Friday, March 29, 2024

Tuition at these elite New England universities will hit eye-popping $90,000 a year this fall

"Soak the rich" prices

Several elite New England universities will cost students a jaw-dropping $90,000 a year beginning this fall — with more schools expected to follow suit, according to a report.

Boston University, Tufts, Wellesley, and Yale — among the top private colleges in the country — will begin charging the nearly six-figure sum a year for tuition, housing and other expenses, according to the schools’ admissions websites, The Boston Globe reported.

Just six years ago, families were in an uproar when the annual price at schools like BU, Tufts, Harvard and Amherst college all topped $70,000 — and costs have continued to skyrocket.

“There’s always a huge psychological impact to these thresholds,” Sandy Baum, senior fellow in the Center on Education Data and Policy at the Urban Institute, told The Globe. “I remember when it went above $50,000, and people were just in shock.”

A number of other Boston-area colleges have yet to update their already steep tuition and fees for the 2024-2025 academic year, but are also expected to raise their prices for the fall semester, according to the paper.

At Boston University, the price tag includes $66,670 in tuition, $19,020 for housing and food and the cost of books and other fees for a whopping total of $90,207 for the 2024-2025 academic year.

That represents a 42% jump from 10 years ago where the total cost was $63,644, The Globe reported.

Cost of attendance at Tufts in Medford will be $91,888, according to estimates on the school’s website. Yale University in New Haven, Conn. will cost $90,975 next year.

Other schools nearing the eye-popping $90,0000 threshold for the 2024-2025 school year include Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. which costs $89,824; Amherst College in Amherst, Mass. at $88,210; and Massachusetts Institute of Technology at $85,960.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, Harvard charged $79,540 — which reportedly jumped to roughly $87,450 when expenses such as books were factored in. At Boston College, the all-in cost was $89,955 and Northeastern University was $86,821.

Fortunately, most students won’t be paying the full listing price thanks to financial aid and scholarships.

BU, for instance, will dish out $425 million in financial aid for the next academic year, school spokesperson Colin Riley told The Globe.

That need-based aid is “guaranteed for four years with BU Scholarship Assurance,” he said.

About 56% of BU’s students receive financial aid in some form, with the average aid package amounting to around $67,000, Riley said.

“Because this is an average, some of the neediest students paid $0, and others paid more,” he told the paper.


More States Make Progress on School Choice

Several states are making progress empowering their citizens with access to education freedom and opportunity.

Earlier this month, Alabama became the 15th state in the nation to enact a program providing education savings accounts and the 10th state to enact universal education choice.

Last week, South Carolina and Louisiana took steps to become the 11th and 12th states to make every K­-12 student eligible for education choice.

The South Carolina House of Representatives voted 69-32 on Wednesday to pass a bill to expand eligibility for the state’s education savings account policy to all K-12 students. Eligibility is currently limited only to students from low-income families.

South Carolina Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver celebrated the bill’s passage in the House, calling it “a HUGE step forward” in a post on X and “a win for students and families.”

That same day, the Louisiana Senate’s Education Committee voted 5-2 to advance a bill that would create a scholarship program called Louisiana Giving All True Opportunity to Rise, or LA GATOR.

The bill, SB 313, is sponsored by state Sen. Rick Edmonds and is the companion bill to HB 745 in the House, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Emerson. Both are Republicans.

Louisiana’s new Republican governor, Jeff Landry, campaigned on school choice and his education council proposed that state policymakers should, among other goals, “Ensure that parents are granted flexibility in their child’s education.”

Three other states also are making progress on school choice, although their proposals are not as robust as in Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, or a dozen other states.


With Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature last week, Wyoming became the 16th state in the nation to adopt an education savings account policy. With an ESA, families may choose learning environments that align with their values and work best for their children.

In the Cowboy State, families will be eligible for $6,000 to use for private school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, school supplies, online learning, and more.

This is a small but significant step in the right direction. It could have been a much larger step, however.

The bill sent by the Legislature to the Republican governor made families eligible for an education savings account if they earned up to 500% of the federal poverty level, or $156,000 for a family of four. That’s the equivalent of the combined average salaries of a Wyoming firefighter married to a registered nurse.

However, Gordon used his line-item veto to modify the eligibility criteria so that families are eligible only if they earn no more than 150% of the federal poverty level, or just $46,800 for a family of four. That means that the typical nurse or firefighter alone wouldn’t qualify.

In his letter explaining his veto, Gordon said a provision of the Wyoming Constitution requires that such programs be limited to the poor. Article XVI, Section 6 states that neither the state nor any local government shall “[l]oan or give its credit or make donations to or in aid of any individual, association or corporation, except for necessary support of the poor.”

However, education savings accounts are neither loans nor donations, but rather a fulfillment of the state’s constitutional obligation to provide citizens with educational opportunities.

As Article I, Section 23 of the Wyoming Constitution declares: “The right of the citizens to opportunities for education should have practical recognition.” No other policy yet devised provides families with greater educational opportunities than education savings accounts.


The Peach State is on the cusp of becoming the 17th state to offer education savings accounts.

Last year, 16 Republican state legislators voted against a bill to create education savings accounts. This year, eight of those recalcitrant Republicans switched their votes to support the education choice bill.

After the bill passed both chambers in slightly different forms, a conference committee resolved differences and sent the bill to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature. Kemp is expected to sign it soon.

Unfortunately, the conference committee failed to fix the proposal’s flawed “failing schools” eligibility criteria.

The Georgia Promise Scholarship Act would limit eligibility to K-12 students assigned to the lowest-performing 25% of district schools in the state. As I noted earlier this month, the “failing schools” model for an eligibility mechanism is unsound:

First, a child’s access to a quality education should not depend on the average performance of a nearby district school. A school that is high performing on average nevertheless may not be the right fit for a particular child who is assigned to it.

Why should a child’s access to a quality education be dependent on the average level of performance of his or her peers in that school?

Second, the ‘failing schools’ model is unnecessarily confusing for parents. Parents often don’t know if they live in an area where their students are eligible.

Moreover, as district schools frequently move in and out of the bottom 25%, the eligible zones also will shift frequently, making it even harder for parents to keep track of which areas are eligible. It will be incumbent upon local school choice groups to ensure that families know about their education options.

Three years ago, Kansas state lawmakers changed eligibility for their state’s education choice policy from a “failing schools” model to a means-tested one, precisely for these reasons.

After learning this lesson in the school of experience, Georgia lawmakers probably will do likewise in the coming years.

New Hampshire

Earlier this month, the New Hampshire House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to expand eligibility for the state’s Education Freedom Accounts.

Eligibility currently is limited to students from families earning up to 350% of the federal poverty level, or $109,200 for a family of four. Under HB 1665, sponsored by state Rep. Glenn Cordelli, a Republican, students from families earning up to 500% of the federal poverty level, or $156,000 for a family of four, would be eligible.

That’s about the equivalent of the income of a typical commercial pilot married to a typical school counselor in New Hampshire.

In his annual State of the State address, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, encouraged the state Legislature to send the bill to his desk in the state capital, Concord.

The state’s families, Sununu said, “are singing the praises of Concord for finally passing Education Freedom Accounts which are now ranked as the most effective and popular school choice program in America—and why passing HB 1665 to expand this program is a great opportunity for families.”

“Let’s get it done!” the governor urged.

Sununu is right to highlight the popularity of the education choice policy. According to the most recent monthly tracking poll by Morning Consult, education savings accounts have the support of two-thirds of Granite State citizens as well as three-fourths of parents of K-12 students.

New Hampshire parents are voting with their feet. Over the past academic year, the number of Education Freedom Accounts has grown a whopping 58%, from 3,025 accounts awarded in 2022-23 to 4,770 in 2023-24. That’s more growth per capita than any other state nationwide.

The state Senate will soon hear the bill, but local school choice advocates are concerned about rumors that some senators are looking to scale back the eligibility expansion. Such a move not only is unlikely to persuade any opponents of school choice to support Education Freedom Accounts, but it is also guaranteed to reduce public support.

In addition to souring supporters of the expansion bill who suddenly would discover that their children no longer were going to be eligible, studies repeatedly have shown that the public favors universal eligibility over targeted eligibility.

The organization EdChoice’s most recent Schooling in America survey found that 76% of the public supports education savings accounts that are available to all families, regardless of income, while only 54% support ESAs that are targeted based on financial need.

Some have argued for limiting program enrollment as a cost-saving measure, but—at best—that’s pennywise and pound foolish. The average value of an Education Freedom Account is currently $5,255, barely one-quarter of the average cost of over $20,000 per pupil enrolled in New Hampshire’s district schools.

Instead of curtailing the proposal, state lawmakers should go all in by making the education savings accounts available to all.


Government hostility to religious schools

So it appears that, after several more years of consultation, reviews and inquiries, Australia’s communities of faith will once again be disregarded, cast aside and left to fend for themselves in the land “beyond the wall”.

For those unfamiliar with the imagery, it comes from George R. R. Martin’s popular (and confronting) Game of Thrones literary series. In it, a giant ice wall is built to protect the land of Westeros from the horrors of the wintry north – primarily from the legendary dead army that is rumoured to be on the move. The only problem is that there are still humans who live beyond the wall, simple people, unaffectionately known as “Wildlings”. They are a free folk, a proud folk, with deep history, but fundamentally seen as lesser and cut off from the riches and protections of the mainland.

Such it seems is the view of religious people in Australia at this current point in history. Not only are we largely seen as backward and archaic by the elite ruling class, holding onto outdated superstitious beliefs, but also face repeated legislative raiding parties into our communities by state governments and activist media elements (who I like to refer to as the “Night’s Watch”).

This mentality is perhaps most evident when it comes to faith-based higher education, of which I run but a humble chiefdom. We are a significant minority in the Westerosian university landscape, and the inequality is increasingly blatant. Our Wildling students are forced to pay as much as four times the HECS fees of the city dwellers (despite our institutions often outperforming theirs); we have no access to the Maesters’ citadel (research funding and block grants), and our land rights are rapidly being eroded.

Take the example of the Queensland anti-discrimination bill introduced into the state’s parliament this month which strips faith-based educational institutions of the ability to employ staff who share their religious ethos and values – arguably the most oppressive laws in the land. We thought that those in the northern realms might at least have some empathy, but perhaps their long summers have made them complacent towards their devout Wildling brothers and sisters.

We have always felt, however, that we would be able to endure, particularly when those in King’s landing reassured us that we were indeed an important part of Westeros. We would be respected and left in peace, and when it came down to it, they would ensure our protection and survival. Indeed, the kings and queens on the revolving blood-splattered chair of political swords would even sometimes praise us from afar as we educated their children, looked after their poor and took care of their aged.

However, it now seems that, despite all the promises from the Iron Throne, that the protections will not be forthcoming. The Hand of the King (Australian Law Reform Commission) has advised that exemptions for religious educational institutions in the Sex Discrimination Act should be removed. Additionally, the High King of the eight kingdoms has now also indicated the Religious Discrimination Bill is to be dropped. Roughly translated, this means the Wildlings and their backwards ways are condemned. The long, dark night is upon us.

It is no shame to say that we hold a healthy fear of the army of the dead, or in our case the waves of frozen-eyed lawyers primed to overwhelm our educational institutions with litigation. We have already seen internationally that most cases of religious freedom involve educational institutions – where communities of individual Wildlings who hold the sacred values of marriage, or maleness and femaleness, or that life is sacred, are cast out to wander the wilderness.

One idea that has been discussed in our villages is that perhaps we should all just attempt to clamber back over the wall into Westeros, tell our communities to walk out and enrol in the already underfed public schools south of the wall. I anticipate, however, that there would not be enough food to feed us all.

The real question, therefore, is: does the Iron Throne and its multitude of cunning advisers genuinely want diversity in Westeros? By that I mean diversity of perspectives, cultures and opinion. Or are they seeking a monoculture which ensures every inhabitant bends the knee to whoever controls the ideology of the day?

If it is the latter, then the free folk will always be a thorn in the side of any ruler. Whatever the Wildling tribe – whether it be Christian, Islamic, Judaic or just individuals who covet the free life – the reality is that they won’t ever bend the knee to anyone who is not the True King of Westeros and beyond. Our allegiance and salvation does not rest with men and women – thank God.

All we Wildlings really pray for is the opportunity to live in peace, to educate our young people, freely associate, and serve where our help is accepted. Unfortunately, in this current wintry climate beyond the wall, that is by no means assured.




Tuesday, March 26, 2024

College savings should start in kindergarten and kids should be involved: financial expert

With the cost of college on the rise plus an unstable debt load, the best thing parents can do is to set children up for financial success — and that can start as early as the kindergarten years.

Gregg Murset, CEO of BusyKid, a chore app that provides kids with debit cards and financial education, believes the best way to avoid "digging yourself into a hole of debt" is by starting the saving process much earlier.

And while this may sound like a task for the parents, it's also something the kids should get involved with, according to Murset, who is based in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"I think it's really important that not only the parents start thinking about this, but the kids start thinking about it, too, because who made the rules that it's all up to the parents to pay for college anyway? I don't like that rule," Murset told FOX Business.

The best way to avoid empty wallets or anxiety surrounding pricey college tuition is for parents to consider saving early because kids are not as expensive when they're younger, Murset said.

"Having lived through six children of my own and raising them, and most of them are gone now, they're much cheaper [in] the beginning," said the financial expert.

"So, it's actually smarter to start saving when they're little because they don't cost as much."

For Murset, it's not about how much the family is setting aside — but rather, the fact that consistent saving is taking place.

He suggested putting the amount into a growth mutual fund with a 20-year cut-off, and then start dollar cost averaging, so you can "set it and forget it."

While kids might be more excited about attending soccer camp or dance class and aren't thinking about college, it is still important for parents to start engaging in some sort of savings conversation when they are young. Murset suggested that the ages of 4 or 5 are not too soon to start.

"I'm a big believer that kids learn best about money by doing stuff," he said.

"They can read things, they can watch videos, but at the end of the day, they need that practical, visceral experience."

"You got to start that money conversation very young and let them practice. And they not only have to practice earning the money by actually working, but they have to learn what I call a ‘balanced financial approach.’"

Murset's "balanced financial approach" is about teaching kids to earn money, save, invest from savings — and then give some away.

"I know that seems counterintuitive, but you've got to teach them that the world is a bigger place than just them," he said.

A great place to start teaching your children about earning and savings is in your own home, by assigning them chores, said Murset. He calls this a "work-money connection."

"Not only are they going to learn how to work and get something done, but you're going to get your house clean," Murset said with a laugh.

Once they get the money that they earned, they must learn how to manage it, which is when the "balanced financial approach" comes into play.

For parents getting ready to send their children off to college, it is best to discuss how four years of college will be paid for while they're still in high school — so that they are not left shocked or anxious about their savings. Murset said this is the time to start exposing them to the reality of how much life costs.

"A lot of parents have this little bubble and they don't tell their kids anything, and everything's wonderful. And they're clueless, so you have to start teaching them by being more transparent," Murset said.

"This is easy, and it's actually fun," he added.

Murset advised asking kids to help figure out the cost of dinner at a restaurant, plus the tip, and they will start to realize that all things come with a price tag.

When a household's electric or auto insurance bills come in the mail, parents can show them how they're paying for these necessities — and they will quickly realize that life is not cheap, Murset said.


Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee expects a school choice 'revolution,' with parental rights a key 2024 election issue

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee says his state is joining what he views as a "revolution in America right now around school choice," as a $400 million bill to overhaul public school achievement testing and implement universal school choice advances in the state legislature.

Lee, who is also president of the Republican Governors Association this term, said the issue of school choice resonates nationally beyond just Tennessee during the 2024 presidential election year.

The governor explained in an interview with Fox News Digital that school choice, to him, is "really about freedom," noting how regarding matters of COVID-19 vaccines, books in public school libraries and classroom instruction, "parents on the left and right have very strong opinions about what that ought to look like."

"The only way to resolve those differences are [is] to give parents the choice so that they're not resolved to live with whatever, you know, some teacher or some classroom or some library or some educational school district believes that they ought to be," Lee said. "Most all of us Americans, not just elected officials, recognize that education is one of the top priorities when it comes to issues and what Americans care about."

"This is not a choice between school choice and public schools. We have a strong commitment in this state toward the improvement of our public school system. The vast majority of our kids are going to be educated in our public schools, even years after a choice initiative like our proposed legislation goes through," the governor added, responding to criticism that the proposal would divert resources from Tennessee's underfunded public schools. "We need to have the best public school systems. They need to be funded well. They need to be innovative and creative and part of the part of the legislation."

Lee said he’s observed an increased understanding among conservatives – but also from Americans more generally – that parents should be given the ability to impact what happens in their children’s education. He credited the pandemic, when remote learning gave parents insight into what gender and racial ideologies were included in public school curricula, as well as the resulting learning loss from keeping kids out of classrooms, as parents seek options to play catch-up several years later.

"I do believe there is a push in this country, especially among conservatives, for understanding how important freedom is – freedom in education, freedom in health decisions, freedom in what we do for our employment," he said. "We talk a lot about Tennessee being a place where people have access to opportunity and security and freedom. And as it relates to education, that is an Education Freedom Scholarship Act. And that's what we are really hopeful passes in this state in the next few weeks."

Despite some objections from state Democrats, the framework of Lee's proposal, included in House Bill 1183, advanced through the state House Government Operations Committee and was recommended to move forward to the state House Finance Subcommittee last week. As Lee enjoys a Republican super majority in both the Tennessee House and Senate, he said he expects a version of the legislation to pass after the final provisions are ironed out between chambers.

The current version of the bill in the House would increase payment for teacher health insurance from 45% to 60% – a measure intended to help rural districts retain quality teachers, as well as provide a $75-per-student infrastructure payment toward school facilities and maintenance and increase state funding for students in small and sparsely populated school districts, The Tennessean reported. It also allows for teacher and principal evaluations and state-mandated student testing to happen less often.

A corresponding version of the legislation in the state Senate, SB 0503, is estimated to cost about $250 million less than the House bill. But the upper chamber’s version would primarily focus on creating the governor's Education Freedom Scholarship program and opening inter-county school enrollment. It excludes the House bill’s provisions on teacher health insurance, evaluations and changes to testing requirements.

As the governor noted, school choice initiatives passed in states like Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma and Arkansas last year and more recently in Wyoming and Alabama. It’s also gaining momentum in Kentucky, North Carolina and Georgia, Lee said, and Florida and Indiana have multiple stages of school choice. Though it varies by state, Lee said they have the same premise that "the parent knows best."

In states like Texas, Lee said, it has cost candidates elections to oppose school choice.

Tennessee has one of the fastest-growing populations and one of the top-performing economies among all 50 states in recent years, Lee acknowledged, stating how the influx of families weighs in on school choice.

"We need to give parents more choices. And when we do, children are going to have much more options to be successful. And at the end of the day, that's what this is all about," Lee said. "It's not really political, even though it's a very conservative issue. But hey, look at the states that have Democrat governors are passing that choice now as well, because Americans are beginning to believe that this is about children and the future of our country. And we ought to do everything we can to challenge the status quo and get it and get a better outcome."


Torrens University pushes private sector path to higher education targets

Australia’s only for-profit university is besting its sandstone rivals in taking on more Aboriginal, female and poorer students, as its chancellor warns the nation will fail to meet the goals of a landmark review into higher education if doesn’t embrace a new model of private universities.

Torrens University chancellor Jim Varghese said the targets set out in the recent Universities Accord report – that 80 per cent of the population aged 25 to 34 should have at least a tertiary qualification and 55 per cent should have a university degree by 2050 – would not be possible with public institutions alone.

He has called for a shake-up of the tertiary sector, which has been dominated by government-funded institutions, arguing that without competitive private alternatives there will not be enough places. The Accord report estimates an additional 940,000 Commonwealth supported places will be required to reach the university attainment goal by 2050.

“It is not possible unless you get the private sector actively involved,” Mr Varghese said.

“Unless you have a private higher education sector working hand in glove in competition, it will become very bureaucratic, very difficult and we won’t reach that very ambitious and laudable target.”

As Australia’s only for-profit higher education institution with university status reaches its 10-year anniversary, a new Deloitte report has found Torrens University was already leading the way on the access and equity goals set out in the Accord’s final report ­released last month.

The report found 25 per cent of its students were from disadvantaged backgrounds, compared to 12 per cent of Group of Eight universities; 19 per cent were from regional areas, compared to 9 per cent at the Go8; and 3 per cent were Indigenous, compared to 1 per cent at sandstone universities.

It also found that Torrens ­University – which is owned by US company Strategic Education – had added $468.9m in value to the Australian economy and supported more than 3000 jobs, all without any investment from the government.

Torrens University president Linda Brown said it was the nation’s fastest-growing university, expanding from 165 to 24,000 students in a decade, and had built its brand by scrapping the requirement for an entry score, attracting non-traditional students and ­offering flexible study options.

She said the university also focused on offering degrees in high demand areas including health, nursing, hospitality, education and business, and was becoming a leader in artificial intelligence. “I believe that we should be allowing investors to invest in universities, all universities – people should be able to raise private money for public good,” she said.

“I also believe that individuals should put their hand in their pocket because they’re getting the return on investment and the ­benefit for that, so there should be more individual investment,” Ms Brown added. “And there should be government investment … one plus one plus one is much better than relying on funding from one source for 90 per cent of the market.”

Ms Brown said Torrens had attracted international students from 150 nationalities, warning Labor’s crackdown on student visa holders using the pathway to work rather than study could harm the nation’s reputation.

“We will manage whatever is coming, but this uncertainty or drip feeding of changes is not great for our reputation as a country for being open for business for international students,” she said.




The Growing Discontent With American Education

There is a growing discontent with American education. You can sense it swelling like a big wave, evidenced in a mix of troubling stats and trends from waning public perceptions of education to significant declines in enrollment and attendance. Students aren’t just talking about their discontent with education but walking it, too.

Enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities peaked in 2010 and has been on a steady decline since and more than a quarter of students in K-12 schools are now chronically absent. Certainly, many factors are at play here ranging from mental health issues and a pandemic hangover to technological disruption and a series of education policy debacles. But the ultimate culprit of our discontent may be the hardest of all to acknowledge and address. The brutal reality is that education isn’t exciting, engaging or relevant for far too many students.

It sounds harsh to say and even more difficult to write, but ‘exciting,’ ‘engaging’ and ‘relevant’ are not words often used to describe education. When asking students, parents or employers, we are more likely to hear descriptors such as ‘boring,’ ‘outdated,’ and ‘disconnected from the real world.’ Indeed, only 26% of U.S. adults who have experienced higher education strongly agree their coursework is relevant to their work and day-to-day life. And a mere 13% of K-12 students give their school an “A” grade on “making them excited about learning.”

One of the many outcomes of students who find little excitement or relevance in what they are learning is not just declining attendance but also employers of all shapes and sizes who say they can’t find the talent they are looking for. With nearly 10 million open jobs in the U.S. and a mere 11% of business leaders strongly agreeing graduates are well-prepared for work, we cannot afford to have an education discontent crisis.

While we have spent the better part of the last three decades focused on improving students’ standardized test scores, we’ve made effectively zero progress against this goal. The most heralded solution in recent memory for improving schools was ‘Common Core’ - which took a decade to roll-out and then faced repeal and backlash leading to no measurable result. And as we put more emphasis on ‘academic standards,’ we let students’ real world work experience atrophy as the least-working generation in U.S. history. At the higher ed level, less than a third of our graduates complete a work-integrated learning experience (such as an internship or a semester-long project) as part of their degree.

How does school remain relevant when it provides such little exposure to the real world of work? How does school compete with the engaging and addictive content found in modern-day media, video games and bite-size-length mediums such as X, TikTok, and YouTube shorts? How does school remain up to date amidst the fastest-moving technological and social changes in history? Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes to the great discontent with education. But we can start by establishing a new, fundamental goal for education.

Our aim should be to make education more engaging and relevant. This sounds so simplistic. Yet this has never been a stated goal of any education policy reform in the past half century. If we were to make this our driving goal, we would need to put much more emphasis on the art and science of teaching and learning and on the integration of learning and work. And we would need new ‘north stars’ or metrics for which to aim.

We have national institutes for all sorts of important national priorities. But we don’t have one for teaching and learning. We have a U.S. Department of Education and a Department of Labor as wholly separate entities - yet nothing that aims to integrate learning and work. The average U.S. student takes 112 mandatory standardized tests across their K-12 education, yet we have no national measures of student engagement, exposure to experiential education or work-integrated learning.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And the will is developing in the rising swell of discontent with American education.


NYC music school seeks to change blacks-only $3M scholarship over fears it will be deemed unlawful

The Manhattan School of Music wants to change the parameters on a nearly $3 million scholarship fund earmarked only for black students — because they fear the race restriction will be deemed unlawful.

The money was bequeathed to the Morningside Heights school by trustee Cate Ryan, a longtime nurse and playwright who died in 2019 at age 78.

Ryan, who was white, left the dough to the school in recognition of her longtime friend and childhood caretaker, Masolinar “Mackie” Marks, who was black. Ryan, who also worked for The New Yorker, wrote her 2012 play, The Picture Box, in honor of Marks.

In her will, Ryan specified the money go to “financially deserving African-American students” in the school’s precollege programs — but in recently filed Manhattan Supreme Court papers, the institution worries the race-based restriction will be found unlawful after the US Supreme Court last year struck down affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina.

The school has yet to dole out the money and wants a judge to green light changing the scholarship’s parameters, making it available to “financially deserving students who have experienced social, educational, cultural and economic challenges similar to those experienced by” Marks.

The school did not respond to a message seeking comment.


Government Targeting ‘Ghost Colleges’ in International Student Visa Crackdown

Despite an uptick in net migration, the Australian government forecasts a significant drop due to measures introduced to clamp down on illegal visas in the international education sector.

According to data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on March 21, net overseas migration totalled 548,800 until September 2023, resulting in the total population growing by 2.5 percent.

The new population figure is 26.8 million, an annual increase of 659,800 people.

This latest data does not account for measures implemented by the Labor Party to curb migration, which is expected to halve by next year, primarily due to major restrictions in student visa approvals.

“Net overseas migration grew by 60 percent compared with the previous year, driven by an increase in overseas migration arrivals (up 34 percent), predominantly on a temporary visa for work or study,” said Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil.

Last year, as part of a greater move to drive down migration, the Albanese government implemented a migration review.

This was aimed at ending pandemic-era concessions afforded to education providers to prevent rogue operators from running so-called “ghost colleges” that often recruit international students who are not genuinely coming to Australia to study.

“Instead of pretending that some students are here to study when they are actually here to work, we need to look to create proper, capped, safe, tripartite pathways for workers in key sectors, such as care,” said Ms. O’Neil on March 21 at a press club event.

“More than half of the people who receive permanent skills visas under our current system arrived in Australia on a student visa.”

Over the next week, high-risk providers, referred to as “visa factories” by the government, will be sent warning notices that give a six-month compliance period to eliminate dodgy practices. If standards are not met, the provider runs the risk of being suspended from bringing in overseas students.

“Increased powers for the regulator and tougher penalties will deter dodgy providers who currently see fines as a risk worth taking or merely a ‘cost of doing business,’” Skills and Training Minister Brendan O'Connor said.

A new “genuine student” test will ask students to answer questions about their intentions for study, provide evidence of their current and potential financial situation, and sign a declaration that they understand what constitutes a genuine student.

Additionally, English language requirements for student and graduate visas will increase, with the minimum requirement from IELTS rising from 5.5 to 6.0 and for graduate visas from IELTS 6.0 to 6.5.

Results of the increased enforcement are already starting to show says Clare O'Neil.

“Since September, the government’s actions have led to substantial declines in migration levels, with recent international student visa grants down by 35 percent on the previous year,” she said.




Sunday, March 24, 2024

To improve America’s school kids, we need to get them moving

Math and reading scores have been declining in American classrooms for years. And this is not just an academic challenge, it’s a matter of national security. According to a Department of Defense brief from late last year, China and Russia are graduating far more math, science and engineering students than the US, compromising America’s defense preparedness.

Hiring more teachers might seem like the most obvious way to help America’s students catch up; so too is reducing classroom sizes. But neither appear to boost graduation rates. What about injecting more movement into class time, instead? The need could not be greater.

Indeed, according to a recent “report card” from the Physical Activity Alliance, barely one-fifth of American children are meeting the minimum physical activity levels of 60 minutes each day. What’s more, average American teenagers are sitting up for upwards of eight hours each day. These behaviors have serious consequences — including obesity, depression, and sleep disturbances; prolonged levels of inactivity are bad for both the body and the mind.

Children need to move — and the US education system is failing to get them on their feet. Instead, students are told to actually stay still, stop fidgeting and remain quietly for hours at a time. This might make things easier for teachers, but for students there are far better options, most notably kinesthetic learning.

For the uninitiated, kinesthetic learning — also known as tactile learning — involves the active engagement through physical sensations or movements. Rather than merely sitting in classes, students learn through practical experiences, exploration, and the process of discovery. The current education system treats children like passive recipients of information; kinesthetic learning, on the other hand, actively engages kids. It works particularly well for boys, who are far more prone to in-class distractions in than girls.

Research demonstrates that while physical activity may improve overall academic achievement, it’s particularly effective in boosting math skills. That’s because exercise activates regions of the brain associated with mathematical cognition. The incorporation of movement can also aid in the development of phonemic awareness and letter-sound recognition, along with the understanding of fundamental concepts.

For instance, when 8-year-olds were instructed to use their hands and bodies to act out the meaning of words in a foreign language — such as spreading their arms and pretending to fly to learn the German word for airplane — they were significantly more likely to remember the words, even after two months, with a 73% higher recall rate.

This effect is not just limited to language. In a 2021 study involving 757 elementary school students in Copenhagen, researchers divided the participants into two groups. One played in basketball while doing math, while the other followed the usual classroom routine and shot hoops as a regular gym activity. Those who paired basketball with math exhibited a six percent improvement in subject proficiency, a 16% increase in intrinsic motivation, and a 14% enhancement in perceived autonomy compared to their peers who learned math solely in the classroom

The brain influences the body, but the body also influences the brain, a process known as “embodied cognition.” For many students, engaging in low-intensity movement helps them regulate alertness levels; with Stanford experiments demonstrating that students generate more creative ideas while walking than when seated.

Incorporating more movement, even micro-movements, into the average school day is not rocket science. For instance, in mathematics classes with younger children, hand and arm gestures can be employed to impart a wider array of complex concepts like tangents and cosines.

Additionally, teachers (and parents) can get children to draw what they have learned. As indicated by a 2018 study out of the University of Waterloo, Canada, children asked to illustrate their lessons were twice as likely to retain the information than children who merely wrote or read about what they had just learned. The combination of cognitive and physiological activities leads to a more profound encoding of learning, making drawing a dependable and easily replicable method for enhancing performance.

Learning is necessary, but it needn’t be a nightmare. The more fun and interactive, the better it is for students — and teachers. Not only does movement influence cognitive abilities, it improves classroom behavior. Children are balls of energy; they are not “designed” to sit for countless hours. Educators must reimagine classrooms accordingly — the future of America’s security depends on it.


NYC: No one’s telling the truth about the class-size law: It hurts kids and ONLY helps the UFT

All the recent sound and fury over the state class-size law signifies nothing because all the players refuse to say the most important part out loud: This mandate only serves the interests of the United Federation Teachers — and is actively bad for the city’s schoolchildren.

Declining enrollment had the UFT’s ranks steadily shrinking as of 2022; the class-size mandate is purely a gimmick to turn that around.

State Sen. John Liu (D-Queens) and the other Democrats who pushed the law through plainly don’t even believe the mandate is pro-education, or they wouldn’t have imposed it only on New York City.

Note, too, that the city’s lower-performing schools already mostly meet the law’s class-size targets: It’s the schools that largely work that have more kids in every classroom.

So the law’s actual impact is to force those schools to break up classes — and, indeed, if they don’t have enough available classrooms, to admit fewer students.

That is, fewer children being taught by the best, veteran teachers, and fewer kids in the better schools.

This may well mean fewer students getting the chance to learn at the city’s elite high schools: The buildings that house Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science have fixed numbers of classrooms, after all.

Worse, complying with the law requires the city Department of Education to triple its rate of hiring new teachers — which pretty much forces it to hire every warm body that comes along with the right paper qualifications.

Another wrinkle: Under the UFT contract, senior teachers have considerable rights to choose which school to teach at; human nature ensures that many (maybe most) will transfer to any new slots that open up at “nice” schools, and away from schools where harder-to-educate kids predominate.

Yes, some dedicated veteran teachers will always stick it out at the “tough” schools; a few gifted new teachers will be great from their first days on the job.

But the fact is that this mandate mainly harms the education of the city’s needier kids — and everyone who understands how the system works knows it.

That includes Liu, UFT boss Mike Mulgrew, and the City Council members griping about the city’s slow implementation of the mandate: That they posture to the contrary just makes every one of them even more despicable.

Schools Chancellor David Banks knows it, too, though it’s beyond impolitic for him to call out the vile powerbrokers for playing this game.

But, since he cares about the kids, Banks has a moral duty to drag his feet as much as possible.

As for Liu: How does he sleep at night? The only possible answer: Wherever, whenever, and however the UFT tells him.


Woke mathematics teaching in Australia: Rather sickening

Cresta Richardson, the head of the Queensland Teachers’ Union, declared that the 1.3 million children in Australia preparing to sit this year’s Naplan test should be spared the ordeal because it is too stressful for them. It is not surprising Richardson is calling for a boycott of testing, because Naplan testing exposes the complete failure of our education sector to teach people how to read, write and add up.

To his credit, federal Education Minister Jason Clare disagrees, stating he believes Naplan should stay. Since being sworn in as minister in June 2022, Clare has often repeated the mantra that we need to get ‘back to basics’. This is an admirable sentiment, but as long as this country’s education sector is controlled by a cohort of progressives who believe education is a vehicle for politicisation, it will remain nothing more than wishful thinking.

The progressive view of education is of course completely at odds with the expectations of most mainstream parents who still cling to the antiquated notion that, at the very minimum, schooling should be about acquiring basic skills such as numeracy and literacy. Nowhere is this difference more vividly illustrated than in the mathematics learning area of Australia’s national curriculum.

Deeply embedded in the K-10 mathematics syllabus is the ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures’ cross curriculum priority, which ensures ‘students can engage with and value the histories and cultures of Australian First Nations Peoples in relation to mathematics’. The consensus seems to be that children should be taught things like statistics and algebra, not because these will furnish them with necessary life skills such as planning budgets or finding the best prices for products bought and sold, but because it will give them a deeper appreciation of Aboriginal dance, corroborees and dreamtime. Not so long ago, this was called anthropology.

Indeed, Aboriginal dance features heavily in the primary syllabus, especially when it comes to addition and subtraction. In Year 1, teachers attempt to explain to the kiddies why 2 + 2 = 4 through First Nations Australians’ dances. In Year 2, the point is hammered home again, using ‘First Nations Australians’ stories and dances to understand the balance and connection between addition and subtraction’.

For those students who still have not caught on, their teachers will explain through ‘First Nations Australians’ cultural stories and dances about how they care for Country/Place such as turtle-egg gathering using number sentences’. In Year 4, teachers explore ‘First Nations Australians’ stories and dances that show the connection between addition and subtraction, representing this as a number sentence and discussing how this conveys important information about balance in processes on Country/Place’. Just in case you thought this might be the last time children are subjected to the silent snake or cassowary dance, think again. The Year 5s are investigating ‘how mathematical models involving combinations of operations can be used to represent songs, stories and/or dances of First Nations Australians’.

As it turns out, these all-singing, all-dancing classes are a bit of a distraction. Not from learning the times tables or how to do a long division, but from something much more pressing, which is Reconciliation. This highly charged political concept is introduced in a Year 3 ‘Number’ class by ‘comparing, reading and writing numbers involved in the more than 60,000 years of First Peoples of Australia’s presence on the Australian continent through time scales relating to pre-colonisation and post-colonisation’. Two years later, they are busy ‘investigating data relating to Australia’s reconciliation process with First Nations Australians, posing questions, discussing and reporting on findings’.

It is in secondary school, however, that the architects of the mathematics syllabus really get down to business. From Year 7 onwards, students studying statistics are introduced to the notion of reconciliation between ‘First Nations Australians and non-Indigenous Australians’. They are told to look at ‘secondary data from the Reconciliation Barometer to conduct and report on statistical investigations relating to First Nations Australians’. The Reconciliation Barometer was invented back in 2008 by Reconciliation Australia to measure, every two years, just how racist non-Aboriginal Australians really are. This racism is confirmed for students in Year 9 as they go about ‘exploring potential cultural bias relating to First Nations Australians by critically analysing sampling techniques in statistical reports’ as well as observing ‘comparative data presented in reports by National Indigenous Australians Agency in regard to Closing the Gap’.

Every Australian parent should know that their children are being subjected to overt politicisation in maths classes courtesy of the national curriculum. They should also know that the technique being used was developed by Brazilian Marxist, Paolo Freire, who proposed that the only true education is political education and that all teaching is a political act. When Freire talked about literacy, he meant political literacy, rather than actually being able to read and write.

His view was that the teacher’s role is not to educate in the traditional liberal education sense of the word, but to bring about what he termed the ‘conscientisation of the student’ by awakening their consciousness to the real political condition of their lives. Freire claimed that conscientisation could be achieved in the classroom by ensuring children are taught to see structural oppression in all aspects of life.

Thus, a potentially dull statistics lesson on standard deviations, random variation and central tendency is transformed into an entirely different, and much more exciting class in which children develop a critical consciousness of Australian society.

They might discuss the devastating consequences of the invasion of this land and colonisation, past and current systemic racism in Australia, the need for truth-telling, the reconciliation processes, or the need for reconciliation action plans. By the end of the session on statistics, all they will see is structural oppression. And by the end of twelve years of schooling, they will be ready and willing to overthrow the oppressive capitalist power structures and replace them with a utopian socialist society of diversity, equity and inclusion.