March 30, 2015

Number of foreign students in U.S. colleges has nearly doubled since 2005

by Grace

Valued for their tuition dollars and the diversity they offer, foreign students in U.S. colleges have nearly doubled their numbers over the last ten years.

American universities are enrolling unprecedented numbers of foreign students, prompted by the rise of an affluent class in China and generous scholarships offered by oil-rich Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.

Cash-strapped public universities also are driving the trend, aggressively recruiting students from abroad, especially undergraduates who pay a premium compared with in-state students.

There are 1.13 million foreign students in the U.S., the vast majority in college-degree programs, according to a report to be released Wednesday by the Department of Homeland Security. That represents a 14% increase over last year, nearly 50% more than in 2010 and 85% more than in 2005.

The active recruitment of foreign students raises concerns that they are crowding out opportunities for U.S. students.

“There is a widespread notion that dollars are being spent on foreign students and that they are displacing U.S. students, even if in general that isn’t right,” said John Bound, a University of Michigan economist who has studied the influx.

Foreign tuition money subsidies U.S. students.

Schools need the tuition money.  One way to look at it is that full-pay international students actually help subsidize the education of U.S. students who receive financial aid.

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Miriam Jordan, “International Students Stream Into U.S. Colleges”, Wall Street Journal,  March 24, 2015.

March 27, 2015

Achievement gap cripples opportunities for minorities in nation’s increasingly diverse workforce

by Grace

The stark differences that show blacks and Hispanics trailing in academic achievement indicate a growing problem for our country’s future economic health.

Primary working-age population in the United States will experience a net loss of 15 million whites between 2010 and 2030.

Who has the skills to prosper, or even survive, in our knowledge economy?

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By 2044, people of color will account for a majority of the U.S. population. In the newest Brookings Essay, Jennifer Bradley examines efforts in U.S. metropolitan areas to prepare a more diverse workforce, with a particular focus on Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Minnesota reflects the achievement gap common throughout the United States.

With most of the future growth in the labor force coming from people of color, it’s alarming to have to acknowledge how profoundly the existing education and training systems have failed them. Statewide, 85 percent of whites graduated from high school on time in 2013, compared to 58 percent of Hispanics, 57 percent of blacks (including both U.S.-born African-Americans and African immigrants), and fewer than half (49 percent) of American Indians. The gaps are slightly larger at the metropolitan level, and wrenching for the largest city, Minneapolis, where just 51 percent of Africans, 41 percent of Hispanics, 40 percent of African-Americans, and 34 percent of American Indians graduate from public schools on time.

Business leaders have become heavily involved in trying to find solutions.

It’s a matter of pure business necessity. “This is not just about charity or being nice to people of color.”

Some employers have initiated training programs geared toward helping low-skills workers develop into self-sustaining employees.  But that doesn’t blunt the recognition that K-12 education is at the core of any solution.

Still, Rybak understands that it all comes back to education. To take on leadership positions and help companies compete globally and engage with many different cultures, children first need to succeed in primary and secondary school, which is why, after his last term as mayor, Rybak signed on as executive director of Generation Next. This is a coalition of leaders from universities, city and county governments, city school systems, major companies, local philanthropies, and non-profit organizations who came together in 2012 to try to eradicate the achievement gap among students in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He sees the education gap as the hardest thing to overcome in the region, and also the most important. Fortunately, the interest in doing something about it crosses party lines. Republicans who control the state House of Representatives have called for education reform to help deal with the gap, and the head of the state Republican Party calls it “arguably the defining issue of our time in Minnesota.”

———

Jennifer Bradley, “The Changing Face of the Heartland: Preparing America’s Diverse Workforce for Tomorrow”, Brookings Institution, March 17, 2015.

 

March 26, 2015

‘Background information’ is a key reading skill

by Grace

In an interview with Deseret News, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham elaborates on the importance of background information in the development of reading comprehension skills.

DN: You talk a lot about “background information” as a key reading skill. This seems to be an enormously important concept that is not often discussed?

Willingham: I strongly agree. Once you spell it out it is sort of obvious to people that in all communication — speaking as well as writing — that we don’t make explicit every detail needed to comprehend. If you did, communication would take forever. You assume that your reader has certain knowledge.

We have to connect ideas, sometimes within a sentence or across sentences, and very frequently information is omitted. If you don’t have the right information in a voice conversation, it’s not that big a problem. You can ask them to clarify, or dumb it down. But when you’re reading you don’t have that option. And what will happen is you will just stop reading because you don’t comprehend.

Nonfiction reading is important in building background information.

DN: You write that we are shortchanging our reading by focusing so heavily on language arts. What do you mean by that?

Willingham: That’s absolutely true in the early grades. There is very little time devoted to science or civics or history or drama or art. English language arts focuses very narrowly on narrative fiction, and a lot of the time they’re not even reading. They are doing writing and spelling. It’s not that these things are not important, but we have to recognize that later on, in middle school and high school, the lack of background knowledge is going to come back and bite our kids.

Schools have an even greater obligation to teach background information to low-income and minority students.

DN: This seems to have important implications for closing the achievement gap suffered by low-income and minority kids?

Willingham: Absolutely. The kids coming from wealthier homes have much richer resources to acquire that broad background knowledge. They’re much more likely to be immersed in it at home, and their parents have more money, which they can use to provide experiences that are rich in information.

Willingham’s latest book is “Raising Kids Who Read”.  Among other recommendations, he advises that parents avoid using baby talk with their children.

———

Eric Schulzke, “What parents can do at home to prepare their children to read”, Deseret News, March 22, 2015.

March 25, 2015

Tips for older student loan borrowers

by Grace

How can older Americans sidestep student debt trouble?

With the need to retool career skills or pursue new vocations, more Americans are taking on loans to finance education later in life — for new degrees, certificates or course work called continuing education units to improve knowledge in demanding professions.

According to the Government Accountability Office, student debt held by those 65 and older has risen significantly in recent years, growing to about $18.2 billion in 2013, from about $2.8 billion in 2005. While it’s not known how much of that is the result of college loans co-signed for children or grandchildren, a good portion is for continuing education. Before the last recession, the working-age population pursuing “re-entry” courses jumped 27 percent over a decade, according to the Education Department.

The New York Times’ advice for senior citizens seems to be the same that younger student loan borrowers should follow.

… “Do a cost-benefit analysis. How will it maximize my earnings? Will I be able to service the debt?”…

“Evaluate your postgraduate payment plan,” Mr. Weber suggests. “What will your salary be after graduation? Will there be an immediate payoff in terms of a higher salary?”…

You can overpay for a degree or certificate that will yield little career advancement or salary increases. Mr. Weber warns against for-profit colleges that market aggressively and says their programs and graduation rates should be carefully vetted.

The federal government offers some flexibility in paying back loans, including income-based repayment (IBR).

But what happens after you’re out of school with continuing education debt if you can’t increase your income or don’t start earning money right away?

If you have federal loans, you can qualify for a break from payments until you can start paying them down. See the Education Department’s federal student aid website to explore the options.

Another option is income-based repayment, available only for federally guaranteed loans. Private loans are the least flexible in terms of repayment.

Retired borrowers may be more likely to qualify for IBR.

“If you’re at or near retirement, your income may be lower, which may affect your ability to repay your loan,” she said. “There is income-based repayment available, which can make repayment more manageable, but can also extend the repayment period, leading to more interest accrual. It’s something to keep in mind as you plan for the future.”

Since assets are not counted in determining eligibility for IBR and similar debt relief programs, senior citizens with substantial home equity and retirement accounts may find it easy to qualify.

———

John F. Waskimarch, “Managing Student Loan Debt as an Older Adult”, New York Times, March 19, 2015.

March 24, 2015

Are older workers crowding out job opportunities for young people?

by Grace

Older workers’ expanding participation in the labor force may be at the expense of employment opportunities for younger workers. 

One of the major trends in the U.S. workforce during the early 21st century is seniors’ expanding participation in the labor force. People who qualify for AARP membership have been retiring later and are more likely to be in the labor force now than people the same age were during the 1990s tech boom.

There have been significant changes for all seniors, but the increase is most striking among people 65 and older. For 75-year-olds, labor-force participation has risen to 14 percent from 9 percent since 2000. The number of people age 65 to 79 in the workforce has grown by 3.5 million. Of that, 1.6 million is due to the growing population in that age group, and 1.9 million is due to the increased propensity to work.

Employment helps seniors remain self sufficient.

The United States is going to be a very different place, demographically, for the next 30 years. Seniors putting in more years at the office will help ease that transition, cover a small part of Social Security’s deficit, and allow more older Americans self-sufficiency in their retirement.


The sliding labor participation rate for younger workers is clear.

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The question remains how much this affects younger workers who are still suffering during this jobless recovery.

…workers 55 and under still have about 2 more million jobs to go before they recover all the jobs losses since the start of the great global depression …

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Salim Furth, “What Percent of 75-Year-Olds Are Still Working?”, The Daily Signal, March 21, 2015.

Tyler Durden, “Old vs Young: The Story Of America’s Two Labor Markets”, Zero Hedge, January 9, 2015.

March 23, 2015

College has become a very expensive entitlement

by Grace

Has a college education become a very expensive and less meaningful entitlement?

Due to government subsidies and cheerleading about the supposed benefits of additional years of formal schooling, over the last 50 years we have transformed higher education.

What had formerly been a rather inexpensive service that a small percentage of the populace thought worth striving for has been transformed into a very expensive one that’s now widely regarded as an entitlement. Thanks to government “help,” the cost of college has soared, but at the same time, academic standards have eroded and at many institutions, the curriculum has turned into a hodge-podge of narrow, trendy courses.

George Leef calls it a bad case of “credentialitis”.

That is, young Americans now go to college just for whatever “access” their credentials will provide, not because they want to learn anything or because they want to acquire useful skills. Credentialitis wastes resources, burdens taxpayers, leaves many students struggling with debt, but does nothing to improve our productivity or competitiveness.

The federal government is overly involved.

Leef believes the solution is for the federal government to downsize its role.  That’s certainly not the current trend, where a newly introduced Student Aid Bill of Rights guarantees the “resources needed to pay for college” for everyone.

———

George Leef, “What Has Federal Higher Ed Policy Given Us? A Bad Case Of Credentialitis”, Forbes, March 17, 2015.

March 20, 2015

The advantages of two-parent families are not obvious to everyone

by Grace

… universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent …

Megan McArdle writes about the importance of the two-parent family, a social institution offering a type of support for children that government cannot seem to match.

Robert Putnam’s “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” has touched off a wave of print and digital commentary. The book chronicles a growing divide between the way affluent kids are raised, in two-parent homes whose parents invest heavily in educating their kids, and the very different, very unstable homes in which poorer kids generally grow up.

When the problems of single-parent families are debated, some will “argue that there are lots of good ways to raise kids outside the straitjacket of mid-century, middle-class mores”.

I have been trying to find a more delicate way to phrase this, but I can’t: This is nonsense. The advantages that two people raising their own biological or jointly adopted children have over “nontraditional” family arrangements are too obvious to need enumeration, but apparently mere obviousness is not enough to forestall contrary arguments, so let me enumerate them anyway.

Raising children the way an increasing percentages of Americans are — in loosely attached cohabitation arrangements that break up all too frequently, followed by the formation of new households with new children by different parents — is an enormous financial and emotional drain. Supporting two households rather than one is expensive, and it diverts money that could otherwise be invested in the kids. The parent in the home has no one to help shoulder the load of caring for kids, meaning less investment of time and more emotional strain on the custodial parent. Children will spend less time with their noncustodial parent, especially if that parent has other offspring. Add in conflict between the parents over money and time, and it can infect relationships with the children. As one researcher told me when I wrote an article on the state of modern marriage, you frequently see fathers investing time and money with the kids whose mother they get along with the best, while the other children struggle along on crumbs.

People often argue that extended families can substitute, but of course, two-parent families also have extended families — two of them — so single-parent families remain at a disadvantage, especially because other members of the extended family are often themselves struggling with the challenges of single parenthood. Extended families just can’t substitute for the benefits of a two-parent family. Government can’t, either; universal preschool is not going to make up for an uninvolved parent, or one stretched too thin to give their kids enough time. Government can sand the rough edges off the economic hardship, of course, but even in a social democratic paradise such as Sweden, kids raised in single-parent households do worse than kids raised with both their parents in the home.

The share of American children born to single mothers has grown seven-fold since 1960.

More than 40 percent of American children are now born to unmarried parents, down from just five percent in 1960, according to Pew Research Center. Fifty years ago, the vast majority of adults — 72 percent — were married. The same is true for only about half of adults today. The declines in marriage are especially pronounced in families with lower earnings. Tying the knot is increasingly a marker of class status in America.

———

Megan McArdle, “How Hollywood Can Save Our Families”, Bloomberg, March 17, 2015.

Seth Freed Wessler, “What Happened to the Middle-Class American Family?”, CNBC, March 18, 2015.

March 19, 2015

New ‘Student Aid Bill of Rights’ makes it easier to pay back student loans

by Grace

The Obama administration’s new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” will “simplify the process to apply for income-based repayment”, a move likely to shift more of the burden for paying back student loans from borrowers to taxpayers.  That is just one of the new benefits for the 40 million borrowers holding $1.3 trillion in student debt.

President Barack Obama announced a new “Student Aid Bill of Rights” Tuesday, directing the Department of Education and other federal agencies to undertake initiatives in three areas to help improve affordability for the estimated 40 million borrowers with federal loans. “We’re going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you’re falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama said during his speech at the Georgia Institute of Technology Tuesday afternoon.

This is the government’s rather magnanimous promise:

A Student Aid Bill of Rights

  1. Every student deserves access to a quality, affordable education at a college that’s cutting costs and increasing learning.
  2. Every student should be able to access the resources needed to pay for college.
  3. Every borrower has the right to an affordable repayment plan.
  4. And every borrower has the right to quality customer service, reliable information, and fair treatment, even if they struggle to repay their loans.

Summary of changes:

1. Create a centralized website that makes it easy to file complaints and to see all your student loans in one place….

2. Try having federal employees collecting debts instead of private contractors…

3. Make it easier for borrowers who become disabled to get their student loans discharged….

4. Ensure that the private debt collectors hired by the Department of Education apply prepayments first to loans with the highest interest rates, unless the borrower requests a different allocation.

5. Make it easier for students to get IRS information to qualify for income-based student loan repayment.

6. Clarify the rules under which students who declare bankruptcy can get their student loans reduced or eliminated….

While I disagree with some of the federal student loan program’s fundamental policies, it’s nice to see the government take the initiative for more clarity and transparency.

———

Kelli B. Grant, “Student loan initiatives could benefit 40M borrowers”, CNBC, March 10, 2015.

Kim Clark, “6 Ways the New ‘Student Aid Bill Of Rights’ Will Help Borrowers”, Money, March 10, 2015.

March 18, 2015

Education may be free but the credential is not

by Grace

Guillaume Dumas attended classes, made friends, and networked on some of America’s most prestigious campuses—for free….

The schools included Yale, Brown, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.  But he did not obtain what is arguably the most valuable part of an elite college education.

… Most people go to college primarily to get a piece of paper, and learning is something that happens incidentally….

Economist Bryan Caplan, who has extensively studied the college wage premium, elaborates on the signaling benefit of a degree, derived largely from actually receiving a diploma.

… Most of the financial reward of education comes from finishing degrees. Since diplomas used to be written on sheepskin, this finding is known as the “sheepskin effect.”

Researchers usually interpret sheepskin effects as signaling. If finishing your last year of college sharply boosts your income, the reason probably isn’t that colleges withhold the financially lucrative material until your senior year.

College professors don’t usually need to police their classrooms to prevent people like Dumas from sitting in on classes because lectures and assignments are not the most valuable components of what they are offering.  Those components are mostly steps on the road to the real reward — a college degree.

Students who never enrolled, or perhaps more significantly never paid for their courses, are not a concern for colleges.

Ollivier Dyens, deputy provost of student life and learning at McGill, explained why his university wasn’t worried about this sort of activity. “Not a lot of people will go through all of this without having some sort of credentials attached to it,” he says….

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Joe Pinskermar, “The Man Who Snuck Into the Ivy League Without Paying a Thing”, The Atlantic, March 5, 2015.

Bryan Caplan, “The Present Value of a Sheepskin”, EconLog, January 20, 2012.

March 17, 2015

Is your college at risk for closing?

by Grace

The closing of Sweet Briar College caught many students and potential students by surprise, disrupting their plans and creating uncertainties in carefully laid-out plans of how to pay for college.  No one wants to be in that situation, and the Washington Post offers tips on “How To Spot A College About To Go Out Of Business”.

Applicants should try to know as much as possible about the financial strength of the schools they are considering. One-third of all colleges and universities in the United States face a financial future that is significantly weaker than before the 2008 recession and are on an unsustainable fiscal path, according to an analysis published in 2012 by Bain & Company. Another quarter of colleges find themselves at serious risk of joining them.

Possible indicators of diminished financial strength:

  • Lowered bond ratings
  • Growing tuition discount rate
  • Failure in meeting enrollment targets
  • Increased debt load
  • Frequent changes in leadership positions

Smaller colleges are at higher risk for closing.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult for the smallest colleges to compete for students, and any college with fewer than about 1,500 students is particularly at risk for closing,” he told me. “Coming up 50 students short in an incoming class would be a rounding error for large colleges, but potentially devastating for a college with only 300 first-year students.”

Even if a college is not forced to close its doors, financial stress can affect students if it means staff cuts, limiting course options, inadequate building maintenance, and more.  So it’s a good idea to include financial strength to the components to consider when selecting a college list.

 Related:  “Downsizing trend hits higher education”

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Jeffrey J. Selingo, “How to spot a college about to go out of business”, Washington Post, March 11, 2015.

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