Posts tagged ‘Barack Obama’

August 5, 2013

Compromise reached on student loan interest rates

by Grace

After a compromise was finally reached last week, a new student loan bill was sent to President Obama for signature.

Under the old federal student loan program, borrowers were offered a fixed rate. Under the new rate structure, which still drew opposition from nearly one-third of Senate Democrats when it passed last week, loans to undergraduates and graduate students, along with parents in the PLUS program, would be subject to a fixed rate plus the yield on the 10-year Treasury note.

Rates for loans taken out after July 1 of this year would be 3.9 percent for undergraduates, 5.4 percent for graduate students and 6.4 percent for those receiving PLUS loans. The rates are fixed over the life of the loan but would change for new borrowers each year.

In a compromise that pleased many Democrats who had initially been wary of using a rate that was subject to inflation and fluctuated with the markets, Congress set a cap on all loans: 8.25 percent for undergraduates, 9.5 for graduate students and 10.5 for PLUS recipients.

Perkins loan rates were unchanged.

20130801.COCLoanInterestRates2

* Interest is paid by the federal government during the in-school period.

Related:

June 28, 2013

Are climbing college completion rates a good trend?

by Grace

College completion rates continue to climb, as shown by these charts from the Pew Research Center.

20130626.COCCollegeComplettionRates2

Slightly higher rates for the younger population:

20130626.COCYoungCollegeCompletionRates2

For years, the idea has been growing that college is as necessary as high school was 40 years ago. In 2010, 75 percent of Americans said college was very important, compared with just 36 percent in 1978, the report notes.

President Obama has set a goal for the US to lead the world by 2020 in the percentage of young people earning college degrees or postsecondary certificates.

The increases in the Pew report indicate a “rather slow climb” that would need to accelerate to meet the president’s goal, says Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor of educational policy studies and sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

While the long-term trend is up, recent increases could be related to the difficulty of finding jobs during the latest recession.

During better economic times, education attainment rates have been more stagnant. It’s possible, Fry says, that rates will tick downward somewhat as the labor market improves.

Maybe lower education attainment rates would be a positive change, since we have too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs.

20130206.COCJobsVsDegrees3

Ann Althouse speculates about the reasons “Young adults are earning college degrees at a record rate.”

Good question. Why? Doing what you’re told? Nothing better to do? Putting off the time when the consequences of your decisions become apparent? High self-esteem leading you to think you’re the exception to the trend? Being part of the trend, going where everyone else is going?

Related:  College graduates are no longer ‘special’ (Cost of College)

February 20, 2013

Quick Links – Obama on education; stereotyping boys; chimps have better working memories than those of humans

by Grace

◊◊◊  Obama on education in State of Union address (Washington Post)

Universal ‘high-quality’ preschool

Tonight, I propose working with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child in America.  Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime.  In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, and form more stable families of their own.  So let’s do what works, and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind.  Let’s give our kids that chance.

High-tech curriculum for high schools

…  Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.  We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Link higher education federal aid with ‘affordability and value’

Tonight, I ask Congress to change the Higher Education Act, so that affordability and value are included in determining which colleges receive certain types of federal aid….

College Scorecard

…  And tomorrow, my Administration will release a new “College Scorecard” that parents and students can use to compare schools based on a simple criteria: where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.


◊◊◊  “..the study found that stereotypes seemed to be holding boys back.” (Dr. Helen at PJ Media)

Boys may be suffering from stereotype threat.

The belief that girls are brainier and better behaved is holding boys back at school, research suggests.

A study of British pupils found that, from a young age, children think girls are academically superior.

And, what’s more, they believe that adults think so too….

And by the age of seven, boys shared the belief that they were naughtier and did less well at school. Follow-up questions showed the children thought that adults had similar expectations.

The second part of the study found that stereotypes seemed to be holding boys back…

Study co-author Dr Robbie Sutton said: ‘Our study suggests that by counteracting the stereotypes in the classroom – wherever they might have come from originally – we can help boys do better.’

Noncognitive skills come into play in boys’ poor school performance.

This reminds me of the study I found on girls taking over at college. In it the researchers state:

One source of the persistent female advantage in K–12 school performance and the new female lead in college attainment is the higher incidence of behavioral problems (or lower level of noncognitive skills) among boys. Boys have a much higher incidence than do girls of school disciplinary and behavior problems, and spend far fewer hours doing homework (Jacob, 2002).

Are boys’ poor behavior and low academic performance partly due to low expectations?  Dr. Helen wonders if teachers tend to use grades to punish boys since other discipline options are more limited.  A related aspect is that much of early academic success may hinge on noncognitive and literacy skills, which boys tend to develop later than girls.


◊◊◊
  Working memory of chimpanzees is ‘far better’ than that of humans

Chimpanzees can far outperform humans in some mental tasks, including rapidly memorising and recalling numbers, Japanese scientists have shown.

A good working memory is needed to survive in the wild.

Prof Matsuzawa, who combines the study of wild chimpanzees in west Africa with research using the captive colony in Kyoto, said such a good working memory – the ability to take in an accurate, detailed image of a complex scene or pattern – was an important survival tool in the wild.

For example, the apes can quickly assess and remember the distribution of edible fruit in a forest canopy. Or, when two rival bands of chimpanzees encounter one another, they can assess the strength of the rival group and decide whether to fight or flee.

Memory of chimps ‘far better than human’ (Financial Times)

February 18, 2013

Newly released College Scorecard is ‘not a game-changer’

by Grace

Most reviewers are underwhelmed by the Obama adminstration’s new College Scorecard intended to help families compare schools and learn ” where you can get the most bang for your educational buck”.

The scorecard is “not a game-changer as much as the administration would like to believe,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, a major association of colleges and universities.

What’s in the Scorecard?

Average Net Price: What an undergraduate student pays after grants and scholarships are subtracted from the institution’s listed cost of attendance.

Graduation Rate: Number of students who graduate within six years at four-year institutions and three years at two-year institutions.

Loan Default Rate: Percentage of students who default within three years of entering repayment.

Median Borrowing: The median amount borrowed by undergraduate students.

Employment: Information about postgraduate employment and salaries is self-reported by institutions. [not yet available]

The data is not recent and already available elsewhere.

But some of the data in the new scorecard is a few years old, and most of it has been available from other sources, notably the federal government’s own College Navigator site. Further, the information is presented as averages and medians that might have little relevance to individual families. The scorecard does connect to each institution’s net price calculator, which allows individualized cost estimates, but it does not provide side-by-side comparisons of multiple schools, as other government sites do.

A good starting point

Like many other resources for families deciding on higher education, the College Scorecard is a good starting point.  The most time-consuming part of the college search is typically in uncovering details about departments, teaching, career preparation, personalized costs, campus culture, and other aspects that are not easily packaged in scorecard fashion and are often inscrutable to the typical applicant.

Related:  New web tool shows salary data broken out by college and major (Cost of College)

January 4, 2013

College debt levels higher than all other types of consumer loans

by Grace

The Wall Street Journal picked its top ten economic charts of 2012, including one published in November showing that outstanding student loan debt now “outpaces all other nonhousing consumer debt”.  (Bear in mind the chart does not include unreported student loan “shadow debt” that could increase these figures by one-third or more.)

20121231.COCCollegeDebtLevels1

U.S. student-loan debt rose by $42 billion, or 4.6%, to $956 billion in the third quarter, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Tuesday. Overall household borrowing fell during that period.

Payments on 11% of student-loan balances were 90 or more days behind at the end of September, up from 8.9% at the end of June, a rate that now exceeds that for credit cards. Delinquency rates for all other consumer-debt categories fell or were flat.

By design federal student loans are easy for almost anyone to get.

Nearly all student loans—93% of them last year—are made directly by the government, which asks little or nothing about borrowers’ ability to repay, or about what sort of education they intend to pursue.

President Barack Obama championed easy-to-get loans during the campaign, calling higher education “an economic imperative in the 21st century.” A spokesman for Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the goal is “to make student loans available to as many people as possible,” and requiring minimum credit scores would block many Americans from going to college….

… the government demands no collateral and has no underwriting requirements….

… “The way the system works now…put money on the stump, people come and get it,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “Can’t blame them. It’s sitting out there in plain view. It’s easy to get.”

Jackson Toby, a retired Rutgers professor and adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, recommends reforms that would make student loan lending standards similar to those of other consumer debt.  This change would exclude many lower-income students.

He proposes that students undergo a comprehensive assessment of credit-worthiness, including how much debt they currently have, their academic history and their expected income upon graduation, given their major, before getting federal student loans.

Imposing tougher standards would exclude some potential borrowers. “You would have loans only going to upper-income students at the best colleges,” said Mark Kantrowitz, who publishes Finaid.org, a student-aid website.

Other charts among the WSJ’s top picks cover the changes in categories of consumer spending over the last century, how unemployment benefits differ among the different states, and how deficit spending has become the norm in recent years.

Related:  Did the student loan bubble just burst? (costofcollege.wordpress.com)

December 12, 2012

Quick Links – online AP courses; no guilt about younger generation’s national debt burden; smartphones probably don’t improve academic achievement

by Grace

»»»  Low-income high schools in New York will get access to ‘online and blended” AP courses

BUFFALO — High school students in Yonkers and 16 other poor districts will have better access to advanced placement coursesunder a program featuring virtual classrooms.

The state Education Department this week said $17.3 million in federal Race to the Top Funds will be distributed to 17 districts or consortia of districts under the state’s Virtual Advanced Placement Program.

Education Commissioner John King says low-income students don’t always get the chance to take AP courses, which give students a leg up in their college applications. The 18-month grants will fund the development of online and blended courses that combine online and traditional classroom instruction.

Other districts receiving funding include New York City, Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls, Huntington and South Huntington.

Yonkers schools get virtual learning grants (lohud.com)


»»»  A baby boomer is feeling less guilty about leaving the younger generation with so much debt because, hey, it’s what the kids voted for.

From a  “50-something, white, conservative” Republican’s letter to the editor of Barron’s:

As reported by the national exit poll conducted by Edison Research, Americans aged 18 to 29 voted 60% to 36% for Barack Obama. Prior to Obama’s re-election, I believed that it was morally wrong for my generation to pass a crushing national debt on to the next one.

The debt will top $20 trillion before Obama moves out of the White House, and it will include spiraling retirement-related costs that the administration has shown zero interest in bringing under control, largely driven by baby boomers piling into the Social Security and Medicare systems.

With the president’s electoral crushing of Mitt Romney, my overriding sense of morality and guilt have vanished. Thank you, kids!


»»»  Hispanic and African-American students lag behind white students in academic achievement, but surpass them in using smartphones for homework.

That’s my takeaway from an article informing us that 1 in 3 middle-schoolers uses smart phones for homework.  Nowhere in the article was there any mention that using these digital devices actually improves academic achievement.

The national survey of 1,000 students in Grades 6 through 8 found that:

  • 39 percent use smartphones for homework.
  • 26 percent use smartphones at least weekly for homework.
  • 31 percent use tablets for homework.
  • 29 percent of those with household incomes under $25,000 use smartphones for homework.
  • Hispanics and African-Americans are more likely than whites to use smartphones for homework, at 49 percent, 42 percent, and 36 percent, respectively.
November 14, 2012

Quick links – Parents burdened by ‘crushing’ student loans; young voters turned out in record numbers; longing for pensions

by Grace

——  ‘Child’s Education, but Parents’ Crushing Loans’  (New York Times)

There are record numbers of student borrowers in financial distress, according to federal data. But millions of parents who have taken out loans to pay for their children’s college education make up a less visible generation in debt. For the most part, these parents did well enough through midlife to take on sizable loans, but some have since fallen on tough times because of the recession, health problems, job loss or lives that took a sudden hard turn.

And unlike the angry students who have recently taken to the streets to protest their indebtedness, most of these parents are too ashamed to draw attention to themselves.

Related:  Paying student loans in your 20s, 30s, and beyond interferes with saving for retirement (Cost of College)

——  College students voted in record numbers with most supporting Obama.

According to Fair Elections, 19 percent of all voters this year were between the ages of 18 and 29, which is a percentage point higher than the turnout of young voters in the 2008 presidential election.

Spaulding said while total number of young voters remained “on-par” with the numbers from 2008, in some states, such as California, the percentage of voters under 30 years old increased by over 5 percent.

He attributes the spike in young voter turnout to the increasing ease of voter registration. Many first time voters are uninformed as to how and where to register which eventually causes them to miss out on voting entirely, he said. Spaulding said the rise of online registration is one of the biggest factors in increasing participation.

Obama support slipped, but remained higher than for Republican candidate.

In some battleground states, tallies show, their ballots were decisive factors in the president’s victory….

… Sixty percent of young people voted for him, compared with 66 percent four years ago….

… As in 2008, the edge young voters gave to Mr. Obama proved decisive in some states. According to Circle, in the battleground states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, if young people had not voted or if only half of them had supported the president, Mr. Romney would have won.


——  
Employees lust after pensions, but the memory may be better than the reality.

… In several head-to-head questions, researchers asked whether workers would prefer it if their employers offered them a guaranteed retirement benefit (essentially a pension) or other perks. A large plurality – 49% — chose the pension over the opportunity to earn a bigger bonus….

… A generation ago, pension plans were offered to more than four out of five private-sector workers; today it’s fewer than one in three. Pensions have largely been replaced by defined contribution retirement plans like 401(k)s, which were hammered along with stock and bond prices during the financial crisis….

There’s also some evidence workers may be looking at the past with rose colored glasses. Another recent study from the Investment Company Institute, the mutual fund industry’s trade group, argues exactly that. Its findings: In 1980, payments from private pension plans accounted for only about 8% of retirees’ overall income, compared to 53% for social security. (The rest came from other sources, ranging from other forms of government help to dividends on stocks.)

Since most 401(k)s are stocked with mutual funds, of course, the institute has a lot to gain from promoting the current 401(k) system. But the study is still worth note. The explanation: While many workers had access to pension plans thirty years ago, many failed to collect full benefits because of various factors. Switching jobs, for example, tended to reduce employees’ standing under formulas plans used to calculate payouts. The government moved to fix these problems with new laws in the 1970s and ‘80s, but by then the move to 401(k)-type plans was already underway.

“There’s a persistent misconception that there once existed a time when private sector workers typically retired with full pension benefits,” says ICI senior economist Peter Brady. “Many actually received little or nothing.”

Were pensions as great as you remember? (WSJ MarketWatch)

July 25, 2012

Quick takes – CEOs with liberal arts degrees, too many college students not ‘college ready’, & more

by Grace

—  Famous CEOs Who Were Liberal Arts Majors


—   Colleges admit many students who are not “college ready”.  Yeah, we knew that.

2.2 million freshmen started college in the United States last fall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But if common trends are anything go by, more than a third of them will not have a diploma at the end of it, if indeed, they finish college at all, writes Jenna Ashley Robinson at the Pope Center.

The ACT and the College Board (which administers the SAT) have created benchmarks that offer very clear guidelines for determining whether students are likely to succeed in college and have found that fewer than half of college-bound seniors are prepared for the work ahead of them….

“Sending unprepared students to college only sets them up for failure.”


—  Girls Report Higher Math Anxiety Than Boys, Study Finds (Education Week)

New research from England finds that girls show higher levels of mathematics anxiety than boys, and that this distress is related to diminished performance on math tests. Even so, the study found no gender differences in math achievement, with the researchers suggesting that girls may well have outperformed boys were it not for their anxiety.


 Robbing retirees – The dirty little secret of O’s student-loan fix (New York Post)

President Obama’s much-touted plan to put a one-year freeze on student interest rates was signed into law with great fanfare this month. But the bill’s supporters hadn’t said where the money to subsidize the lower rates would come from.

Columnist Daniel Indiviglio of Reuters dug up the details this week, calling the bill financial “hocus-pocus.” The student-loan scheme was buried in a transportation bill. In it, the government raided its pension-guarantee fund to the tune of $6 billion — although the fund is already running a deficit of $26 billion.

The student-loan bill puts the pension system in jeopardy. To cover future payouts, pension contributions will need to rise by as much as $50 billion a year. The fund’s already broke; now, thanks to this reckless bill, it’s one step closer to total collapse.


—  Over two million K-12 students use online education

Did you know that 30 states allow K-12 students to learn entirely online? Across the country, more than two million K-12 students participate in some form of online education, and nearly 300,000 do so full time, according to John Watson, founder of the Evergreen Education Group, a consulting firm in Durango, Colo.


—  ‘
The U.S. now has 115,000 janitors with college degrees, along with 83,000 bartenders, 80,000 heavy-duty truck drivers, and 323,000 waiters and waitresses.’  (The Daily Beast)

July 13, 2012

Government pushes for training more scientists, but where are the jobs?

by Grace

President Obama and the National Science Foundation have pushed U.S. universities to produce more scientists, but there many not be enough jobs for those future STEM graduates.

Obama has made science education a priority, launching a White House science fair to get young people interested in the field.

But it’s questionable whether those youths will be able to find work when they get a PhD. Although jobs in some high-tech areas, especially computer and petroleum engineering, seem to be booming, the market is much tighter for lab-bound scientists — those seeking new discoveries in biology, chemistry and medicine.

“There have been many predictions of [science] labor shortages and . . . robust job growth,” said Jim Austin, editor of the online magazine ScienceCareers. “And yet, it seems awfully hard for people to find a job. Anyone who goes into science expecting employers to clamor for their services will be deeply disappointed.”

Academic and research positions have become harder to find.

One big driver of that trend: Traditional academic jobs are scarcer than ever. Once a primary career path, only 14 percent of those with a PhD in biology and the life sciences now land a coveted academic position within five years, according to a 2009 NSF survey. That figure has been steadily declining since the 1970s, said Paula Stephan, an economist at Georgia State University who studies the scientific workforce. The reason: The supply of scientists has grown far faster than the number of academic positions.

The pharmaceutical industry once was a haven for biologists and chemists who did not go into academia. Well-paying, stable research jobs were plentiful in the Northeast, the San Francisco Bay area and other hubs. But a decade of slash-and-burn mergers; stagnating profit; exporting of jobs to India, China and Europe; and declining investment in research and development have dramatically shrunk the U.S. drug industry, with research positions taking heavy hits.

Since 2000, U.S. drug firms have slashed 300,000 jobs …

Employment numbers are healthy for physicists and physicians, but not for biologists and chemists.

… for the much larger pool of biologists and chemists, “It’s a particularly difficult time right now,” Stephan said.

One reason: A glut of new biomedical scientists that entered the field when the economy was healthier. From 1998 to 2003, the budget of the National Institutes of Health doubled to $30 billion per year. That boost — much of which flows to universities — drew in new, young scientists. The number of new PhDs in the medical and life sciences boomed, nearly doubling from 2003 to 2007, according to the NSF.

The many (3831 by my last count) comments to this story are filled with condemnations of capitalism, criticism of the NSF, complaints of too many H-1B visas, despair about the dumbing down of education, pleas for more government intervention, and more.

There is also mention that trained scientists often go on to various other types of careers where their background proves valuable.  That would describe me, having spent many years in the financial services industry after receiving a STEM degree and working as a scientist in the oil business.  And it’s certainly not only STEM majors who end up working in fields unrelated to their area of study.  So here are some of my takeaways.

  • Be very careful about committing years and money to obtain a PhD in any field because the payoff may not be worth it.
  • While our country needs to maintain a level of scientific expertise and innovation for purposes of national (economic) security, I am suspicious of the ability of government bureaucrats to successfully micromanage career choices for our citizens.
  • You’ve got to learn to roll with the flow.  With the boom and bust of our economy, today’s thriving career sector can be tomorrow’s slump.  Think ahead of what your options would be in various scenarios, and try to be flexible in your outlook on how you can earn your living.
  • Think about you are developing the core skills and traits that help make you employable in different industries and scenarios.

Related:
Five skills that will help you find and keep a job after college
Liberal arts skills are profitable for college graduates

May 1, 2012

Why the extra Stafford loan subsidy should expire as originally planned

by Grace

Both political parties want to extend indefinitely the “temporary” lower interest rate of federally subsidized Stafford loans, a move estimated to cost taxpayers $30 billion over five years.

The same President Obama who once pledged we were done “kicking the can” on tough decisions is pandering for the youth vote (on Jimmy Fallon, no less) by insisting we extend the largesse. Meanwhile, in a discouraging development, the same Mitt Romney who insists we have to slash spending and reverse course on Obama’s “government-centered society” quickly caved and joined Obama’s call to extend the break.

Politics is ugly to watch sometimes.

Frederick Hess makes some good points that bolster my view the government should let the extra subsidy expire.

The Stafford is a middle class entitlement. We’re not talking about Pell grants for poor students. We’re talking about whether students can get an even bigger subsidy on already-subsidized loans.

Everyone has an offset to “pay” for the extension. Newsflash: we’re borrowing a trillion bucks this year. None of this is paid for. Any cuts we find could trim that debt. We need all those cuts and to let the 3.4% rate expire.

We really need to stop suggesting that it’s okay renege on obligations when we decide we no longer like the terms of contracts we voluntarily signed. It’s been a meme the last few years, especially with Occupy Wall Street, and it makes it really hard to teach students to honor their obligations.

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