How to Earn a Debt-Free Degree

It’s possible to earn “a fine bachelor’s degree at a reasonable cost and without going into debt,” write Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus in The Atlantic.

But students and their parents will have to stop thinking that name-brand prestige assures academic quality. The reverse is often true: professors who are rewarded for research are less likely to spend time with undergraduates. One offshoot of the PhD glut is that excellent teachers have taken positions at two-year colleges and regional branches of public systems. Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, Western Oregon State University, and University of Maryland’s Baltimore County campus are a few we’ve visited and were impressed with what we saw.

A student in Pueblo, Colorado will pay $3,399 a year for two years at the local community college.  Classes are small. Instructors focus on teaching, not research. Then the student can transfer to Colorado State, where tuition is $6,985, with room and board at $8,744. The total four-year cost is $38,256.

Colorado State graduates who do well can go to elite law, business or medical school with “graduates of Tulane (who laid out $206,821) or Georgetown ($214,364),” they write.

Hacker and Dreifus predict massive defaults on student loans, “starting with for-profit colleges and rising to the Ivy League.”

The parallels with housing are striking. In both, the written warnings aren’t understood, especially on penalties and interest rates. And in both, it’s assumed that what’s being bought will rise in value, in one case the real estate, in the other the salaries which will accrue with a degree. One bubble has burst; the second is already losing air.

Banks can’t foreclose on college degrees. But student loan defaulters “will be hounded for life,” warns Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. “They will garnish your wages. They will intercept your tax refunds. You become ineligible for federal employment.”

Via Joanne Jacobs, Community College Spotlight.

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State Could Lose Millions in Education Stimulus

California is at risk of losing millions in education stimulus funds because the recipients have been too slow in spending the money.

Six of nine stimulus grants are on pace to miss the Sept. 30 and Dec. 31 spending deadlines set by the federal government, according to a Bureau of State Audits report released last week.

The money in jeopardy includes aid to schools serving minorities and the poor and set-asides to help struggling families obtain child care services.

State auditors found numerous examples of slow spending and non-spending that they concluded could lead to loss of funds, including:

  • $2.7 million in school technology stimulus unused by 182 school districts, county education offices and charters
  • $2.4 million in Title 1 stimulus grants unspent by at least 20 school districts, county education offices and charters
  • $688,000 in special education stimulus unspent at two districts
  • $117,000 in child care aid unused by 33 day care providers
  • $111,000 in aid for students with disabilities unused by an unnamed education agency

Although it is rare to lose funds of this size, it wouldn’t be the first time California has returned stimulus cash. The state forfeited nearly $865,000 in stimulus last year given for the state’s Child Nutrition Program because it wasn’t spent during the time allotted. And forfeiture isn’t the only problem. Auditors also worry that the fix to this year’s spending conundrum could result in federal money used improperly or illegally. Read more >>

Via Corey G. Johnson, Why CTE Blog.

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White House Report Shows Fewer Rural Students Attend College

Despite greater parental and community involvement, students in rural schools have college-going rates that are 10 to 15 percentage points lower than those of urban school students.

Through his recently-launched White House Rural Council, President Barack Obama aims to conquer this issue and other problems faced by rural communities today. The Rural Council released a report this month, Jobs and Economic Security for Rural America, that briefly addresses education and focuses more on job creation and economic growth.

The report shows ways that the Obama administration is working to close gaps between rural schools and other public schools, mostly by increasing access to Pell Grants and making student loans more affordable.

The Rural Council describes educational training, job certification and credential attainment as critical to supporting military families and the 6.1 million veterans who live in rural communities. Additionally, the Rural Council includes “training a globally competitive workforce” as a key area for strengthening rural America. The report references several of the administration’s initiatives that are already in place to meet this goal including: the Education Jobs Fund program, the Rural Education Achievement program and the Department of Labor’s Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants.

Career Technical Education (CTE) helps close the college-going gap between rural and urban schools by providing education and skills training to prepare veterans, displaced workers, career changers, and other individuals for further education and careers in high-demand fields.

Via CTE Blog.

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Creating the High Schools of the Future

One of the problems with education reform is that US high schools operate under ambiguous orders. On the surface, there seems to be a shared vision. A recent Gallup poll echoed President Obama’s sentiments when it found that nearly all Americans (84 percent) agree that “high school students should be well-prepared for college and a career.”

But what happens if you go beyond the rhetoric? What will you learn if you ask what “prepared for college and a career” means in the context of our classrooms? Unfortunately, not a whole lot. That’s because there is no consensus on what this preparation entails and what high schools should be doing to produce educated minds.

Why is this important? Because unless we can define what this means, efforts at school reform will wander and drift with no way to gauge success or failure. As the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

Fortunately, we do have enough agreement to begin a productive conversation. Americans freely acknowledge that mastery of academic content is one aspect of preparation for higher education and the workforce. But their vision includes other factors as well. And they believe that the debate about school reform should focus on more than increased rigor or enhanced accountability — two critical goals that must be augmented, not abandoned. Read more>>

Via Gaston Caperton, Huffington Post.

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Project Aims to Repair Schools and Create Jobs

The 21st Century School Fund and the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) proposed last week a project, Fix America’s Schools Today (FAST!), that would create jobs and repair some of the nation’s schools.

Both the Government Accountability Office and the American Society of Civil Engineers agree that school districts haven’t kept up with facility repairs and maintenance for many years. According to the report, ignoring problems with school buildings may result in many problems over time including energy inefficiencies, unsafe drinking water, water damage and moldy environments, poor air quality, inadequate fire alarms and fire safety, compromised building security and structural dangers. The organizations estimate that at least $270 billion in backlogged maintenance or facility problems have not been addressed.

This is where the FAST! project comes into play. The 21st Century Schools Fund and EPI believe that by addressing even one-tenth of the current backlog of school improvement and repair, school districts have the opportunity to create 500,000 jobs for construction workers at a time when over a million are unemployed. Plumbers, building technicians, and energy-related workers would also benefit.

Career Technical Education (CTE) students and workers in the Architecture and Construction Career Cluster would benefit from the increase in job openings, but how would a project like this be funded during these tough economic times?

The report proposes allowing districts to scale up or back on school improvements based on available resources, and suggests adding money for FAST! to existing funding formulas. For more details, view the FAST! report. Read more>>

Via CTE Blog.

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