Archive for August, 2013

August 30, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS

by Grace

Because it is such an important aspect of the Writing to the Point method, THE IMPORTANCE OF DETAILS is revisited as a topic for discussion.  (This is my 17th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement. (Chapter 1, page 6)

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 2, page 18.)

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 3, page 31.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)



“Three-fourths of all good writing consists of details and plenty of them.”

The importance of including abundant details is revisited as a topic because Kerrigan saw a strong tendency among developing writers to be excessively abstract and general.  It may be because adding details can be hard work, and in a rush to get the composition done a student often neglects to go the extra length needed to add examples and concrete descriptions.  It is also the case that a writer usually holds in his head a clear understanding of the message and context of his topic, and sometimes forgets that the reader needs more details to achieve a similar understanding.

Being specific and concrete, as well as going into detail and using examples, add clarity and interest to writing.

Some examples:

She sat down.
She happily plopped into an overstuffed chair with a look of immense relief on her face.

He took a driving test.
Sam nervously clutched the steering wheel as he listened intently to the instructions, his hopes of getting a driver’s license fading with every turn.

He was eating food.
Mark was slowly munching on a baby carrot.

My next Kerrigan post will cover the assignment for this section, as well as the introduction of a fabulously helpful checklist for revising first drafts.  Stay tuned!

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 29, 2013

A checklist before you take out a student loan

by Grace

From the Wall Street Journal comes 5 Things to Know Before Taking Out a Student Loan

1. Research what aid is available to you—including scholarships, state and federal grants, and then federal loans. Meet with your school’s financial-aid counselor to learn these options. Visit the government’s website. The private website also has good resources.

2. Know the terms of your loans. What is the interest rate, what is the repayment period, and when precisely will payments begin? More importantly, find out what your expected monthly payment will be upon graduation….

3. Once you take out loans, be aware that this debt will not go away until you pay it. Federal loans are often called “aid,” but they are not grants—they must be repaid. Also, it is extremely difficult to discharge student loans—federal or private—through bankruptcy….

4. Look up information on your institution. Don’t just find out your school’s overall ranking or graduation rate. Also look up its “three-year cohort default rate,” a figure intended to show how many students pay back their loans within three years of graduation. That reflects how many students from that school are finding work and decent pay. Information on your school, including default data, can be found here.

5. Look up the earnings potential of your major. This website has information on different careers, including average salaries. Consider whether your debt load is too high relative to the expected earnings of your chosen field.

Also check out loan forgiveness options.

I’ll add another item to this list.  Be sure to research the most recent federal student loan relief programs that reduce loan payments based on a percentage of income, subsidize interest charges, and forgive loan balances after 25, 20, or 10 years.

Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)
“… a repayment plan for the major types of federal student loans that caps your required monthly payment at an amount intended to be affordable based on your income and family size.”

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program
“Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance of their Direct Loans after they have made 120 qualifying payments on those loans while employed full time by certain public service employers.”

Keep in mind that these taxpayer-funded programs are expected to benefit higher-income borrowers the most while offering only marginal assistance to low-income borrowers.

 “If you are high-income and have a lot of debt, this is a huge giveaway.”

And some advice from Glenn Reynolds:

There are a few circumstances where student loans may be justified, but they should be viewed with extreme distrust.

Related:  Not enough borrowers take advantage of Income Based Repayment’s ‘mind-boggling’ generous benefits (Cost of College)

August 28, 2013

Public school administration staff surges in growth while test scores plunge

by Grace

The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools

America’s K-12 public education system has experienced tremendous historical growth in employment, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Between fiscal year (FY) 1950 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students in the United States increased by 96 percent while the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew 386 percent. Public schools grew staffing at a rate four times faster than the increase in students over that time period. Of those personnel, teachers’ numbers increased 252 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 702 percent, more than seven times the increase in students.


Between FY 1992 and FY 2009, the number of K-12 public school students nationwide grew 17 percent while the number of full-time equivalent school employees increased 39 percent, 2.3 times greater than the increase in students over that 18-year period. Among school personnel, teachers’ staffing numbers rose 32 percent while administrators and other staff experienced growth of 46 percent; the growth in the number of administrators and other staff was 2.7 times that of students.


Here are the staggering growth rates for New York State.


ADMINISTRATORS OUTNUMBER TEACHERS IN 25 STATES, an increase from the original report.

From the report:

Twenty-one “Top-Heavy States” employed fewer teachers than other non-teaching personnel in 2009. Thus, those 21 states have more administrators and other non-teaching staff on the public payroll than teachers. Virginia “leads the way” with 60,737 more administrators and other non-teaching staff than teachers in its public schools.

Professor Mark Perry updated staffing numbers for 2010, and was amazed to find the “administrative and non-teaching bloat” in America’s public schools has gotten even worse, with 25 states now employing more “educrats than teachers.”  Across the entire country, there is a one-to-one ratio of teachers to non-teaching staff.








In related news, New York students’ scores take huge plunge in new state school tests.

Statewide, only 31 percent of students in third through eighth grades met or exceeded the proficiency standards in English and math this year, a drop of more than half compared with last year….

August 27, 2013

Surge in part-time jobs may be good for working mothers

by Grace

Are we seeing a convenient confluence of moms wanting to work less with a surge in part-time jobs?

Headlines continue to remind us of the surge in part-time employment.

Part-Time Work On The Rise, But Is That A Good Thing? — NPR

The Rise of Part-Time Work — New York Times

Most Of The New Jobs Were Part-Time — Business Insider

Who Can Deny It? Obamacare Is Accelerating U.S. Towards A Part-Time Nation — Forbes

The trend is undeniable.


And then we have this:  ‘Many Working Moms Want To Work Less’

According to a recent Pew poll, 67% of all mothers would ideally forego full-time work in favor of working part-time (47%) or not at all (20%). By contrast, only 25% of fathers would choose part-time work (15%) or not to work (10%). Among all women who describe themselves as “financially comfortable,” only 31% would ideally work full-time and another 34% wouldn’t work at all. And among married mothers, only 23 percent would ideally like to work full-time. These are large percentages of different types of women who would choose family or personal priorities over full-time employment.

Current labor statistics bear out these fantasies: women are twice as likely as men to work part-time even though they are also more likely to be college-educated and thus more marketable.

Of course, part-time employment does not work as a solution for everyone.

It’s true that the trend toward part-time, benefit-free employment can be financially ruinous to individual workers. One fifth of the country’s jobs are part-time, and many are low-skilled, dead end positions. But it’s easy to overlook how unrewarding full-time employment can be for many people, too – especially when the researchers and reporters and pundits who write about workforce trends tend to have fascinating, flexible jobs with decent pay.

Moms who want to cut down their working hours may look more attractive to employers.

I just wonder if there may be a glimmer of hope for mothers wanting to downsize their work week, but who have not been able to find suitable part-time opportunities.  The new economics of employing part-time workers creates an environment that dissolves some of the old arguments used to defend policies requiring every staff member to put in 40+ hours per week.  Now the parent who wants to spend less time at the office and more time at home may be a more attractive job candidate.

Related:  Long hours may explain why educated women quit the workforce – ‘the time divide’ (Cost of College)

August 26, 2013

Obamacare may boost some careers

by Grace

From MarketWatch comes positive news amid recent negative reports about job losses caused by Obamacare.

… lost in the debate over whether the law will result in layoffs and shorter hours, recruiters and hiring analysts say Obamacare is certain to create a number of new positions — and not just in health care.

10 careers boosted by Obamacare

Nurse practitioners and physician assistants

When an estimated 25 million to 30 million people gain health coverage through the Affordable Care Act next year, many of them will likely pay a visit to the doctor . . . Demand for physician services is expected to increase at least 2% to 3%, especially for regular checkups and other preventive medicine . . .

. . . physician assistants and nurse practitioners, who can perform many of the same services at a fraction of a doctor’s salary, are filling the ranks. The BLS forecasts PA jobs will grow 30% to more than 108,000 from 2010 to 2020; registered nurses will increase 26% to more than 3 million. . .


The law requires employers to offer insurance to employees who work an average of 30 hours a week or more, at a cost for workers of not more than 9.5% of their annual salary. The responsibility of tracking work hours and health spending will fall to payroll departments, or companies that provide paycheck services such as ADP, human resources professionals say. Indeed, ADP’s new business bookings for its employer services, including payroll, grew 9% in the third quarter, CEO Carlos Rodriguez said when the company released earnings in May. . .

Computer programmers

Under the Affordable Care Act, doctors and hospitals must use electronic medical records, but taking their old paper system into the digital age is a giant technological construction project. “You need an army of programmers to put these things together,” says Osborne, of Staffing Industry Analysts. Indeed, the number of medical records and health information technicians employed in the U.S. has grown 7% to more than 182,000 since 2009, before the ACA was enacted, according to BLS data. Employment in other occupations, meanwhile, decreased or stayed flat during the same period, Osborne says. . .


The Affordable Care Act is now required reading at many law schools. If there is one thing about Obamacare that everyone agrees on, it is that the regulations are highly detailed, complex and still in flux — requiring experts to continually break down what they mean and how they should be followed. As a result, many companies are bringing in attorneys: “Everybody’s in sort of a muddle about it, so there is going to be an army of people at least in the short-term trying to figure out what people are supposed to be doing,” Osborne says. . . .

Medical billing coders

With millions of new patients comes millions of bills. And even before those bills come in, the work is piling up for physician and hospital billing offices, which are racing to prepare for the new ways they will have to submit patient claims to insurance companies. . . .


Employers, especially those who will offer health insurance for the first time or dramatically overhaul their plans to comply with the law, are struggling to figure out what type of coverage makes the most sense for their workers. Teams of consultants are being brought in to analyze the health risks and needs of their employees and design health benefits to suit them. . . .

Customer service reps

Opening the new exchange marketplaces, where consumers will be able to purchase health insurance, will also require huge customer support staff. Known as “navigators,” these employees will combine a form of customer service with health insurance knowledge. . . .

Occupational therapists

Insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to people with disabilities in 2014, so more of them will likely have health insurance. Occupational therapists, which help optimize disabled people’s homes and workplaces to meet their mobility needs, were already in high demand: The unemployment rate in the field is just 1%, according to Osborne, at Staffing Industry Analysts. . . .

Human resources

Between administering companies’ health plans, tracking employees’ hours to determine whether they are eligible to enroll, and making sure the employer is in compliance with new regulations, human resources departments have been swamped gearing up for the ACA. . . .

Wellness and fitness coaches

The law puts pressure on employers to reduce their health spending by making workers healthier. That movement is taking the form of new worksite-based wellness programs and classes, such as Weight Watchers and fitness challenges. Often, companies will hire coaches to help strategize with employees and design personalized nutrition and fitness programs, and offer workers incentives to participate. Indeed, health educators, who teach people about healthy habits and develop programs to promote those behaviors, are on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s list of fastest-growing jobs: The field will grow 37% to nearly 87,000 positions in 2020, according to the BLS. Many of these coaches, who specialize in helping people manage chronic conditions and diseases like diabetes, are employed by wellness companies that sell their services to employers.

More research is advised.

College students may want to research these fields as they decide upon their majors.  Some of these occupations seem to have more staying power than others, keeping in mind that technology will continue to undercut employment numbers in many areas.  I shudder to think of the growth in bureacracy.  And I wouldn’t count on Obamacare to put a significant dent in the huge slump in jobs for lawyers.


August 23, 2013

Step 4 of the Kerrigan method of ‘Writing to the Point’ – SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT CONCEPTS

by Grace

SUMMARY OF SOME IMPORTANT CONCEPTS from Writing to the Point is presented in this post.  A few of the concepts are listed below.  (This is the 16th post about my project to study and learn the entire Six-Step method, first explained here.)  For a recap, here are Steps 1 through 4.

STEP 1. Write a short, simple declarative sentence that makes one statement. (Chapter 1, page 6)

STEP 2. Write three sentences about the sentence in Step 1—clearly and directly about the whole of that sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 2, page 18.)

STEP 3. Write four or five sentences about each of the three sentences in Step 2—clearly and directly about the whole of the Step 2 sentence, not just something in it. (Chapter 3, page 31.)

STEP 4. Make the material in the four or five sentences of Step 3 as specific and concrete as possible. Go into detail. Use examples. Don’t ask, “What will I say next?” Instead, say some more about what you have just said. Your goal is to say a lot about a little, not a little about a lot.  (Chapter 4, page 43)



The rules must be followed.

Steps 1, 2,3, and 4 are not rules that someone has decided on, like the rules of a game.  They can’t be changed, as in the case of the elimination some years ago of the center jump in basketball.  No, they arise out the very nature of writing, and are as necessary for writing as heat is for cooking, cloth for clothing, fuel for an engine.

Sentences X-1-2-3 are at the core of a good essay.

No one can write an essay on a topic.  You must write a sentence about a topic, then write the essay strictly on that sentence.  Once that sentence is well written, the essay nearly writes itself, because that sentence dictates what must be said.

Be consistent in tone.

Always keep in mind your purpose of explaining something to somebody.  Make that somebody one real or imagined person.  Fit your tone to that person and try not to vary it.

The overriding goal is to stick to the point.

Do not let your thought be, “I must make this artistic,” “I must make this beautiful,” ” I must make this clever or amusing,” or “I must make this important-sounding,” but “I must make this real, clear, and convincing to a certain reader; and to do that I must follow Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4.”

You can check out all previous parts to this series by clicking THIS LINK to my initial post.

August 22, 2013

Increasing college merit aid decreases enrollment of minority and low-income students

by Grace

A recently released report, Undermining Pell from the New America Foundation, charges that colleges are turning their backs on low-income students as they compete for top students with increasingly generous merit-based aid.

To increase their standing on college rankings, more private colleges are giving “merit aid” to top students, who are often affluent, while charging unaffordable prices to the needy, according to the report. The percentage of students receiving merit aid jumped to 44 percent in 2007-2008 from 24 percent in 1995-1996, the report found. To a lesser extent, public universities are using some of the same practices, Burd said.


Increasing merit aid correlates with decreasing minority enrollment.

The report cites other research, including “Keeping up With the Joneses: Institutional Changes Following the Adoption of a Merit Aid Policy” by Amanda L. Griffith.

“It is worrisome, given the already low levels of representation of low-income and minority students at four-year colleges, to find that the introduction of a merit aid policy is associated with a decrease in the percentage of low-income and black students, particularly at the more selective institutions in the sample.”

More federal involvement is recommended.

The New America Foundation proposes a federal “carrot-and-stick” solution.  The carrot would be a Pell bonus program aimed at schools serving high percentages of low-income students, increasing benefits to the neediest students with additional funds and programs.  And the stick would be  a requirement that wealthier schools match a portion of the Pell funds they receive and use these resources to support low-income students.

An opposing view comes from Michael Petrilli, who argues that Pell Grants should not be used to pay for remedial college courses.

 … A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system.


August 21, 2013

How families from different income levels pay for college

by Grace

A report from Sallie Mae shows how families from different income levels have been paying for college over the last five years.









High-income families have cut down on their college spending.
Overall, parents are contributing less toward their children’s college education, but from these charts it’s clear the decline has mainly occurred among higher income families.  Over the last five years, parent contributions have actually increased 43% for low-income families while decreasing 10% for high-income families.

Low-income families receive more grants.
Even with the recent rise in merit aid
, lower-income families continue to received relatively generous amounts of grant and scholarship awards.

For the purposes of this study, low-income families have been defined as those with an annual household income of less than $35,000, middle-income are families with an annual income from $35,000 to less than $100,000, and high-income families are those with an annual income of $100,000 or more.

August 20, 2013

Finding your Forbes ‘top college’ match is easier when you’re rich

by Grace

Forbes recently released its list of the top 650 colleges in the U.S, relying on a system that measures “output” more than “input”.  Rather than using metrics like SAT scores and grades, Forbes relies on “ROI: What are students getting out of college?”

Find Your Top College

Which of these top 650 colleges would be a good match for you?  An interactive feature allows you to enter your SAT score, grade average, maximum yearly costs, and other criteria to create a list of top schools that fit your profile.

I ran a few examples using only academic stats and costs, with the top five results for each category shown below.  This quick search excluded the effects of financial aid, along with preferences for type and location of colleges.  (The numbers after the school names show Forbes rank.)


TIPPY-TOP STUDENT — SAT 1560 (99%ile); GPA 4.0 (A+)

$25,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:
United States Military Academy  7
United States Naval Academy  28
United States Air Force Academy  31
Brigham Young University  75
United States Coast Guard Academy  94

$60,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:
Pomona College  2
Swarthmore College  6
United States Military Academy  7
Williams College 9
University of Pennsylvania  11


HIGH ACHIEVER — SAT 1320 (90%ile); GPA 3.8 (A-)

$25,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:
University of South Dakota  330
Wichita State University  466
Brigham Young University, Idaho  469
South Dakota State University  481
Wilmington University  527

$60,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:
Union College  58
Virginia Military Institute  87
Hobart and William Smith Colleges  108
Loyola University Maryland  127
CUNY, City College  137


MIDDLE-OF-THE-ROAD SCHOLAR — SAT 1060 (60%ile); GPA 2.7 (B-)

$25,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:

$60,000 Maximum Yearly Cost:
Saint John’s College (MD)  173
Wheaton College  224
Augustana College  242
Saint John’s College (NM)  437
Augustana College  460

No surprises here.  Whatever your academic credentials, it’s good to be rich.

August 19, 2013

It’s mainly younger millennials who still live at home with their parents

by Grace

Recent headlines broadcast the record number of young adults are living with their parents“.  But it should be noted that the highest percentages of young adults still dependent upon their parents tend to be those who are under age 25.

The numbers that caught our attention

A new study from Pew Research finds that 36 percent of Millennials – young adults ages 18 to 31 – are living at their parents’ homes, the highest number in four decades. A record 21.6 million young adults were still living at home last year.

Let’s look more closely at the data.

College-age adults account for the higher percentages.  Only 16% of 25-31-year-olds live at home, while 56% of younger adults live at home.


Some reasons for the increase are:

  • More young adults are attending college
  • Poor job market
  • Declining marriage rates

Being male, living in the Northeast, and lacking a college degree are all factors that correlate more closely with the likelihood of living at home.

  • Millennial males (40%) were significantly more likely than Millennial females (32%) to live at home.
  • Millennials in the Northeast (44%) were significantly more likely to live in their parents’ home than Millennials in other regions of the country. This partly reflects the fact that Northeastern Millennials were more likely to be enrolled in college than their counterparts elsewhere, as well as higher housing costs in the Northeast (Furstenberg, 2010)….
  • Millennials who graduated from college (18%) were much less likely than less-educated Millennials to live at home. Millennials who have finished college tend to be older, but even within narrow age groups it remains the case that college-educated Millennials are the least likely to reside in their parents’ home.

Related:  No shame in living at home after college (usually) (Cost of College)

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