Archive for March, 2013

March 29, 2013

NYC data suggests top colleges would be 50% Asian if not for holistic admissions

by Grace

New York City high school admissions data suggest that top colleges might be 50% Asian if not for holistic admission policies.

Admission numbers for New York City’s top test high schools were recently released, showing that 50% of students admitted were Asian American.  Admission to these schools is determined solely by test scores.


Top universities use a holistic admissions system, aiming for racially diverse student bodies.


HT Powerline

March 28, 2013

Long hours may explain why educated women quit the workforce – ‘the time divide’

by Grace

Why do so many highly educated mothers drop out of the work force?  Probably because they can afford it and because the long hours they are required to work are tough on family life.

… Today, whether you’re male or female, if you’re taking home an upper-middle-class salary you’re expected to work an average of 50 hours, and probably more, a lot of it after you’ve gone home. As of 1997, the average workweek for a man with graduate education was 50 hours, and for a women 47—that three-hour difference can be accounted for, of course, by all the women who went on mommy tracks. Among American dual-career couples, in the 1990s, 15.2 percent of those with at least college degrees worked a joint 100 hours a week or more, whereas only 9.6 of couples without diplomas did that. Try to imagine what that 100-hour workweek looked like to a child: that’s five 10-hour days, plus commutes, for both parents. And those are just averages—for people at the top of their fields, the numbers were a great deal bigger.

That the workweek is ballooning for America’s educated, salaried classes, even as it’s shrinking for less educated, hourly workers, or turning into part-time work, has been called the “time divide”—the increasing inequality of time spent working, which tracks with the rise of economic inequality. As of 2002, for example, Americans in the top fourth of earners toiled an average of 15 hours more than earners in the bottom fourth….

Women currently enrolled in college do not fully realize the price of “leaning in” to their career, according to Judith Shulevitz writing in The New Republic.

When I meet young female undergraduates and graduate students today, which I do when I speak at universities, I don’t find them neo-traditionalist or lacking in aspiration. They don’t seem to want to stay home with their kids. They have every intention of using their formidable educations to achieve professional success, just as I did when I was in college. And like me back then, they don’t really grasp what that will require.

In our interview, Jacobs told me about a recent class in which he and his students discussed a study done of graduates of the University of Chicago’s business school. After 10 years, the study’s researchers found, the female graduates were making half of what their male classmates were making; the 90th percentile for women was where the median was for men. “Of course,” added Jacobs, “they’re all making a ton of money. It’s not like you could feel terrible for these women. But in terms of the disparity, it was pretty dramatic.” As the discussion continued, the young women in the class started putting their heads in their hands or on their desks. They hadn’t heard any of this before. But they’ll be hearing a lot more of it in the years to come.

I was clueless about all this when I was in college, mainly because my plans did not include children.  It was only after my first child was of school age and my job required me to be away from home 50-60 hours a week did I fully realize the challenges of balancing work and family.  My long commute, which contributed to the lack of flexibility, was a particular problem.  Even with good childcare, my husband and I could not escape the stress of trying to manage a family while dealing with a combined workweek of more than 100 hours.  So I simply quit working, grateful that I could afford it.  Other circumstances, including a major home remodeling project, also factored into my decision.

Another consideration in having one parent stay home with the children is the expanded flexibility it often gives the working parent to grow his career.  In our case, my husband no longer needed to factor in my availability when he had to work late or go out of town on business.  So in addition to lowering stress levels at home, it probably helped him in advancing his career.

Of course there are downsides to having one spouse drop out of the workforce.

Shulevitz thinks we need more government regulation so that professional mothers can stay in the workforce.

 Professional accomplishment shouldn’t and doesn’t have to look like this. The main reason white-collar workers can be driven to work 80-hour-or-so weeks is that very few of them have government protections. Most of them are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates the 40-hour-week and overtime pay. American managers aren’t allowed to join unions. Other countries have laws that protect against overwork even for professionals, such as standard or maximum number of hours anyone can work in a week….

Related:  ’84% of working women want to stay home with kids’ (Cost of College)

March 27, 2013

Quick Links – Middle school mess; hypergamy and single-parent families; bipartisan cuts to higher ed; and more

by Grace

◊◊◊  The middle school debate

Various views on the middle school model were presented in the New York Times last year.

You don’t have to have to read all the studies to know that the ages between 10 and 13 are socially awkward ones. But they are also important ones academically, crucial in determining college and career outcomes. Would these preteens be better off staying in an elementary school that covers kindergarten through eighth grade? Or is there a reason why this age group needs to be sectioned off into a separate middle school?

Another observation on the Middle School Mess:

American middle schools have become the places “where academic achievement goes to die.”  — Cheri Pierson Yecke

◊◊◊  Fewer college-educated men are reason for rise in single parent families?

The effects of a low sex ratio

As this column has repeatedly noted, women are hypergamous, which means that their instinct is to be attracted to men of higher status than themselves. When the societywide status of women increases relative to men, the effect is to diminish the pool of suitable men for any given woman. If most women reject most men as not good enough for them, the effect is no different from that of a low sex ratio. High-status men, being in short supply, set the terms of relationships, resulting in libertine sexual mores and higher illegitimacy.

I rarely see the term “illegitimacy” used these days.

◊◊◊  ‘Bipartisan Support for Cutting Higher-Ed

The national trend is marked: between 2009 and 2012, 47 states cut higher education spending per FTE. The median (mean) reduction was just over 23 percent (22 percent). Just three states saw increases: Illinois (unified Democratic government), North Dakota (unified Republican government), and Rhode Island (divided government with Republican governor).

When they have had unified government, both Democrats and Republicans have cut higher education funding. If we look at the seven states with unified Democratic control over this period, six reduced funding. Those six (excluding Illinois’s 2.8 percent increase) reduced funding by between 19 and 31 percent (West Virginia and Washington respectively) for an average reduction of 22.9 percent.

Of the nine states under unified Republican control, eight reduced funding by an average of 25.2 percent, ranging from a 0.2 percent decline in South Dakota to 42.8 percent reduction in Idaho. Texas, one of Leonard’s great villains, reduced funding by 9.2 percent (less than any of the Democratically-controlled states). Florida cut funding by 27 percent, which outranked all but one unified Democratic state. So while Republican-controlled states did cut higher education spending, they were not alone; unified Democratic governments more than held their own. (Of the 17 states with divided government, 16 reduced higher ed spending by an average of 25 percent during the period)….

These data suggest a bipartisan national trend, not a conservative conspiracy. The vast majority of states–whether controlled by Republicans or Democrats–have cut higher education funding in response to budget deficits.

◊◊◊  Grandparents’ contribution make up about 9.5 percent of the total 529 assets

By all accounts, Grandma and Grandpa are more active than ever in funding their grandkids’ educations, including sinking money into 529 college savings plans….

By the end of 2012, American families had a record $190.7 billion socked away in 529 college savings plans, according to a March 13 report from the College Savings Plans Network. …

Parents still contribute the lion’s share of funds invested in 529 accounts. But contributions from grandparents now make up about 9.5 percent of the total, according to the most recent data from the Financial Research Corp, which tracks 529 investments. It was a substantial enough increase that FRC started keeping track of which types of relatives were funding 529s for the first time last year.

March 26, 2013

California public colleges and universities will be mandated to give college credit for online classes taken elsewhere

by Grace

California is moving ahead with plans to force University of California and California State University campuses to give credit for online classes taken elsewhere if students are wait-listed for those classes at the state schools.


Nearly half a million students are on waiting lists for basic courses in California’s public colleges, increasing the cost and duration of college and reducing the number of students who go on to earn degrees. This is a human tragedy and a policy failure on an enormous scale.


Under the proposed plan, wait-listed students would be able to take online classes that have been approved by California’s Open Education Resources Council, a faculty-led body that was created by recent Steinberg-sponsored legislation (which also authorized free, open textbooks). Students would have to take proctored, in-person exams to pass the courses. Public colleges and universities in California would be required to accept those courses for credit.

Kevin Carey notes that this “change is consistent with the policy ideas put forth by President Obama in his State of the Union address” and represents a “reordering” in higher education.

… In the long run, however, this kind of plan represents an undeniable reordering of long-established regulatory, financial, and institutional arrangements. It’s a move closer to a time when traditional colleges are only a subset of the larger world of higher education

While some applaud this move, the University of California faculty have expressed “grave concerns”.  In addition to criticizing the state’s  failure to adequately fund higher education and the profit motives of alternative providers, professors are unhappy about losing their primary role in approving course credits for outside classes.

As goes California, so goes the nation?


March 25, 2013

Reminder – college scholarships that pay for room and board are taxable

by Grace

College scholarships that pay for room and board are taxable.  Here are more details from IRS Publication 970 on the types of scholarships and fellowships that are tax exempt.

Tax-Free Scholarships and Fellowships
A scholarship or fellowship is tax free (excludable from gross income) only if you are a candidate for a degree at an eligible educational institution.

A scholarship or fellowship is tax free only to the extent:

  • It does not exceed your expenses;
  • It is not designated or earmarked for other purposes (such as room and board), and does not require (by its terms) that it cannot be used for qualified education expenses; and
  • It does not represent payment for teaching, research, or other services required as a condition for receiving the scholarship….

Worksheet 1–1 is used to calculate the amount of scholarship aid that can be excluded from gross income.  If your only income is a tax-free scholarship, you do not need to file a tax return.

Work-study earnings are taxable, included in the IRS category of payment for services.

A summary from the IRS:  Parents and Students: Check Out College Tax Benefits for 2012 and Years Ahead

Related:  Tax season reminders about education tax benefits (Cost of College)

March 22, 2013

Maybe men are smart to skip college

by Grace

Percent of U.S. Adults Ages 25-29 With a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, 1969-2009

Maybe men are avoiding college because it offers them a lower ROI compared to women, at least in the short term.

Men without college degrees face better job prospects than equivalently educated women, at least in the short term. That makes the consequences of dropping out appear smaller for men.

The paper, by sociologists Rachel Dwyer and Randy Hodson of Ohio State University and Laura McCloud of Pacific Lutheran University, used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth to look at the educational and employment experiences of more than 6,500 Americans born between 1980 and 1984. Unsurprisingly, going to college boosted earnings for both men and women. But the gap was much wider for women. After controlling for various demographic factors, the researchers found that female graduates earned more than $6,500 more per year than women with just a high school diploma, and more than $4,500 more than women who dropped out of college. Male graduates, by contrast, earned only about $2,700 more than high school graduates, and about the same amount as male college drop-outs.

The findings are consistent with past research, which has showed that jobs are much more gender-segregated in low-education occupations. Female drop-outs tend to concentrate in low-paying service-sector jobs, whereas less-educated men are more likely to find work in better-paying industries such as manufacturing and construction.

“Women experience a much larger immediate economic penalty for not graduating from college than do men,” the authors write. “Female dropouts simply face worse job prospects than do male dropouts.”

This might play a role in motivating women to do well in high school.

“Young men who see high school friends with relatively well-paying jobs may resist taking on debt to gain a degree with uncertain returns,” the authors write. “At the same time, young women who see friends in low-paying female-dominated jobs, such as retail cashier or day care worker, may be spurred to stay in school, even with debt.”

Over the long term, skipping college may not be such a smart move.

… The wage gap between men with and without bachelor’s degrees starts small but grows over time as better-educated men enjoy more opportunities for career advancement. And as the recession showed, those well-paying jobs in construction and manufacturing can disappear quickly and be slow to return….

March 21, 2013

What does the explosive growth of data mean for college students and job-seekers?

by Grace

Job opportunities continue to grow in the increasingly important field of data analysis.

The terminology can be confusing, so I turned to Wikipedia for help.

Analysis of data is a process of inspecting, cleaning, transforming, and modeling data with the goal of highlighting useful information, suggesting conclusions, and supporting decision making. Data analysis has multiple facets and approaches, encompassing diverse techniques under a variety of names, in different business, science, and social science domains.

Data mining is a particular data analysis technique that focuses on modeling and knowledge discovery for predictive rather than purely descriptive purposes. Business intelligence covers data analysis that relies heavily on aggregation, focusing on business information. In statistical applications, some people divide data analysis into descriptive statistics,exploratory data analysis (EDA), and confirmatory data analysis (CDA). EDA focuses on discovering new features in the data and CDA on confirming or falsifying existing hypotheses. Predictive analytics focuses on application of statistical or structural models for predictive forecasting or classification, while text analytics applies statistical, linguistic, and structural techniques to extract and classify information from textual sources, a species of unstructured data. All are varieties of data analysis.

Data integration is a precursor to data analysis, and data analysis is closely linked to data visualization and data dissemination. The term data analysis is sometimes used as a synonym for data modeling.

Alexander Furnas tells us that although data mining is “quite complex”, it’s also “quite comprehensible and intuitive”.

To most of us data mining goes something like this: tons of data is collected, then quant wizards work their arcane magic, and then they know all of this amazing stuff. But, how? And what types of things can they know? Here is the truth: despite the fact that the specific technical functioning of data mining algorithms is quite complex — they are a black box unless you are a professional statistician or computer scientist — the uses and capabilities of these approaches are, in fact, quite comprehensible and intuitive.

For the most part, data mining tells us about very large and complex data sets, the kinds of information that would be readily apparent about small and simple things. For example, it can tell us that “one of these things is not like the other” a la Sesame Street or it can show us categories and then sort things into pre-determined categories. But what’s simple with 5 datapoints is not so simple with 5 billion datapoints.

Data Crunchers Now the Cool Kids on Campus, according to a Wall Street Journal article that focuses on the field of statistics.

Universities have been turning out more students with stats degrees, though the totals remain small. U.S. universities conferred nearly 3,000 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in statistics in the 2010-2011 academic year, with increases of 68%, 37% and 27%, respectively, from four years earlier, according to the federal National Center for Education Statistics. (The numbers don’t include degrees in biostatistics and business statistics.)

A positive jobs trend

In a still-soft jobs market, rising demand for statisticians also has spurred interest in the field. There were 28,305 postings for jobs in statistics, analytics and, in the trendy phrase, “big data” at the jobs website icrunchdata last month, up from 16,500 three years earlier, according to Todd Nevins, a site co-founder.

Career paths can take various routes, as these examples show.

  • Data mining: The physicist who became a data scientist . . . a doctorate in physics
  • Data visualization: The admissions officer who turned into a data wonk . . . master’s degree in higher education
  • Data analysis: The marketer who hacks code . . .  former journalism major
  • Data manipulation: The artist with the spreadsheet tattoo . . . Trained as an artist
  • Data discovery: The geek who joined the lawyer’s nest . . .  background is as a network/systems administrator

Data scientists need math skills.

“It’s never been a better time to be a data scientist,” known in the industry as quantitative jocks,says John Manoogian III, co-founder and chief technology officer at 140 Proof. “Companies want to turn this data into insights about what people like and what might be relevant to them, but they need very specialized analytical talent to do this.”…

The field has “exploded” the last 18 months, yet there is a dearth of talent because the job requires math skills that college graduates often lack, says Jim Zimmermann, director of Skillsoft, which provides online learning and training.

Lacking potential recruits, companies are “forced to home-grow their own talent … through online training,” Zimmermann says.

Related:  Is data analytics the new ‘plastics’? (Cost of College)

March 20, 2013

Quick Links – Pay to play in New York; academic standards rule at elite colleges; Massachusetts charter schools

by Grace

◊◊◊  Pay to play outlawed in N.Y., for now (

Unlike most states, including nearby Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, New York does not currently allow schools to charge students extra to participate in extracurricular programs.  But as the tax cap continues to put pressure on school spending, New York might join other states in requiring students to “pay to play”.

State Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, expresses the concerns of many.

“I believe extracurricular activities provide children with extra opportunities and extra potential for learning. There’s enough disparity for poor families. They already have a disadvantage,” she said. “In my mind, pay-to-play means we all pay later on.”

The rules vary widely across the country, with some states/districts only requiring athletes to pay.  Even in New York, the spirit of the law seems to be violated in some cases.  For example, a student must pay $90 or sell program ads as a condition of participating in our local high school play.  Isn’t that a form of pay-to-play?

◊◊◊  In their first cut for admissions, academic standards rule for most elite colleges.

Before they’re holistic, colleges look at grades and test scores.

… The most common winnowing process (used by 76 percent of the colleges that answered Rubin) is some measure of academic merit. This may be based on grades, rigor of high school courses, test scores and so forth. While there is some difference in the relative weight given to various factors, there is a straightforward value on doing better than others in whatever formula the college uses.

The survey included responses from “63 of the 75 most competitive colleges, mostly private, with just a few public flagships”.

◊◊◊  Massachusetts has seen a 20% increase in charter enrollment over the last four years.

Legislation to eliminate a cap on the number of charter schools has been proposed by Democrat state senators.

BOSTON—Massachusetts lawmakers are considering eliminating a cap on the number of charter schools that can operate in the lowest-performing school districts, including here in the capital city.

While other states also have weighed lifting caps, charter advocates point to left-leaning Massachusetts as a somewhat unlikely model for the movement. “This demonstrates that charter schools are a viable reform,” said Nina Rees, president of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit aimed at advancing the movement. “If it can happen in Massachusetts, it can happen anywhere.”…

The 107,000-member Massachusetts Teachers Association is likely to oppose the bill, said union president Paul Toner. Under state law, schools’ funding is linked to the number of attending students, so charter schools divert much-needed funds from traditional schools, he said….

Because other states look to Massachusetts—where students overall routinely rank at the top of national and international tests—for lessons on academic achievement and innovation, the Bay State’s policies on charter schools are being followed closely, former Florida education commissioner Gerard Robinson told charter advocates gathered in Boston recently.

Nationally, charter schools are educating more than 2.3 million students in the 2012-13 school year, 275,000 more than last year, the largest single-year jump since the movement began 20 years ago, according to the National Alliance for Charter Schools.

More than 31,000 Massachusetts students attend charter schools, an increase of 20% in the past four years. …

Unlike many other states, advocates say, Massachusetts’ governance system designates state education officials as sole authorizers of independently run charter schools, overruling local mayors and unions.

March 19, 2013

Average 529 savings reach all-time high

by Grace

Average balances for 529 college savings and prepaid tuition plans grew to a record $17,174 in 2012 — up 12% from an average of $15,349 in 2011, according to a report from the College Savings Plans Network, a nonprofit and affiliate of the National Association of State Treasurers.


In December 2012, the number of existing 529 accounts increased by about 4% to 11.1 million, up from 10.7 million in December 2011. Total 529 investments reached a record $190.7 billion, up from $165 billion in 2011.

Those numbers were also helped by a strong stock market last year. In 2012, the S&P 500 soared 13%.

Is the college savings situation improving or not?

The picture painted by these numbers is rosier than the one depicted by another report of fewer families saving for college.  The discrepancy between the this story and previous one could be due to what was measured (only 529 plans vs. total college savings), source of information (plan administrators vs. parents), and focus on different years (2012 vs. 2011).  Even with this latest positive indication for college savings, there are valid reasons why many parents still “feel overwhelmed, annoyed, angry, or frustrated”.

Yet, students and their families are still struggling to keep up with rapid increases in tuition….

Average tuition paid at public community colleges and four-year colleges and universities rose by 8.3% last year, according to a recent report by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

For the 2012-13 school year, the average prices for tuition, fees, room and board for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities is $17,860, according to the College Board. And the average bill at private institutions is nearly $40,000.

College savings hits all-time high (CNNMoney)

College Savings Plans Network 2012 Year-End 529 Report

March 18, 2013

College tuition benefits are cut for soldiers and expanded for illegal immigrants

by Grace

One news source labeled this scenario as ‘upside down’.

Army suspends college tuition assistance.

The Army announced Friday it is suspending its tuition assistance program for soldiers newly enrolling in classes due to sequestration and other budgetary pressures….

The Army’s announcement follows a similar move by the Marine Corps.

Colorado will lower college tuition for illegal immigrants.

The bill allows students who graduate from Colorado high schools to attend college at the in-state rate regardless of their immigration status.

 20,000 illegal aliens apply for college financial aid under California’s new Dream Act.

More than 20,000 college-bound students are seeking state financial aid for the first time under California’s new Dream Act laws that allow them to get the help despite their immigration status.

While far from a complete picture, that number is the best indicator yet of how many students hope to benefit from a pair of laws that could radically change the college experience for a generation of students whose parents brought them to the U.S. illegally when they were young — the same group that has taken center stage in the national immigration reform debate.

Related:  More states are allowing in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants (Cost  of College)

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