October 20, 2014

You probably need a college degree to get hired as a secretary.

by Grace

Only college graduates need apply for secretarial jobs.

More than half of employers now require a college credential for all jobs, and nearly one-third now hire college graduates for jobs that previously went to high-school graduates, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 hiring managers. Labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies recently found that 65% of postings for executive secretaries and assistants call for bachelor’s degrees, but just 19% of current secretaries have such credentials.

I recently heard about a long-time secretary who had been laid off and could not find another job because she did not have a college degree.

But a degree doesn’t necessarily make a candidate more qualified, it’s often just a way to screen applicants.

Few hiring managers say that college graduates are more qualified than nongrads for jobs in retail and warehouses, but as long as the job market is tight, employers say they can afford to be picky.

No wonder “parents push their kids to go to college”.

———

Melissa Korn, “A Bit of College Can Be Worse Than None at All”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2014.

October 17, 2014

The booming test prep industry offers questionable value

by Grace

20141016.COCTestPrepCentersByState1

…The number of test prep centers in the U.S. more than doubled to 11,000 from 1998 to 2012, the last year for which Census data are available.

There’s a multibillion-dollar market for tutoring services in the U.S., with franchises such as Kumon and big chains including Kaplan and Princeton Review. The test prep industry promises to help students score better on everything from the SAT to Advanced Placement courses to med school entrance exams.

Strictly speaking, Kumon and similar centers do not focus on test preparation.

Washington DC, New Jersey, Hawaii, New York, and California lead in locations with the highest concentrations of tutoring establishments, as shown by the chart on the right.

All the money and effort devoted to commercial test preparation seems to have a relatively low payout.

… Contrary to the claims made by many test preparation providers of large increases of 100 points or more on the SAT, research suggests that average gains are more in the neighborhood of 30 points….

———

Patrick Clark, “The Test Prep Industry Is Booming”, Businessweek.com, October 08, 2014.

October 16, 2014

It’s surprisingly hard for residents to get into some state universities

by Grace

Many in-state colleges and universities are accepting fewer in-state applicants into their freshman classes. Why?

The Wall Street Journal has a short video that gives the example of a California high school valedictorian with top Advanced Placement scores and an overall impressive resume (quarterback for his football team).  This student was rejected at two public schools in his home state — UC Berkeley and UCLA.  But he was accepted to an Ivy League University.

In many public universities and colleges in-state enrollment is declining and out-of-state enrollment is increasing.

20141014.COCDecliningInstateEnrollment2

 

20141014.COCIncreasingOutofstateEnrollment2

 

Colleges want students who ‘can pay full price’

To make up for budget shortfalls, state schools are actively seeking out-of-state and international students who will pay higher tuition than in-state students.  In some states, limitations on out-of-state students place restrictions on an institution’s desire for higher revenues.  Last time I checked, out-of-state students allowed in the UC system are capped at 10%.

California presents a particular challenge for many students because “residents must adhere to very specific requirements to gain admission” to the University of California system”.  UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Irvine are considered the most selective public schools in that state, but it surprises me that the student featured in the video did not get in.

Tags:
October 15, 2014

Before starting college, consider your chances of actually getting a degree

by Grace

20141013.COCNotGraduatingCollege1

 

A dual penalty for dropping out of college

Those students may find themselves doubly damned: cut out of consideration for professional-track jobs, and starting their careers years behind their peers who entered the workforce with just high-school diplomas. Many have student loans to boot.

October 14, 2014

It looks like ‘the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking’

by Grace

The surplus of lawyers looking for jobs has been apparent for several years now, “and the number of jobs is apt to shrink further as technology sinks its teeth into legal work”.

In his recent City Journal article Machines v. Lawyers, Northwestern Law School professor John O. McGinnis explained why the demand for lawyers will keep shrinking. “Law is, in effect, an information technology – a code that regulates social life. And as the machinery of information technology grows exponentially in power, the legal profession faces a great disruption not unlike that already experienced by journalism, which has seen employment drop by about a third….”

Throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s, law was a growth industry and a great many people (especially students who had taken “soft” majors in college) figured that earning a JD was an attractive option. Naturally, law schools expanded to accommodate the throngs of degree seekers, who were aided by federal student loan programs. Going to law school both delayed the need to start repaying undergraduate loans and appeared to be the pathway into a bright and lucrative career.

That’s not true anymore.

McGinnis gives details on how technology is disrupting the legal profession.

Discovering information, finding precedents, drafting documents and briefs, and predicting the outcomes of lawsuits—these tasks encompass the bulk of legal practice. The rise of machine intelligence will therefore disrupt and transform the legal profession.

Fewer lawyers will be needed, but superstar lawyers will prosper.

A relatively small number of very talented lawyers will benefit from the coming changes. These superstars will prosper by using the new technology to extend their reach and influence. For instance, the best lawyers will need fewer associates; they can use computers to enhance the value that they offer their clients. Already, the ratio of associates to partners in big law firms appears to be declining. In complex cases, lawyers will continue to add value to machine intelligence through uniquely human judgment. Even now, when computers regularly beat the best chess grandmaster, a good chess player and a good computer combined can often beat the best computers. Thus, for important cases and transactions, good lawyers will still add substantial value, even if computers do more of the work.

As McGinnis noted, journalism is another profession severely impacted by technology, possibly pointing to a future where computers will be handling many of today’s white-collar jobs.

———

George Leef, “The Canary in the Law School Coal Mine?”, Minding The Campus, October 9, 2014.

John, O. McGinnis, “Machines v. Lawyers”, City Journal, Spring 2014.

October 13, 2014

Student debt doubled for high-income families

by Grace

Borrowing for college among high-income families increased from 24% to 50% over the last twenty years.  Similar increases occurred among middle-income families.

… A new Pew Research Center analysis of recently released government data finds that the increase in the rate of borrowing over the past two decades has been much greater among graduates from more affluent families than among those from low-income families. Fully half of the 2012 graduates from high-income families borrowed money for college, double the share that borrowed in 1992-93.1.

20141008.COCPewHiIncomeBorrowers1

 

These numbers show how college affordability is no longer just an issue for low-income families, but now affects families across the income spectrum.

What has changed over the course of roughly two decades then is the pervasiveness of student borrowing across income groups: In the early ’90s, only among graduates from low-income families did a majority of graduates finish college with student debt. Now, solid majorities of graduates from middle-income families (both lower-middle and upper-middle) finish with debt, and half of students from the most affluent quartile of families do the same.

———

Richard Fry, “The Changing Profile of Student Borrowers”, Pew Research, October 7, 2014.

October 10, 2014

A message to education reformers:  memorization and repetition are still needed

by Grace

Amid the controversy of how Common Core Standards are changing American K-12 math education, engineering professor Barbara Oakley argues that the value of memorization and practice continues to be downplayed.

Common Core Standards “propose that in mathematics, students should gain equal facility in conceptual understanding, procedural skills and fluency, and application”.  But implementation of CCS does not always follow those guidelines.

The devil, of course, lies in the details of implementation. In the current educational climate, memorization and repetition in the STEM disciplines (as opposed to in the study of language or music), are often seen as demeaning and a waste of time for students and teachers alike. Many teachers have long been taught that conceptual understanding in STEM trumps everything else. And indeed, it’s easier for teachers to induce students to discuss a mathematical subject (which, if done properly, can do much to help promote understanding) than it is for that teacher to tediously grade math homework. What this all means is that, despite the fact that procedural skills and fluency, along with application, are supposed to be given equal emphasis with conceptual understanding, all too often it doesn’t happen. Imparting a conceptual understanding reigns supreme—especially during precious class time.

The problem with focusing relentlessly on understanding is that math and science students can often grasp essentials of an important idea, but this understanding can quickly slip away without consolidation through practice and repetition. Worse, students often believe they understand something when, in fact, they don’t. By championing the importance of understanding, teachers can inadvertently set their students up for failure as those students blunder in illusions of competence. As one (failing) engineering student recently told me: “I just don’t see how I could have done so poorly. I understood it when you taught it in class.” My student may have thought he’d understood it at the time, and perhaps he did, but he’d never practiced using the concept to truly internalize it. He had not developed any kind of procedural fluency or ability to apply what he thought he understood.

I’ve read similar reports about how CCS continues to prioritize understanding at the expense of fluency.  My experience several years ago was that teachers used to focus heavily on understanding, and I was told not to be concerned when my child had not mastered basic math facts because it was more important that she understand the concepts.  Meanwhile she was falling behind in all aspects of learning.  Is this still common?

Explaining and discussing alone do not lead to full understanding and mastery.

In the years since I received my doctorate, thousands of students have swept through my classrooms—students who have been reared in elementary school and high school to believe that understanding math through active discussion is the talisman of learning. If you can explain what you’ve learned to others, perhaps drawing them a picture, the thinking goes, you must
understand it.

Chunking is important in analyzing and reacting to new learning situations.

Chunking was originally conceptualized in the groundbreaking work of Herbert Simon in his analysis of chess—chunks were envisioned as the varying neural counterparts of different chess patterns. Gradually, neuroscientists came to realize that experts such as chess grand masters are experts because they have stored thousands of chunks of knowledge about their area of expertise in their long-term memory. Chess masters, for example, can recall tens of thousands of different chess patterns. Whatever the discipline, experts can call up to consciousness one or several of these well-knit-together, chunked neural subroutines to analyze and react to a new learning situation. This level of true understanding, and ability to use that understanding in new situations, comes only with the kind of rigor and familiarity that repetition, memorization, and practice can foster.

Gifted students and experts are often able to quickly reason their way into algorithms when solving math problems, arguably because of their deep understanding.  But I don’t think most students find that to be a good approach in the typical learning process, as it slows them down as they are practicing to gain both fluency and understanding.  On the other hand, I’m sure many students simply memorize with no understanding, thereby failing to build the foundation for later math success.

Of course both understanding and fluency are important, and in the real world the critical questions are usually:  Can you do it?  Can you do it quickly?

———

Barabara Oakley, “How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math”, Nautilus, October 2, 2014.

October 9, 2014

Colleges want students who ‘can pay full price’

by Grace

Here’s a sobering reminder for students working on their college applications now.  It’s number 8 on the list of “10 things the college admissions office won’t tell you”.

We’d rather admit someone who can pay full price

All other things being equal, a full pay student often has a better chance of admission than a student who needs financial aid.

According to the College Board, 10% of college freshmen in 2013 were foreign students. One reason colleges woo these international scholars: Many are wealthy enough to pay the full price of tuition.

At publicly funded state universities, higher tuition for out-of-state students often helps subsidize education for state residents. For example, for an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, in-state tuition is about $13,000 a year; for an out-of-state or foreign student, tuition is about $36,000 a year.

Full pay can be an admissions boost for marginal students.

The interest in full-pay students is so strong that 10 percent of four-year colleges report that the full-pay students they are admitting have lower grades and test scores than do other admitted applicants.

———

Daniel Goldstein, “10 things the college admissions office won’t tell you”, MarketWatch, Oct 4, 2014.

October 8, 2014

The problem of student loans that don’t deliver on jobs

by Grace

Kevin Carey in the New York Times writes about how vocational training programs over-promise and under-deliver on their promise to train students for well-paying jobs.  He highlights the problems with medical assistant training programs.

Many people who graduate from such programs struggle to find work. Those who do find work often make little money — too little to repay their debts from the program. Despite the happy poster images, the market for medical-assistant education is actually an allegory for the problems in the parts of higher education that tend to attract low-income and middle-class students: little regulation and uneven — often mediocre — results. The same problems afflict many community colleges, lower-tier four-year colleges and training programs in fields like office management and culinary arts.

According to the Department of Labor, the median annual salary for medical assistants in 2011 was $29,100. Yet most recent graduates of medical-assistant training programs earn much less, which suggests the programs are not reliable routes to good jobs as assistants. Among the 100,000 students who earned a medical-assistant certificate in 2008 or 2009, roughly 94 percent attended a program where graduates typically earned less than $20,000 in 2011, the data show. More than 50 percent attended a program where typical graduates earned less than someone working full time at the federal minimum wage would — $15,080. That can only mean many were not working full-time in any job.

Clearly the return on investment is painfully insufficient for many trained medical assistants, as well as for many other graduates of our faltering higher education system.  Carey attributes the problem to false advertising, noting that “it’s nearly impossible to find an employer who explicitly requires a certificate”.  He calls for increased regulation as the solution.

The medical-assistant education market is inefficient because the American higher education system is largely unregulated. Every year, the federal government gives students $150 billion in grants and subsidized loans to attend any program offered by any accredited college. The assumption is that the free market will take care of the rest. But college is what economists call an “experiential good” — something you can’t entirely understand until after you purchase and experience it, at which point it may be too late.

Inadequate loan underwriting creates “distortions and useless degrees”.

I actually agree with Carey’s general point that new regulations are needed to curb abuses arising from the haphazard distribution of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds with very little accountability.  But my take on the problem is closer to how this highly-ranked comment frames the problem, with a need for the federal government to do a better underwriting loans.

It is amazing how this article and most others on the the subject never mention the elephant in the room.

It is the Federal Government’s policy to dump money, in the form of grants or loans and loan guarantees, for virtually any degree, any college, to anyone, that creates these distortions and useless degrees.

Do you think any private bank without the Federal Student Loan guarantees and laws would ever lend $18K in unsecured loans to 18 year olds with no assets and no income attending these programs?

Do you think many parents or family would be writing actual checks of $18K for people to attend without making sure they lead to actual jobs?

Of course not. The Federal Government policies inflate the cost of higher education and preserves the existence of thousands of non-viable programs of higher education.

Until we address that, these distorted results will continue to be with us.

———

Kevin Carey, “When Higher Education Doesn’t Deliver on Its Promise”, New York Times, Oct. 4, 2014.

October 7, 2014

Dangerous jobs pay a risk premium

by Grace

20141004.COCFemaleMaleJobChart1

FavData shared the graph on the left that shows the percentage of males holding various types of jobs, indicated by bars shaded yellow.  Click the graph to enlarge for details.

At the top are pre-k teachers (2.3% male) and at the bottom are boilermakers (99.8% male).  Second from the bottom with 99.6% male are “drillers of earth”, an intriguing term for a job with which I’m familiar, at least those drillers who work in the oil industry.  When I worked at drilling sites as a petroleum geologist, I never ran across any female wellsite workers in any category.

How does this tie in with the gender wage gap?

This graph seems consistent with BLS data showing that in 2012 “92% of all workplace fatalities were men”.  The bottom section of the graph shows men dominate jobs that involve risky physical activities handling heavy equipment.  I recall it was not uncommon and almost a mark of honor for an oil well worker to be missing a finger.  Economist Mark Perry sees a link to the gender wage gap.

… Isn’t it realistic to assume that men naturally show greater tolerance than women for risky, physically demanding, dangerous work in extreme outdoor conditions, and women put a higher priority on office work environments that are low-risk, indoors, safe and pleasant? Higher (lower) risk = higher (lower) wages, ceteris paribus, and women on average may be perfectly willing to accept lower wages for lower risk jobs, which would contribute to the unadjusted gender wage gap.

———

Mark J. Perry, “Washing windows hanging from a rope 12 stories above the ground, I hope he’s getting paid a risk premium”, Carpe Diem, September 9, 2014.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 179 other followers

%d bloggers like this: