Archives for category: Higher Education

MOOCs are Massive Open Onliine Courses. Many see them as the grand destiny for higher education, opening access for all at a low price. Some courses are taught simultaneously to thousands of students by star professors.

But here is a shocking statistic, reported by politico.com:

“A dismal 7 percent of MOOC students finish their courses.”

I can imagine huge improvements in online courses. They could take advantage of graphics and intetactive tools. Maybe they are the future. But we aren’t there yet.

In response to a post about the predatory for-profit higher education industry, reader Chiara sent the following comment to remind us of how the for-profit industry buys influence in Washington, D.C. and avoids regulation:

To get a sense of how powerful the for-profit lobby is, read this:

“Anita Dunn, a close friend of President Obama and his former White House communications director, worked with Kaplan University, one of the embattled school networks. Jamie Rubin, a major fund-raising bundler for the president’s re-election campaign, met with administration officials about ATI, a college network based in Dallas, in which Mr. Rubin’s private-equity firm has a stake.
A who’s who of Democratic lobbyists — including Richard A. Gephardt, the former House majority leader; John Breaux, the former Louisiana senator; and Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, ran Mr. Obama’s transition team — were hired to buttonhole officials.
And politically well-connected investors, including Donald E. Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post Company, which owns Kaplan, and John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix and a longtime friend of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, made impassioned appeals.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/10/us/politics/for-profit-college-rules-scaled-back-after-lobbying.html

This is why I cannot believe anyone is seriously suggesting we can contract out public schools and it will be on the up and up and “well-regulated”. No, it won’t. Lawmakers will be captured and it will be a free for all. The big losers will be poor people, just as the big losers are poor people in the for-profit college scams.

Ed reformers are freaking kidding themselves with this “well-regulated! non-profits!” fantasy. It’s a weirdly arrogant assumption that they are all honorable and well-intended, so immune to this stuff. They’re not immune.

The burgeoning of the for-profit college industry has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, sent many thousands of students out into the world with shoddy educations, and made a few people very rich.

One of the organizations that should have been closed down by the U.S. Department of Education is Corinthian Colleges. Here, Peter Greene reviews its sordid history, including the fact that the U.S. Department of Education bailed it out when it needed money, and Corinthian sold off many of its campuses to be run by a DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY. I put that in caps because it is incredible but true.

Greene writes:

“Folks who find themselves in debt for Corinthian educations, but without any marketable skills that would allow them to make money– those folks got in this mess by driving past a dozen corners where there should have been big bright neon red flags. But there were no flags there, because the gatekeepers had taken the flags down and stuffed them in their back pockets.

“Corinthian has a repeatedly gotten in trouble for lying, false advertising, misrepresenting itself, and promising what it could not deliver. But the feds did not shut them down, did not demand they put a warning label on their applications, did not publicly chastise them in a manner that might have given applicants pause. And when Corinthian actually started to suffer the free-market consequences of bad behavior, the feds stepped in to protect not the students, but the investors and operators. They actually crafted a plan to allow Corinthian to draw in more students!

“And the loans? If I go to buy a house, and I visit the bank for a mortgage loan, generally speaking the bank (excepting the years between, say, 2002-2008) will make sure that they don’t lend me more than I can pay, and they will also demand an assessment of the house so that they know I’m getting their money’s worth in my purchase. Who was exercising such oversight of these college loans? Apparently, nobody.”

In North Carolina, a state senator has filed a bill requiring all professors to carry a heavy course load. It seems there’s no institution free of the heavy hand of government, when legislators grab the reins of power.

University spokesmen said such a provision would kill research and cause a flight of top talent from research universities.

Lindsay Wagner writes for NC Policy Watch:

“Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) filed a bill last week that would require all UNC professors to teach no fewer than four courses a semester. It’s a move that, McInnis says, is an effort to make sure classes are not taught primarily by student assistants — but some are concerned it could hamper research and development at the state’s prestigious institutions of higher education….

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Leonard. “Talented faculty would start looking for work out of state, it would be hard to attract junior faculty coming out of graduate school, and it would be impossible to attract senior faculty who bring a lot of resources to our institutions.”

Leonard says the most problematic consequence of the proposed law would be that the discovery and production of knowledge would grind to a halt.

“Which I suppose is okay if you don’t want to cure cancer, fix infrastructure or make new discoveries about manufacturing processes,” said Leonard.

“SB 593 would tie professors’ salaries to their course loads—those teaching fewer than four courses each semester would earn less than their full salaries, determined on a pro-rata basis.

“The legislation also allows for the salary difference to be made up by an individual campus’ endowment, should they determine a professor should take on a lighter course load in order to conduct research – but Leonard says that’s an untenable scenario for most campuses…..

“The bill comes at a time when the state’s university system is undergoing considerable turmoil thanks to recent controversial decisions to raise tuition, close three academic centers and fire UNC’s widely-praised president, Tom Ross. The system has also been handed substantial budget cuts over the past five years by the state legislature, including a $400 million cut in 2011.”

– See more at: http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2015/03/31/bill-would-require-all-unc-professors-to-teach-heavy-course-load/#sthash.PFhDfrjE.dpuf

Read this article in the Boston Globe and ask yourself: “What’s the point of a college degree?”

The article assumes that one gets a degree to get a better job and make more money. It describes a program that is cheap and enables low-income students to get a degree, in large extent through online learning.

A couple of liberal arts professors complain that this bargain basement approach is not really a college education. Because they are poor, the students have no exposure to real education.

““The whole premise of College for America is bargain education,” says Amy Slaton, a Drexel University history professor who has been a vocal critic of the model. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re going to help everyone reach the best of the best,’ we’re saying, ‘Here’s the generic, no-frills version for you.’ It pegs the value of the education to what you’re able to pay, instead of helping everyone to achieve the richest, most varied education they can. Why aren’t we asking about how we can bring more classroom time, more expert teaching to everyone?”

Or another question:

Why aren’t we bringing down the cost of higher education with greater student aid? Why trick poor and minority students with a cheap substitute for a real college education? If having a degree matters most, just give out a generic degree that means nothing except you can say you have one. That’s cheaper still. There are so many fake universities these days, who will know the difference?

If we really cared about students and education, higher education would be free, at least in the public sector.

Breitbart News reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has entranced some conservatives with his success at crushing labor unions, but has tried to distract their attention away from his incoherent position on Common Core and Common Core testing. Some Republicans–like Jeb Bush and Susanna Martinez–are strong supporters of Common Core. Others–like Bobby Jindal–once supported it but now oppose it. But Scott Walker has everyone confused. He is both for the Common Core standards and against them. He is in favor of the federal tests and against them.

 

But on one issue, Republicans appear to be united. Many are eager to cut the funding of higher education to balance the budget, and to avoid raising taxes on the rich. (There may be some Republican governors who are supporting higher education; I invite readers to tell me their names.) Scott Walker (who dropped out of Marquette University) has proposed slashing $300 million from the University of Wisconsin, which is one of the finest higher education systems in the nation (or has been until now). UW campuses are preparing for the worst, with some planning to eliminate entire majors or to reduce faculty by as much as 25%. In Illinois, newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School) has proposed a $400 million cut in higher education funding. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a graduate of Brown University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar) wants to cut higher education funding by $200 million in a state that desperately needs more intellectual capital. Doug Ducey, the new Republican Governor of Arizona (a graduate of Arizona State University), proposed (and the Legislature passed) a $99 million cut to the state’s universities, as well as eliminating all state funding from several community colleges.

 

This is a display of free-market fundamentalism at its most extreme. These governors (and there are undoubtedly others) would rather cut the funding of colleges that educate the professionals and brainpower of the state’s future than raise taxes on the wealthiest in their state. Or is this just an example of someone who succeeded and then decides to pull the ladder up so that no one else has the same opportunities unless they are born rich?

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for reporting that the University of Phoenix is experiencing a huge enrollment decline and a consequent drop in its profitability and stock price. I am not at all sorry to see this, as I am not an aficionado of online “colleges” or for-profit education institutions.

 

She writes:

 

The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the United States, has lost a few hundred thousand students in the last five years, according to its parent company.

 

Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, announced Wednesday that revenues and enrollment had fallen in the last quarter about 14 percent compared to the same period in 2014. What’s more, the school’s enrollment five years ago was 460,000 students and now it is 213,000, CNN Money reported. The news on Wednesday sparked a 30 percent drop in Apollo’s stock. (Apollo stock was at $19.57 a share in Thursday morning trading, down 2.4 percent.)

 

The University of Phoenix, which started in 1976 in the Phoenix area, delivers education largely online but also has brick-and-mortar classrooms. In recent years it has been forced to close some of its classrooms and has faced competition from traditional universities that have started their own online courses.

 

Studies have shown that many of the for-profit institutions are predatory and concerned more with profit than with learning. Education should be profitable but intellectually and spiritually, not on the stock exchange.

 

 

Apparently Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona legislature think that the state will prosper with fewer educated people.

 

According to Politico.com:

 

ANGER IN ARIZONA: Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona’s Republican-led legislature shocked many this weekend by passing a “values-based budget” that slashes higher education funding by 13 percent – $99 million – and completely pulls state support for community colleges in the process. The unrest isn’t letting up, according to local reports [http://bit.ly/1b2JlWz ], with Arizona Board of Regents Chairman Mark Killian exploring a possible lawsuit against the legislature during the board’s Wednesday meeting. He points to a state constitutional provision stating that a college education must be “as nearly free as possible.”

 

– Ducey argues that “with a $600 million line item, the universities are one of the largest recipients of state funding.” That’s despite a 48 percent per-student funding cut for public colleges since 2008 – the largest nationwide – and average tuition increase of nearly $4,500, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Killian acknowledges that such a lawsuit may be a longshot. Meanwhile, the Phoenix New Times reports [http://bit.ly/1D71pKZ ], Arizona State University President Michael Crow says he’ll try to figure out a way to deal with the cuts while still keeping in-state tuition flat next year, as promised. “The ramifications for the state’s economy will take years to play out because it is our colleges and universities that produce Arizona’s strongest asset: educated young men and women trained to play leading roles in a rapidly changing world,” Crow said.

For a decade now, we have been told again and again by the national media that New Orleans is a “miracle” district. City after city, state after state, wants to be like New Orleans. In Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder created the Educational Achievement Authority, which has been plagued with mismanagement and has shown no progress for the students in Detroit. Governor Snyder appointed an emergency manager for financially strapped, low-performing Muskegon Heights, and the emergency manager turned the students and schools over to a for-profit charter chain; after two years, the chain decamped when it was clear there would be no profit. Tennessee created the Achievement School District, where the state’s low-performing public schools were gathered, turned over to charter operators, and are supposed to be in the state’s top 20% by performance within five years; the clock is ticking, and there is no reason to believe that the five-year deadline will be met. The public schools of York City, Pennsylvania, have been promised to a for-profit charter chain.

 

And now Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal has an idea. He wants Georgia to have a Recovery School District, just like New Orleans. Here is the formula: wipe out public education and replace it with privately managed charters; eliminate any teachers’ unions; fire veteran teachers and replace them with Teach for America. What could go wrong? Note in the linked article that the enrollment in New Orleans public schools fell from 65,000 before Hurricane Katrina to 25,000 or so today. This makes comparisons pre- and post- tricky to say the least.

 

No matter. The boosters are still claiming dramatic success.

 

But along comes Mercedes Schneider, who managed to get the full set of ACT scores for the state of Louisiana. For some reason, the State Department of Education was not eager to release those scores. You will see why.

 

Mercedes wrote more than one post. They are collected here. The details are in the individual posts.

 

She begins the second post like this:

 

 

It is February, and at my high school, that means scheduling students for the next school year. During two of my classes today, our counselors were in my room explaining to students the Louisiana Board of Regents minimum requirements for first-time college freshmen who wish to attend a four-year college or university in Louisiana. These requirement are the result of legislation passed in 2010 and phased in over four years, the Grad Act.

 

One requirement is a minimum score of 18 on the ACT in English and a minimum score of 19 on the ACT in math.

 

Even though Regents also has an ACT composite requirement, one can readily substitute a high GPA in place of a lacking composite.

 

However, that 18 in English and 19 in math is virtually non-negotiable. An institution might be able to conditionally admit some students in the name of “research”; however, there is not too much of this allowed, for Regents states that the two ACT subscores are the most widely acceptable, readily available evidence that a student would not require remedial college coursework in English or math– a rule effective for all Louisiana four-year institutions of higher education effective Fall 2014.

 

Thus, the first graduating class affected by this Regents rule is the high school graduating class of 2014.

 

Remember those numbers: 18 in English and 19 in math.

 

Schneider continues:

 

Some highlights from this data:

 

Of the 16 active New Orleans RSD high schools, five graduated not one student meeting the Regents 18-English-19-math ACT requirement. That’s no qualifying students out of 215 test takers.

 

Another six RSD high schools each graduated less than one percent meeting the requirement, or 16 students out of 274 (5.8 percent).

 

Out of a total of 1151 RSD New Orleans class of 2014 ACT test takers, only 141 students (12.3 percent) met the Regents requirement. Eighty-nine of these 141 attended a single high school (OP Walker, ACT site code 192113).

 

By far, OP Walker had the highest number of Regents 18-English-19-math-ACT-subscore-qualifying class of 2014 test takers (89 out of 311, or 28.6 percent).

 

If the OP Walker were removed from RSD-NO, then RSD-NO would be left with 52 qualifying students out of 840, or 6.2 percent.

 

Sobering.

 

Notice also that the average ACT composite scores of those meeting the Regents 18-19 requirement (column G) are all above the 18 that LDOE focuses on as a minimum mark of success.

 

Clearly the theory of “raise the bar and achievement will rise” is not playing out in the New Orleans RSD when it comes to meeting the Regents minimum requirement of an 18 in English and 19 in math on the ACT.

 

No miracle here. Only more data that Louisiana Superintendent John White wishes he could hide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When news broke that Governor Scott Walker wanted to change the purpose of higher education in state law, removing key words, the governor’s staff backtracked and called it a “drafting error.” Critics say that he wants higher education to focus on job training and competition in the global economy. Governor Walker dropped out of Marquette University and never completed his undergraduate studies; is that why he has an animus towards higher education?

 

Tim Slekar, Dean of the College of Education at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin, says there was no drafting error. 

 

Right here in Wisconsin our Governor, Scott Walker, declared war on the idea of free inquiry and the search for truth. He then went and put forth a budget that cuts $300 million from the UW system. When Governor Walker was called on his blatant attack on the academic mission of higher education—specifically the Wisconsin Idea—his response was a simple dismissal and officially called it a “drafting error.”

 

According to Jonas Persson and Mary Botarri of the Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Walker wanted to strike language,

 

ensuring that the mission of the UW is to extend “training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition,” as well as the language specifying that “the search for truth” is “basic to every purpose of the system.”

 

If you need to go back and read that again go ahead.

 

Now let that sink in…..

 

This is an attack on the right to learn and the right to investigate the human condition. This is an attack on the search and journey that promotes ways of living that enhance life.

 

Why would Governor Walker want to strike language that commits the state university system to improving the human condition and the search for truth?

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