Archive for January, 2013

January 31, 2013

Why nursing graduates can’t find jobs

by Grace

New nursing graduates are finding it difficult to land their first jobs, but over the longer term nursing may prove to be a stable career choice.

Employers want experienced nurses.

Since the recession, health care has been the single biggest sector for job growth, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get hired.

Registered nurses fresh out of school are coming across thousands of job postings with an impossible requirement: “no new grads.”

A survey by the National Student Nurse’s Association showed 36% of newly licensed RNs graduating in 2011 were not working as registered nurses four months after graduation.

Blame the recession that has caused experienced nurses to hold on to their jobs, “clogging the market” and making it harder for new graduates.

The recession is to blame, says Peter Buerhaus, a registered nurse and economist who teaches at the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. In a paper he co-authored in theNew England Journal of Medicine last year, he shows an interesting phenomenon happens in the demographics of the nursing workforce when the economy is weak.

About 90% of nurses are women, 60% are married, and roughly a quarter are over 50 years old. It’s typical for many nurses to take time off to raise children in their 30s, and given the long days spent working on their feet, many often retire in their late 50s.

Prior to the recession, about 73,000 nurses left the profession each year due to childbearing, retirement, burning out or death.

But when the recession hit, spouses lost jobs, 401(k)s lost money, and facing financial uncertainty, fewer nurses chose to leave work, Buerhaus said.

“Many of those nurses are still in the workforce, and they’re not leaving because we don’t see a convincing jobs recovery yet,” Buerhaus said. “They’re clogging the market and making it harder for these new RNs to get a job.”

Enrollment in nursing programs has doubled over ten years.

At the same time, enrollment in nursing colleges has exploded in recent years. In the 2010-2011 school year, 169,000 people were enrolled in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs. That’s more than double the 78,000 students from a decade earlier, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

There just aren’t enough jobs to go around for all these new grads.

Over the long term, nursing jobs are expected to be plentiful, but many of the jobs will continue to be located outside of hospitals. So the new graduate today may have to build her experience by working in  home health care, PRN assignments, nursing homes, or rural area hospitals, even if those are not her first choices.  Later on with more experience under her belt she will have more options to choose a more desirable job.

Related: Cautious outlook for nursing jobs (Cost of College)

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January 30, 2013

Quick Links – Union membership keeps falling; 4.4% increase in proposed spending for education in New York; our educational mess

by Grace

◊◊◊  ‘Union membership falls to 70-year low’ (The Detroit News)

Washington — The nation’s unions lost 400,000 members in 2012 as the percentage of U.S. workers represented by a labor union fell to 11.3 percent, its lowest level since the 1930s – declining by 0.5 percent over the last year.

Michigan accounted for about 10 percent of the nation’s loss of unionized workers as the Wolverine State fell to the seventh most-unionized state, from fifth in 2011.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the biggest hit was in public sector unions, where many states and cities have cut back on their unionized workforce.

Sharp difference between higher rate of union membership in the public sector and lower rate among private workers

Among public sector workers, 35.9 percent are in a union – down from 37.0 percent in 2011, as the public sector shed nearly 250,000 union workers.

The public sector union rate is more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers. In the private sector, 6.6 percent are unionized, down from 6.9 percent in 2011.


◊◊◊  New York State proposed budget increases funding for most local public schools

All Westchester County school districts except for three will received increased state funding under Governor Cuomo’s proposed 2013-14 budget.  Increases range from 17.5% (Hendrick Hudson) to 0.3% (Scarsdale).  Our local district will see its state funding increase by 5.8%.

The statewide average increase in proposed education aid is 4.4%, with “no broad-based tax increases”.


◊◊◊  David Solway schools us on the Educational Mess We’re In

David Solway describes the content-free, guide-on-the-side culture of today’s classroom using language that had me reaching for a dictionary a few times.  In the comments, he’s criticized for stringing “ten dollar words into sentences one has to read twice to understand”.  I would have to agree, but it was fun to read this twice!

This paradigm is instantly recognizable by the contents and procedures that dominate our public school classrooms: films galore, computer simulations, audio-visual devices, “testable competencies,” PowerPoint presentations, concept maps, information transfer, virtual whiteboards, expurgated texts, true-or-false exams demanding little in the way of written formulation of ideas, and so on. Teachers are trained to emphasize method, to prepare “instructional designs,” to focus on “techniques” of transmission, to valorize process instead of matter, to generate “lesson plans” rather than lessons — “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” remarked the Gryphon in Alice in Wonderland, “because they lessen from day to day.” Meanwhile, since they are expected to be communicators rather than preceptors, teachers are regularly shunted around the curriculum and required to teach outside their disciplines — which, be it said, they have often failed to master owing to the institutional stress placed on tactics and delivery rather than on grist and corpus. Thus the poor geography teacher becomes a worse gym instructor.

Doubtlessly, the penchant for instrumental modes of teaching has been with us since time immemorial, but in the current climate it has been exalted into a hypothetically remedial ideology and institutionalized as a pervasive method of committee-backed instruction. It is high time we became aware, then, that despite all the media hype and the inundation of formulaic pamphlets, primers, and manuals which experts, specialists, and many public school teachers have unfathomably welcomed, and the misguided policy to hire 100,000 more ill-equipped teachers, the techniques that have become so popular these days do not work. As I wrote in Education Lost: Reflections on Contemporary Pedagogical Practice, “the fundamental premise at the bottom of modern educational theory, namely that teaching is a science whose operative concepts are those of storage, dissemination and skill-replication…is faltering badly, especially in those disciplines which are not data-based.”

At the very least, I learned a new synonym for “teacher”:  preceptor.  I wonder how long it’ll be before I figure out how to slip that word into my writing.

January 29, 2013

University of Wisconsin to offer lower-cost online bachelor’s degrees

by Grace

University of Wisconsin to Offer a Bachelor’s to Students Who Take Online Competency Tests About What They Know

No class time will be required for most degrees as Wisconsin begins “decoupling the learning part of education from student assessment and degree-granting”.

Wisconsin officials tout the UW Flexible Option as the first to offer multiple, competency-based bachelor’s degrees from a public university system. Officials encourage students to complete their education independently through online courses, which have grown in popularity through efforts by companies such as Coursera, edX and Udacity.

No classroom time is required under the Wisconsin program except for clinical or practicum work for certain degrees.

Competency tests will determine if course credit will be given.

Under the Flexible Option, assessment tests and related online courses are being written by faculty who normally teach the related subject-area classes, Mr. Reilly said.

Officials plan to launch the full program this fall, with bachelor’s degrees in subjects including information technology and diagnostic imaging, plus master’s and bachelor’s degrees for registered nurses. Faculty are working on writing those tests now.

A way to lower college costs

The charges for the tests and related online courses haven’t been set. But university officials said the Flexible Option should be “significantly less expensive” than full-time resident tuition, which averages about $6,900 a year at Wisconsin’s four-year campuses.

There is concern that programs will be “watered down” versions of traditional degrees.  I think they’re making a mistake by not requiring proctored testing.

Based on the examples given in the article, this new degree option will mainly attract older students.

Beth Calvert, a 35-year-old registered nurse at a Milwaukee hospital, hopes to enroll in the program to earn her bachelor’s in nursing. Between working overnight shifts and caring for her 3-year-old daughter, Ms. Calvert said she has little time to move beyond her associate degree but knows that it increasingly is important to her employer, which she said offers a pay raise to nurses with higher degrees.

January 28, 2013

More states are allowing in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants

by Grace

Colorado is the latest state to move toward allowing in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants.

DENVER — A bill that would allow illegal immigrants in Colorado to qualify for in-state tuition at state colleges and universities passed its first hurdle Thursday in the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, was among the six committee members, and the only Republican, to vote in favor of the bill….

Known as ASSET — Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy — this is the seventh attempt to get the legislation enacted. The first was 13-years ago.

According to Pew Stateline, at least 12 states offer in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants, with Massachusetts being a recent addition to this group.

President Barack Obama last summer granted thousands of young immigrants a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation. In November, Governor Deval Patrick announced that those students would also qualify for in-state tuition at Massachusetts’ public universities. Patrick says he does not need legislative approval for the move, because people who have work permits are eligible for in-state tuition under existing law. “This isn’t about a change in policy and more to the point, it’s about the right thing to do,” he told reporters. But the move upset some lawmakers on Beacon Hill who said Patrick usurped the power of the legislature.

Moving forward with ‘sweeping’ immigration reform

Among the states that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.  Immigration reform is an important issue to watch in 2013.  I keep hearing that Republicans have to get on board for more lenient treatment of illegal immigrants if they hope to have any chance of success in the next presidential election, with an announcement later today signaling both parties are moving ahead on this initiative.

WASHINGTON:  A bipartisan group of leading senators has reached agreement on the principles of sweeping legislation to rewrite the nation’s immigration laws.

The deal, which was to be announced at a news conference Monday afternoon, covers border security, guest workers and employer verification, as well as a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants already in the United States.

Although thorny details remain to be negotiated and success is far from certain, the development heralds the start of what could be the most significant effort in years toward overhauling the nation’s inefficient patchwork of immigration laws.

Related:  DREAM Act updates (Cost of College)

January 25, 2013

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge

by Grace

So do we all agree with edX president Anant Agarwal that technology might be the “single biggest innovation in education” in the last 200 years?  It certainly seems possible.

Technology ‘will topple many ideas about how we teach’.

Because education is economically important yet appears inefficient and static with respect to technology, it’s often cited (along with health care) as the next industry ripe for a major “disruption.” This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, the influential Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive technology.” In two books on education, he laid a blueprint for online learning: it will continue to spread and get better, and eventually it will topple many ideas about how we teach—and possibly some institutions as well.

My observation as a parent is that technology is unlikely to make human teachers obsolete any time soon, but the opportunity for schools to use data more efficiently screams out as a way to improve human teachers.

Technology will define where online education goes next. All those millions of students clicking online can have their progress tracked, logged, studied, and probably influenced, too. Talk to Khan or anyone behind the MOOCs (which largely sprang from university departments interested in computer intelligence) and they’ll all say their eventual goal isn’t to stream videos but to perfect education through the scientific use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that maps an individual’s knowledge and offers a lesson plan unique to him or her. Will they succeed and create something truly different? If they do, we’ll have the answer to our question: online learning will be the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years.

Teachers should harness technology to find gaps in student knowledge.

I recently heard a local high school teacher claim he did not have time to conduct formative assessments*.  Part of the school’s explanation for this was that excessive mandatory testing requirements left no time for teachers to find student’s gaps in knowledge.  I’m not buying this, because Khan Academy and other sources offer “software that maps an individual’s knowledge”.  I’ve had a brief glimpse of education software used in our public schools that also does this, generating data similar to that provided by KA.

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Personalized data like this would enable a teacher to use his time more efficiently, even making differentiated instruction more feasible.  But instead, a school that claims it is teaching 21st century skills is letting its instructors rely on clunky data-gathering methods that shortchange its students.  Unfortunately, it’s going to take a little while for technology to disrupt this school’s hold on teaching methods.


* Formative assessment or diagnostic testing is a range of formal and informal assessment procedures employed by teachers during the learning process in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.[1] It typically involves qualitative feedback (rather than scores) for both student and teacher that focuses on the details of content and performance.[2] It is commonly contrasted with summative assessment, which seeks to monitor educational outcomes, often for purposes of external accountability.[3]

January 24, 2013

College presidents want to reduce merit aid

by Grace

Apparently college presidents are unhappy about the trend of awarding increasingly more financial aid based on merit and not on need, so they are taking steps to reverse the trend.

The shifts in aid in the last 15-20 years have been unmistakable. In 1995-96, private nonprofit and public four-year colleges were far likelier to give need-based grants than merit-based ones (by margins of 43 vs. 24 percent at private nonprofit colleges and 13 percent vs. 8 percent at public universities). In 2007-8, 18 percent of public university students received merit-based awards and 16 percent received need-based grants; at private colleges, 42 percent received merit aid and 44 percent received need-based assistance, a 2011 study by the National Center for Education Statistics showed.

College presidents believe the trend has ‘undermined’ the concept of making college affordable.

There is fairly widespread agreement that the rapid expansion of financial aid awarded based not on financial need but on academic (as well as athletic and racial/ethnic) grounds, and frequently to attract students who are able to afford tuition but whose families won’t pay full freight, has undermined the traditional conception of financial aid as a tool to make college possible for students who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Aid awarded based on criteria other than need tends to change where people go to college, not make it possible for them to go.

I doubt that the increase in merit aid has been an important factor in making college less affordable.  College presidents consider this an issue of fairness, but perhaps it’s more a matter of concern about being forced to engage in bidding wars for students.

If Nugent spoke with a hint of frustration in her voice, it was because she so clearly thinks that most presidents know in their hearts that what they’re doing isn’t in the long-term interests of their institutions or of students.

“The merit wars are both wrong and destructive; is a game of chicken the most responsible way to manage our institutions?” she said. “There’s an understandable fear of unilateral disarmament. The question is, can we band together to defend what we think is right?”

S. Georgia Nugent, president of Kenyon College, leads an effort to cut merit aid.  In her presentation at a recent meeting of presidents in the Council of Independent Colleges, she shared news about efforts being made to reach that goal while also ensuring the Department of Justice does not once again investigate the schools for the possibility of collusion

First, Nugent shared with the group a preliminary “statement of principle” (drafted by John McCardell of the University of the South and others) that would represent a “first, baby step” toward reaching some kind of agreement among presidents about eventual actions or changes in financial aid and pricing practices.

And then David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, told the group that he’d had a series of preliminary conversations in which officials of the U.S. Justice Department had expressed a willingness to review (and potentially bless) accords in which colleges would agree to take common steps to reduce non-need-based aid that would result either in increased financial aid for students or lowered tuition prices (or both).

The importance of receiving DOJ blessing arises from “a Justice Department antitrust investigation in the late 1980s that brought to an end the practice in which elite institutions'”collaborated on financial aid distribution, a practice the DOJ alleged “was anti-competitive and hurt students”.

Among the principles in the document circulated among the college presidents group was this one:

We will cease, in our publication, on our websites, and in all other forms of admission communication, to use the term “merit aid” to describe non-need-based financial aid (since, they say, all aid recipients are meritorious).

Hmm, “all aid recipients are meritorious” reminds me of the situation where all members of all teams in the soccer league receive trophies.  All those soccer players are also meritorious.

The session included several indications that the outlook for reducing merit aid was positive, leaving the audience of college presidents in an “upbeat mood”.

Related:

January 23, 2013

Quick Links – Women tend to overthink things; high school graduation rates go up; employers want basic skills

by Grace

◊◊◊ Women tend to overthink things

The late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema was a psychologist and professor at Yale University:

Her studies, first in children and later in adults, exposed one of the most deceptively upsetting of these patterns: rumination, the natural instinct to dwell on the sources of problems rather than their possible solutions. Women were more prone to ruminate than men, the studies found, and in a landmark 1987 paper she argued that this difference accounted for the two-to-one ratio of depressed women to depressed men….

“The way I think she’d put it is that, when bad things happen, women brood — they’re cerebral, which can feed into the depression,” said Martin Seligman, a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, who oversaw her doctoral work. “Men are more inclined to act, to do something, plan, beat someone up, play basketball.”


◊◊◊  High-school graduation rates go up, but reasons are unknown

America’s high school graduation rate, which stagnated for the last three decades of the 20th century, is now climbing, according to a new, comprehensive look at the key education gauge by Harvard University economist Richard Murnane.

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Using various data sources, Mr. Murnane, who teaches at Harvard’s education school, estimates that 77.6% of Americans between 20 and 24 in 2000 had high school diplomas.

Among those born 10 years later — that is, those who were between 20 and 24 in 2010 — 83.7% had diplomas.

The improvement was particularly sharp among blacks and Hispanics. For instance, in 2000, 61.2% of black men between 20 and 24 had finished high school; in 2010, 72.0% of black men in that age bracket had….

Mr. Murnane says he and other academics can’t fully explain the fall and rise of high school graduation rates. The economic reward for getting a diploma — higher wages — is substantial and grew during the years when dropout rates were rising, confounding economists who would have expected that to encourage people to finish high school.

There is some speculation that lower lead levels may be a factor.


◊◊◊  Most employers value basic skills over digital expertise

The Millenial Branding and Experience Inc. study, released May 14, shows an overwhelming majority  of employers surveyed (as in, more than 92 percent) cite basic communication skills, a positive attitude and teamwork skills as absolutely essential to landing entry-level positions.

Education Speaks editorial board member Christine Geraci:

A few months ago, I moderated a discussion between residents at a school budget community conversation hosted by one of the school districts in our region. When asked to provide feedback on the district’s overall curriculum, a significant number said they wanted to see more emphasis on building soft skills such as writing and oral communication.

One local business owner sitting at my table said he wanted to hire local high school students, but often refrained because they didn’t look customers in the eye when speaking to them, and wrote in abbreviated ‘text speak.’ In his opinion, this was a direct result of too much exposure to tech gadgets and social media. Although he agreed digital tools have their place in education, basic writing and speaking skills – you know, with regular pencils and actual voices — shouldn’t take a backseat as a result.

January 22, 2013

The MBA is no longer considered such a good deal

by Grace

First, the advice was, “Don’t go law school!”.  Now, it’s also, “Don’t go to business school!”  With stagnating salaries and surging debt levels, the MBA is no longer considered a certain path to financial success.

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The reasons are twofold according to Megan McCardle.

It strikes me as a real problem that more people are paying a lot for degrees that don’t necessarily boost their earning potential. It’s a symptom of two worrying economic trends: the relentless push for ever more educational credentials, and the stagnant labor market.

The MBA has been devalued, as pointed out in the Wall Street Journal.

A weak economic climate is only partly to blame for the M.B.A.’s plight. The changing nature of B-school programs, evolving corporate needs—as well as the perceived value of the degree—have all helped dilute the M.B.A.’s allure.

Formerly, the traditional M.B.A. was mainly the product of a full-time, two-year program. But beginning in the early 1990s, many schools created part-time and executive M.B.A. programs, with lower-ranked schools often following in the footsteps of academic leaders. Online degrees also gained in popularity.

As a result, the number of M.B.A. degrees granted has grown faster than the population, says Brooks Holtom, a management professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

“An M.B.A. is a club that is now not exclusive,” he says. “You should not assume that this less exclusive club is going to confer the same benefits.”

A change in hiring patterns indicates bachelor’s degrees are more in demand.

It is unclear how many M.B.A.s the market really needs. Recently, more companies have indicated that “they are moving away from an emphasis on M.B.A.s” and are instead hiring more undergraduates at lower salaries that they can then train in-house, says Camille Kelly, vice president of employer branding at Universum, a firm that advises companies on how to attract and retain the best employees. Companies, she says, “still will do M.B.A. hiring, but it won’t be to the same extent they have in the past.”

Advice from McCardle

… When young people ask me whether they should get an MBA, I give them the same advice that I got in the late 1990s: unless you can get into a top 10* (or have a very specific job that you know you can get by attending a regional program), then don’t. You’re too likely to end up with massive debt and no very good prospects for paying it.

Related:  ‘paper value of an MBA might be overstated’ (Cost of College)

January 21, 2013

‘households vary dramatically in the impact that inflation has upon them’

by Grace

Inflation disproportionately affects specific groups of people, with families paying college tuition among those who have been hit the hardest.

Inflation has been tame in recent months. However, the one thing we can be certain about is this: Increases in inflation will have a painful effect on lower income households, those on fixed incomes, those with higher ratios of transportation costs, college tuition and any household whose discretionary spending is more dream than reality.

20130117.COCCollegeInflationCompared1

(Notice that both college and apparel costs follow a pattern coinciding with seasonal volatility.)

As explained by Doug Short, with its recent quantitative easing “the Fed has been trying to increase inflation, operating at the macro level”.  Here are his comments on inflation in the higher education sector.

The BLS weights College Tuition and Fees at 1.695% of the total expenditures. But for households with college-bound children, the relentless growth of tuition and fees can cripple budgets. Often those costs get bundled into loans that saddle degree recipients with exorbitant debt burdens. Consider the following numbers from the CollegeBoard.com website:

  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $8,240 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students.
  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $20,770 per year in tuition and fees for out-of-state students.
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $28,500 per year in tuition and fees.

Of course, Mr. Bernanke would point out that, with a healthy dose of Core Inflation (extended of course to wages), those debt-burdened college grads will pay down the loans with inflated dollars.

Other factors in play are slowing down the skyrocketing costs of college, so the worst of the “inflation nightmare” may be over for a while.

January 18, 2013

‘SUNY to boost online offerings, push early graduation’

by Grace

The State University of New York (SUNY) is taking a leadership position regarding online education.

For the first time, SUNY students will be able to complete a bachelor’s degree online, Zimpher announced. Three degrees in high-demand fields like information technology and health care will launch this fall, and seven more will be available in fall 2014. SUNY will be a leader in online education.

Additionally, students will be able to take online courses from any other SUNY college while earning credit and paying tuition to their home campuses.

“No institution in America – not even the for-profits – will be able to match the number of offerings and the quality of instruction,” Zimpher said. “In three years, we will enroll 100,000 degree-seeking students in Open SUNY, making us the largest public online provider of education in the nation.”

Credit for MOOCs

As part of SUNY’s online efforts, top professors will begin to provide “massive open online courses.” Many of the country’s most prestigious universities present such courses, which are online for free with the aim of extending access to education. Generally, these courses are not credit bearing.

The system will develop a system of assessing higher-learning experiences, so students who’ve taken some courses, such as free courses online from accredited institutions, can get credit for their work.

Credit for internships

SUNY will also focus on providing experiential education to students — even those enrolled only in online courses — helping them to secure internships, research or volunteer opportunities during their studies. These experiences will be recorded on an extracurricular transcript and be designated on their diplomas.

Encouraging early graduation as a way for students to save money

“We are committed to the idea that students should have the choice to graduate in three years,” she said during the speech. “We believe that by 2015, 25 percent of SUNY students will be able to do this.”…

“It allows students to reduce their student loans. It reduces their tuition because they’re only paying three years of tuition instead of four,” Stenger said. “The students can stay and get their master’s degree in an accelerated fashion and have a little extra value at the same time.”

Even assuming that online courses will cost the same as classroom courses, online students should be able to save money on transportation, housing, and other costs.

My future online scholar?
Even though she’s never taken an online course*, my high school daughter has lately mentioned that she might be interested in attending an online college.  I’m not completely sure why she’s interested and I’m not sold on the idea, but it looks as if SUNY might soon be able to accommodate her.

In related news, a hip hop music video promoting the SUNY system will be released to the public next month.

* I was recently told that our local high school expressly forbids students from taking any online course for credit, a rule that also applies to staff.  At a state level, New York does allow schools to grant credit for online courses.

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