February 26, 2015

Student loan defaults are the only type that continue to rise

by Grace

Americans are having more trouble paying off their student loans than their mortgages or any other type of debt.

As student debt balances continue to grow . . .

20150224.COCTenYearStudentLoanGrowth2

. . .  student loan defaults have overtaken those for all other types of debt.

20150224.COCStudentLoanDefaultTenYearGrowth2

America’s total student loan debt is now nearly $1.2 trillion. One reason the burden is difficult to pay off, Fed researchers wrote: “Student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy like other types of debt … Delinquent or defaulted student loans can stagnate on borrowers’ credit reports.”

The number of student borrowers almost doubled over ten years.

The surge is fueled by more people borrowing — and borrowing larger amounts. The number of borrowers rose 92 percent between 2004 and 2014, according to the Fed researchers. The average student loan balance grew 74 percent.

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Danielle Paquette, “Americans are having more trouble paying off their student debt than their houses”, Washington Post, February 19, 2015.

February 25, 2015

Are we seeing a ‘big quasi-bailout’ for student loan borrowers?

by Grace

The Obama administration projects that the increased use of student loan forgiveness programs will cost taxpayers $22 billion next year.

… Primarily because of the recent growth in enrollment in the program, projected long-term revenues from the federal direct student loan portfolio were reduced by almost $22 billion compared with the best guess from the previous year….

This looks like ‘a big quasi-bailout’

That’s a big quasi-bailout, increasing the deficit nearly 5 percent. The White House budget office was unaware of any larger re-estimates since the current scoring rules for credit programs went into effect in 1992. As a January Politico Magazine feature on the government’s unusual credit portfolio reported, the Federal Housing Administration has stuck more than $75 billion worth of similar re-estimates onto Uncle Sam’s tab over the last two decades, most of them after the recent housing bust led to a cascade of FHA-backed mortgage defaults. But it’s never had a one-year shortfall quite as drastic as this.

Borrowers are made out to be innocent victims of “circumstances beyond their control”.

Regardless of which accounting method is used, the federal government is expecting to write off billions of dollars in future student loan balances under the program in order to reward public service employment and protect borrowers from economic circumstances beyond their control.

It’s not as if a student loan bailout should come as a surprise.  Here’s a question from 2011.

Is a student loan bailout inevitable?

20110913.COCCollegeLoanGrowth

Seeing the trend lines, Mark Gimein wrote this four years ago.

Eventually both private lenders and the government will be on the hook. The government has already moved to ease some loan terms. It will need to find more, especially for those snookered into paying for degrees worthless in the job market. The private loans, meanwhile, will simply blow up. We may as well start figuring now how graduates, taxpayers, lenders, and schools will split the bill.

Taxpayers just took on $22 billion, and there’s probably more to come.

Related:  “Politicized federal student loan program bails out ‘deadbeats’”

———

Kevin Carey, “Flip Side of Reducing Student Debt Is Increasing the Federal Deficit”, New York Times, February 10, 2015.

Michael Grunwald, “The College Loan Bombshell Hidden in the Budget”, Politico,  February 05, 2015.

February 24, 2015

Students resist attempts to prevent cheating during online tests

by Grace

Students object to software designed to prevent cheating during online exams.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Students at Rutgers University are balking at a new biometric software used in online classes that requires them to record their facial features, knuckles and photo ID.

ProctorTrack, implemented for online courses this year, requires students to record their face, knuckle and personal identification details to verify their identity. The software then tracks students’ monitor, browser, webcam and microphone activity during the session to prevent cheating on exams, according to The Daily Targum – Rutgers’ student newspaper.

Students are mainly concerned about privacy issues, although the unexpected activation fee is also considered a problem.

The software and its implementation – which went largely unnoticed because the university did not notify students of the change until after the add-drop period ended – are now raising serious privacy concerns among some students. Others started a Change.org petition to stop the use of ProctorTrack over a $32 activation fee imposed on unwitting students taking classes online.

“Emails about mandating the use of ProctorTrack were sent out during the THIRD WEEK of classes,” School of Arts and Sciences senior Betsy Chao wrote on the Change.org petition. “It was already too late to drop classes and so, students essentially have NO choice but to pay the fee.”

That failure to notify student could be a violation of the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, according to media reports.

The biggest concerns, however, seem to center on apparent privacy and security risks.

According to The Daily Targum, “many students are unsure if the ProctorTrack system efficiently secures recorded student data.

“The system’s security measures are not particularly clear. Combined with ProctorTrack’s young age — the system was literally patented several weeks ago — potential security vulnerabilities within the ProctorTrack system remain an open question.

Other proctoring software such as Examity and ExamGuard monitor test-takers by video taping and/or locking parts of their browser functions.

As expected, ways to evade this monitoring software have been posted online.

———

Victor Skinner, “Students object to online courses recording facial features, knuckles, voice”, EAGnews.org, February 20, 2015.

February 23, 2015

Student loan defaults are most common among those with lowest balances

by Grace

It’s borrowers with the smallest balances that are most likely to default on their student loans.

20150220.COCStudentLoanDefaultByLoanBalance1

College dropouts are more likely to default.

… One likely explanation, offered by the New York Fed researchers, is that many Americans with small loan balances are dropouts. They may have attended school for a semester or two without getting a degree. They often don’t end up with the decent-paying job that a college education is supposed to bring, and thus lack the income to repay their debt.

Another possibility is that low-balance borrowers attained credentials such as certificates that don’t lead to the kind of jobs and salaries that a bachelor’s degree does.

A larger loan balance usually indicates a graduate degree, a credential that generally correlates with a higher salary.

By contrast, many borrowers with large loan balances are people who graduated from master’s programs and professional schools—doctors, lawyers—who typically end up with generous salaries. (We said typical, not always. There are plenty of struggling lawyers.)

High earners disproportionately take advantage of income-based repayment programs that shift part of their loan burden to taxpayers.

So while they have the biggest debts, they’re getting the actual returns on their investment and thus are in position to repay their loans. They also may be the most likely to enroll in income-based repayment programs, which many academics say disproportionately benefit high earners.

———

Josh Mitchell, “Who’s Most Likely to Default on Student Loans?”, Wall Street Journal, Feb 19, 2015.

February 19, 2015

Do kids only need ‘college’ because high schools are failing?

by Grace

Amy Otto believes the Obama administration’s overall push for more school before and after K-12 is a way to avoid solving the real problem”.

The “real problem” that needs urgent attention is K-12 education, but President Obama proposes “to spend money on preschool or community college instead of substantive reform of K-12″.

Do Kids Need ‘College’ Because High Schools Aren’t Doing Their Job?

Mandating “free” thirteenth and fourteenth grades via community college should make one wonder what is going wrong in tenth through twelfth grade that makes two more years of de facto public school now necessary. Only increasing opportunity can reduce poverty. More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration. It’s a tacit admission from Democrats that their goal is not to eliminate poverty but to paper over it with politically charged policy. In fact, what would animate the Democratic Party if poverty were significantly reduced? They much prefer the self-satisfaction of saying they care without ever having to produce results. If no one were poor, whom would they have to feel superior to?

That’s the problem Democrats won’t be addressing any time soon and it’s the one that deserves this nation’s attention. Institutionalizing children earlier and longer won’t lead to more creativity and innovation, which are the real stimulus of economic growth. Real-world experiences—whether it play when young or entry-level jobs when they’re teens—are being taken off the table while politicians mandate more isolation and testing within the confines of public school. Don’t fall for the bait and switch. It’s time to tackle the real challenge that we are already paying too much for universal education and getting diminishing returns.

Even though Head Start produces no long-term benefits, Obama pushes for more of the same.  His recent idea of “free” community college only emphasises the failure of our existing K-12 system to produce competent graduates.

… More “free” preschool or thirteenth grade only serves as palliative care for those in poverty. These programs don’t spark real change, as demonstrated from studies from Obama’s own administration….

Otto offers only vague ideas for alternative solutions: more real world experiences in the form of less structured child care and entry-level jobs for teens.  Those may be helpful, in theory at least.  Actually implementing them successfully is a whole other challenge.  Poor single parents are not easily trained to properly nurture their children and jobs are not instantly created by government dictum.  But if Otto’s ideas are not the best solutions, then “free” preschool and college certainly also fail the test for the best use of taxpayer money.

———

Amy Otto, “President Obama Pushes Pre-K And ‘Free’ College Because He’s Got Jack For K-12″, The Federalist, January 23, 2015.

February 18, 2015

Best and worst states for teacher salaries

by Grace

States with the highest public school teacher salaries, adjusted for cost of living:

  1. Michigan
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Ohio
  4. Illinois
  5. Massachusetts

At the other end, states with the lowest teacher salaries

  1. Hawaii
  2. South Dakota
  3. Vermont
  4. Maine
  5. New Hampshire

The green bars in the chart below show the average teacher salary for each state, adjusted for differences in cost of living; the gray marks show the average salary before factoring in cost of living.

20150215.COCTeacherSalariesByStateCOLA1
As a New York resident, it doesn’t surprise me to see that we have the highest salaries for teachers before COL adjustment.  Even so, New York teacher salaries are among the top ten in the nation even after taking COL into account.

———

Michael Winters, “Graph of the Week: Where are Teachers Really Paid Most?”, EdSurge, Feb 4, 2015.

February 17, 2015

Online master’s degrees in education have gone mainstream

by Grace

… As online programs have grown in popularity, online master’s in education degrees have become more acceptable, experts say….

In some cases, Horn says, ​schools don’t even indicate the mode of instruction on degrees and transcripts, which means school officials only see the program or school name anyway.​

Even in cases where an online degree is obvious, it rarely matters in public school districts, experts say. In the K-12 world, at least, online master’s degrees in education are so common that employers don’t think of them much at all​, Horn says. Those in hiring positions who have been to school recently have taken a blended or fully online course, so they know the classes can be just as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts.

Of course, students must cover the basics in selecting their online provider, making sure the school is accredited and that the program will lead to the desired state license.

Best Online Graduate Education Programs — U.S. News & World Report

  1. University of Houston — Houston, TX
  2. Florida State University — Tallahassee, FL
  3. Northern Illinois University — DeKalb, IL
  4. Pennsylvania State University—World Campus — University Park, PA

———

Devon Haynie, “What Employers Think of Your Online Master’s in Education”, US News & World Report, Feb. 13, 2015.

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February 16, 2015

Scott Walker — destroyer or savior of higher education?

by Grace

In defending his proposal to cut Wisconsin’s higher education budget by $300 million over two years, Governor Scott Walker admonished professors to “work harder”.

“Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work and this authority frees up the [University of Wisconsin] administration to make those sorts of requests,” …

Maybe he should have focused more on administrative costs, which have far outpaced instructional costs in American universities.

But now comes word from UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank that the cuts would come in the form of layoffs of administrative personnel”.

Deans, directors and department heads will be responsible for making decisions on how budget cuts are allocated, but administrative units will take will take larger cuts in an effort to preserve educational functions, she said.

It seems that common sense may prevail, but concern remains that the governor and possible presidential candidate may be trying to kill liberal arts education.

Walker proposed to rewrite the University of Wisconsin’s mission statement. He apparently wanted to strip out its frills (stuff like “extended training,” “public service,” improving “the human condition,” and “the search for truth”) and inject it with a more practical goal: meeting “the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker later backtracked and ‘blamed the changes on a last-minute “drafting error”‘.  But skeptics remain suspicious that liberal arts will increasingly take a back seat to vocational programs.

Liberal-arts and humanities programs at public universities are increasingly under siege as state legislatures cut the institutions’ funding, forcing school administrators to make tough decisions about what to eliminate. The obvious targets are the programs that yield a lower return on investment—at least in a concrete, monetary sense—and are more nebulous in their impact on the economy. What sounds like it has more dollar signs and productivity attached to it: philosophy or America’s favorite new acronym, STEM?

Maybe these critics should also focus on New York’s Democratic Governor Cuomo, who has pushed for increased funding of vocational programs in state colleges, and incentivized partnerships between business and schools that promote workforce training through his START-UP NY initiative.  Cuomo also established a STEM scholarship program last year.

I have not heard of any states pouring additional resources into liberal arts higher education.  Which may be a shame, but is understandable.

This workforce-centric approach “is designed for short-term learning and long-term disaster.”

The problem is that, unlike most STEM fields, universities have lowered standards for liberal arts education.

In theory, a college liberal arts degree is a valuable commodity in the job market. In reality, the way colleges have diluted the curriculum means a liberal arts degree offers little added value in qualifying workers for today’s job market.

So the question is, who is actually trying to kill liberal arts education?

———

Lucy McCalmont, “Scott Walker urges professors to work harder”, Politico, January 29, 2015.

Ann Althouse, “How will the University of Wisconsin—Madison absorb something like $90 million in cuts from Scott Walker’s new budget?”, Althouse, February 12, 2015.

Alia Wongfeb, “The Governor Who (Maybe) Tried to Kill Liberal-Arts Education”, Atlantic, February 11, 2015.

February 13, 2015

What percentage of college students have disabilities?

by Grace

During the 2011-12 school year, students with disabilities comprised 11% of college enrollment.

Here is the distribution of the types of disabilities from 2008-09

Type of Disability Percentage
Specific learning disabilities 31
ADD or ADHD3 18
Mental illness/psychological or psychiatric condition5 15
Health impairment/condition, including chronic conditions 11
Mobility limitation/orthopedic impairment  7
All others 18

The all others category includes audio, visual, and language impairments, as well as autism.

HEATH can be a resource for prospective college students with disabilities.

The HEATH Resource Center is an online clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. Since 2000, the HEATH Resource Center has served as a national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities, managed by The George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Now, The HSC Foundation has partnered with The George Washington University to expand the content of this resource and to designate it as the official site of The HSC Foundation’s National Youth Transitions Center.

Some colleges provide extra support services.

Almost all colleges provide some level of services for students with disabilities.  The American Educational Guidance Center provides a list of some that go a step further…they offer programs, some quite comprehensive, designed to support students with learning disabilities”.

Most learning disabled college students are no longer receiving the type of support services they did during their K-12 years.

While 94 percent of high school students with learning disabilities get some kind of help, just 17 percent of college students do.

Along with “18-year-olds’ natural inclination to go it alone”, another problem is finances.

Many college disability centers require documentation of a student’s learning disability. A set of tests used to verify whether a student has a disability, necessary for those who have no documentation or haven’t been tested before, costs as much as $5,000, according to academic-support and disability-services coordinators at several colleges and universities — a price tag K-12 schools pay but many higher-education institutions won’t.

While more and more colleges offer innovative programs in which staff members work closely with learning-disabled students, many charge extra for those, too. Some schools have turned to grants and private donors to cover this cost, but students often are expected to pay for the programs.

It’s probably safe to say that most college professors are not knowledgeable about instruction for learning disabled students.

“I think we have to always remember that while professors are amazing experts in content areas, many of them have had no training in pedagogy,” said Williams, who is introducing UDL to three North Carolina campuses. “We have to find practical ways to help them know how to do that.”

ADDED:

Advocates for the deaf on Thursday filed federal lawsuits against Harvard and M.I.T., saying both universities violated antidiscrimination laws by failing to provide closed captioning in their online lectures, courses, podcasts and other educational materials.

———

Matt Krupnick, “Colleges respond to growing ranks of learning disabled”, The Hechinger Report, February 13, 2014.

February 12, 2015

Mindfulness for preschoolers

by Grace

A recent study demonstrated the potential of mindfulness-based curriculum in helping young students improve academic and social skills.

While mindfulness-based approaches for children have become popular in recent years, few are backed by rigorous scientific evidence. The research team — graduate research assistant Simon Goldberg; outreach specialist Laura Pinger; and CIHM founder Richard Davidson, the UW-Madison William James and Vilas Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry — set out to change that.

The team developed a curriculum to help children between the ages of 4 and 6 years learn how to be more aware of themselves and others through practices that encourage them to bring mindful attention to present moment experience. These practices, the researchers hypothesized, could enhance the children’s self-regulation skills – such as emotional control and the capacity to pay attention — and influence the positive development of traits like impulse control and kindness.

Past studies show the ability to self-regulate in early childhood predicts better results later in life with health, educational attainment and financial stability. Flook says early childhood is an opportune time to equip children with these skills since their brains are rapidly developing. The skills may also help them cope with future life stress.

“Knowing how critical these skills are at an early age, if there are ways to promote them, it could help set kids on a more positive life trajectory,” says Flook.

Mindfulness techniques are scaled down for preschoolers.

The curriculum itself is rooted in long-standing adult mindfulness-based practices but was adapted to the children’s developmental ability.

The results showed improvements in delayed gratification, attentiveness,  and task switching.  In addition to gains in academic performance, students demonstrated “less selfish behavior over time and greater mental flexibility”.

While these results are promising, “larger studies are needed to demonstrate the curriculum’s true power”.

I look forward to more studies that support existing research indicating that mindfulness improves our ability to focus and “may be better than medication in treating ADHD”.

Their labeling of this method as “kindness curriculum” is a turn-off to me, but perhaps it has broad appeal to most parents.

———

Kelly April Tyrrell, “Kindness curriculum’ boosts school success in preschoolers”, University of Wisconsin-Madison News, Jan. 23, 2015. 

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