook Prices Have Increased 88% Since 2006

Among presidential candidates, many campaign platforms have a plan to lower college costs. There’s no question that college costs have increased, but textbook prices have seen the sharpest increase—88 percent since 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Textbook companies work the same as any other large corporation: They strive to maximize their profits. When researchers at the University of Michigan looked into why prices have increased so much, they found that the textbook market has some similarities to the prescription drug market. Both markets rely on third parties (student loans or health insurance companies) to pay for textbooks or drugs for the consumer. When the person paying for something isn’t the person using it, the seller can increase their price without losing a customer.

As journalist Noam Cohen explained in The New York Times:

A final similarity, in the words of R. Preston McAfee, an economics professor at Cal Tech, is that both textbook publishers and drug makers benefit from the problem of “moral hazards” — that is, the doctor who prescribes medication and the professor who requires a textbook don’t have to bear the cost and thus usually don’t think twice about it.

Statehouses have tried to control pricing by legislative action. Since 2007, more than 85 bills in 27 states have been proposed to deal with high textbook prices. And many universities have begun taking matters into their own hands by creating affordable textbook options, such as digital textbooks, renting textbooks, and open textbooks that are free to use. On an individual level, professors have also taken action to keep textbook prices low for students by being more judicious in what books they assign.

If colleges made policies to purchase books directly from publishers, it could help students avoid higher prices in bookstores. They could also create a student marketplace where textbooks could be resold to students who need them. Already, 67 percent of students buy used textbooks, according to a 2017 survey, so the demand exists. But state laws and more action by college officials and professors can’t rein in textbook prices. So long as buying textbooks are a requirement for class, and students have the ability to pay thanks to student loans, prices will remain high.


Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Five students are charged with battery after beating a boy, 14, on a school bus 'because he wore a Trump 2020 hat’

Five students have been been charged on Friday after a shocking video emerged of a Florida boy being attacked on a school bus, allegedly because he'd previously worn a hat supporting President Donald Trump.

The news comes three weeks after the initial attack on November 21 that sent the 14-year-old boy, identified as Tyler, to the hospital with head contusions.

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office said the students involved have been charged with first-degree misdemeanor battery after discussing the charges with the State Attorney's Office.

The Florida State Attorney's Office recommended that the incident does not meet the criteria for a hate crime.

Superintendent Rex L. Mitchell shared a press release on Friday addressing the incident.

Mitchell says the school district has investigated the incident, disciplined the students involved in the altercation and turned information over to the Sheriff's office for criminal action.

Although social media was set ablaze at the implication that the beating happened because Tyler wore a MAGA hat, Mitchell contends that is not the case. 

'It is implied in the post that the altercation occurred because one of the students involved was wearing a political hat showing support for President Trump. There was no evidence found during the investigation that indicated the student was wearing of such apparel on a prior occasion motivated the incident,' the statement reads.

'The incident began with a verbal altercation between two students that escalated when additional students became involved.'

The school district reviewed the bus video to not only view the altercation, but the event leading up to the event and the subsequent conclusion.

Mitchell said: 'We absolutely do not condone the use of physical force between students. This was a very unfortunate incident completely unrelated to any political statements or agendas.'

A woman by the name of Melissa Griffin organized a GoFundMe on Friday for her son, Tyler.

She says Tyler is emotionally distraught as he reels from the incident and 'he is crying most days.'

Following the November incident, Griffin says they no longer feel safe sending Tyler back to the high school and are considering other options, including homeschooling or moving to a different county. 

The money donated to the GoFundMe will go towards purchasing 'a good laptop computer and other supplies needed to be successful in a home school environment,' for Griffin's two sons.  So far, the GoFundMe has raised around $2,600 of the $4,000 goal. 

The video first emerged on Thursday after the boy's family retained attorney Foye B. Walker for possible legal action.

The attorney, Walker, verified in a tweet that the incident occurred on a school bus in Hamilton County, and that he was representing the family. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from

The boy's mother explained on Twitter that she believed the attackers were motivated by a Trump 2020 campaign hat that her son had previously worn to school.

She said that the boy stopped wearing the hat due to harassment, but that the bullying continued.

'To be clear, my son bought his Trump 2020 hat with his own money at the flea market a few weeks ago,' his mother, a Trump supporter who tweets under the handle @AmericanDiaries, wrote.

'He was proud to wear it. He wore it to School, but due to immediate bullying he put it away & didn't wear it to school again, sadly the damage was already done & [he] was now a target,' she said.

'From that point on he was steadily getting messed with. He was getting hit, tripped & verbally abused on the bus, but it all came to a head yesterday on his bus ride home,' she continued.

She said that when Tyler was examined after the school, nurses found older bruising along with the new injuries. 'He didn't tell us about the bullying, but they took it to a new level yesterday and we are just now learning what he was going through,' she said.

Video of the attack shows at least three females and two males raining blows down on Tyler's head as he tries to protect himself from the attack.

Tyler's mother says she believes the assault was racially motivated. Tyler is white, and the assailants appear to be black.

'Plain and simple this was a hate crime and attempted murder according to the state of Florida since it was over three kids that jumped him and these kids are older and larger,' the mother tweeted.

She said that she had contacted the police and the school district, and that the children involved had been suspended from school.  


UPDATE: Five students have been charged with first-degree battery misdemeanor

New Research Shows Federal Student Aid Is Worse than We Thought

For years I have railed against the dysfunctional federal student loan program. The availability of cheap federal student loans has enabled universities to increase tuition fees aggressively, helping fund an unproductive academic arms race that, among other things, has led to sizable administrative bloat on most campuses.

The proportion of recent college graduates from the lowest quartile of the income distribution is lower than it was in 1970, suggesting that student loans have not been a successful vehicle for providing college access to those from low-income backgrounds—a primary program goal.

Default rates on student loans are high because standard commercial lending standards are ignored. Schools that encourage students to take out loans have no “skin in the game,” facing no financial consequences when their students disproportionately default on their obligations. In short, the student loan program is dysfunctional and in need of substantial modification—arguably elimination.

The New York Federal Reserve Bank has led the way in researching the loan programs, and a new study details that things are actually far worse than stated above.

Here are a few additional problems:

Thinking the federal government is going to forgive student loan debt, a majority of students are not reducing their loan balance—at all;

A very small portion (7 percent) of borrowers have huge debts (over $100,000), but owe over one-third of the $1.5 trillion in student loan debt outstanding;

College graduates in 2010 had repaid only 9 percent of their loan balances five years later;

College loan debt rose twice as fast as tuition fees from 2008 to 2018; much student borrowing appears not to meet direct instructional costs;

People living in high-income ZIP codes have accumulated far more debt than those living in lower-income areas, suggesting relatively affluent borrowers are disproportionate participants in the student loan program.

In prosperous, low-unemployment times, loan balances usually fall—they have fallen for other types of loans. However, balances for federal student loans have continued to grow, largely because borrowers have very little incentive to repay them.

A host of more accommodating repayment programs (e.g. tying repayment to income so that graduates with low earnings don’t have to pay much, and liberal “forbearance” and deferral policies that allow graduates to take “public service” jobs to stop paying after just ten years), have contributed to slow repayment.

So, perhaps, have the plans of major presidential contenders like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders to cancel all or a large part of student debt. Why be a sucker and repay your obligation when the government may agree to let you off from paying?

Slowness to repay is particularly high among recent borrowers—individuals graduating in the era of the socialist ascendency within the Democratic Party.

Indeed, since federally subsidized loans have lower interest rates than the private sector would charge, given the risks of lending to people with uncertain future earnings, there has always been some tendency to borrow more than is needed to finance college.

When I served on the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education, I heard testimony from borrowers who used their student loans to engage in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. The data suggest that this tendency is growing, as the ratio of loan balances to tuition fees has been rising. A former colleague of mine (unfortunately unpublished) claims her research shows student lending supports beer parties and other entertainments.

I interviewed a former student recently, a 2009 graduate of Ohio University. He informed me that 10 years after graduation he still has $70,000 in student loan debt. Despite his growing success in business, he is not paying off his loans. Why? The business he started is expanding and his ownership interest is increasing, leading him to accrue more debt. Why repay student loans when there are few inducements to do so and interest rates on them are below those on private-sector loans?

The most striking new revelation from the New York Federal Reserve Bank study is how much the student loan program appears to be an entitlement for presumably relatively affluent individuals (assuming borrowers in high-income areas themselves are typical of their neighborhoods). I have often wondered why we give loans of, say $200,000 to students attending Duke Law School who will probably be making very substantial ($150,000 or more) salaries shortly after graduation.

It is one thing to support the poor kid borrowing $25,000 to earn a bachelor’s degree from a regional state university to get a $40,000 job. It is another thing to finance tomorrow’s plutocrats, some who have borrowed $150,000 or more and are already making $200,000 or more a year, but who are not paying down their loan balances when they could easily afford to do so.

What is the solution to this mess?

In a perfect world, we would take a new approach to financing college. We would completely phase out the federal student loan programs while sharply reforming and curtailing Pell Grants as well. We would see a private lending market blossom with more sane and realistic lending policies. Profit-maximizing private lenders would vary interest rates charged to borrowers with perceived risks, and some borrowers with poor repayment prospects might be denied loans, reducing loan defaults.

We would no doubt see new private initiatives like income-share agreements grow exponentially in popularity, perhaps after some clarifying legislation confirming their contract enforceability. Four senators (Republicans Todd Young and Marco Rubio, Democrats Mark Warner and Chris Coons) have introduced such legislation. The elimination of federal student loans likely would lead in the short run to some enrollment decline (and some possible school closings). I would view that as a plus given the large number of underemployed recent college graduates.

It seems unlikely that the political composition of the executive and legislative branches of the government will change enough in the next few years to allow radical change.

An alternative second-best strategy would be to downsize federal financial assistance programs, for example, getting rid of PLUS loans whereby parents borrow to support their children’s education, end student tuition tax credits (lowering taxes to parents of students attending college), and put more stringent limits on the number of years and the amounts one can borrow. For example, a lifetime limit of six years borrowing and a maximum amount of $75,000 might be established.

Also, put in some minimal academic standards for continual loan eligibility. Students with less than a 2.0 (“C”) average after one year’s attendance, for example, might be barred from borrowing, or allowed to borrow for one more semester contingent on improved grades.

Finally, make colleges become at least limited co-signers on loans—require them to have some skin in the game. Perhaps make the school liable for the first $5,000 of a defaulted loan, plus 20 percent of the balance over $5,000.

Possibly excepting the “skin in the game” idea, there is little short-term prospect for any improvement in our dysfunctional federal program for financially assisting college students, but this latest research from the New York Fed makes it difficult for stand patters to ignore its many problems.


The Continual Creep of Social Justice into Higher Education

Social justice activists say they want to bring about a golden age. The road to the golden city always requires more gold from our pockets to pay the activists’ salaries. Social justice activists always work to create more activists. Everything they do in higher education has an eye to the bottom line—seizing control of general education requirements, of departments, of administrative offices. They want to do well for themselves as they do what they think is good.

Duke University diverts tuition and tenure to steer jobs to social justice activists by forcing students to take a Cross Cultural Inquiry course, which “encourages critical and responsible attention to issues of identity, diversity, globalization, and power.” That means courses like Organizing for Equity, Activism and Social Change, and Sounding Latinx: Literature, Listening, and Ethnoracial Othering in the U.S. The CCI requirement doesn’t just steer jobs to activists. It also forces students to sign up for social justice propaganda.

Wake Forest University’s Residential Engagement Communities program tempts students with the Community Engagement Theme house, where “We function as a home away from home that builds community and works to broaden what we define as ‘community’ while engaging in talks about the intersections of social justice and community.” Social justice colonizes the dormitory.

Elon University’s Center for Race, Ethnicity & Diversity Education boasts about its Intergroup Dialogue, “an interactive co-curricular experience designed to increase students’ awareness about diversity and activism for social justice.” The “co-curriculum” at Elon means administrators training students to create “action plans” for more social justice at Elon.

University presidents sell social justice to the public as all-American niceness. The Federal Trade Commission should book ‘em for false advertising. At UNC-Charlotte, social justice means the Office of Identity, Equity, and Engagement in the Division of Student Affairs runs a “White Consciousness Conversation” about “how racism is perpetuated individually, culturally, and systemically.” Dig down into social justice on campus, and you’ll find the radical political agenda of identity politics, multiculturalism, and “safe spaces.”

“Social justice” in America in 2019 means the radical, secular theory that ordinary American life is so oppressive that we must dedicate ourselves to liberating others from that oppression. Oppression means unjust social relations, which perpetuate the unfair distribution of goods and burdens. The oppressed liberate themselves to redistribute all these goods by splitting into identity groups who will fight to revolutionize the country.

Those with “privilege” must reject their privilege by becoming the silent, deferential allies of the oppressed. Liberation comes first. Everything else comes second—liberty, the Constitution, the free market. You must dedicate every aspect of life to achieving social justice. Any opposition is immoral and must be crushed.

Social justice education applies social justice theory to our schools. In higher education this means overhauling the university to support social justice and its aims. The words vary—diversity, inclusion, equity, multiculturalism, sustainability, civic engagement—but the goal is the same. Regulations, classwork, extra-curriculars, dorm life, hiring, publications for tenure—social justice educators yoke every part of campus life to social justice. They degrade education’s search for truth into the pursuit of power.

Social justice educators have captured the university by playing hardball administrative politics. This is a national movement. Social justice advocates campaign to create an environment where they can monopolize higher education administration and the professoriate for themselves.

First, the social justice cadres warp university and department mission statements to trumpet dedication to social justice. UNC-Chapel Hill commits itself to diversity and inclusivity. Elon University’s School of Education declares that its mission “is to prepare educators who…[are] advocates for social justice.” Appalachian State University “prepares students to lead purposeful lives as engaged global citizens.” Once a university or a department officially dedicates itself to social justice, concrete programs follow. Appalachian State’s social justice mission justifies a host of concrete programs, among them Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian State; Diversity Celebration; and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Compliance. A social justice mission statement is a dragon’s tooth. Sow it in a campus and overnight there’s a host of new bureaucrats, armed with regulations.

Social justice advocates campaign to create an environment where they can monopolize higher education administration and the professoriate for themselves.

Next, the social justice cadres seize control of general education requirements. At Barton College, students must take a course in Intercultural Perspectives.

At East Carolina University, they force students to acquire Global and Domestic Diversity Competencies.

At Davidson College, students must pay for one course in Cultural Diversity and another in Justice, Equality and Community—courses like Art, Activism, and Environment; Latinx Sexual Dissidence and Guerilla Translation; Oppression & Education; and Theatre for Social Justice.

Dictating these education requirements makes sure that students are subjected to social justice propaganda—and guarantees that more and more social justice educators get tenure-track jobs to teach these courses.

There are also whole departments in Social Justice dedicated to vocational training in left-wing activism.

Elon University boasts a Poverty and Social Justice Minor, and UNC-Chapel Hill a Social and Economic Justice Minor. Experiential learning courses throughout the academy replace classroom study with work for outside organizations, vocational training for left-wing activism. At UNC-Chapel Hill, experiential learning means courses like Environmental Advocacy and Social and Economic Justice. Experiential learning gets called civic engagement, service learning, global learning—whatever the name, you get course credit to learn how to be an activist.

Outside the classroom, a host of higher education administrators impose social justice through the so-called “co-curriculum”—offices such as Student Life, Residential Life, First Year Experience, Service Learning, and Diversity. So at Appalachian State University, the Division of Student Affairs pays for the Intersect Social Justice Retreat, “designed to help educate participants about the concepts of social justice and leadership through exploration of their own stories, the stories of others, and issues of oppression and privilege.” At Duke, the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity funds the Cook Center Media Workshop, in which students “direct, edit and produce videos that highlight issues of social and economic inequality in North Carolina.”

Tomorrow, everyone who works for a university will be a social justice advocate. University job advertisements increasingly require commitment to social justice.

Davidson College’s advertisement for an Assistant Director for Civic Engagement declared that the job “focuses on the intersection of civic engagement and social justice issues.” UNC Greensboro wants an Assistant Professor of Program Evaluation “whose research agendas will have clear connections to equity, diversity, inclusion, social justice, or cultural responsiveness.” All jobs in higher education will be reserved for the small minority of the country that believes in social justice theory.

Social justice makes higher education half 1984 and half Tammany Hall, self-criticism sessions out of Mao’s China all mixed up with jobs for the boys.

The National Association of Scholars gives Americans a series of recommendations at the end of our report, Social Justice Education in America, about how to defend higher education from social justice advocates. The most important suggestion is to recognize that we face a nationwide movement to impose social justice orthodoxy and train social justice activists.

We also need to know that their tactics aim above all to secure stable careers for social justice advocates. Our own tactics have to aim at disrupting higher education’s ability to sustain social justice careers. Above all, state legislatures should use their powers to keep social justice advocates from securing safe careers in our public universities. We don’t need to remove every social justice advocate from higher education. We just need to shift incentives, so that the average would-be social justice advocate decides to pursue a different career. If we can manage that, half the battle is won.


Monday, December 16, 2019

British school bans hoodies as they 'intimidate' younger pupils

A secondary school has banned all of its pupils from wearing hoodies as they claim that younger students are intimidated by them.

Teachers at Brune Park Community School in Gosport, Hampshire, noticed that older pupils were using the clothes to hide their identities in the playground during break times.

Mike Jones, the deputy headteacher, was worried that the younger, smaller students were daunted by these groups of teenagers who roamed the school premises with hoodies on.

Pupils wearing hoodies emblazoned with inappropriate images- such as of cannabis plants- were of particular concern as they were thought to be lowering the image of the school.

Mr Jones said that the new policy, launched this term, would help to reduce the “negative impression” the garments left on some members of the local community.

He explained: “When you have large 15 and 16-year-olds wandering around in hoodies it can be quite intimidating, particularly for younger pupils. Some of these hoodies also have inappropriate images such as cannabis plants which creates the wrong impression.

“When hoods are up it can become difficult to identify students which can be an issue if an incident has occurred,” he added.

However, the new rules have been criticised by students who claim that staff have created a “dictatorship” at the school.

Ruben Sekules, a Year 9 pupil, said: “I do not see a problem with pupils wearing hoodies and it wouldn't affect how I work. One teacher said it was because a number of former pupils had come into school wearing hoodies and they make it difficult to identify people on site. However, most coats have hoods which can also hide faces.”

Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “This school is slowly becoming a dictatorship”.

The school continues to defend the policy, saying it will help “prepare young people for later life”.

Mr Jones said: “A student wearing a hoodie in their English lesson is not going to affect their academic performance, but the simple fact is it is a leisure garment, with no weather protection, and most careers will have some form of uniform code. I often speak about this in assembly and stress that in years to come you wouldn't choose to meet clients while dressed in a hoodie.”

Students who choose to defy the ban will have their hoodies confiscated.


DeVos’s Useful Reform in Federal Student Financial Aid


The single most destructive thing that has happened to higher education in America is the federal student aid (FSA) programs of the past 50 years. Because of FSA, student higher education costs have soared, learning has declined, and higher educational attainment among lower income Americans, those who FSA was designed to help, has deteriorated in a relative sense. If America’s worst enemies wanted to weaken future generations of Americans, they could hardly do more damage than has been done by FSA.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, along with Bill Bennett, the best of our Secretaries of Education, is abundantly aware of this and wants changes. In a speech to student financial aid administrators today, she has proposed some useful reforms designed to simplify FSA for student applicants as well as improve the abysmal administration of the program.

Specifically, DeVos wants to turn the FSA bureaucracy into an independent government corporation probably somewhat similar to the Federal Reserve, ultimately accountable to the public (unlikely the fiendishly designed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) but free from daily control by politicians controlling the managers of the Department of Education. DeVos is that rare leader who actually wants to reduce her own power and the number of minions reporting to her at her redoubt in the heart of the Washington swamp.

Something needs to be done. Let me quote from DeVos’s speech today talking about the complexity of our FSA offerings: “Eight different repayment plans...each with different eligibility requirements. More than 30 variations of deferment and forbearance options. Fourteen forgiveness options. And 11 different servicers, all with totally separate websites....”

Think that is bad: it gets much worse. As DeVos puts it, “Is it any surprise...that both principal and interest are currently being paid down for only one in four loans? Nearly 11 million borrowers have loans that are delinquent or in default? And 43% of all loans are considered ‘in distress’?”

Almost everyone thinks the system needs major reform. Government has failed in its task, so DeVos wants to reduce its role, making FSA less governmental, more like lending in the vibrant private financial service sector. Why can’t FSA be more like, say, JP Morgan Chase or the Bank of America? Why can’t a bureaucracy that for at least a dozen years hasn’t been able to do something as modest as simplifying the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form just go away and let someone else try to institute some sanity into FSA?

Is the DeVos proposal perfect? Absolutely not – indeed, far from it. However, perfection is not possible in the governance environment of today’s America. In a perfect world, we would support more (or only) private financing of student aid. We would make schools have skin in the game. We would impose minimal academic standards on borrowers. We would support non-degree certificated program participation. We would offer alternatives to borrowing, such as income share agreements.

The devil is in the details, and the DeVos speech does not give all of them. Merely turning federal student aid administration away from one federal bureaucracy (the Department of Education) to another (an independent corporation) will not wipe out all the problems endemic to rent-seeking public employment in a non-competitive environment with little or no market discipline. That said, however, adoption of this proposal (unfortunately unlikely in a bitterly partisan Congress to a considerable extent obsessed mainly with impeaching DeVos’s boss) could lead to some useful reforms: simplification of the FSA process, introduction of some modest commercial type banking standards, etc.

I once had a dream where I decreed a four step plan for the Department of Education. First, declare it out of business and order all employees and others to move safely away from its Maryland Avenue headquarters. Second, have the Air Force bomb the building out of existence. Third, have the Army Corps of Engineers clear away the debris. Fourth, build something genuinely promoting learning and wisdom, perhaps an extension of the Smithsonian Institution’s nearby Air and Space Museum. I think Betsy DeVos would join me in celebrating the department’s demise. In the short run, however, taking a baby step in that direction would be useful.


Semester of violence: physical attacks on conservative college students keep piling up

It’s not safe to be openly conservative on campus.  When a conservative activist with MAGA gear was hit in the face with a brutal haymaker at UC Berkeley earlier this year, it was caught on camera and became fodder for national headlines.

It was also no outlier.

Throughout this fall semester, conservative activists at campuses across the nation have continued to be physically attacked — and had their displays destroyed — by aggressive student peers inflamed by right-of-center messaging.

Just during the last month at least two College Republicans have been hit in the face and a third incident saw campus conservatives surrounded by an aggressive mob that trashed their display and got right in their faces, spewing vulgarity. And these were just the ones caught on camera.

“Over the last semester myself and the members of the Chico State Republicans have been spat on, battered, assaulted, followed around campus, sexually harassed, and even mobbed by 300 students at once. This is the kind of environment that has been created by the modern day college campus,” Chico State College Republicans President Michael Curry told The College Fix.

Attack at Sacramento State

Most recently, the former president of the Sacramento State College Republicans was physically attacked. Floyd Johnson, who served as president of the Sac State campus Republican group for a year and a half, was assaulted last week by fellow student Keaton Hill. That confrontation was caught on video and viral.

The two students had verbally sparred over politics on Facebook the night before the altercation, The Sacramento Bee reports. The following morning, Hill reportedly cursed at Johnson as the former was leaving a class the two attended together. Johnson and a friend confronted Hill near the exit of the building while filming the exchange, after which Hill appeared to assault Johnson several times.

The video shows Hill taking multiple swings at Johnson, claiming the former College Republicans president was harassing him.

Speaking to the campus newspaper The State Hornet, Hill said: “I apologize for lunging at Floyd’s phone, although I strongly emphasize that it was not without provocation.” University police told the Bee that charges against Hill are pending “while the department’s investigation continues.”

Attempts to reach the two students involved in the altercation were unsuccessful. Sacramento State spokeswoman Anita Fitzhugh told The College Fix via email that the school is “a space where the free exchange of ideas is encouraged and protected.”

“We are committed to providing a safe and caring environment where everyone feels secure expressing their opinions and beliefs. Violence on our campus is not tolerated. In today’s increasingly tense political climate, we must care for each other and treat one another with respect,” she wrote.

On Facebook, university President Robert Nelsen also said that “no one should ever be physically attacked” on his college’s campus.

Yet a recent video posted on Twitter last weekend shows tensions — and apparently open-palmed slapping — have not yet ceased on campus.

Responses from university officials on these issues have ranged from denouncing the activity — to punishing the conservative students.

In mid-November at Binghamton University in New York, the school’s College Republicans chapter held a table event promoting an upcoming speaking engagement with famed economist Art Laffer, the father of supply-side economics. Video emerged showing a large crowd of angry students screaming at members of the club and ripping their materials from the table.

At one point in the footage a young woman gets very close to a student videotaping the incident and asks her, angrily and repeatedly: “Why are you shaking? Steady yourself! Steady yourself!…Smile more! Smile more! With teeth! Teeth!”

“The fact that ya’ll are even comfortable to do this means that we’re not doing enough,” one student says. Another tells the conservative students: “You’re never gonna be able to table again. You’re never gonna be able to do this again.”

In the aftermath of the incident, Binghamton, which did not respond to queries from The College Fix, announced that the College Republicans had not followed the proper procedures for holding a tabling event and would face discipline.

The same statement acknowledged that the students in the crowd had violated the school’s code of student conduct, but declined to identify and discipline those students, citing the divisive nature of the table’s content.

Also, Laffer’s lecture was shut down by unruly protestors.

Physical destruction

At the University of Michigan in October, meanwhile, a student largely destroyed an information table set up by the conservative student group Turning Point USA. After accusing the club of engaging in “hate speech” and ripping up the club’s materials and throwing them in the trash, the student took a marker and threatened to write on one of the members of the club. After police were called, the vandal quickly left.

A university spokesman told The College Fix last month that officials are aware of the incident and that it was under investigation. Subsequent requests for an update have not been returned.

In October, the University of California, Riverside chapter of Turning Point USA held an event promoting gun rights. Calling the club “criminally negligent” for its advocacy, a student took a sign from the display and crushed it in half. The sign, which had featured images of several firearms, displayed the slogan: “I’m Pro-Choice. Pick Your Gun.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to queries from The College Fix about the incident.

A Turning Point USA spokesman told The College Fix in an email that the organization is “incredibly proud of how our students and staff have performed in the face of some very challenging circumstances.”

“Our organization works to facilitate peaceful debate and robust discussion on campus and we will continue to train our chapters with best practices on how to avoid any physical conflict. No student should ever feel in danger of being physically attacked, especially when participating in a university sanctioned event like tabling,” spokesman Andrew Kolvet said.

“These most recent incidents are just the latest in a long line of campus bullying and intimidation targeting conservatives and they should serve as a wake up call to all universities that they must take these threats extremely seriously just as they would for any other targeted campus community,” he added.

‘All Lives Matter’ causes activist to assault student

As for Curry at Chico State University, his story is an example in which vandalism crosses the line into physical assault.

That November incident involved the College Republicans as they promoted an event with Brandon Straka, the founder of #WalkAway, a group critical of the modern Democratic party. One video of the tabling effort shows a female student trashing the table and swearing at the club members.

In another video, a female protestor stands across from the club’s information table holding a sign that says “black trans lives matter.” At one point in the video, Curry walks over to her and stands next to her with a sign that reads “all lives matter.” Upon reading his sign, she rips it from his hands, slaps him in the face with it and said “get the fuck out of my fucking space.”


Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Conservative Definition of Diversity

Conservatives have always believed in diversity.  It is enforcing diversity and restricting diversity to racial diversity that conservatives object to. Some intellectual diversity on campus would be really great

Are conservatives against the campus diversity administrative machine or are they opposed to diversity itself?

The argument in favor of the former seems like an easy one. Ever since debates over affirmative action heated up in the ‘60s and ‘70s, conservative groups and publications—this Center included—have marshalled an impressive array of data, stories, and philosophical arguments in favor of merit-based acceptance of students into college and against what seems like artificial boosterism that leads to unintended and negative consequences—even for the beneficiaries of affirmative action themselves.

However, there is a great difference between elite conservatives and the rightwing “man on the street.” The fact that Turning Point USA, one of the most popular conservative student groups, repeatedly gets caught in scandals involving support for white supremacy and open and covert bigotry toward their fellow citizens means that too many young conservatives hear conservative leaders rallying against the liberal conception of “diversity” and think they mean diversity as such.

It’s more than odd or embarrassing that this is the case—it’s tragic. Ever since the rise of modernity in the form of the French Revolution, conservative thinkers of all stripes and across the globe argued fiercely for the diversity and variety of human life against the pulverizing flattening of modernity and of progressive thinking.

Edmund Burke famously railed against the French destruction of its local traditions and regional identities in favor of mathematical d√©partements. British conservatives fought for local variety in their country in the nineteenth century against the utilitarians seeking to flatten everything based on mathematical formulas. America’s own conservative movement in the ‘50s arose against the crushing political conformity of that era. All throughout, conservatives everywhere celebrated or at least tolerated a degree of human variety as a bulwark against uniformity and as an expression of human wonder and growth.

One would think, then, that the now-dominant liberal idea of diversity, while not necessarily aligning with conservative views, would be a welcome sight and a matter of negotiation between the two sides rather than an all-out war.

We may not agree with the Millian approach arguing for constant disruptive social experiments or the Marxian obsession with power relations among groups one can see nowadays, but that is a matter of the practice and parameters, not the overall principle.

So why is this not the case? Why do conservatives not actively celebrate diversity and variety in a way that aligns with their own principles?

There is of course the sad and tragic reality that some on “our side” oppose diversity measures because they oppose diversity, period. This includes a belief that being “too open” to people around the world could result in America’s losing its identity and Republican unease at other kinds of diversity in American life. The questions of how many diversity opponents exist, and how influential are they, does not erase their reality and presence. Dealing with them is unpleasant, but necessary.

Another reason is the nostalgia throughout the United States for the same conformist and non-diverse era of the ‘50s, for various reasons (conservatives due to the relative social stability and prosperity, liberals due to the power of unions and other groups). Arguing in favor of diversity seems like an argument for chaos against the backdrop of a longing for a “simpler time,” even if many conservatives themselves found that time quite stifling.

Even if we set aside those issues, conservatives would see very little in common between their idea of diversity and variety and the liberal conception.

The conservative idea of diversity is not as easy to define as the liberal one; the latter is based on an easily applicable formula of groups broken down by race, gender, and class. The liberal approach is also often laser-focused on just a few issues concerning those groups—fairness, justice, equality, power relations.

Important as those issues are, they are not all that man is. And traditional conservatives are interested in variety not (only) as a means to correct previous injustices but because they see wisdom and value in the existence and interplay of different human groups from different times, places, and origins as such. Sometimes the differences can be understood and explained—such as differences in religion or language—and sometimes they are more instinctive, such as habits or superstitions.

A liberal will be interested in a black man or woman on account of their race and past mistreatment. They will often discuss this in depth. A conservative will go further—what local culture do they hail from? What interests do they have? What do we share in common and what not? What interest do they have in the great ideas formed by great but flawed men of the west or east? A conservative who values diversity would seek to understand the individual before him—not discounting immutable parts of their person, but not considering them the whole story, either.

The result of the liberal view of diversity is ironically quite homogenizing—all black and brown Americans are a hivemind, all gay men and women have (or should have) the same values, working-class people all have the same interests, and so on. Even when more subgroups of diversity are created within liberal-approved groups, they tend to be no less uniform. The old centralizing instinct of modernity, with its exact formulas and rigid boundaries, is very much in force.

What is true of groups across America is true of localities too. Conservatives the world over placed and place a strong emphasis on the importance of local variety and tradition—whether it be the small towns of the past, the ethnic communities in cities of the present, or whatever forms it may take in the future.

For the conservative supporter of diversity, “Let New York be New York and let the Midwest be the Midwest” is not just a slogan, but a real principle.

All this very much applies to universities and colleges. Especially in our time, when higher education is the lot of the average American rather than an exclusive place for the rich and privileged one (in the original sense), conservative supporters of diversity would celebrate the emergence of a whole range of approaches to teaching and learning of the human condition to fit the spectrum of Americans. The Ivy Leagues could teach one way, local colleges and universities another (or others). Much like we encourage variety in elementary and secondary education through school choice, we should do so in colleges—as William Buckley himself recommended in God and Man at Yale.

As a whole, liberals operate in the other direction. The national and liberal-dominated media either crushes or supplants local outlets. The liberal-dominated Ivy League often dictates agendas and gets most of the attention of elites at the expense of many fine schools elsewhere. Student groups get attention in direct proportion to their service to a very exacting and increasingly radical and rigid agenda. Anyone who doesn’t march to the tune gets marginalized or ignored.

Conservatives have a real opportunity here to pick up the slack and promote a vision of diversity within colleges which is more robust and less claustrophobic. They can cultivate friendly colleges and universities as healthy breeding grounds for their kind of thinking instead of constantly trying to beg for scraps from liberal-dominated institutions.

Conservative groups can seek out those minority students and student groups (and many exist throughout America’s campuses) who seek many of the same things conservatives care about—not just free markets and limited government, but virtue, tradition, and human enrichment, as well as the building or rebuilding of forgotten communities and associations. Rather than view Americans who are different as ipso facto hostile, a conservatism friendly to diversity would seek out and learn from the full richness of American life for its own purposes, in ways it does and does not understand.

Conservatives have a choice to make: Do they wish to be a group that appeals solely to one very specific group of Americans against everyone else, as the left often claims, or do they wish to show liberals and America as a whole that, when it comes to diversity, conservatives prize it no less and perhaps more than their opponents?

The answer starts on the great meeting ground of budding and curious human minds—the college campus.


The Majors that Pay and the Degrees that Don’t for Graduates

The College Scorecard, a Department of Education initiative that publishes data on student debt and earnings after graduation for thousands of schools, just got a major update. Previously, the Scorecard’s major shortcoming was that it only reported data at the institution level—so we could see how much a typical graduate from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill earns, but not how much an engineering major earns relative to an education major.

Since the payoff of a college education varies wildly by field of study, the usefulness of this dataset to students was limited.

No longer. Last Wednesday, the Department unveiled a new edition of the Scorecard which allows prospective students to view these outcomes data by both institution and program. The updated Scorecard publishes a dashboard geared toward prospective students, as well as comprehensive files to help researchers and journalists analyze the data en masse. The data includes median student debt and median earnings after graduation for some 41,000 programs.

While the data have limitations—debt and earnings figures are suppressed for small programs due to privacy concerns, and the earnings data only reflects the first year of student income after graduation—the new Scorecard will do much to advance our knowledge of student debt and earnings across tens of thousands of educational programs.

For instance, in the average bachelor’s degree program, students leave school with a debt burden equal to about 80 percent of their salary in the first year after graduating college.

The debt burden for master’s degree programs is about 86 percent of earnings. But for first-professional degrees such as law and medicine, median debt is much worse: it is equal to about 257 percent of earnings after graduation.

Undergraduate Majors Have Different Earnings, But Similar Debt

Most undergraduates can expect to earn more than they owe after leaving school. Partially, this situation is thanks to the federal government capping its loans to undergraduates; a dependent student pursuing a bachelor’s degree can borrow no more than $31,000. For this reason, median student debt varies little across undergraduate programs. At UNC-Chapel Hill, for instance, the median student in almost all majors with data available has a debt burden below $20,000, and no major incurs debt above $23,000.

But debt-to-earnings ratios vary substantially across college majors because the median earnings by major are so different.

At UNC-Chapel Hill, the median graduate in computer science earns $71,000 after graduation, easily enough to repay a median loan balance of $14,691. At the other end of the spectrum, the median student who majors in one of the Romance languages earns just $19,800 after graduation. His outstanding debt of $16,558 is almost equal to his starting salary.

For students worried about their ability to pay back their loans, it is difficult to overstate the importance of choosing a major. At UNC-Chapel Hill, debt-to-earnings ratios vary from an easily manageable 21 percent in computer science to 84 percent in the Romance languages.

For those students without the technological chops to major in computer science, other majors still yield a respectable first-year salary relative to the debt incurred. These include economics (with a debt-to-earnings ratio of 30 percent), human resources management (37 percent), nursing (39 percent), and even political science (48 percent).

For Many Graduate Programs, Earnings Don’t Justify Cost

The story becomes more complicated at the graduate level, where there is no cap on federal student loans. Students can borrow up to the cost of attendance, as defined by the institution, which effectively means that federal loans to graduate students are unlimited. Such lax lending standards—coupled with income-based repayment programs that promise generous student loan forgiveness for high-balance borrowers—have caused some truly eye-popping prices for certain graduate programs.

Credentials such as law and medicine incur extremely high debt-to-earnings ratios; the average ratio for these degrees is 257 percent. In other words, the median doctor or lawyer has student debt equal to over two and a half times his starting salary. Medical residencies probably account for low earnings relative to debt burdens for newly minted doctors, but it’s harder to explain away such high debt-to-earnings ratios for law graduates.

A handful of law schools (mostly elite ones such as Harvard and Penn) have debt-to-earnings ratios below 100 percent. But most lawyers owe far more in student debt than they earn in the first year after graduating law school.

Graduates of some law programs, such as American University, Howard University, and a number of for-profit schools, owe three or more times what they earn. While it’s possible that their earnings will go up in future years, the first-year statistics don’t look pretty.

Even at the master’s level, debt-to-earnings ratios can be extremely high. As for undergraduates, field of study matters enormously.

For instance, the 30 master’s degree programs in general computer and information sciences in the Scorecard dataset have a median debt-to-earnings ratio of 49 percent. Those programs all have a respectable payoff: No master’s degree in computer and information sciences has median earnings below $50,000, and the most lucrative (the University of California-Los Angeles) returns median earnings of $122,000.

Contrast computer and information sciences with one of the worst master’s degrees for graduate earnings: film and photographic arts. Even the best master’s program in film yields median earnings of just $36,000. What’s more, there is little correlation between an institution’s brand name and the earning power of its film degrees. Even at the Ivy League’s Columbia University, median earnings for the master’s in film are just $25,400.

But the true scandal for master’s degrees in film is the debt that students take on. Every single film program in the Scorecard has a debt-to-earnings ratio of 150 percent or higher.

At New York City’s esteemed private universities, Columbia University and New York University, the median film student takes on over $150,000 in federal student loans. At Columbia, the debt-to-earnings ratio for the master’s degree in film is—and this is not a typo—690 percent. In other words, students graduating in that program can expect to owe nearly seven times what they earn in the first year after graduation.

What Happens Next?

Such egregious debt-to-earnings ratios ought to convince Congress that it’s time to place some commonsense caps on federal loans to graduate students. There is truly no excuse for taxpayers to continue to finance programs that cost so much, with such an abysmal earnings payoff.

While it’s wrong for the government to allow students to take on such astronomical debt burdens, taxpayers are also likely to take a hit, since the promise of loan forgiveness for high-balance borrowers will fall on the federal government’s shoulders.

Barring Congressional action, the release of the new Scorecard data will also allow the fourth branch of government to do its job. Journalists and policy analysts can use the data to “name and shame” programs with outrageous debt-to-earnings ratios, such as the master’s in film at Columbia.

A recent study found that the 2017 release of program-level data on for-profit colleges drove institutions to close hundreds of poorly performing programs. Perhaps now that the Department has aired nonprofit institutions’ dirty laundry, the embarrassment will lead some schools to scuttle their lowest-return degrees.

If nothing else, that will validate the countless hours the Department has invested in developing the updated Scorecard dataset. Transparency is a powerful tool to discipline the higher education marketplace and improve outcomes for students and taxpayers, so it’s heartening to see the Department deploy it. Let’s hope various stakeholders—students, institutions, journalists, and policymakers—will take advantage of this new information.


Expert: 'I’m not so sure that I trust government' on student loans

Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos turned heads this week by suggesting that the $1.5 trillion federal student loan portfolio should be managed by a new federal agency.

Although this seems like a potential solution to the serious pushback for the large number of outstanding student loans, one expert argued that this isn’t the way to do it.

DeVos is “looking at it and saying this is a no-win situation for [her] department,” Geltrude & Company Founder Daniel Geltrude told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move. “So the best way for [her] to handle is to push it somewhere else. Now, that could be the right answer if they have the ability to do a better job, but I'm not so sure that I trust government to really be able to get this situation under control.”

Geltrude, who calls himself America’s Accountant, added: “I would actually like to see this become privatized and have a little bit more oversight.”

An ‘untamed beast’

Speaking earlier this week at a conference in Reno, Nevada, hosted by the department’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) — which manages the vast majority of outstanding student loans — DeVos laid out her argument to spin off that office into a new agency.

“Since the federal government inserted itself everywhere in student lending, everything has become more cumbersome and more confusing for everyone,” Devos said. “Congress might've created the first financial aid program, but it set in motion an untamed beast.”

To make the FSA provide better services for borrowers, and to act “like a world-class financial firm” since it is effectively “the country’s biggest consumer lender” because of its trillion-dollar portfolio, DeVos suggested making the FSA “a standalone government corporation, run by a professional, expert, and apolitical Board of Governors.”

“Congress never set up the U.S. Department of Education to be a bank, nor did it define the Secretary of Education as the nation's ‘top banker’,” she added. “But that's effectively what Congress expects based on its policies.”

DeVos’ underlying belief — that the FSA requires serious reform — was echoed earlier this year by A. Wayne Johnson, who resigned as COO of the organization. Johnson told Yahoo Finance that the system in place today is “an abomination that’s in plain sight.”