Archives for category: Higher Education

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


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 [ ], 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 [ ], 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.




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?

Just when you thought “reform” couldn’t get worse, couldn’t become more hostile to real education, count on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to think of something utterly reprehensible.

Valerie Strauss reports on Walker’s assault on his state’s great university system, both by cutting its budget by $300 million and changing its purpose.

She writes:

“Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

After loud public criticism, Walker’s staff said the wording was an error.

Reflecting on Walker’s bold but brainless initiative, Arthur Camins wrote this essay on “What Is the Purpose of Education?”

Governor Walker thinks it’s to prepare the workforce. Camins disagrees:

“But it doesn’t have to be either-or. Education should prepare young people for life, work and citizenship.

“Knowledge of the natural and engineered environments and how people live in the world is critical to all three purposes of education. Critical thinking, creativity, interpersonal skills and a sense of social responsibility all influence success in life, work and citizenship. For example, unhappy personal relationships often spill over into the work environment, while a stressful workplace or unemployment negatively impacts family life. Uninformed disengaged citizens lead to poor policy choices that impact life, work and citizenship. To paraphrase the verse in the old song, “You can’t have one without the others.”

Daniel S. Katz read the New York Times’ article “Is Your First-Grader College-Ready,” and he was not sure at first whether it was a spoof or for real. Evidently, it was for real. He introduces us to the useful term “Poe’s Law.” Wikipedia describes it thus: “a literary adage which stipulates that without a clear indicator of an author’s intended sarcasm it becomes impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.”*


It takes close reading a la Common Core for Katz to figure out that the article was for real, not a parody. Yet it still reads like a parody.


He writes:


So what is almost satirical about some of the approaches described in the Times?


It is one thing to talk to first grade students about what they want to be when they grow up. For students who are growing up without many community models of post-secondary education, I can see potential in the middle school activities described that emphasize recognizing what would be needed to accomplish their ambitions. However, the early elementary discourse transforms from surprising to comical to frustrating in very short order. Six year-olds are not simply talking about what they want to be as grown ups; they are naming specific schools and filling out mock applications for the bulletin board. The first grade teacher is quoted discussing that it is not enough to ask children what they want to be: “We need to ask them, ‘How will you get there?’ Even if I am teaching preschool, the word ‘college’ has to be in there.” The approach is not simply being applied in districts with high concentrations of disadvantage; the article quotes a college planner from Westchester County, New York who compares college preparation to becoming an Olympic skater whose training begins in earnest at age 6.


As a mother and grandmother, I can recall many conversations with young children about what they want to be when they grow up. The answers ranged from “a cowboy.” to “a fireman,” to “a movie star,” to “a baseball player,” to “an astronaut.” Why in the world would six-year-old children fill out mock college applications? Isn’t there plenty of time in high school to think about college, which courses to take to be prepared, which colleges are a good fit for one’s interests, which colleges are affordable, etc.? There ought to be a law that little children are allowed to have a childhood before adult compulsions are forced on them. They should be playing with dolls and building sand castles and making things out of blocks and coloring in coloring books and molding things from clay or Play-Dough; they should dance and sing. Why can’t the grown-ups let them be children? They are NOT global competitors; they are children.


*According to Wikipedia, Poe’s Law is of recent vintage. The article says:


The statement called Poe’s law was formulated in 2005 by Nathan Poe on the website in a debate about creationism. The original sentence read:


Without a winking smiley or other blatant display of humor, it is utterly impossible to parody a creationist in such a way that someone won’t mistake for the genuine article.[4]


The sentiments expressed by Poe date back much earlier – at least to 1983, when Jerry Schwarz, in a post on Usenet, wrote:


8. Avoid sarcasm and facetious remarks.


Without the voice inflection and body language of personal communication these are easily misinterpreted. A sideways smile, :-), has become widely accepted on the net as an indication that “I’m only kidding”. If you submit a satiric item without this symbol, no matter how obvious the satire is to you, do not be surprised if people take it seriously.[5]


Another precedent posted on Usenet dates to 2001. Following the well-known schema of Arthur C. Clarke’s third law, Alan Morgan wrote:


“Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.”[6]

Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab amplifies her perspective on the brief paper I posted this morning. The paper explains the facts about the Obama plan to make the first two years of community college free. In introducing the post, I wrote that she sought to “allay the fears of critics,” but she sets me right by saying that is not so. I also said that many critics worry that the plan is a subtle attempt to impose Race to the Top style metrics on community colleges and that she did not address this issue. She explains that she did not address the issue because it was not raised in the Obama plan.



Goldrick-Rab writes:

Hi everyone. Thanks to Diane for posting this. But I have to admit, I’m surprised and concerned with how you framed it. There are a few missing facts that your readers might welcome as context:


1. I co-authored a lengthy proposal for making two years of college free which was used as PART of the blueprint for this initiative. That proposal includes a thorough discussion of the resources required to do this well. Moreover, in a 2009 Brookings Institution paper, I discuss the need for a major investment in faculty and infrastructure at community colleges. Please see:




2. I do not address the questions about accountability/metrics in this FAQ because they have not been proposed by the President, not because I am avoiding them. I’ve written on this topic in the papers linked above as well.


3. I do not “seek to allay the fears of critics” in the FAQ, Diane, but rather to honestly and directly address the common questions asked. This is not “propaganda,” for I am selling nothing and am not in cahoots with anyone. I support the plan and am explaining why to the best of my ability.


4. In full disclosure, it seems worth mentioning to the readers who do not know me that I am a member of the AFT’s Higher Education Public Policy Council, recently co-authored an op-ed with Randi on the same topic, and that I’m also a new member of the board of the Shankar Institute. I’m also very active in my local here at UW-Madison, and I work with faculty, staff, and students across all public institutions in Wisconsin. I do not align with any of the elitism of my home institution, and work daily to implement the Wisconsin Idea. See the latest iteration of my efforts at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab (


I look forward to a robust and informed discussion on this blog. Again, thanks for sharing the FAQ. This proposal is among the boldest we’ve seen from the Obama Administration. While I’ve opposed pretty much everything that’s come from Arne Duncan, I like this one– and I don’t think it bears his fingerprints at all.

Mercedes Schneider has been trying to get Louisiana’s ACT scores, but the State Education Department would not release them. Mercedes would not be deterred, and she explains here how she finally got them. She always sssumed State Superintendent John White didn’t want the scores made public. Now she knows why.

“There is a reason Louisiana Superintendent John White has refused to release these scores to the public:

“The Class of 2014 ACT composite scores for RSD do nothing to support the now-ten-year-old sales pitch that The Reforms Are Working in New Orleans.

“The Class of 2013 ACT composite for RSD was 16.3.

“The Class of 2014 ACT composite for all RSD high schools was 15.6. For RSD-New Orleans high schools, it was 15.7.”

It turns out that the Néw Orleans-Recivery School District ranks 66 out of 70 districts in the state.

After a decade of “reform,” this is very sad.

Sara Goldrick Rab is a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.


In this paper, she explains the likely effects of President Obama’s plan for tuition-free community college. She explains how the plan would affect students who receive Pell grants, how it is likely to affect community colleges, how the plan differs from the Tennessee program, and other frequently asked questions. She seeks to allay the fears of critics. She does not, however, address the question of whether the plan is an effort to impose Race to the Top metrics on this sector.

Adam Bessie is a professor at a California community college. He looks back wistfully to the era when free community college was guaranteed and a path to making one’s way in the world.


But he fears now that President Obama’s plan will turn into a Race to the Top for community colleges, with federal requirements for test scores, VAM, and graduation, along with punishments for not reaching mandated targets.


“I worry that “free” college may be a Trojan horse for implementing a Race to the Top (RTTT) for higher education, which has been a disastrous policy for K-12 education. RTTT, which is essentially No Child Left Behind rebranded, uses the force of the federal government to institute a regime of standardized testing and so-called “competition,” which has narrowed the curriculum (especially in poor schools, which many of my students come from), emphasizing only reading and math, and tossing aside the arts, sciences and other areas which can’t be tested. Beyond this, RTTT has wrested control of classrooms out of the hands of educators and communities, and placed them into the hands of distant technocrats in the federal government and corporate America.


“Free” college might mean that community colleges would cede local, community control to the federal government; thus, the policies of Washington and corporate America would drive the curriculum, rather than the needs of the community. And based on what we’ve seen with RTTT, it’s likely that community colleges again would become junior colleges – designed primarily as trade schools, or for transfer, with a focus on getting students in and out the door as fast as possible, using standardized, impersonal methods more focused on efficiency than education.”


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