Archive for January, 2013

50 Books To Prepare You For the Next 50 Years

Jan. 29th 2013

Making predictions can be tough — Exhibit A, Harold Camping. But while prophesying the end of the world always ends badly (or always has in the past, anyway), there is such a thing as an educated guess. Prognosticators, futurists, and run-of-the-mill experts are often proved right by viewing the existing data and projecting it into tomorrow, or 50 years from now. To make ready for the next half century, check out some of these 50 books on everything from business to the biology of the future.

Business

  1. I Live in the Future & Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted by Nick Bilton:

    The digital media world is changing so quickly, this book by The New York Times head tech writer probably won’t see you through 50 years. But it will explain how experience, not content, will be the business model of successful companies in the near future, anyway.

  2. The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop, and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd:

    Corporate curricula that use video games and employees electing their leaders are just two of the 20 predictions these two businesswomen are lobbing at the coming decade.

  3. The Future of Content by Gerd Leonhard:

    Good news, consumers; this futurist thinks the old business model for content of pay-to-play is dead. The business of content producing in the future will be to add value with followers and generate trust.

  4. Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee:

    Get ready for the protestors shouting “A robot took my job!” This duo from MIT believe such days are ahead but with preparation we can keep from leaving workers behind.

  5. Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t, and What’s Next by Cecily Sommers:

    Like a magician revealing the secrets of his trade, Sommers shows you how to recognize patterns and “future-proof” your business.

  6. Foresight 2020: A Futurist Explores the Trends Transforming Tomorrow by Jack Uldrich and Simon Anderson:

    Being a futurist only pays to the extent he or she can make a business (or prevent it from losing) money. Uldrich and Anderson earn their keep by delving into 11 possible scenarios on the horizon.

  7. The Next Boom: What You Absolutely, Positively Have to Know About the World Between Now and 2025 by Jack W. Plunkett:

    It’s going to be sunny in the U.S. in the future, and not just in Philadelphia. Plunkett’s optimistic forecast predicts bullish times for nanotech, biotech, and remote wireless sensors.

  8. Custom Nation: Why Customization Is the Future of Business and How to Profit From It by Anthony Flynn and Emily Flynn Vencat:

    With easy-to-read prose and easily enacted advice, this recent bestseller is already earning rave reviews. Read and you’ll see how in the future, customization is king.

  9. The Future of Management by Gary Hamel:

    You probably won’t have a robot manager any time soon. But for all those human managers out there who are basically robots now, read this book and get with the program; the future is encouraging creativity, not exerting strict control.

  10. Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson:

    Don’t worry, oil magnates; this book isn’t meant for you. But the facts prove the costs for online business are shrinking to nil, and pricing at zero dollars might be the key to success in tomorrow’s market.

Technology

  1. How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed by Ray Kurzweil:

    According to Kurzweil, his 1999 published predictions for technology in the year 2009 were 86% correct. His latest book again deals with a future in which he sees a new intelligence coming into existence that far surpasses that of humans.

  2. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age by Clay Shirky:

    Following up on his hit book Here Comes Everybody, technology sage Clay Shirky sees mankind become collaborators, not just consumers, in the production of new creations that will move humanity forward. LOLcats notwithstanding.

  3. Future Imperfect: Technology and Freedom in an Uncertain World by David D. Friedman:

    With his triple-threat background of theoretical physics, economics, and law, Friedman is perfectly suited to give an interesting, at-times fascinating look at AI, virtual reality, and other technological frontiers.

  4. The Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything by Michael Saylor:

    As ingrained as smartphones and tablets already are to life today, at least one “science historian” believes they will be the death of credit cards, classrooms, cash, even real estate.

  5. Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil Degrasse Tyson:

    The rock star of the NASA crowd, Tyson is a huge opponent of the defunding space exploration is currently mired in. This book is his treatise on what we’ll miss out on if we don’t wise up.

  6. Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 by Michio Kaku:

    Flying cars, space elevators, and robot chefs—now this is a future we can get behind, courtesy of well-known theoretical physicist Michio Kaku.

  7. Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? by Howard Rheingold:

    The fact that it’s only 62 pages might be evidence that our attention spans are shorter, but as far as intelligence is concerned, “online instigator” Howard Rheingold makes a good case for how tech will help us solve mankind’s problems.

  8. Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler:

    One by one, Diamandis and Kotler tick off the list of human needs and present their evidence for how innovators, “Technophilanthropists,” and new tech will help all citizens of the world not just survive, but prosper.

Environment, Energy, and Food

  1. Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming by Bjorn Lomborg:

    The good news is, according to this environmental journalist, the polar bears are fine. The bad news is we may be wasting our time with our current efforts to curb global warming.

  2. Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller:

    You don’t have to be “the Decider” to be concerned about the future of energy. Berkeley physics prof Richard Muller has answers to your pressing questions on nuclear power, the viability of alternatives like wind and solar, and more.

  3. Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter:

    The war for what we eat has already begun, and if you want to be prepared for the massive fight that’s coming with the giant food conglomerates, you’d better get this book and study up.

  4. The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One by Sylvia Earle:

    Time‘s first ever “Hero for the Planet,” Earle is a voice crying in the wilderness on behalf of our ever put-upon oceans. She lays out in no uncertain terms what our pollution and overfishing will do to this blue planet of ours.

  5. Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air by David JC MacKay:

    As this Cambridge professor well knows, discussing the benefits of alternative energy sources can bring out the exaggerator in proponents. Steering clear of hyperbole, Mackay gives an entertaining and intriguing look into the hard data of sustainable energy.

  6. The World in 2050: Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future by Laurence C. Smith:

    UCLA geography professor Smith offers his measuredly optimistic take on life four decades from now; optimistic, that is, for the countries in the Arctic Rim. It’s well-researched, insightful, and doesn’t descend into the doom and gloom books like this often do.

  7. The Taste of Tomorrow: Dispatches from the Future of Food by Josh Schonwald:

    You won’t find much in the way of coming revolutions in the world of dairy, but check this one out if you share Schonwald’s passion for finding “the perfect salad.” You’ll also be treated to a lesson on what’s being done on in vitro meat production.

  8. Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg:

    Covering similar territory to The World is Blue, lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg gives a startling look at how we get our salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. If what he describes is the future, you may want to get your fill of these tasty fish while you can.

  9. The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman:

    We’ve all heard it said “water is the next oil,” but that’s not really the case. What is true, according to Fishman, is our need to develop a newfound respect for water and to redouble our efforts to conserve the clean stuff.

  10. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better by Christopher Steiner:

    As downright horrible as it sounds, $20 gas might be just the tough love we need to break us of our gas-guzzling, SUV-driving, plastic-consuming ways.

  11. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse by Lester R. Brown:

    As you can tell from the title, this is one of those reads that won’t leave you with the warm and fuzzies. Still, it’s a crucial read by a hero of the global environmentalism movement.

Health and Medicine

  1. A Return to Healing: Radical Health Care Reform and the Future of Medicine by Len Saputo M.D.:

    Could it be we’re finally ready to move our health care system beyond symptom treatment with prescription drugs to full-fledged healing and even prevention? This doc thinks so and makes a compelling case.

  2. The Future of Health-Care Delivery: Why It Must Change and How It Will Affect You by Stephen C. Schimpff M.D.:

    Hopefully you don’t harbor any illusions about the U.S. having the best health care system in the country. However, longtime medical expert Dr. Schimpff has some ideas about what the improved system will look like if we cut insurance companies out of the process and get medicine back to a doctor-patient relationship.

  3. The Creative Destruction of Medicine: How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care by Eric Topol M.D.:

    Cancer cell detection: there’s an app for that? Dr. Topol argues we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the intersection between medicine and technology, and that it holds the key for truly universal health care.

  4. The Stem Cell Hope: How Stem Cell Medicine Can Change Our Lives by Alice Park:

    Although it deals more with the by now well-established topic of stem cells, Time senior science writer Alice Park’s book gives a clear breakdown of a phenomenon that is sure to play a large role in the future of medicine.

  5. The Innovator’s Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care by Clayton M. Christensen, Jerome H. Grossman M.D., Jason Hwang M.D.:

    With help from two respected doctors, Harvard business prof Christensen brings his innovator cred to bear on how the health care system can be salvaged for future generations.

  6. My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time by Lone Frank:

    It turns out Gattaca was scarily prescient, right down to the fact that “personal genetics” was coming in “the not-too-distant future.” In fact, it’s here, and in the not-too-distant future you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it.

Education

  1. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz:

    Kamenetz gets no argument from us that online education is the future. But for the doubters, she lays out how we got to the broken system we have today and how personalized and experiential learning will cure what ails it.

  2. A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown:

    Required reading for anyone interested in the classrooms of tomorrow, A New Culture of Learning offers methods for adapting to a new vision of education that embraces game learning, lifelong learning, and more.

  3. Beyond 2020: Envisioning the Future of Universities in America by Mary Landon Darden:

    Who better to ask about the future of the university than a bunch of college presidents and higher ed experts? In her questions, Darden tackles all the pressing issues, from technology to legal concerns and the all-important question of financing.

  4. The Flat World and Education: How America’s Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future by Linda Darling-Hammond:

    Despite our specific efforts to the contrary, the world is leaving our students behind. Linda Darling-Hammond makes a strong case that major change is needed to revamp our dated education system.

  5. Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities by Richard A. DeMillo:

    If you’re, say, a college president looking for crib notes on how to move your school into the next era of education, DeMillo has you (and teachers, students, and parents) covered.

  6. Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology: The Digital Revolution and Schooling in America by Allan Collins and Richard Halverson:

    Collins and Halverson give so much space to criticisms of edutech that some come away thinking they’re pessimists. The truth is the book is a balanced discussion of how best to incorporate social networks and distance learning into education.

  7. The Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up by Kieran Egan:

    Obviously we couldn’t leave this one off the list. Prof. Egan’s dream is for “imaginative education,” and he lays out his plan for getting us there by 2060.

Miscellaneous

  1. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein:

    This bestselling, controversial book is nearly five years old now and covers events as far back as the ’70s. But considering many countries are still recovering from their run-ins with the free-market system, and U.S. foreign policy doesn’t look primed to change anytime soon, this makes a good read for what to expect in the future.

  2. 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years by Jorgen Randers:

    A co-author of 1972′s seminal Limits to Growth, Randers is back to provide a sneak peak of the entire first half of the 21st century, complete with decreased fertility and productivity and rampant global warming. Bummer.

  3. The Future of Power by Joseph S. Nye Jr.:

    The Harvard man who coined the phrase “soft power” shines the light on the coming battle for global dominance that will be waged not on the battlefield, but in cyberspace.

  4. Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution by Steve McIntosh:

    McIntosh tackles no less than the future of the universe with this work. It’s a great introduction to the integral thought field of study.

  5. The Future of Faith by Harvey Cox:

    What will the Christian church look like in 2030, or 2050? Legendary Harvard theologian Harvey Cox thinks faith will be more about spirit and community in the next generations.

  6. The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew Bacevich:

    A retired U.S. Army colonel, Bacevich is no conspiracy theorist, which is why his sobering accusation that we the people have to abandon our thirst for resources before we will see an end to war.

  7. Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism by David Folkenflik:

    An award-winning journalist for NPR assembles some of the most knowledgeable of his peers in the industry for an in-depth look at news in the 21st century, with the storied New York Times as his go-by.

  8. The Future of Everything: The Science of Prediction by David Orrell:

    As our parting suggestion, go meta with David Orrell’s book on the discipline of prognostication so after reading the other books, your expectations will be grounded in reality.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

The Student Achievement Tests that Matter Today

Jan. 24th 2013

Once, the ACT and SAT were big factors in determining whether or not you’d get into the school of your choice, but today schools are moving away from these tests, in large part because research has shown that they aren’t reliable indicators of how successful students will be in college. That doesn’t mean that student achievement tests have totally gone by the wayside, however. There are still a number of tests that matter in a big way at nearly every level of education, as well as innovative new models of assessment that are changing the way we think about standardized tests. Here, we’ve collected a few of both, showcasing the tests that students need to pay attention to today, as well as developments they can expect in the future.

K-12

Students in K-12 classes are taking these tests that may play a role in their own achievement and public education policy.

Common Core State Testing: If you thought standardized tests were a huge part of schooling before Common Core, things are about to expand much further. The new Common Core State Standards call for testing students not only in math and reading but also in subjects like foreign language, economics, the arts, and physical education. That’s a whole lot of testing and it’s predicted that it will span the entire K-12 experience. The results of these tests will play a big role in teacher evaluation, education policy, and even funding, so they’re not to be dismissed lightly.

TerraNova: TerraNova is a series of student achievement tests produced by McGraw-Hill that are designed to be given to students in K-12 to assess their understanding of reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, vocabulary, spelling, and other areas. The tests are used by the Department of Defense, the state of California, and several other states throughout the U.S.

International Baccalaureate Exam: While much more important in Europe and other places around the world, the IB exam can still play a big role for students in IB schools in the U.S. The exam not only marks the culmination of IB education; it can also take the place of the SAT and even give students college credit in languages and other subjects.

Stanford Achievement Test: Often called the SAT 10, this test produced by educational publisher Pearson is used both here and abroad for assessing skills in reading comprehension, mathematics, problem solving, language, spelling, listening comprehension, science, and social science. While incredibly comprehensive, it is becoming less common as states develop their own standardized tests under the mandate of the No Child Left Behind Act. A similar test, designed for use in urban areas, is the Metropolitan Test.

STAR Tests: STAR tests were created by Renaissance Learning for use in K-12 education. The tests are somewhat unique in that they are completed over the computer and use adaptive technology. Educators can use the tests to evaluate students in reading, early literacy, or math. They can often be an important tool in preparing students for state and high-stakes tests, and are often used to monitor student progress rather than to determine state or local education policy.

PARCC and SBAC Tests: PARCC (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium) are two groups looking to change the face of standardized testing in the U.S. These new tests will be given on the computer and may rely on computer skills to answer questions (students must drag items or highlight phrases). Another change is that some questions require research, writing, and problem solving, though the tests haven’t been able to totally get away from multiple choice questions.

New York Performance Standards Consortium Test: The New York Performance Standards Consortium, an alliance of 28 public high schools, is using a different kind of test to evaluate students. Students at these schools take performance-based assessments instead of standardized tests in all areas except for language arts. This small change, asking students to write essays and research papers, do science experiments, and create applied math problems rather than answer multiple choice questions, is having a big impact. The schools in the program have cut dropout rates in half, and the number of students who head to college after graduation has skyrocketed.

Learning Record and Work Sampling System: Two other kinds of innovative student assessments that are gaining ground are Learning Record and Work Sampling System, both of which draw on a student’s work in class to measure progress, rather than on a specific test. Teachers attach scores to things like writing samples or science experiments, allowing them to get a better sense of a student’s progress over time, rather than in a single instance.

Post-Secondary

Even if your school of choice doesn’t place high value on the SAT or ACT, you may still find these tests critical to your journey into higher education and your career.

AP Exams: There are currently 34 different AP courses that students can enroll in, offering access to college-level study in everything from calculus to art history. Students who opt to take AP courses and the subsequent exams can earn college credit at a much lower price, and potentially even graduate earlier, so the tests can be a big deal to those who take them.

SAT Subject Tests: The SAT may not be necessary to score you a spot at some colleges, but the subject tests offered by the College Board can still play a big role in determining your college career. These tests allow students to showcase their achievement in specific subject areas, like English, history, mathematics, and science. While not required, they can often help students demonstrate their ability to excel in a given topic, even if they struggle in other parts of the general test.

WorkKeys: For students who don’t plan to go on to college, there are still standardized tests that matter. One of these is WorkKeys. This test, created by the ACT people, is used by high schools (and colleges, too) to measure the workplace skills of students. The test can help students find a career that is a good match for them or get help in discerning which skills they can work on to help them get ahead in a field of their choice.

Graduate

Planning to head to graduate or professional school? These tests can play a big role in your admissions.

GRE: The Graduate Record Examination, more commonly called the GRE, is a required examination for admission to most graduate schools in the U.S. The test evaluates a student’s knowledge of verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and critical thinking skills. The test just underwent a major overhaul in 2011, reevaluating the adaptive nature of the problems offered to students. How much of a role the GRE plays in acceptance to grad school varies, but at many it can be an important factor in selection.

LSAT: Students looking to get into any law school in the U.S. will first need to take the LSAT (the Law School Admission Test). The test evaluates students on their reading comprehension as well as their logic and reasoning. The test is a critical part of the law school admissions process, especially here in the U.S., but is also used in Canada and for some schools in Australia.

MCAT: For aspiring doctors, the MCAT is still a very important test when applying to medical school. The computer-based examination helps test the ability of students to think critically and solve problems as well as assessing their scientific knowledge and writing ability. Specialized professions in health care may require other tests like the DAT (Dental Admission Test), the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test), and the OAT (Optometry Admission Test).

VCAT: If it’s your dream to work with animals, not people, in a medical setting, then you’ll need to take the Veterinary College Admission Test. This assessment uses questions that evaluate a student’s knowledge of biology and chemistry as well as reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and verbal skills.

Professional Tests: In many fields, in order to be certified as professionals, candidates must take tests to prove they have learned everything required to perform their job duties. These tests are taken in the final semesters of school or after students have graduated. They include the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam, Bar Examination, NCLEX, PRAXIS, UCPA Exam, and the United States Medical Licensing Examination, among others. These can be some of the most important achievement tests students will even take, as failure to pass them can inhibit progress in a career.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Admissions | No Comments »

The Future of College Enrollment: 10 Trends Coming Soon

Jan. 21st 2013


Some of these trends actually launched a little earlier than 2013, though they hold the potential to gigantify into something significant soon or in the near future. But the shape of college admissions, whether it be student-side or school-side, will most assuredly change in due time. After all, most elements of higher education already are thanks to demographic and technological fluxes.

  1. Challenging, creative essay prompts:

    University of Chicago, Caltech, and other schools decided to jettison the usual, “Discuss a challenge you overcame!” or “Who has left the biggest impact on your life?” in favor of essay topics far more unconventional and creative. Asking applicants to describe Waldo’s whereabouts or some other fanciful scenario tests their capacity for imagination and innovation – not to mention lessens the chances of meddling parents coaching them on well-worn “right” and “wrong” responses. Some colleges and universities also see it as a means of gauging who is and is not the most interested in their programming as well, since the not-so-serious likely wouldn’t exert too much effort.

  2. Applying as a junior:

    Most schools allow juniors to apply, but more and more seem to be taking advantage of this option in order to open up new opportunities and hopefully get their name out there. Unfortunately, this motion doesn’t exactly grant them any sort of advantage. Sending in applications early does not equate to hearing a “yes” early, no matter how eager and go-getting it makes them seem. In fact, it may very well hamstring their motivations since they still compete against seniors; just because schools send rejection notices doesn’t exactly mean they wouldn’t succeed in later years. But receiving a “no” runs the risk of demoralization, which they don’t really need when trying to carve out their futures in higher education.

  3. Test optional:

    SATs, ACTs, and other migraines enjoy buckets of criticism levied at the fact that they just don’t provide the most accurate assessment of a student’s academic potential. As a result, more and more colleges and universities consider them optional rather than a major player in the admissions process. So far, more than 850 schools decided to shunt the exams to the sidelines and focus on other factors illustrating a candidate’s preparedness and acumen in the classroom. While the trend certainly stretches back a little further than some of these, increased pressure from administrators, parents, and students concerned about the not-so-standardizing elements of standardized tests means a more significant shift away in the coming years.

  4. Submitting more than three applications:

    Back in the day, hopeful college enrollees applied to their No. 1 choice and one to two “safety schools” just in case. But finances and other concerns mean graduating seniors (or idealistic juniors) open themselves up to even more options these days. Seventy-nine percent reported submitting information to three or more schools in 2011, marking an uptick from 67% in 2010. A further 29% applied to a staggering seven or more, an increase from 25%. And this trend shows very little sign of abating anytime soon, as hand-wringing kids and parents hope to wait out the recession with education.

  5. More students in medical school:

    Medical school enrollment regularly experiences increases, with the Association of American Medical Colleges expecting to grow by 30% between the 2002-2003 and 2016-2017 school years. Fifty-six percent of this has already happened; suffice to say, the AAMC feels pretty confident that the next few years won’t disappoint, either. More first-time medical students means more doctors. Which is great with Baby Boomers aging and life expectancy increasing. Unfortunately, though, primary care enrollment is down. That’s kind of the most important position needed right now.

  6. Less competition:

    Maybe. With declining numbers of high school graduates, this means fewer students applying to colleges nearby and across the country (if not world). This has less to do with dropout rates rather than declines in the amount of babies born annually and fewer immigrants. About 3.4 million kiddos graduated from high school last year, but the amount will likely decrease to around 3.21 for the 2013-2014 semesters. In order to keep numbers up, admissions offices will have to start courting more international, nontraditional, and returning students over time.

  7. One-year master’s programs:

    Linda Abraham of Accepted.com predicts a surge in one-year master’s degree plans, which tend to focus largely on business-related subjects (like entrepreneurship) these days. University of Michigan, Cornell, Kellogg, and Columbia all offer up “more accelerated MBA programs” to help b-school graduates finish school faster and cheaper without compromising their ability to score jobs afterwards. She also believes that, over time, such programs both in the United States and other nations might wind up overtaking their two-year counterparts thanks to the appealing ease and cost.

  8. More early applicants at Ivy League schools:

    Save for Dartmouth, curiously, which experienced a drop of 12.5% in early applications last year. Harvard and Princeton saw a swell of 14.9% and 10%, respectively, with the rest of the schools underneath the Ivy League banner upticking to a more modest extent. Likely this blooms from the same logic as juniors who just can’t wait for senior year to see which schools bite, as early application might very well reduce the amount of competition over primo class spots.

  9. Gap years:

    Life quite often proves the best classroom, so states the cliche. But the sentiment certainly roots itself in reality. About 1.2% of incoming freshmen in 2011 elected to wait a year before beginning their studies, and it seems as if this trend continues on into 2013. Research at Skidmore noted that students who opt to take a gap year enjoy higher grades and retention rates than those who do not. It also helps improve their motivation levels, which do kind of very much feed into grades and staying in school.

  10. “Hooks”:

    Blues Traveler knows that the hook brings you back, and it also happens to increase your chance of securing a spot at your aspiring alma mater. Application rates may drop, but demand for students to show off their special snowflake attributes increases. They might very well boast some excellent grades, but schools increasingly want them to stand out in other areas, particularly extracurricular activities. Schools want to see more well-rounded individuals applying, with the logic being that they add texture and diversity to the campus, not just a sexy GPA.

Posted by Staff Writers | in Resources | No Comments »

The Student Cheat-Sheet for Understanding the Faculty Crisis

Jan. 17th 2013


As a student, you may feel that the faculty crisis only tangentially affects you, yet the reality is that it can and does have a direct effect on the overall educational experience you’ll have in college. For that reason, it’s imperative to learn as much as possible about the faculty crisis. You want to be a smart, savvy consumer who gets the most for their money, and college is one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make, so you should know about issues that will impact the value and quality of the experience. If you don’t know where to begin, don’t worry; we have you covered. Here’s a quick guide to understanding who’s really teaching you and what that may mean for your financial investment in college and ultimate success as a student.

Who Is Teaching You?

Do you know what role your professors play at your school? You should. Read on to learn more about the different titles your professors can have and the pros and cons of each being your instructor.

Teaching Assistant:

Teaching assistants are graduate students at the master’s or doctoral level working with a professor in their department, usually to gain experience and tuition breaks. Pros: TAs are often (but not always) closer to your own age, something which may make them less set in their ways and more flexible. Cons: Teaching assistants have not yet graduated from their degree program and most, while knowledgeable, don’t have the same degree of experience as a professor.

Adjunct Professor:

Adjunct professors are those who work part-time for the university or college. Once, adjuncts were largely individuals who were retired from teaching or professionals working in the field, but today adjuncts are much more likely to be master’s or doctoral program grads who cannot find full-time employment as professors. Pros: Adjuncts are often highly credentialed in their field and as qualified to teach as any other professor. Cons: Unfortunately, the part-time status of adjuncts’ jobs may force them to teach at several schools which means more time spent traveling and less time to prepare for and meet with students.

Lecturer or instructor:

If someone is listed as a lecturer or instructor, this usually designates that the individual is simply teaching at the school and has no research obligations. Pros: Lecturers generally know a lot about their field, are highly qualified, may have more time for students because they don’t also have to complete research. Cons: Because they aren’t doing research while at the school, however, lecturers may have weaker ties to the university and it may be hard to keep in touch as you progress through school.

Assistant Professor:

When academics enter their field, they generally begin as assistant professors. This position can be tenure track and requires the same amount of research, preparation, and teaching as other professorship positions (sometimes more, as young professors work their way up the academic ladder). Pros: Your assistant professors will have graduate degrees and should be highly qualified. Cons: Because assistant professors are new to their field, they will have less experience and usually aren’t tenured.

Associate Professor:

Associate professors are those who are on the tenure track (or who have already obtained it after being promoted to an associate professor) but have only been on the job six to eight years, depending on the institution. Pros: Associate professors are highly qualified and are tied to the university through tenure. They also do research, so they will be in the loop about their given field. Cons: There are few cons to having an associate professor as a teacher, though some will have less experience than their full professor colleagues and may have more committee and administrative work with their higher rank.

Full Professor:

At the top of the academic ladder are full professors. Full professors have often be working in their field for 15-20 years and are highly experienced. Some may even be promoted to chair of the department or serve as distinguished professors for their schools. Pros: These professors are usually the big names that draw in students to schools and bring in research money. Generally, they will be the most experienced and well-regarded professors at a school. Cons: Most colleges don’t have a lot of full professors on staff, so you won’t always be able to take courses from them. They also often concentrate on graduate-level teaching. While age does offer experience, full professors may be set in their ways, or more focused on research than teaching, but these things will vary largely depending on individuals.

Problems With the Current Setup

The economic crisis and shifting financial priorities have had a big impact on who is teaching America’s college students. A growing number of full professor positions are being cut, filled instead with adjunct and other part-time positions. Budget cuts also may mean that not only is more stress put on part-time professors but also that full professors may be carrying a heavier class load and are saddled with more responsibilities than ever before. Take a look at this information to get a more in-depth look at some of the problems associated with the faculty crisis.

  • Many professors are demoralized by the current setup.From adjuncts trekking from school to school to associate professors killing themselves with long hours to earn full professorships (80 hours a week isn’t unheard of), academia as it is has proven to be pretty demoralizing for a large number of those working in it. Studies have shown that both those at the lower end of the academic spectrum and those in the middle are pretty unhappy with their jobs, which isn’t a good thing for students or professors. Budget cuts haven’t helped, with 96% of professors reporting feeling the cuts are a major source of stress and 48% having considered leaving academia altogether. Not exactly a recipe for success.
  • Non-tenure track faculty are overworked, underpaid, and have no lasting ties to the school. Adjunct and non-tenure-track faculty were once fairly rare, but today make up about 68% of all faculty appointments. In fact, only 27% of professors hold full-time, tenure-track positions. Without any long-term guarantee of employment, these faculty members are often overworked and mistreated. For example, many adjuncts earn $20,000 a year or less (many elementary school teachers make more), teach five classes a semester, or work at three or more schools. It’s hard to be a good teacher when your career is so unstable, and part-time faculty often have little time for interaction with students, research, or other personal development.
  • Schools often have disproportionate numbers of graduate students teaching students.While non-tenure track professors may be overworked, they usually have doctoral degrees in their fields. Graduate students do not. While these students do need experience teaching courses, some schools overuse them to teach. For example, of the 4,235 teachers at the University of Tennessee, 2,062, nearly 50%, are graduate students. With tuition higher than ever before, many students may not be getting access to the highly qualified and experienced professors they deserve.
  • Poor pay and benefits means that schools aren’t attracting the best talent. If your school isn’t paying professors well, then it likely has little chance of attracting those who are the best and the brightest in their field. Those academics will simply seek employment elsewhere where they will be better compensated for their expertise. That’s a big deal because research has shown that the top universities, generally those with the best student outcomes, too, have top-notch faculty teaching and doing research.
  • Smaller budgets and fewer full-time faculty means fewer resources for students. Many schools simply aren’t hiring new professors (faculty numbers have declined by 18%) or are relying too heavily on part-time faculty. This has resulted in an increase in class sizes, greater workloads for professors, and even lowered standards in courses. That’s less time spent on revising papers, answering questions in class, or meeting with students, all of which has a direct effect on educational quality.

Why the Faculty Crisis Should Matter to Students

The faculty crisis isn’t something that just college faculty have to worry about; it’s a problem that trickles down to students, too. Here are some big reasons that students need to educate themselves on the issue.

  • Faculty can have a direct impact on student achievement. Ever had a great teacher in your life? The effort he or she was able to put into helping you excel may have made a big difference in your life, your goals, and your future. Faculty who are overworked, overstressed, or underqualified are going to have a harder time helping you, as they may find it hard to simply stay afloat without any additional obligations. Studies have shown that strong relationships with professors can not only improve student grades but can actually help students stay enrolled in school until graduation.
  • Relationships with professors matter, both in school and after. Being able to build strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your professors is an essential part of getting the most out your college education. Faculty can help you find material to research, apply for grad school, or even just point you in the direction of books and articles that will help enrich your education. After graduation, they can also serve as great references and connections to the field. Not being able to foster these kinds of relationships can be a detriment to you both now and later.
  • Those entering academia will be directly affected.Those who are hoping to one day work in academia (and even those who are not, you never know where your career will take you) should pay special attention to the faculty crisis. Learning about it now can help reveal the many obstacles that students face when making it into work at a university, and talking with professors at all levels can help you to avoid many of the pitfalls affecting those in higher education today. Let this give you some perspective: between 2005 and 2009, 100,000 students graduated with a Ph.D., but only 16,000 new jobs in academia were created.

The bottom line is that even if you’re not planning on working in academia, the faculty crisis does affect you. When choosing a school, take the time to learn about how many adjunct and full professors will be teaching you, and meet with those in your department, if possible, to get a sense of the atmosphere. You should have serious concerns about the ability of the school to provide you with the kind of education you deserve, especially if you’re shelling out tens of thousands of dollars in tuition, so don’t be afraid to learn more and raise questions if your school (or prospective school) doesn’t seem to be up to par.

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10 Disturbing Facts About The College Admissions Process

Jan. 15th 2013


Whatever college admissions counselors are getting paid, it probably isn’t enough. They each have the unenviable task of parsing through hundreds or even thousands of eager young students’ applications, most of whose dreams they will have to dash to pieces with a single stroke of a pen. Still, they are cogs in a process that is rife with enough stuff to discompose, discombobulate, distress, and discomfort anyone who happens to look right at it for too long.

  1. Web profiles are coming back to haunt students:

    It’s surprising that the figure isn’t even higher, but three-quarters of teenagers are social media users, and almost all of them are on Facebook. And apparently one-third of them are poor judges of what constitutes appropriate material for sharing. From 2011 to 2012, admissions officers increased their social media background checks on applicants only slightly, but the percent that found something that hurt students’ chances of getting into their particular school nearly tripled, to 35%. Considering that only a fraction of colleges conduct criminal background checks despite one in 29 students having criminal records (as of 2009), the weight attributed to youthful indiscretions posted online is troubling indeed.

  2. The bar is higher for Asian-Americans:

    Considering race is an issue we’ll be talking about more, but none of us like to imagine race being a factor that makes it more difficult to be admitted to a certain school. Unfortunately, that seems to be exactly what’s happening for Asian-American students. A 2009 book found a 140-point SAT penalty waged against Asian applicants, meaning a 1600 scored on the test by an Asian American applicant would be considered equally with a 1460 by a white student. The investigations have already begun, but until they are completed, many applicants will think hard before checking the “Asian-American” box on their applications.

  3. The SAT range can be very misleading:

    Contrary to a growing belief that the SAT is an unfair or otherwise poor indicator of student success in college, recent research has found it is still a useful part of the admissions process. That being said, the commonly-seen “25/75 percentile” — the stat that reveals the range of scores the middle half of last year’s incoming freshmen class scored on the SAT — might lead a student to believe he is well within the range of acceptance when in reality he’s as much as 200 points behind the majority.

  4. Admissions consulting has become big (and often ugly) business:

    Can we all agree the system needs tweaking when over one out of every five students in private colleges has used private admissions consultants to get in and the number of said consultants has doubled since 2010? And when consultants are taking fees as high as $2 million to get Junior into Harvard? Disconcerting as those facts alone are, some of these companies are less than above-board. As one stateside application coach working for a Chinese firm discovered, some consulting groups go beyond essay editing so far they’re treading “dangerously close to plagiarism.”

  5. Colleges are judging the entire student:

    Imagine having a dozen strangers perusing your academic achievements, your family background, your high school activities, your essays about who you are and who you want to be, and basically everything else that makes you you and deciding you just don’t “fit.” “Institutional fit” they call it, and at 21% of schools, it’s the first cut you have to survive in the admissions process. Not only does this method have the potential to vary wildly by school, it is alarming that schools promote this “holistic” approach, as the ones who are rejected have little else to conclude than that they have been rejected as whole people, not just students.

  6. Schools have been caught fixing their admissions numbers:

    As The New York Times put it, the early 2012 news that a top-flight school like Claremont McKenna had manipulated its admissions numbers left the academic world “dismayed.” We’re simply going with disturbed. Emory University coming clean about having also lied about admissions data for a decade did little to help our disturbia. The two were simply the latest examples of colleges manipulating data to improve their rankings and get more applicants in a system that now relies heavily on those rankings.

  7. Considering race sets back desegregation:

    Here’s something pretty much nobody saw coming: the states that don’t allow race to be considered in college admissions may actually help move along the process of desegregation that unfortunately is still underway some 50 years later. A study out of Georgetown University just found that in states where schools aren’t allowed to factor race (like California, Florida, and Texas), black students’ exposure to white students increased 1.45%. More work will no doubt need to be done on this line of inquiry, but it needs to happen sooner than later as the Supreme Court may rule soon on the constitutionality of using race in college admissions.

  8. Legacies get a huge boost:

    Much like in other areas of life, the best thing you can do for yourself is be born into a privileged family. The legacy system is one of the most off-putting aspects of the college admissions process, except obviously to those lucky few who benefit. How much do they benefit, exactly? A Harvard researcher found that at elite universities, being what he called a “primary” legacy (having a parent who attended the desired college as an undergrad) was good for a 45% bump in the chances of getting in. So to put that in perspective, having the right parents can take your chances of being admitted from 5% to 50-50.

  9. Applicants who can pay have a better chance of getting in:

    Darn you, recession; have you no decency? Must you invade the hallowed halls of academia as well? Yes, cynical as it may seem, news began to emerge in 2011 that more than half of public universities and a third of four-year colleges had cranked up the search for students who didn’t need any financial assistance. Nearly 20% of admissions officials at private colleges even admitted that most of the full-pay students they were letting in had worse scores than their peers.

  10. Random admissions committee comments can make or break you:

    As our readers familiar with the actual workings of the college admissions process will know, most applicants go through several stages of cuts before being finally accepted, the final stage often being an admissions committee meeting where a panel discusses each student together. As the Daily Beast reported, at a “top” northeastern liberal arts school (that obviously would not appreciate being named), comments from these talks revealed such bizarre, vague, and otherwise outrageous disqualifiers as not “feeling a spark” from an application, how the student stacked up against an already admitted sibling, and whether the decision would “make sense to the high school.”

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Studying Abroad in America

Jan. 9th 2013

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10 Higher Ed Money Trends Students Should Know About Heading Into 2013

Jan. 7th 2013


So the world didn’t end on December 21st. Hopefully you weren’t banking on that happening and haven’t given away all your money and possessions. If you have, you’re probably more concerned with where your next meal is going to come from than what’s going to happen to Stafford loans next year. For everybody else, we’ve pinpointed a few patterns, innovations, and upcoming issues that will feature prominently in the higher ed world in 2013.

  1. Tution rising faster than inflation:

    Benjamin Franklin said the only certain things in life are death and taxes, but then again, Ben never had to pay for college. To say college tuition rising faster than the rate of inflation is a trend is putting it mildly; it’s been going on for decades. And unfortunately, the streak is almost guaranteed to continue in 2013, short of a monumental shift in higher education. Even with the Fed putting less emphasis on a target of 2% max inflation next year, college tuition would have to increase by half as much as it did in 2011-2012 (4.8%) to even be close.

  2. Professors setting their own price schedules for online classes:

    Here’s something students and college profs alike will want to keep an eye on. 2012 was without question the year of the MOOC (massive open online course, for those who missed 2012), but 2013 could be the year of the MOCC: mid-sized online closed courses. These would be smaller, paid courses, as opposed to the, well, massive class sizes that gratis courses pull in. Already education provider StraighterLine has set up Professor Direct, where college profs can set their own prices for online courses they teach. The monetary advantage to teachers is obvious, but students would benefit by getting more face-time with an instructor than MOOCs allow, while still paying less than at a traditional school.

  3. More financial aid transparency:

    One of the results of the housing bubble that caused the recession was a national demand for banks to be more transparent when making mortgage transactions. Perhaps 2013 will show whether a similar call for student loan transparency will prevent what many predict will be the next bubble to burst. There is reason to hope: In June 2012, 10 colleges promised Vice President Joe Biden that they would make sure students know how much a year of college with them will cost, how they can find help paying for some of that cost, how much they can expect to pay in student loans once they graduate, and more. Now that the ball is rolling, more colleges should follow suit (or else risk looking shadowy by comparison).

  4. Education budget cuts :

    How are we so sure tuition is not going to come down any time soon? Because public college tuition levels are closely tied to state education budgets, and those continue to be hammered. From Texas and Louisiana to California and Colorado, 26 states have cut spending already and the effects will be noticeable in 2013 and beyond. And the federal government may not be much help. At the time of this writing, Congress is still wrangling over how not to tumble head-first off the “fiscal cliff” and higher ed is in line to get a painful budget slash on the first day of the new year if a deal is not made.

  5. More performance-based college funding:

    With such monetary dilemmas front and center, many states are beginning to take a different approach to how much funds they allot specific public universities. With the full support of major education players like Bill and Melinda Gates and President Obama, states like Ohio have begun to move toward rewarding public money to public universities based on the success with which they retain and graduate out their students. Unlike the performance funding of the past few decades, PF 2.0 (as U.S. News & World Report put it) may see states basing their judgments on factors like critical thinking, graduates’ ability to get a job, and student progression over their college career.

  6. Changes to federal higher ed funds:

    Although Congress managed to avoid letting the interest rate on federal student loans double overnight in June 2012, the deal that kept it at 3.4% was only for a year. That means that come summer 2013, it will be right back in the crosshairs again, only this time, it’s personal. By that we mean, students should brace for the worst. But it’s not all bad news. The American Opportunity higher ed tax credit, the higher ed tuition reduction, and the student loan interest reduction will all be up for review in 2013, and they’re all predicted to turn out favorably for students.

  7. Cheaper textbooks:

    With any luck, textbooks’ long reign of terror may soon be over, banished to the history section of the bookstore. On one hand you have developments like Washington State creating an e-library of free textbooks for 40-plus community college courses. Then there’s groups like Rice University’s OpenStax College, which thinks it can save students a collective $95 million in five years with its free e-textbooks. Finally, textbook rental companies are hitting their stride, as well. After all, you know it’s a big deal when Amazon gets into the game. Between the influence that online retailer wields and the increasing amount of heat longtime industry company Chegg seems to have now, textbook rental is poised to go gangbusters in 2013.

  8. Nonprofit online colleges challenging for-profits:

    For-profit online universities had a rough 2012, losing students and landing on the receiving end of some tough love from the federal government and some downright brutal press coverage. Meanwhile, nonprofit schools began to gain ground. A report by consulting firm The Parthenon Group entitled “Are the Sleeping Giants Awake? Non-Profit Universities Enter Online Education at Scale” stated, “The race is on to scale as quickly as possible.” While they still have quite a way to go to catch up, all signs point to nonprofits continuing to increase in popularity in 2013, while the for-profit market contracts.

  9. Student loan repayment will become much less painful:

    Just as the way students get college money will be shaken up next year, the way they give it back will be in flux, as well. On July 1, 2013, President Obama’s pet project Pay As You Earn is set to take effect, capping monthly payment of federal student loans at 10% of monthly discretionary income. There is also talk of doing away with the debt collectors and middle-men that currently add up to an additional 25% of what a student already owes by stacking their fees on top. Instead, payment would be automatically deducted from graduate’s paychecks at a set percentage, as is done in the U.K. Even the ban on students declaring bankruptcy is in question, a very promising development for debt-riddled college grads.

  10. Student lawsuits against their alma maters:

    An ugly trend cropped up in 2012 of college graduates suing their alma maters alleging the schools misrepresented students’ chances of finding a job after college (that’s where the “money” part comes in). Actually this started happening in the second half of 2011, picking up steam in December with 11 class action lawsuits against law schools, then barreling into early 2012 with at least 20 more. It will be interesting to see in 2013 if some of these are settled, in which case we will undoubtedly be seeing more of them.

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Higher Education Reform: What Students Expect Next

Jan. 2nd 2013

The verdict is in: the future will belong to those who seek as much education as they can get. Don’t believe us? Just check out this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics correlating various degree levels with unemployment rates and wages. It’s uncanny. Every additional educational attainment makes a noticeable difference (with one tiny exception at the very highest level: an academic doctorate is worth slightly less on the market than a terminal professional degree … but still, 39 out of 40 Ph.D.s have jobs, and they pay well). Pursuing this American dream, though, is expensive. Total student debt now totals over $1 trillion, and the average graduate owes $26,000 in student loans. That’s why Congress slipped a student loan reform package into the Affordable Care Act signed by President Obama in 2010. However, this bill only took incremental steps in terms of cutting out for-profit middlemen (saving both students and taxpayers money), increasing Pell Grants, and implementing income-based repayment. Here are some ideas for potential reforms that students would cheer, some blue-sky, some very doable:

  1. Make private student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy.

    Unlike nearly any other kind of debt, outstanding student loans are not forgiven even if you declare bankruptcy. Senator Dick Durbin is angling to change that, stating: “I have a bill, the Fairness for Struggling Students Act, that would once again permit private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy as they were before 2005.” If such a bill should pass, it would be good for the economy. Bankrupt students who borrowed more for education than the available jobs could enable them to pay back would have a chance to rebuild their lives, instead of fighting a futile struggle to pay off the principal, and the extortionate interest, before retirement or death … or even after!

  2. Finish the job when it comes to cutting out profiteers.

    The 2010 provisions signed by Obama eliminate subsidized loans going forward, in favor of direct loans, but the reforms do not go far enough. For one thing, private lenders still get fat contracts to “service” these loans. For another, existing subsidized loans should be bought up by the government as they’re already doing the damage. Critics such as Senator Lamar Alexander howled about a “Soviet-style takeover” of federal student loans, which is a hilarious concept, akin to “keep the government out of my Medicare.” Interestingly, Republican critics have had little problem with the fact that these loans were guaranteed and subsidized by taxpayers all along … provided that the profits kept flowing to private bankers.

  3. Create a “public option” of tuition-free universities.

    If the problem is out-of-control tuition, why not take the idea of cutting out the middleman even further, and set up free schools instead of federally subsidizing privatized schools and lenders? Many colleges have functioned just fine without charging students an arm and a leg, or anything at all; indeed, countries like the UK have free higher education for all. Why our most prestigious private nonprofit schools need to extract money from attendees in addition to their billion-dollar endowments (though many of these rich top-tier schools have been pursuing aggressive need-based tuition remission) is fairly inexplicable.

  4. Impose price controls on tuition.

    The heads of free marketeers are undoubtedly exploding upon reading the phrase “price controls,” but it’s important to remember that as recently as the Nixon administration, the idea that government could set prices (and even wages!) was a bipartisan notion. While we’re certainly not suggesting a return to Nixon’s stagflation-fighting price controls on oil, meat, and other products, education is a different beast. As a society we all have a vested interest in providing affordable learning. The idea of education as a public good is hardly revolutionary, and hasn’t been since the 19th century. Especially when the money used to pay the tuition is rarely paid up front and ultimately backed by the government, laws should be set to limit this exorbitant “sticker shock.”

  5. Consolidate all existing student loans at the discount rate offered to bailed-out banks.

    Aren’t we the people Too Big To Fail as well? Why should we have to pay any more interest to banks than they paid the feds to keep them afloat? Refinancing all outstanding loans at about 5%, in addition to keeping them just above the prime rate going forward, say 3.5%, would create simultaneous booms in consumer spending and pursuit of advanced degrees, which in turn would improve Americans’ future employment prospects in aggregate. The fact that it’s such a no-brainer, combined with the profits the status quo reaps for powerful private interests, ensures this will never be done. But we’d love to be proven wrong.

  6. Throw a student-debt jubilee!The jubilee is an ancient Near Eastern custom that was adopted by first the Jewish and then the Christian tradition, and, in the most familiar use of the word, the British monarchy. A jubilee year celebrates the ostensible stability and prosperity provided by a long-ruling monarch, who demonstrates his or her beneficence to the people on this rare occasion by the forgiveness of all debts and the freeing of slaves. This relieves debtors who never had a chance of repaying, and shuffles the economic deck, so to speak. For that reason, it is not such a great deal for usurers and landlords, who are currently holding so many of the cards. In the absence of a unifying faith or an absolute monarch, we probably shouldn’t expect a revival of this admirable custom. However, several recent initiatives (the Student Debt Jubilee linked above, as well as the Jubilee Debt Coalition and Occupy Wall Street’s Rolling Jubilee) have adopted its ideals and its rather catchy moniker.

  • Expand and improve income-based repayment.

    Income-based repayment, or IBR, is just what it sounds like: a payment plan that pegs your monthlies to no more than a certain percentage of your income. Of course, your debts are still accumulating interest at the usual rate, but for those who won’t be able to make a large salary when they’re first out of school (i.e. anyone who’s not going to a top-flight law or business program), it can still be a lifesaver. However, even with Obama’s expansion of this program, it has some flaws. For example, it was not made available to current borrowers, private loans aren’t eligible, many borrowers don’t understand how to choose it, and enrollment can only be chosen once a year rather than on any given month. All of these problems are fixable if legislators grow spines.

  • Let community colleges offer four-year degrees.

    This is one bold proposal that has ruffled some feathers in higher education. Community colleges in most jurisdictions only offer two-year programs and typically partner with public four-year universities to transfer students for bachelor’s degrees. However, this is now being challenged. Legislation is being passed at the state level to allow community colleges to award four-year degrees, typically in vocational fields. The public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutions have finally found something they all agree on: they don’t want this to happen and have banded together to fight these initiatives. You’ve got to wonder if that doesn’t mean it’s a pretty good idea.

  • Bring the for-profits to heel.

    In recent years, more and more students have been purchasing their education from corporations rather than traditional schools. Many of these for-profit entities offer degrees that are borderline worthless. When their students can’t find jobs, the companies still profit from the tuition—paid, remember, not by students themselves, but by third-party lenders, who in turn are ultimately backed by the government, i.e. all of us who pay taxes. The companies then spend this loan money on marketing, to convince more of the poor, ignorant, and vulnerable to enroll. (Legislation to prevent this use of federal money was shot down thanks to lobbying.) It’s the perfect pyramid scheme, and many people have gotten very rich off of it … but seldom the students this sector claims to serve. t’s time to return some integrity to higher education by demanding accountability from these entities, or else shutting the whole racket down entirely.

  • Redirect funding to more lucrative departments.

    A couple years ago, Microsoft founder Bill Gates gave a speech in which he suggested that governors might want to consider rerouting education dollar toward STEM fields (science/technology/engineering/mathematics), on the premise that those will be the skills required for high-paying jobs in the future. Speaking of jobs, the founder of Apple characteristically refused to let Gates have the last word, giving a speech a couple weeks later wherein he extolled the virtues of a liberal arts education. While both are right in a sense (generalists will always be needed, as will geeks), and as writers we’re inclined to side with the hippie, some matching of state subsidies to the demands of job vacancies is certainly worth examining.

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