Posts tagged ‘college for all’

November 20, 2014

Do ‘below-average’ people profit from college?

by Grace

Do below-average people profit from college?  Maybe.  But Daniel Oliver points out that federal student “loans encourage students to spend years at an institution from which many of them will derive no benefit”.  It’s a lose-lose situation.

… some people simply cannot profit from any college experience. We have to remember that, even in the fifth year of the reign of Obama, half of all students are below average.  If they go to college, they will spend their time, except during Sex Week, studying subjects and reading authors they have no particular interest in and insufficient training or sophistication to understand. Many of them would profit from learning a useful trade far more than from spending years at a college.

It would make more sense to require borrowers to qualify for student loans, maybe by using SAT scores or something similar.  This could create a win-win scenario — better decisions by individuals on post-secondary training and a stronger higher education system.


Daniel Oliver, “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Student Debt Has Got to Go!”, The Federalist, May 8, 2014.

November 12, 2014

Almost every parent in the world wants college for their child

by Grace

A survey asking parents in 15 countries revealed that 89% of them want their children to go to college.

Although parents around the world have different views on what a good education should provide at different stages, they are united in their high educational aspirations for their children, with nearly nine in 10 (89%) parents wanting their children to go to university. More than three in five (62%) want their child to go on to study at postgraduate level.


As the chart shows, 55% of American parents want their children to go on to postgraduate school.

“College for all” seems to be a common wish all over the world.

Source:  The Value of Education Springboard for success, an” independent research study was commissioned by HSBC and carried out by Ipsos”.

October 20, 2014

You probably need a college degree to get hired as a secretary.

by Grace

Only college graduates need apply for secretarial jobs.

More than half of employers now require a college credential for all jobs, and nearly one-third now hire college graduates for jobs that previously went to high-school graduates, according to a 2013 CareerBuilder survey of 2,600 hiring managers. Labor-market analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies recently found that 65% of postings for executive secretaries and assistants call for bachelor’s degrees, but just 19% of current secretaries have such credentials.

I recently heard about a long-time secretary who had been laid off and could not find another job because she did not have a college degree.

But a degree doesn’t necessarily make a candidate more qualified, it’s often just a way to screen applicants.

Few hiring managers say that college graduates are more qualified than nongrads for jobs in retail and warehouses, but as long as the job market is tight, employers say they can afford to be picky.

No wonder “parents push their kids to go to college”.


Melissa Korn, “A Bit of College Can Be Worse Than None at All”, Wall Street Journal, Oct. 13, 2014.

August 21, 2014

Should the government enable every kid to go to college?

by Grace

If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college?

Jim Geraghty asks this question in an article questioning the wisdom of our government’s expansive student loan policy.

Is it really in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring college student to attend college? Right now the federal government is in the business of loaning money to young people to attend college, only to watch significant numbers — 600,000 or so last year — fail to pay the money back. College students are defaulting on federal loans at the highest rate in nearly two decades, with one in ten defaulting on their loans in the first two years. This is not merely one late check; to meet the Department of Education’s definition of default, a borrower’s loan must be delinquent for 270 days — nine months.

The college gets its money, the taxpayer loses theirs, and the deadbeat student can be left with all kinds of frustrating consequences — seized tax refunds, garnished paychecks or benefits, or a lawsuit. (Though the deadbeat student is often in this situation because their college education failed to prepare them to find a job in a mediocre-at-best economy and make a living, so there may not be much money in their wages to garnish.)

How many of those students really should go to college? If college is supposed to represent some sort of advanced or more demanding level of education, why has it become a national priority to send every kid to college? Wouldn’t the nation be better off if at some point it said to these young people, “you can go to college if you want, but we’re not paying for it”?

Remember the burst of the housing bubble?

 “If nothing else, the recent financial crisis should have taught us that it’s not in the country’s best interest to enable every aspiring homeowner to buy.”


Jim Geraghty, “The American Dream Peddlers”, National Review Online, April 23, 2014.

May 5, 2014

Feeling pressured to attend college

by Grace

The New York Times Motherlode column shared stories and commentary about children who are not going to college.  It started with a request by the mother of a child “whose primary interests were in creative pursuits, and who is, at best, “ambivalent” about college”. 

…  “He loves to learn but heavy-duty academics are not something he relishes, so on that front, I don’t want to push him into a four-year college where he would be miserable and we would spend what amounts to a fortune from our meager budget.” College of some kind may or may not lie in his future, and she is trying, amid some support from friends and some judgment, to feel sanguine. “It would really help to hear stories from other parents whose kids found a meaningful life with decent work, without college,” she wrote, as well as stories of what children who don’t choose college do after senior year.

Many parents whose children are not following the traditional college path feel conflicted, and endure the angst of being judged by others.

College is not for everyone, and we should consider the wisdom of this statement.

… being intelligent is not the same thing as being scholastically inclined…

This boat analogy struck a chord with me.  It is not only relevant to the pressure of “having” to attend college after high school graduation, but of the many other  pressures parents feel when their children do not march in lockstep with their peers along the “smooth and quick” path to adulthood.

Amanda Rose Adams, aunt to a high school senior, wrote that she told her niece: “When you’re 18 and just graduated from high school, there’s a luxury liner waiting for you at the dock that will take you more smoothly and swiftly into a professional future. Of course, that’s not guaranteed, but it’s far more likely if you get on that boat that you will get wherever you wanted to go much more quickly and with less pain than if you stay on the dock and watch it leave.” But for students who are uncertain about direction, Ms. Adams wrote, “then it’s O.K. to not get on, to wait for the right boat for you.”

Contrary to what this mother wrote, I have found that gap years are becoming more accepted and even encouraged.  But I partly attribute this to the growing popularity of the idea that our children need a prolonged period of adolescence.

“I am forever lamenting that it is crazy that in this culture we expect all 18-year-olds to decide what they want to be,” wrote Molly of Boston. “And we profess to saying it’s acceptable to take a ‘gap year,’ but that is not what my son felt when he made his decision.”

As it turns out, sometimes learning disorders underlie academic difficulties that make college unappealing.

Delaying or avoiding college can sometimes result from a battle with learning difficulties. Been There, of Tulsa, Okla., wrote about a son who struggled with attention deficit disorder, anxiety and depression throughout high school. “My son is extremely bright but at this point directionless,” Been There wrote. “We’re trying to steer him toward community college but I’m really not sure how this is going to turn out.”

Sometimes it’s the child who is hardest hit by the pressure to attend college.

Anxiety abounds for some parents of students who feel compelled to follow the path their friends are taking. “My stepdaughter is headed to college in the fall, but the hard truth is that none of the four ‘parental units’ in her life really think she’s ready,” E wrote. “We are all trying to be supportive (including scraping together the money to help her get there), but we are all very apprehensive. She’s not a strong student and has failed several high school classes, but since many of her friends are going to college, she is hell-bent on doing the same.”

If college is not the right choice, forcing the issue is unlikely to end well.

“Please encourage parents not to send their children to college if the children don’t want to go,” Laurie Cubbison wrote. “The students will work very hard at failing, if only as an act of rebellion.”

Why parents push their kids to go to college (Cost of College)

December 16, 2013

Why parents push their kids to go to college

by Grace

The pressure to attend college is high.

I have written about how the “college for all” movement is misguided, and how “too many college graduates are chasing too few college-level jobs“.  Yet I concede that I wholly understand most parents’ strong desire for their children to go to college.  A recent want ad for what some young people might consider a dream job highlights this dilemma.

A major television network is seeking a Music Coordinator for one of its talk shows.  The responsibilities include handling all the various details involved in arranging for musical guests.  Specific details are described in the job posting partly reproduced below.  Requirements include at least one year of related experience and a college degree.  I suspect that one or two young people I know would be very interested in this job.

College degree is required.

As can be imagined, there are many young music enthusiasts with years of experience working with bands and music venues who could capably handle this job.  Because they were busy devoting so much time and energy to the music business, some never completed college.  It’s easy to see how a person fitting this profile could be the ideal candidate for this network position.  In addition to extensive experience, this person would bring a great enthusiasm for the music business to this job.

This Music Coordinator job could be the entree to a satisfying career in the field of musical entertainment.

But with no college degree, any chances at this dream job are minuscule.  The hiring manager really can’t be blamed for only considering candidates who have graduated from college.  As a practical matter, it helps winnow the huge volume of applications.  Plus it acts a signalling device, at the very least indicating the candidate had the discipline and intelligence needed to get through four years of college.  And when so many job seekers are college graduates, the decision to hire someone who lacks a degree could be hard to justify to upper management.

So there we are.  Often the best advice is to just go get that college degree, even if it means majoring in film studies, gender studies, music appreciation, or whatever.  Just do it.

Here is the job that requires a college degree:

JOB TITLE Music Coordinator
CITY New York
RESPONSIBILITIES Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate Guest Bands for Talk Show
  • Connect with Production Managers to discuss and coordinate stage plot, backline, ordering supplemental equipment, pick up and delivery, band riders etc.
  • Help set-up band equipment
  • Help break down band equipment
  • Secure paperwork and approvals for payment

  • College Degree required
  • 1+ years professional music production work experience required
  • Must be proficient on Mac

 Eligibility Requirements:

  • You must be willing to submit to a background investigation as part of the selection process
  • Must have ability to work flexible hours due to the production schedule of the show; including weekends and evenings when necessary
  • References from previous employers required
  • Ability to work in a fast paced environment, multi-task and be agreeable to changes

  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills
  • Knowledge and interest in music is a plus
  • Technical knowledge of music production equipment a plus

Related:  College graduates who majored in fine arts are not doomed to a life of poverty (Cost of College)

June 12, 2013

Quick Links – Homeschooling surges in growth; glossary of education terms; higher college graduation rates

by Grace

Homeschooling growing seven times faster than public school enrollment’ (Breitbart)

As dissatisfaction with the U.S. public school system grows, apparently so has the appeal of homeschooling. Educational researchers, in fact, are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years, as more parents reject public schools.

A recent report in Education News states that, since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75%. Though homeschooled children represent only 4% of all school-age children nationwide, the number of children whose parents choose to educate them at home rather than a traditional academic setting is growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12 every year.

As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, common myths that have long been associated with the practice of homeschooling have been debunked.

Any concerns about the quality of education children receive by their parents can be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled students on standardized assessment exams. Data demonstrates that those who are independently educated generally score between the 65th and 89th percentile on these measures, while those in traditional academic settings average at around the 50th percentile. In addition, achievement gaps between sexes, income levels, or ethnicity—all of which have plagued public schools around the country—do not exist in homeschooling environments.

Poor socialization is not a problem for homeschooled students.

Similarly, the common myth that homeschoolers “miss out” on so-called “socialization opportunities,” often thought to be a vital aspect of traditional academic settings, has proven to be without merit. According to the National Home Education Research Institute survey, homeschoolers tend to be more socially engaged than their peers and demonstrate “healthy social, psychological, and emotional development, and success into adulthood.”

* * *

Glossary of Education Reform for Journalists 

THE GLOSSARY OF EDUCATION REFORM FOR JOURNALISTS is a comprehensive online resource that defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies for journalists and media professionals.

Top ten terms:

  1. Proficiency-Based Learning – 233 views
  2. Learning Standards – 110 views
  3. Rigor – 72 views
  4. Academic Acceleration – 67 views
  5. Blended Learning – 58 views
  6. Achievement Gap – 51 views
  7. Extended Learning Time – 48 views
  8. Personalized Learning – 45 views
  9. 21st Century Skills – 43 views
  10. Expanded Learning Time – 42 views

* * *

As colleges attract fewer marginal students who wouldn’t have succeeded in attaining a degree, completion stats go up.

College isn’t for everyone, and there’s data to prove it. During the 2011-12 academic year, the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities dropped by 1.6 percent, while the number of degrees awarded increased by 5.1 percent, according to a new study. As colleges attract fewer marginal students who wouldn’t have succeeded in attaining a degree, completion stats go up. This is largely good news. Students who fail to complete their degrees take on the costs of college with none of the benefits of a degree.

February 7, 2013

Too many college graduates are chasing too few college-level jobs

by Grace

Nearly half of working Americans with college degrees are in jobs for which they’re overqualified“, according to study released last month by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

At the core of this issue is the problem of too many college graduates chasing too few college-level jobs.



The proportion of the adult population with degrees has dramatically increased with the passage of time. Figure 3 shows that the proportion of adults with degrees in 2010, 30 percent, was five times what it was 60 years earlier. In 1950 or 1960, college graduates constituted a single digit proportion of the adult population—almost by definition, an elite group. As we will soon demonstrate, what has happened over time is that the proportion of the workforce with college degrees has grown far faster than the proportion needing those degrees in order to fulfill the needs of their jobs, forcing a growing number of college graduates to take jobs which historically have been filled by those with lower levels of educational attainment. The reality is that many jobs in the United States do not require a lot of education to perform, even though they may require on-the-job training, sometimes in considerable amount.

A recent problem

The phenomenon of the college-educated person holding a job requiring little formal education training appears on the basis of this type of evidence, at least for the occupations we examine, to have arisen mostly in the past four decades or so.


Underemployed but overinvested

The authors consider whether our country’s spending priorities have produced a waste of resources, leaving us with a society that is not only underemployed but overinvested in higher education.  They also consider whether this is the time for government to step back from its involvement in higher education and let the market take care of this situation.

All of this calls into question the wisdom of the “college for all” movement. Does it make sense to become the world’s leader again in the proportion of young adults with college degrees? Is the goal of individuals like President Obama or groups like the Lumina Foundation to increase college degree attainment desirable? Should we look for new and cheaper ways to assure employee competency? Should we invest less in four-year degree programs and more in cheaper training, including high-school vocational education that once was fashionable?62 Perhaps the federal government should reduce its involvement in the higher-education business, much like some states seem to be starting to do out of fiscal imperatives imposed by balanced-budget requirements that the federal government does not face. If fewer students could get Pell Grants or subsidized student loans, enrollments might very well fall, an outcome we perceive not to be a bad thing from a labor-market perspective.63

The full report:  Why are Recent College Graduates Underemployed? University Enrollments and Labor Market Realities By Richard Vedder, Christopher Denhart, and Jonathan Robe | January 2013

A lively discussion on this topic took place in the comments of The College Grad/Employment Mismatch (Inside Higher Ed), with one person making this important point about college now providing what used to be considered a high school level of education:

Many college students today are learning (or relearning) skills and knowledge that formerly were taught in high schools. Textbooks have been dumbed down for decades, while more students take remedial English and math courses. Standards are held down by grading on the curve (a mediocre majority sets the class norm) and by the importance of student evaluations of faculty for promotion and retention of instructors, more of whom are desperate adjunct faculty. Tough assignments do not elicit favorable evaluations. Many students work at least part-time, slowing the pace at which they can study. Therefore the function of college today for many students is to provide high school education appropriate to the jobs as in the past except that students formerly attained it by age 18, not 28.
Inside Higher Ed

August 8, 2012

Quick Takes — grammar mistakes, the folly of college for all, curbing impulsivity with drugs

by Grace

 11 Most Common Grammar Gaffes On Social Media (The Brainyard)

Top 5 are:

1. It’s and Its
2. Your and You’re
3. To, Two, and Too
4. There, Their, and They’re
5. Sentence Starters and Endings

—  Another reason the college-for-all mindset should be reconsidered:  There is a ‘very poor correlation between the percent of college-degree attainment in a nation and the nation’s overall prosperity’.

 As I have pointed out several times in my Chronicle postings (see, for example, “Supersizing,” February 15, 2012), there is a very poor correlation between the percent of college-degree attainment in a nation and the nation’s overall prosperity.  Russia leads the world in college-degree attainment among 25- to 64-year-olds and among 25- to 34-year-olds, both at 54 percent. No one thinks Russia has the world’s leading economy.  Switzerland (34 percent) and Germany (25 percent) have robust economies but smaller percentages of degree holders than the U.S. (We have 41 percent among 25- to 64-year-olds, according to a 2010 OECD; 38 percent according to the older OECD study Dr. Rosenberg apparently replied on.)

Too Many College Students? Yes, Unfortunately (Chronicle of Higher Ed)

—  Drug Boosts Frontal Cortex Dopamine, Cuts Impulsiveness (FuturePundit)

This new development has many implications for shaping human behavior, but the first one that came to mind was treating adolescent children, boys in particular, whose immature frontal lobes impede optimum academic achievement.  The possibilities are both intriguing and frightening.

Raising levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the frontal cortex of the brain significantly decreased impulsivity in healthy adults, in a study conducted by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

“Impulsivity is a risk factor for addiction to many substances, and it has been suggested that people with lower dopamine levels in the frontal cortex tend to be more impulsive,” said lead author Andrew Kayser, PhD, an investigator at Gallo and an assistant professor of neurology at UCSF. “We wanted to see if we could decrease impulsivity by raising dopamine, and it seems as if we can.”

The study was published on July 4 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study, 23 adult research participants were given either tolcapone, a medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that inhibits a dopamine-degrading enzyme, or a placebo. The researchers then gave the participants a task that measured impulsivity, asking them to make a hypothetical choice between receiving a smaller amount of money immediately (“smaller sooner”) or a larger amount at a later time (“larger later”). Each participant was tested twice, once with tolcapone and once with placebo.

June 8, 2012

College for all ‘is critical to President Obama’s plan’

by Grace

From the White House website:

Ensuring every American can attain a college credential is critical to President Obama’s plan for creating an America Built to Last.  With two out of every three new jobs requiring some postsecondary education, completing college has never been more important.  However, it’s also never been more expensive.  Students are borrowing more to attend college—about two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients, in fact, and rack up an average debt at graduation of over $26,000 in federal and private student loans.  While a quality higher education remains a sound investment, students and families need to clearly understand the costs and benefits of each college they’re considering so they can easily compare choices and identify the best value prior to enrolling.

From Robert Samuelson’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post:

It’s Time to Ditch the College-for-All Crusade

The college-for-all crusade has outlived its usefulness. Time to ditch it. Like the crusade to make all Americans homeowners, it’s now doing more harm than good. It looms as the largest mistake in educational policy since World War II, even though higher education’s expansion also ranks as one of America’s great postwar triumphs….

We overdid it. The obsessive faith in college has backfired.

For starters, we’ve dumbed down college. The easiest way to enroll and retain more students is to lower requirements. Even so, dropout rates are high; at four-year schools,fewer than 60 percent of freshmen graduate within six years. Many others aren’t learning much.

Samuelson goes on to give other reasons for his view, including how high schools have been undermined in the switch a predominantly college-prep mode.

Terminology is a problem in this debate.  One of the authors of a recent report about the growth of post-high school certification for career readiness described it this way.

The problem is one of nomenclature. The completion push is really about “postsecondary education and training for all,” said Carnevale. But “that doesn’t fit on anybody’s bumper sticker.”

This is true, but for most people “college” translates to a traditional scholarly four-year experience.  Furthermore, because the value of a high school diploma deteriorated in the foolhardy move to prepare the vast majority of students for “college”, high schools have failed in the mission to make all graduates “college- or career-ready”.  This leaves us in a predicament where almost everyone probably does need to enroll in a postsecondary institution of some kind.

To muddy the debate some more, in another initiative to improve high schools the Obama administration seems to be contradicting its assertion that everyone needs to attend college.

The goal for America’s educational system is clear: Every student should graduate from high school ready for college or a career.

We should try to get on the same page.  Everyone should try to use more descriptive language so we can realize that we all probably agree more than we disagree, and that K-12 reform is at the root of the higher education bubble.  High schools are failing to produce graduates ready for college or career, partly as a result of the college-for-all movement.  A traditional four-year college is not right for everyone, and we should stop pretending it is.

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