Posts tagged ‘California’

October 16, 2014

It’s surprisingly hard for residents to get into some state universities

by Grace

Many in-state colleges and universities are accepting fewer in-state applicants into their freshman classes. Why?

The Wall Street Journal has a short video that gives the example of a California high school valedictorian with top Advanced Placement scores and an overall impressive resume (quarterback for his football team).  This student was rejected at two public schools in his home state — UC Berkeley and UCLA.  But he was accepted to an Ivy League University.

In many public universities and colleges in-state enrollment is declining and out-of-state enrollment is increasing.

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Colleges want students who ‘can pay full price’

To make up for budget shortfalls, state schools are actively seeking out-of-state and international students who will pay higher tuition than in-state students.  In some states, limitations on out-of-state students place restrictions on an institution’s desire for higher revenues.  Last time I checked, out-of-state students allowed in the UC system are capped at 10%.

California presents a particular challenge for many students because “residents must adhere to very specific requirements to gain admission” to the University of California system”.  UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Irvine are considered the most selective public schools in that state, but it surprises me that the student featured in the video did not get in.

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April 3, 2014

Coast to coast decline in support of affirmative action

by Grace

Two recent events, one on the West Coast and one on the East Coast, demonstrate that after half a century, support for racial preferences in college admissions is getting more and more unsustainable — both politically and intellectually.

Strong opposition by Asian-Americans helped defeat a California ballot measure pushing for the repeal of “Proposition 209, which banned racial preferences at state universities”.

… Asian Americans … flooded legislative offices with petitions arguing that a repeal would hurt their children’s prospects for getting into the most competitive public campuses. S. B. Woo, a former Democratic lieutenant governor of Delaware who is president of the Asian 80-20 PAC, led the effort, saying, “Asian Americans have always been picked out to be stepped on in race-conscious college admissions.”

The pressure led three Asian Democrats who had voted for the bill in the senate to withdraw their support and urge assembly speaker John Perez to postpone a vote. “We have heard from thousands of people throughout California voicing their concerns about the potential impacts,” they wrote Perez. “Many in the [Asian/Pacific Islander] and other communities throughout the state feel that this legislation would prevent their children from attending the college of their choice.”

Meanwhile on the east coast, support of race-based admissions among Harvard students dropped after a debate on whether “affirmative action does more harm than good”.

… Harvard professor Randall Kennedy, the author of the book For Discrimination, and Columbia professor Ted Shaw, the former head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, argued that diversity is an important and noble goal that universities must pursue. UCLA professor Richard Sander, author of the book Mismatch, and University of San Diego professor Gail Heriot, a commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, presented statistics from over 20 peer-reviewed studies that showed how the good intentions of affirmative-action supporters have had disastrous results.

The research cited by Sander and Heriot shows that universities routinely put a race-conscious fist on the admissions scale, rather than a thumb. These heavy preferences mean that the median African-American student at law school has credentials lower than those of 99 percent of the Asian and white students — and underrepresented minorities admitted to law school based on a heavy preference are two to three times more likely to fail the bar exam.

… Professors Kennedy and Shaw didn’t challenge the empirical studies on mismatch, and Kennedy even stipulated that they were true. But he said the quest for diversity is important enough to justify affirmative action …

Professor Kennedy defended the harm inflicted on Asian-Americans, as long as it benefited other minority groups.

… Kennedy didn’t deny that Asians are harmed by racial preferences; he simply said the benefits of diversity are worth some individual sacrifice: “We have all sorts of programs that disadvantage people.” Sander replied that the “large racial penalty for Asian Americans” is “really repugnant” — Asian Americans are being “treated the way we used to treat Jewish Americans” when there was a cap on their presence at elite schools.

Given the overwhelming liberal ethos of Harvard’s campus, the impact of the debate on the audience was surprising. Audience members voted by keypad before and after the debate. Among those expressing a position, opposition to affirmative action rose by nearly a third — from 31 percent before the debate to 40 percent afterward. Support dropped from 69 percent before the debate to 60 percent afterward.

A recent Gallup poll shows most Americans oppose affirmative action in college admissions.

Related:  ‘Racial preferences mostly benefit fairly privileged students of color’ who help dispel stereotypes (Cost of College)

John Fund, “Racial Preferences Under Siege”, National Review Online, March 20, 2014. 

May 8, 2013

Quick Links – Public pension problems round-up

by Grace

IN NEW YORK, PENSION COSTS ARE OVERPOWERING THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ ABILITY TO MAINTAIN STUDENT SERVICES.

Our local public schools must cut student services to pay soaring pension costs.

The budget numbers tell the story:

  • Total school costs will increase 3.3% over last year.
  • Cost of teacher pensions alone will increase 42%.
  • Pension costs account for at least 75% of the total budget increase.*
  • To pay for the 42% increase in teacher pension costs, the school will cut teaching staff and increase class sizes.

Public schools throughout the state are in a similar situation.   “Retirement and insurance costs continue their relentless climb”, causing a nearby district to cut 30 jobs.  Another local school administrator explains their pension costs:

Almost 80 percent of the hike comes from a $3.5 million rise in state-mandated retirement expenses, Purvis said.

* Total employee benefits costs account for 96% of the total budget increase.

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A SPECIAL EXEMPTION ALLOWS TAX INCREASES THAT EXCEED TAX CAP LIMITS AS LONG AS THOSE PAYMENTS ARE USED TO PAY FOR PUBLIC EMPLOYEE PENSIONS.

The New York property tax cap introduced two years ago includes a carve-out created to allow tax increases that pay for teacher pensions to be exempted from the cap.  As it turns out, this exemption has been the main reason for the average tax increase more than doubling above the 2% statutory base cap up to 4.6% .

The additional increase is driven entirely by a provision of the 2011 tax cap law that excludes a portion of increased employee pension costs from the limit on tax levy increases. Without the pension-related increase, the 2013-14 levy limit statewide would average 2.7 percent, including all other district-specific exclusions and allowances for voter-approved capital expenses and physical additions to the local tax base, along with factors such as growth in the tax base and net changes in the value of payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) agreements.

The pension exclusion hurts poor school districts the most because the calculation method especially affects communities with lower property values.

… the pension exclusion in the tax cap law effectively makes it easier for school districts to raise taxes on property owners who can least afford it.

… The pension provision—added at the insistence of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—diminishes the protection the law was supposed to provide for some of the state’s poorest taxpayers.

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NEW YORK’S ‘STOPGAP’ SOLUTION TO PENSION CRISIS CARRIES ‘LONG-TERM RISKS’.

A “pension-smoothing” provision was recently introduced in New York, allowing school districts to postpone full funding of pension liabilities.

Moody’s does not look favorably on this plan to kick the can down the road.

Moody’s Investors Services warned Monday that the state’s new pension-smoothing plan is “a stopgap with long-term risks” that could endanger the state’s pension fund and the credit of local governments.

The plan, part of the state budget approved last month, allows for local governments and schools to essentially pay a flat rate for pension costs over 12 years, avoiding the steep cost increases that the municipalities have faced.

Opening the door to future underfunding of pension liabilities

Moody’s says that the concern is the flat-rate payments could underfund the state’s roughly $150 billion pension fund, which provides benefits to 1 million retirees and current local and state workers. That could lead to higher costs for municipalities and schools in future years, the credit agency said.

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PUBLIC PENSION HORROR STORIES FROM ILLINOIS AND FROM CALIFORNIA CONJURE UP TROUBLING IMAGES.

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 In Illinois, public pensions already gobbling up education funding

… Education funding is being strangled by the same python that is strangling the rest of state government’s finances: pension obligations….


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 “The pension costs really are the Pacman that’s eating our budget,” Shirey said.

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.

Problem:

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.

Solution:

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?

Related:

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)

March 13, 2013

Quick Links – Washington State pension trouble; NYC high school grads need remedial help; teacher evaluations are ‘costly experiment’ …

by Grace

◊◊◊  Washington State’s public pension may be in trouble.

The problem, similar to that in other states, has to do with the way pension benefits are valued.

Public pensions such as Washington’s operate under special accounting rules, one of which allows them to assume a long-term rate of return on their investments. Most plans have picked a rate between 7 and 8 percent; all but one of Washington’s plans assume 7.9 percent.

That assumed return is significant, because another special rule lets public plans use it as their discount rate — something corporate pension plans were forced to abandon nearly two decades ago.

Critics such as Munnell and Biggs say this rule ignores the fact that pension benefits are effectively almost as guaranteed as state bonds. That, they say, means they should be valued similarly to bonds.

“The way to value a stream of promised benefits is with an interest rate that reflects the riskiness of the promised benefits themselves, not the expected returns,” Munnell said.

This story is being ‘repeated all across the nation’ according to Walter Russell Mead.

… It’s as well-written a summary of a pension crisis story as you’re likely to get, and this is a story that’s being repeated all across the nation. Then, if you haven’t already, have a look at how much you or your loved ones are relying on generous promises made by state bureaucrats to fund your retirement—and start asking some hard questions.

◊◊◊  Most NYC High School Grads Need Remedial Help Before Entering CUNY Community Colleges (CBS New York)

Officials told CBS 2′s Kramer that nearly 80 percent of those who graduate from city high schools arrived at City University’s community college system without having mastered the skills to do college-level work.

In sheer numbers it means that nearly 11,000 kids who got diplomas from city high schools needed remedial courses to re-learn the basics.

◊◊◊  New York teacher evaluations are a “’grand and costly experiment’ with limited benefits”.

N.Y. schools’ teacher-eval costs outpace federal grants

ALBANY — New York’s small-city, suburban and rural school districts expect to spend an average of $155,355 this year to implement the state’s new teacher and principal evaluation plans, a report Thursday from the state School Boards Association found.

The one-year costs outpace the four-year federal grant provided for funding the program by nearly $55,000, according to an analysis of 80 school districts outside the state’s “Big Five.”

“Our analysis … shows that the cost of this state initiative falls heavily on school districts,” said Timothy Kremer, the association’s executive director. “This seriously jeopardizes school districts’ ability to meet other state and federal requirements and properly serve students.”

The evaluation system is a requirement for receiving funds from President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative. In 2010, New York was awarded $700 million in Race to the Top grants. About half of the funding will go to local districts over four years to implement the evaluation system and other initiatives.

◊◊◊  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.

February 14, 2013

Nurse practitioners are projected to nearly double in number by 2025

by Grace

Obamacare may fuel demand for physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and other jobs in the wake of a doctor shortage.

SACRAMENTO — As the state moves to expand healthcare coverage to millions of Californians under President Obama‘s healthcare law, it faces a major obstacle: There aren’t enough doctors to treat a crush of newly insured patients.

Some lawmakers want to fill the gap by redefining who can provide healthcare.

They are working on proposals that would allow physician assistants to treat more patients and nurse practitioners to set up independent practices. Pharmacists and optometrists could act as primary care providers, diagnosing and managing some chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high-blood pressure.

Replacing doctors with other professionals may end up costing more and could lower the quality of care.

Doctors say giving non-physicians more authority and autonomy could jeopardize patient safety. It could also drive up costs, because those workers, who have less medical education and training, tend to order more tests and prescribe more antibiotics, they said.

“Patient safety should always trump access concerns,” said Dr. Paul Phinney, president of the California Medical Assn.

Doctors want more funding for medical school tuition, but that would not fix the short-term staffing shortage.

“We’re not going to produce thousands of additional doctors in any kind of short-term time frame,” said Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento). “It makes sense to look at changes that could relieve the pressure that we’re going to undoubtedly encounter for access to care.”

Nurse practitioners and other non-physician providers already provide health care services in growing numbers.

The number of physician assistants in the U.S. more than doubled from 2000 to 2010….

The nurse practitioner population will nearly double by 2025, according to an analysis published in the July Medical Care, the official journal of the medical care section of the American Public Health Assn.

I’ve been very happy with the nurse practitioner who staffs our local drug store care center.  Their location and hours are convenient, and she usually offers to call the next day to check how the patient is doing.

Related:

July 7, 2011

Coming soon to our schools – ‘Gay and Lesbian History Month’

by Grace

A bill to require California public schools to teach the historical accomplishments of gay men and lesbians passed the state Legislature on Tuesday in what supporters call a first for the nation.

In our local schools we already have Black History Month and Women’s History Month, so if this trend catches on we may soon add Gay and Lesbian History Month.  That would leave about five months to teach the rest of history.  (I’m not counting June, since it is filled mainly with review, tests and half-days.)

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