Archives for category: Higher Education

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.

Most of us are familiar with the college-university rankings published by Forbes and U.S. News and other journals. Here is a different approach to ranking these institutions, looking at them more from the students’ experiences and opportunities than to their SAT test scores and AP classes taken in high school. The author, journalist Iris Stone, divides them into the most affordable 25 public institutions and 25 private institutions. The results will surprise you.

Download the pdf here 50_Great_Affordable_Colleges_in_the_Northeast.

The best public universities include Towson University, the University of Delaware, Binghamton University, the University of Vermont, and several campuses that are part of the State University of New York and the City University of New York. The best public university, she concludes, is the City College of New York, which is the flagship campus of the City University of New York, which has a library of 1.5 million books, nearly 80 academic majors, more than 100 academic clubs, and a staggeringly low tuition of less than $6,000 per year.

The best private colleges and universities include such superstar institutions as Harvard University, MIT, Johns Hopkins University, Wellesley College, Princeton University, Dartmouth College, Columbia University, Haverford College, Williams College, Amherst College, and Yale University. No surprises there.

But here is the shocker: the best private institution, she decides, is St. Joseph’s College, which has campuses in Brooklyn, New York, and Patchogue, New York. With tuition under $14,000 a year, it is the least expensive of all the campuses on the list of private colleges and universities. Its retention rate is about 85%. She writes that “the more than 500 faculty members spend a lot of individual time with students and keep the student-faculty ratio down to only 11:1.” St. Joseph’s College has supplied a large number of the teachers and administrators for public schools in New York City and its suburbs. As it happens, I know this institution well. Its recently retired president, Sister Elizabeth Hill is a kind, humble, brilliant woman. SJC is noted for the compassion and kindness that it directs to its students. It is an institution that cares about each student as an individual.

Bigger and richer is not necessarily better.

“Wag the Dog” notes that advocates for Common Core are growing desperate. With more and more states dropping out, the CCSS pressure is now turned to higher education to demand that incoming students show their worth by Common Core standards.

He writes:

“As data-driven and evidence-based challenges to the efficacy of the untested Common Core State Standards grow stronger and louder, it appears CCSS supporters are growing desperate and resorting to Maxwell Smart’s catchphrase and tactic of backpedaling from unconvincing and unsubstantiated claims.

This “Would you believe…” survival strategy is apparent in a new report from the New America Foundation.

“America’s primary and secondary schools may be busy preparing for the onset of the Common Core standards, meant to better prepare students for college, but one key partner isn’t even close to ready: colleges and universities themselves.”

That’s the conclusion of a new report from the New America Foundation, which finds that “there is little evidence to suggest colleges are meaningfully aligning college instruction and teacher preparation programs with the Common Core standards.”

The report adds:

“The findings follow earlier alarms that the people who run higher education have, for the most part, gotten involved only late in the Common Core process…

“One reason, it said, is that it’s hard to come up with a single definition of what makes a student ready for college. Another is the huge variety of colleges and universities…

“The report recommends that colleges add the results of Common Core assessment tests to the measures by which they gauge students’ eligibility for admission and financial aid..”

So, no need to test the validity of Common Core. Just require everyone to use it. If SAT and demand it, if higher education values it, why bother with evidence?

Peter Greene takes a hard look at AP (Advanced Placement) courses and wonders how the U.S. Department of Education got involved in pushing a for-profit product as a mark of distinction.

He notes that:

“AP tests are a product of the College Board, the same people who bring you the SAT, and although the name seems to suggest a group of college scholars who gather together on some altruistic mission to guard the gateways of higher education for the Greater Good, the fact is that the College Board is just a business intent on making a buck and keeping its market share (it is also currently run by David Coleman, one of the co-authors of the Common Core).

“Every time a teacher goes to a seminar to learn about designing an AP course, the AP folks make money. Every time a school buys AP materials, the AP folks make money. And every time a student takes the AP test, the AP folks make money– a bunch of money.

“It was a great day for these folks when they hopped on the Education Reform Gravy Train and became the Official Education Course Product of Race to the Top. In Pennsylvania, for instance, a school’s rating factors in how many AP courses are offered. This is extraordinary, like Ford getting the government to rate school district excellence based on how many Ford school buses they used.”

Another coup for the College Board marketing efforts: the rankings of the nation’s best high schools by U.S. News and World Report. One factor in the rankings is what proportion of your students took AP exams.

Laura Chapman writes in response to a post about OECD ratings for higher education in different nations based on ability of adults to answer standardized test questions. This comes as the U.S. Department of Education has declared its intention to rate, rank, and evaluate colleges and universities by a variety of criteria, then to tie funding to ratings. That is, to bring the data-based decision making of NCLB to higher education.

Chapman writes:

“OCED should not be messing around with ratings of higher education programs based on totally flawed assumptions, statistical and other wise.

“Meanwhile, two developments bearing on higher education in the United States are worth noting.

“ALEC, the conservative provider of model state legislation, wants to close a lot of public colleges and universities on a fast track.

“According to Politico (June 27, 2014) in ALEC’s next meeting members will consider endorsing the “Affordable Baccalaureate Degree Act,” which would require all public universities to offer degree programs that cost less than $10,000 total for all four years of tuition, fees and books.

“What’s more, the bill would mandate that at least 10 percent of all four-year degrees awarded at state schools meet that price point within four years of the act’s passage.

“Universities would be encouraged to use online education and shift to competency-based models rather than the traditional credit-hour model to keep costs down. If members of ALEC endorse the bill, they will begin circulating and promoting it in state legislatures.

“I think the bait will be taken in state legislatures. This is a fast track toward the demolition of higher education with the political point of saving taxpayers money. The suggested cap on the cost at $2,500 a year for two full semesters of course work is about what my undergraduate program cost in the mid 1950s.

“I believe part of the intent is to devalue specific degrees, namely those in the liberal arts and humanities, and “impractical” sciences (e.g., archaeology, philosophy, and history) where competencies are not cut and dried and tend to consolidate over multiple years. The unstated agenda is for all public colleges and universities to function as engines for economic growth, literally as vocational schools, with on-line completion of specific tasks the primary evidence of competence. ALEC model legislation also opens the door for more degrees based on “skill sets” from life experience–not entirely without merit—but a can of worms and general attack on the value of formal education, leaving only a diploma or certificate as a credential worth the investment.

“Concurrently, the Gates Foundation is promoting the use of the same flawed measures being foisted on K-12 education for higher education, specifically a version of student learning objectives (SLOs) to rate teachers, courses, programs, and entire universities on their success in improving “outcomes.”

“Aided by first-year funds from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, nine states and 68 participating two-year and four-year institutions will document how well students are achieving key learning outcomes. The Association of American Colleges and Universities and the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association appear to have bought into this version of K-12 accountability including a process that sounds just like that “multi-state” project known as the common core initiative.

“In essence, these institutions are being enticed to think that Peter Drucker’s debunked theory of management–by-objectives (The Practice of Management, 1954) is the best way to map learning outcomes of higher education, course by course, with “summative” grades for programs, and for the institution as a whole- one size fits all. The whole project is marketed as value-based education— a phrase that is likely to tempt statisticians into using all the new metrics into dubious evaluations of faculty performance. See”

In the television series called “The Wire,” there is an episode dedicated to “juking the stats.” Since it is a program about the police, criminals, and the drug trade, “juking the stats” means that the officials were able to manipulate crime data to show that crime was up–requiring more police–or down–showing their success in slowing a crime wave. Now we know that the corporate education reform movement has become expert at “juking the stats” to make public schools look bad so that the “reformers” can privatize them.


Many years ago, David Berliner and Bruce Biddle wrote a book called The Manufactured Crisis, describing how certain think tanks and government officials were manipulating data to make it appear to the public that the schools were in crisis. A gullible media, loving sensational stories about the “failure” of our schools, reported the “reformer” claims without bothering to check facts.


The corporate reformers of our day thrive on their own manufactured crisis. They seize upon any factoid to make schools and teachers look bad. They ignore the compelling facts that our schools are underfunded and overwhelmed with the problems of children in poverty. The corporate reformers’ solution to the problems they identify: More testing, more privatization. They think that students get smarter if they are tested more often, so more tests. They assume that privately managed schools must be superior to public schools, despite clear evidence that they do not produce better results and–unregulated and unsupervised–many are vulnerable to corruption, nepotism, self-dealing, and fraud.


In this article, Carol Burris shows how the college remediation rate has been shamelessly inflated by corporate reformers intent on advancing their agenda of privatization. Chief among those who have overstated the remediation rate is Secretary of Education Duncan, who said in Massachusetts that the college remediation rate was 40% when it was about half that number. As she demonstrates, one “reform” think tank announces the “crisis” of a 40% college remediation rate, and others soon repeat it until it becomes conventional wisdom. But it is not true. Like almost all the data trotted out by the reform crowd, it is inflated to promote their political agenda of privatization. Or they use their doctored stats to promote the Common Core, even though there is no evidence whatever that Common Core will make every student “college and career ready.” The campaign for Common Core increasingly looks like an advertising gambit that promises that your clothes will be cleaner than ever, your teeth will be whiter than ever, your weight will drop in a matter of days, if only you use this product.


When will the reformers target the root causes of low academic performance: poverty, segregation, and inequitable allocation of resources? Ever.



The Pennsylvania legislature is hammering out the state budget, and it looks like education will once again face budget cuts. Why are legislators prepared to sacrifice the future?

This letter was sent yesterday to all Pennsylvania state legislators in the 5-county region as well as to press representatives by Higher Education United for Public Education, a group of educators at colleges and universities in the metropolitan region of Philadelphia. 150 professors, instructors, and administrators from 27 colleges/universities in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties signed on in support. Monday is the deadline for the state budget, and things do not look good for public education funding in Pennsylvania.

Up until now, we thought that American higher education was the best in the world. That’s why students come from all over the world to attend our colleges and universities.

But wait! There is an OECD test that shows our college graduates don’t know much. That supposedly proves we need more tests, more regulation, motte evaluations.

Peter Greene shows how crazy this is.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an editorial vigorously agreeing with the Obama administration’s plan to give ratings to colleges and universities and agreeing with Education Trust that federal aid to colleges should be tied to those ratings. EdTrust was and remains one of the strongest supporters of NO Child Left Behind, having helped to write that abominable law.

On principle, I oppose the ratings game and believe it will turn into NCLB for higher education, with incentives that undermine the mission of the institutions as they get caught up in the numbers game. How will colleges measure the “value-added” of courses in philosophy, ancient history, art, and music?

The Times apparently doesn’t read its own stories. It doesn’t recognize that students are discouraged not by a lack of information but by the crushing debt they incur. Why don’t we have low-cost or free public colleges? The Times has reported in the past about how states have shifted costs from the public to students. Why is this not a more pressing need than data?

When the Times says that the U.S. has among the lowest college graduation rates in the developed world, it should have mentioned that one nation with a much lower rate is Germany, the dominant economy in Europe. What does Germany know that we don’t know?

If the Times thinks that getting a higher college graduation rate matters, why not propose ways to reduce the cost to students? The greatest barrier to college access and completion is affordability, not lack of data.

Peter Greene comments here on the U. S. Department of Education’s decision to bail out Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a for-profit chain.


Not so long ago, the U.S. DOE pledged to monitor predatory for-profit colleges. Not so, it seems.  Not now.


Greene writes:


“Corinthian has a somewhat checkered past. Okay, checkered might be generous. They have grown prodigiously since being founded in 1995, acquiring around twenty other post-secondary institutions from Duff’s Business School to the American Motorcycle Institute. They operate the Everest College chain, plus a few others. They’ve been called “the nation’s worst private college chain” and have been sued more times than anybody seems to be able to count. The State of California in particular seems to be intent on driving them out of business, charging them with the usual predatory practices of marketing to poverty-level folks with promises of careers that never appear. This would also be the chain who got caught (by Huffington Post, of all people) hiring their own grads to keep their grad-employment numbers up.

They are, in short, exactly the kind of for-profit college that the feds said they were going to shut down.”


The announcement was made by Ted Mitchell, Undersecretary of Education, who served previously on the boards of for-profit education institutions and was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which is a major supporter of privatization efforts.






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