Archives for category: Higher Education

In this excellent article in the New York Times about the plight of community colleges, Ginia Bellafante shows the dramatic disparity in fund-raising between community colleges and other sectors of American education. The wealthiest benefactors and philanthropists shower millions on their alma mater, such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, but the alumni of community colleges are unlikely to be billionaires. The hedge funders shower millions on charter schools, but ignore community colleges, which serve twice as many students but are not as chic as charter schools.


And yet which institution is there for the least affluent members of our society? Which institutions offer a ladder into the middle class for children of poverty?


Bellafante’s article begins:


Last year at its annual gala, LaGuardia Community College, arguably the most ethnically diverse college in the country, honored Marilyn Skony Stamm, the chief executive of a global heating and air-conditioning business. A child of the South Side of Chicago who had gone to Northwestern on scholarship, Ms. Stamm maintained a committed interest in education and joined LaGuardia’s foundation board six years ago, proving herself a skilled networker for an institution with minimal capacity for soliciting money.


Occupying four buildings overlooking the elevated tracks for the No. 7 train in Long Island City, Queens, LaGuardia serves 50,000 students annually, many of them immigrants and more than two-thirds coming from families that earn $25,000 a year or less.


One of the first things you notice when you visit is the number of students pushing strollers or carrying babies. At the gala, Ms. Stamm was introduced by a woman whose story was dramatic in its particulars but familiar in its deprivations. Cast out of her house by drug-addicted parents, she had a son at 16, endured dialysis and a kidney transplant and was able to remain at LaGuardia — and eventually transfer to Smith — only because of a scholarship the foundation had provided.


In recognition of the evening, Ms. Stamm’s husband, Arthur Stamm, made a gift of $100,000. At the time, it was the largest gift the college had received from a single donor in its 42-year history.


Since January alone, by contrast, Duke University, which educates 14,850 students on its 8,709-acre campus, has received gifts and pledges of $1 million or more on the average of every six or seven weeks. In those gifts alone, the university has already raised about $49 million this year. And yet, according to the latest ranking, its endowment of close to $6 billion in 2012 did not earn it a place among the country’s 10 richest schools, a list led by Harvard, Princeton and Yale.


Educational institutions and services remain the second biggest beneficiaries of philanthropy in the country, after religious organizations, but little of the money flows to community colleges, the mostly public institutions that now enroll 45 percent of the country’s undergraduates, most of them poor or working-class and many of them requiring extensive remedial learning.


LaGuardia’s biggest challenge is the fact that it does not have a rich alumni base. Its graduates are working-class and middle-class.


The plight of community colleges has not captured the interest of the wealthy donor class, where the narrative of the young child plucked from poverty and channeled through a system that will get him to Princeton and repackage him in the image of his benefactors has proved to be so mythically compelling. In 2012, more than twice as much money — $297 million — was awarded to charter schools from the country’s largest foundations as was given to community colleges, even though two-year colleges educate nearly four times as many students.


“When I talk about community college to my friends, I see a blank look on their faces,” one of LaGuardia’s major donors, Lisa Selz, said. “It is so removed from the experience of so many people who don’t see that success can mean becoming a physician’s assistant.”


Recently, foundations like Gates and Lumina have directed some giving to community colleges, but it is  only a small fraction of what they give to higher education.


The story recounts the donors who were attracted to LaGuardia’s mission of serving the neediest students and the strategies they devised to jumpstart fund-raising.


As I read this story, I was reminded of something I heard in Finland, where all higher education is tuition-free. “Even graduate school?” I asked. My friend and guide, Pasi Sahlberg answered, “Education is a basic human right. We Finns don’t believe that people should have to pay for a basic human right.”




This is a dynamite article about the predatory for-profit higher education sector by Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report. He pulls no punches.

He writes:

“The dominos are falling in the for-profit college racket, a cauldron of corruption that has crushed the dreams of millions of African Americans in desperate search for tools to navigate their way through a racist, cut-throat capitalist society. Corinthian College’s stock fell from a peak of $33 a share, ten years ago, to 33 cents last month, when it became clear that the federal government intended to pull the plug on the $1.6 billion a year rip-off. Corinthian – known to victims by the brand names Heald College, Everest, and WyoTech – will soon file for bankruptcy protection, shielding its bankster and hedge fund profiteers from liability for wanton theft and massive life-wrecking. More than 70,000 students at 107 campuses, half of whom were statistically certain to drop out before completely their courses, will struggle to find another route to mobility and dignity.

“Corinthian is only the third or fourth-worst offender in the pantheon of for-profit colleges created for the sole purpose of diverting public money to the coffers of hedge funds and mega-banks. Although the titans of this fraudulent industry have committed crimes far larger than Bernard Madoff, none of them will join him in prison, since their victims are largely Black people whose usefulness to Wall Street is limited to availability for super-exploitation, demonization and incarceration.

“Corinthian’s collapse – and the panic that reigns in the rest of the for-profit education pack – was triggered by the Obama administration’s decision to shut off the criminal enterprise’s federal funding faucet, which accounted for at least 83 percent of the company’s revenue stream. Since Corinthian, like its sister shysters, was created as a pass-through of federal dollars, it could not withstand the slightest pause in payments from various federal agencies. So, it folded. Other corporate educational fraudsters will soon follow Corinthian into bankruptcy, causing a shakeup in the industry that will probably result in a leaner and more vertically integrated structure of dream-sploitation. Billions of educational dollars will continue flowing straight from federal programs to Wall Street, but with little improvement to the life-chances of the supposed beneficiaries: the educationally deprived.

“The Obama administration may abhor the chaos in which players like the University of Phoenix and Ashford University have become the top producers of baccalaureate degrees among Blacks. But the administration – and the Democratic Party, as an institution – also worships at the alter of privatization. Rather than eliminate the felonious educational enterprises root and branch – and spend the money on a nationalized system of free education – Obama will continue to provide tens of billions to nourish the poisoned tree.”

Every year we spend $32 billion on these for-profit institutions. Why not use that money for tuition-free colleges for students who need higher education–and bypass Wall Street?

Ford adds:

“In previous decades, African American political leaders would have been out front in demanding a public agency to respond to the phenomenal Black craving for educational services. However, much of the Congressional Black Caucus has succumbed to the bribery of for-profit sugar daddies who, according to Sen. Durbin, “own every lobbyist in town.” Among the legions of for-profit lobbyists is Black former Maryland Rep. Al Wynn (who, while in office, acted as the Black Caucus bag-man for the corporate Democratic Leadership Council). Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings collected at least $54,500 from the education rip-off industry, according to David Halperin’s April 3 article in The Nation, “The Perfect Lobby: How One Industry Captured Washington, DC.”

“Hastings featured prominently in the groundbreaking May 27 Huffington Post piece “How the Congressional Black Caucus Went to War with Itself Over Wall Street,” which described his “epic argument” with Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) in 2011. Waters blasted Hastings “for sponsoring a measure that was seen as a gift to shady for-profit colleges. What was more embarrassing than selling out, Waters told her assembled colleagues, was selling out cheap to nickel-and-dime scammers like the for-profit college industry. If you’re going to sell your soul, she admonished, have some self-respect and sell high. (Hastings didn’t dispute the conflict, but he did dispute Waters’ point. ‘It would be a mistaken premise,’ he says, smiling. ‘There are a hell of a lot of for-profit schools.’)”
Key members of the unelected Black Misleadership Class are also beholden to Wall Street’s for-profit federal educational money conduits. The National Urban League got a $1 million check from now-doomed Corinthian Colleges after president Marc Morial wrote a favorable op-ed in the Washington Post. Morial then joined Corinthian’s board of directors, a sinecure that is worth between $60,000 and $90,000 a year in cash and deferred stock.

“Al Sharpton, the MSNBC host and presidential pit bull, reciprocated the University of Phoenix’s sponsorship of his TV special Advancing the Dream with a puff piece on the for-profit giant’s online offerings, featuring the NFL’s Larry Fitzgerald, a Phoenix student and booster. Phoenix University excels all others in funneling Black people’s educational dollars directly to Wall Street via the Apollo Group, a $5.36 billion corporation with ties to the super-predatory Carlyle Group.”

“For-profit education has diverted many billions of dollars that Black students never actually possessed for even one moment– but will owe for much of the rest of their lives – into the accounts of the fabulously wealthy.”

And Ford writes:

“One exception is historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), now reeling from a funding crisis set in motion by Obama administration “reforms” in student aid, which led to dramatic decreases in student enrollment. HBCU’s and community colleges attempt to serve much the same demographic that is so grievously exploited and damaged by for-profit vultures. Therefore, these two step-children of American education are the logical starting points for building a publicly funded, virtually free higher educational system, sustained by a lion’s share of the $32 billion in federal moneys that annually pass through for-profits on the way to Wall Street. (Total federal spending on HBCUs is currently less than $1.5 billion a year, and California’s community college system, the nation’s largest, is in constant crisis.)

“Nobody can claim that the feds don’t have the money; Washington spends it lavishly on edu-criminal enterprises. Most importantly, history shows conclusively that most of established U.S. public and private higher education is institutionally incapable of serving anything approaching sufficient numbers of darker and poorer Americans – who are then corralled by scurrilous aid-snatchers and dream-breakers.

“The for-profits should be put out of business with all deliberate speed, but it would be a further crime to shift that portion of federal aid to schools that have never demonstrated a willingness or competence to serve the demographic so cruelly exploited by the likes of Corinthian. The federal dollars that made Phoenix and Ashford Universities the top sources of Black baccalaureate degrees (for whatever that’s worth) should not be diverted to institutions that are manifestly hostile to Black people, based on enrollment figures.”

Ford takes no prisoners. Read the article in full.

Ginia Bellafante has an excellent article in the New York Times about the dilemma of poor and immigrant students who strive to achieve success in community college.


She selects a student, Vladimir de Jesus, to illustrate the obstacles in his path. He wants to be an art teacher. He has a young daughter and has to work to pay his tuition and the cost of living.


She writes:


As a community college student, Mr. de Jesus is both prototype and outlier. The majority of community college students come from low-income families, and many arrive at school, as he did, with competing obligations (29 percent of community college students in the United States are parents), as well as the need for extensive remediation. The widely held impression that community colleges are essentially vocational is inaccurate. Data released by the American Association of Community Colleges in September indicated that most of the associate degrees awarded in 2012 were given in the liberal arts and sciences, outnumbering those for nursing, say, or marketing.


In recent years, mounting concerns about inequality have fixated on the need for greater economic diversity at elite colleges, but the interest has tended to obscure the fact that the vast majority of high school students — including the wealthiest — will never go to Stanford or the University of Chicago or Yale. Even if each of U.S. News and World Report’s 25 top-ranked universities committed to turning over all of its spots to poor students, the effort would serve fewer than 218,000 of them. Community colleges have 7.7 million students enrolled, 45 percent of all undergraduates in the country.


Philanthropists and hedge fund managers don’t care about community colleges, despite their oft-proclaimed dedication to poor kids. The community colleges serve mostly children from low-income families, but they don’t attract much funding from the wealthy who give millions to charters schools and their alma maters.


Bellafante writes:


Among individual donors, community colleges ignite little charitable impulse. An endowment fund begun at LaGuardia in 2003 has raised $11 million, of which $8 million has been spent. To put those sums in perspective, Prep for Prep, the organization started in the 1970s to help channel bright, disadvantaged New York City children into top private schools and ultimately the Ivy League, raised $3 million on a single night in June when it held its annual gala.


This shows, perhaps, that the Wall Street hedge funders and the philanthropists shower their millions on the strivers and the winners, not on the strugglers and stragglers like Vladimir de Jesus.


One especially large obstacle, for Vladimir and other students: the algebra course. He can’t pass the algebra course. He has taken it again and again. He can’t pass it.


Mr. de Jesus began the winter semester auspiciously; he received an A for an early personal essay. In addition to his English and art classes, he was taking a remedial course, Math 96, which is algebra-based and focuses on linear and quadratic equations.

Passing this class, which teaches math that most affluent children study in eighth or ninth grade, is required for graduation and the ascent to four-year programs. But at community colleges across the country, the basic math requirement has been a notorious hindrance to advancement. More than 60 percent of all students entering community colleges must take what are called developmental math courses, according to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, but more than 70 percent of those students never complete the classes, leaving them unable to obtain their degrees.

Mr. de Jesus was taking Math 96 for the third time last spring, having failed it twice. On one attempt he had fallen short by just a few points on the final exam; on another, he did not bother to show up for the exam at all because he was already failing. But in math, too, he had started the spring semester well, with grades in the 80s and 90s on the initial exams, his professor, Yelba Gutierrez, an adjunct at the time, told me.

When Mr. de Jesus came to school, he was present and engaged. In his English class, he typically offered observations that were sharper than those of the other students. But as the semester wore on, he had trouble getting to his classes on time — or at all….


“This whole thing with math just hits your spirit in the wrong way,” Mr. de Jesus remarked recently. “It demolishes your spirit. You become lazy.”

When I conveyed his sentiment to Dr. Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, she agreed and praised his wording. Dr. Mellow stands on one side of an intense debate among educators about the necessity of algebra for students who do not plan to pursue concentrated study in math- or science-related fields.

“I once got a note from a student who said, ‘This developmental algebra is a stainless-steel wall and there’s no way up it, around it or under it,’ ” she told me in her office one afternoon recently.
What makes algebra so hard for community college students? One factor is that many have been taught so poorly before they arrive. They have developed a debilitating reliance on calculators, Abderrazak I. Belkharraz, the chairman of the LaGuardia math department, told me, “for things as simple as what is the cosine of pi over two.” And the pedagogy tends to focus on computation rather than the underlying concepts, leaving the practice of math to seem far removed from the students’ experiences.


Imagine that! De Jesus could not figure out something “as simple as what is the cosine of pi over two.”


Let the truth be told: I took two years of algebra in high school, and I have no idea of what the cosine of pi over two is. Maybe I did in 1956, the year I graduated from high school, but I don’t now. And over the course of the many years since then, I have never once needed to know the cosine of pi over two. Why should a young man who desperately wants to teach art be required to pass an algebra test to get a community college degree? Perhaps he will never pass that test. Perhaps he will never get an associate’s degree. Perhaps he will never be allowed to teach art because he doesn’t know algebra. Without that degree, what will he do?




You too can learn to be a “no excuses” teacher in a charter school that gets high test scores. There are a few changes required in your attitude; you too can earn a new graduate degree from a new graduate school that will remold your personality and teach you not to accept any excuses. Paternalistic? Yes. Colonialist? Call it that if you wish. Results are what matters.

All you need to do is enroll in a “graduate school” designed specifically for no-excuses charters. You will learn the tricks and techniques of raising test scores. You will learn the chants and slogans necessary for grit, silence, and lining up single-file. You won’t have to waste your time on the history, sociology, economics, or philosophy of education. You won’t waste your time on research. You will earn a masters degree that no genuine university rrecognizes.

But so what? You will learn how to get those test scores.

There’s is a lot of money to be made in education but not by teachers.


“In the Publiic Interest” reports on privatization scams. Today it wrote:


“Politico reports that the National Urban League “is stepping up its advocacy in support of the Common Core with new radio and TV spots narrated by CEO Marc H. Morial.” In July, Black Agenda Report reported that “the National Urban League got a $1 million check from now-doomed Corinthian Colleges after president Marc Morial wrote a favorable op-ed in the Washington Post. Morial then joined Corinthian’s board of directors, a sinecure that is worth between $60,000 and $90,000 a year in cash and deferred stock.”

Nancy Bailey taught for many years but retired due to the misguided reforms that now plague our students, teachers, and schools. She lives in Tennessee. She now devotes her time to writing in support of public education and sensible reforms.

In this post, she asks a simple question: if our public schools are “failing” (PS, they are not), why is that the majority of freshmen at our nation’s most prestigious universities come from public schools?

Consider a few of her examples:

Princeton University: 26,641 Applicants; 1,939 Admissions; 61% are from Public Schools.

Brown University: 30,432 Applied; 2,619 Admitted; 63% are from Public Schools; 37% are from Private or Parochial Schools.

Stanford University: 42,167 Applied; 2,145 Admitted; 60% are from Public Schools; 30% Private Schools; 10% International.

Vanderbilt University (Class of 2017) 31,099 Applied; 3,963 Admitted; 64% are from Public Schools; 36% are from Private Schools; < 1% Other.

I had a message from a relative who works in a program helping youngsters in Harlem apply to college. The kids are wonderful, she says: bright, ambitious, and energetic. Their biggest stumbling block, she says, is the SAT.

I contacted Bob Schaeffer of Fairtest, which maintains a database of colleges and universities that do not require the SAT.

He wrote:

“A complete database of the more than 830 accredited, bachelor-degree granting colleges that will make admissions decisions about all or may applicants without regard to ACT/SAT scores is online at: — the list includes 160+ colleges and universities ranked in the top tiers of their respective categories.”

Politico reports this morning that the giant for-profit charter chain Corinthian College is in deep financial trouble and is under criminal investigation as well:

“MORE CORINTHIAN INQUIRIES: Corinthian Colleges is facing two more criminal investigations, the dismantling for-profit giant reported in an SEC filing late Friday []. The company disclosed a federal grand jury subpoena in Florida related to employee misconduct and the return of student aid funds, plus one in Georgia requesting information on job placement, admissions, attendance and graduation rates. The subpoenas follow last week’s news that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is suing the company for nearly $569 million over an “illegal predatory lending scheme:;

For a real eye-opener, read the charges made against this for-profit corporation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This “illegal predatory lending scheme” is stunning in its scope. The administration and Congress should regulate these predatory institutions or put them out of business. Unfortunately, Congress has held off because the industry hired the top lobbyists from both parties to fight needed regulation. If it were up to me, I would ban for-profit education, including for-profit charter schools and colleges. Many, most, are worthless diploma mills whose purpose is profit, not education. Why urge young people to get a diploma when the choices include places like this one?

Lloyd Lofthouse, a frequent commenter, offers advice about how to beat the SAT and ACT: Apply to a college or university that does not require applicants to present scores from either examination as a part of the admission process. There are good reasons to do this: First, it is unfair

Here is Lloyd Lofthouse’s advice:

All is not lost to the SAT/ACT profit monger machine.

There are colleges and universities that do not use the SAT/ACT scores for admitting substantial numbers of students into Bachelor degree programs.

Pull Quote from site: “More than 800 four-year colleges and universities (almost 28 percent of total) do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of … applicants.”

In 2010, there were 2,870 4-year colleges in the US.

There’s still hope.

This is a must-see. Peter Greene here presents and discusses comedian John Oliver on student debt.

Most students will leave college with heavy debts; some will spend years trying to pay it off. The arrangement was created by the federal government and state governments, which have steadily decreased their responsibility for subsidizing the cost of higher education, transferring the burden to students. There once was a time when community colleges were tuition-free. No longer. For-profit institutions and online “universities” have moved in to fill their place. These institutions have terrible completion rates. Despite repeated calls to regulate the for-profits, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education have failed to do so. The for-profit industry hires top lobbyists from both parties to protect their interests. Who protects the students?

When one of the worst for-profit institutions (Corinthian) teetered near bankruptcy, the US DOE extended a bail-out instead of closing it down.


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