Posts tagged ‘Glenn Reynolds’

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 2, 2013

North Carolina ends teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for master’s degrees

by Grace

In a bold move, North Carolina ends teacher tenure and automatic pay increases for master’s degrees.

The legislation targets a compensation mechanism that is common in the U.S., where teachers receive automatic pay increases for years of service and advanced degrees. Some research has suggested those advanced degrees don’t lead to improved teaching….

… experts say North Carolina is believed to be the first state to do so.

The budget bill—which drew hundreds of teachers to the Capitol in protest earlier this week—also eliminates tenure for elementary and high-school teachers and freezes teacher salaries for the fifth time in six years.

Now the “best and the brightest” will avoid teaching careers?

Tim Barnsback, a teacher at Heritage Middle School in Valdese, N.C., said, “Morale is going to be at an all-time low” due to the new policies and budget. “The best and the brightest aren’t going to go into the profession,” he added.

This legislation was passed after the “GOP gained control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in 144 years”.  This latest state budget allocates 56% toward education, a 1% increase over last year.

Advanced degrees don’t generally improve student achievement levels.

A number of studies have shown that teachers with advanced degrees don’t, necessarily, produce higher student achievement than teachers who hold only a bachelor’s. Other studies have shown an advantage to holding a master’s in math and the sciences for high-school teachers. About 28% of North Carolina teachers hold master’s degrees.

This move could have the positive effect of doing away with mediocre master’s programs.

Glenn Reynolds points out “there are a lot of programs — particularly in education colleges — that exist largely to serve the automatic-pay-raise-for-degree market”.  One study showed that about $14.8 was spent in the 2007-08 school year on “the master’s bump for teachers”.

Automatic pay raises don’t reward top teachers.

It must be tough to go without a raise for five years, but many workers in the private sector have experienced the same thing.  Many have suffered salary cuts and layoffs.  It’s been a tough recession, coupled with a “jobless” recovery.  Automatic pay increases across the board seem like an anachronistic luxury, as well as an ineffective way to reward top teachers.

Related:  ‘we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others’ (Cost of College)

June 27, 2013

Lack of jobs may become a problem for the ‘majority of the population’

by Grace

On the topic of sluggish jobs growth, Megan McArdle says our stubborn unemployment problem is rooted in “technology and trade”.

… Global shipping and trade liberalization has made it more practical to manufacture in low wage countries.  Meanwhile, in high wage countries, technology is substituting for labor.  At its peak, General Motors employed 600,000 people to make slightly less than half the cars in the country.  Today it employs 77,000 to produce about 1/5th the cars on the US market.  Even if it regained the market share it has lost to imports, employment in the industry would be way down.

Remember this chart of the hollowed out middle class?


But the lower class is also on shaky ground.
Highly skilled individuals who are motivated and persistent will always find ways to support themselves.  But there is a surplus of workers for middle class jobs McArdle describes as “seated, skilled, steady, decently paid”.  And while large numbers of low-skill jobs continue to be created, these “jobs are, on average, pretty unattractive ones”.  They are generally low statue, and sometimes miserable.  In some cases, our government safety net is a more attractive alternative to these low-end jobs.

The “majority of the population” may be in for a long struggle.

… we are not creating a lot of good new jobs–defined as jobs that are relatively secure, physically tolerable, and decently paid.  People with enough grit and imagination can invent themselves new jobs, but at no time in history has that described the majority of the population.  The alternatives for the rest aren’t very attractive.  And since modern-day America tries hard to keep people from becoming truly desperate, those jobs aren’t being created.

McArdle points out that part of the problem is cultural, with families and communities undergoing massive changes that break with traditional attitudes towards work.  And education is not a solution by itself.

… Until roughly the last five years, it was possible to believe that education would be the solution: send more kids to school, retrain people for new jobs.  But college graduates aren’t finding it so easy to obtain solid employment either.  It’s true that having a college diploma is still much better than not having a college diploma, but that doesn’t mean that by sending more kids to school, we’re actually making the workforce more productive, much less mitigating the problem of economic change; we may just be forcing people to jump over a higher bar to gain access to a shrinking number of jobs….

A stronger safety net does not seem like a good solution.

For starters, it is politically difficult to imagine a really large class of people who simply permanently live off the state.  The safety net is rooted in human instincts about reciprocal exchange.  … They will lose political support if you have one group of people paying taxes, and a different group of people who can expect to live their entire life on the dole.

Such an arrangement would also be socially toxic.  Being out of work is astonishingly bad for your state of mind, your social relations, and even basic skills like math and reading….

 Glenn Reynolds does not think it’s a temporary problem.

There’s a lot of flailing going on, and there has for years been insufficient concern about what all the folks on the left half of the bell curve are going to do with their lives — only now it’s looking like the left 2/3 or maybe 3/4. I’m not sure what to do either. … I do think there’s something structural going on, not just an economic cycle.

June 6, 2012

Will a portfolio replace a college degree?

by Grace

If we are experiencing a higher education bubble, characterized by skyrocketing costs for degrees of questionable value that are increasingly only affordable by assuming growing amounts of debt, what comes after the bubble bursts?  Glenn Reynolds writes about how portfolios could replace some degrees as the credential of choice for employment.

Another opportunity exists in alternative methods of certifying knowledge. A college diploma serves as a basic signifier of its holder’s basic competence, but with costs running well into the six figures, it’s an awfully expensive credential.

MIT/Harvard will start certifying online students, and that may be just the beginning. The Cato Institute’s Andrew Coulson suggests that people should accumulate knowledge in life, then build a portfolio that will directly demonstrate their knowledge to future employers. He calls it savoir faire: (Literally: “know how to do.”)

One sign of a higher education bubble is that too many unprepared high school graduates are enrolling in college.  So instead of enrolling in a four-year degree program that will leave him paying back loans for twenty years or more, it might make more sense for a student to focus on the key skills needed for his career of choice.  He could then create a portfolio of credentials or “badges” that demonstrates his capabilities for a job in technology, customer service, healthcare, human resources, or any number of fields.  This makes more sense than the broken system we have now, where an urban studies major struggles to pay back student loans while working as an administrative assistant.

It’s hard to predict exactly how such a significant evolution would take place, but it might be useful to remember the days when it was rare that want ads for administrative staff included “college degree preferred” in their requirements.  That change probably happened over twenty years or more, but the move to a new credentialing system could take less time.

Writing is one skill that could benefit from such a change.  I can see how high school graduates could become better writers by taking a few targeted courses instead of spending most of four or five years studying partying on a typical college campus.  Employers should welcome this new type of credentialing since they now have a difficult time finding qualified employees to hire among recent college graduates.

ADDED:  A new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce says that certificates are the fastest-growing postsecondary credential awarded and have demonstrated increasing clout … in the labor market.

March 29, 2012

Can webcasts replace 200-student college lecture classes?

by Grace

Webcasts instead of large lecture classes could produce better results and cut costs.

Glenn Reynolds writes in Popular Mechanics:

… Now that webcasts are a routine feature of corporate training, perhaps it’s time to make better use of the Web for education. Take the top teachers in a field and let students at multiple colleges access their lectures online. (Sure, there’s not a lot of interaction that way—but how much is there in a 200-student lecture class anyway?) Once the basic information is covered, students can apply it in smaller advanced classes, in person. Would this save money? Possibly—and it would almost certainly produce better results.

This seems promising, especially if the webcast professors speak clear English.  I still hear stories of college lecturers with heavy foreign accents that create problems in understanding the lesson.

I recently participated in a webcast that was probably better than if I had attended the same presentation in person.  The expert speaker covered the issues clearly while I was able to view the relevant images on my computer, switching screens at my convenience.  We were able to submit questions during the webcast, with some being answered right then and others answered later via email.  It was all very convenient.

Read more: Can Technology Fix the College Debt Crisis? – Glenn Reynolds on the College Bubble – Popular Mechanics

January 27, 2012

Reynolds’ Law explains why we should not subsidize college for all

by Grace

“Subsidizing the markers of status doesn’t produce the character traits that result in that status; it undermines them.”

Glenn Reynolds explains why taxpayer-subsidized college education (and home ownership) for all is not a good use of our money.

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But homeownership and college aren’t causes of middle-class status, they’re markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn’t produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.

Megan Mcardle expresses a similar sentiment.

 “it’s all too common for well-meaning middle class people to think that if the poor just had the same stuff we do, they wouldn’t be poor any more (where ‘stuff’ includes anything from a college education to a marriage license to a home). But this is not true. . . . If poor people did the stuff that middle class people do, it’s possible–maybe probable–that they wouldn’t be poor. But this is much harder than it sounds.”

In a previous post I noted that it is not the college degree in and of itself that causes college-educated women to marry at higher rates.

December 8, 2011

What does a college degree really signify?

by Grace

Glenn Reynolds puts it this way.

Right now, a college degree is an expensive signifier that its holder has a basic ability to show up on time (mostly), to follow instructions (reasonably well), and to deal with others in close quarters without committing serious felonies. In some fields, it may also indicate important background knowledge and skills, but most students will require further on-the-job training.

The “mostly” and “reasonably well” parts should be emphasized.

Another way to put it:

Guy managed to keep his partying under control for four years is what it tells us.

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