Colleges not ready for ‘college ready’ Core grads

Students who pass Common Core-aligned tests in high school could end up in remedial college classes, writes Allie Grasgreen on Politico.

The new standards are supposed to represent “the knowledge and skills necessary for students to be college- and career-ready.” But most university systems won’t use Common Core proficiency to decide who’s placed in college-level courses.

State universities in California and Washington plan to use students’ test scores to guide college placement, writes Grasgreen. Colorado and Ohio are moving in that direction. But most universities are holding back. They’re not sure what “proficient” will mean.

Recruited by the thought police

I was recruited by the thought police, writes Suzy Lee Weiss, a University of Michigan student, for her hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Posters on campus urge students to “Stop. Think.” before speaking lest they commit a “micro-aggression,” she writes. The Inclusive Language Campaign asks students to sign a pledge. “We’re all being drafted as thought police, charged with regulating the speech of our peers,” she writes.

Operating under ILC’s logic, I am hostile for offering a cupcake to a diabetic without knowing of his condition, racist for suggesting we “work the kinks out” on a group project and generally insensitive for having an opinion on any subject that I have not directly experienced.

I guess I can’t write that paper on Homer this weekend: I wasn’t there to witness the violence of the Trojan War.

At mandatory assemblies, new students are taught that “wishing someone a merry Christmas is a micro-aggression,” she writes.

Yet actual aggression is tolerated.

Earlier this semester, my friend Omar Mahmood was fired from the campus paper for writing a satirical essay making fun of political correctness on campus. Apparently that wasn’t enough punishment for some of his fellow students, who threw raw hotdogs and eggs at his door and left profanity-laced notes telling him to “shut the … up” and that “Everyone hates you, you violent …,” among other acts of ugliness. So much for inclusivity.

Thus far, nothing has happened to the vandals despite their being caught on camera. The school has not issued an apology or a press release. And Omar still can’t write for the paper because he refused to apologize.

Politically correct students, professors and administrators are silencing debate on campus, Weiss argues.

She proposes the “Don’t Be an Idiot Campaign.” It would tell college students that “some people are bigots” and others may hurt their feelings inadvertently.AsianFINAL2

I checked out the ILC Facebook page, which tells students what party costumes are OK (Fonzie, Super Mario Brothers) and which are not. It turns out that some people might be offended if you dress as an Arab suicide bomber.

Other do-not-wear costumes include:  belly dancer,  burka wearer, black gangsta (with vampire!), burro-riding sombrero wearer and redneck with banjo, straw and cap.

“You wear the costume. I wear the stigma for life.” says the Asian nerd, who’s pictured with a bowl of rice, chopsticks and a pile of math books. This is a party costume?

Isn’t Fonzie a stereotype of an Italian greaser? And the Super Mario Brothers are stereotypes of Italian plumbers. Not all Italians are cool. Or plumbers. Yet they wear the stigma for life.

The campaign has inspired some parodies.


Racists have free speech rights too

Some University of Oklahoma students in the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist chant that included a reference to lynching. 

University president David Boren expelled two students for “leading a racist and exclusionary chant which has created a hostile educational environment for others.”

Racist speech is protected by the First Amendment, responds Eugene Volokh, a UCLA law professor, in the Washington Post. “Universities may not discipline students based on their speech.” There is no “hostile environment” exception.

Likewise, speech doesn’t lose its constitutional protection just because it refers to violence — “You can hang him from a tree,” “the capitalists will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes,” “by any means necessary” with pictures of guns, “apostates from Islam should be killed.”

Speech would have to be a “true threat” of violence to lose that protection, writes Volokh. Examples would be saying “we’ll hang you from a tree” or “we will shoot you against a wall” to a particular person likely to see it as a death threat.

The university must “respect First Amendment principles” even in the face of “vile and reprehensible speech,” said the ACLU of Oklahoma. “It is difficult to imagine a situation in which a court would side with the university on this matter.”

At the University of Oregon, students argued free speech doesn’t apply to an anti-abortion preacher, writes Robby Soave on Reason‘s Hit & Run.

Allison Rutledge, a history major, told the Daily Emerald she felt emotionally threatened by the anti-abortion activist’s “obscene” sign. She grabbed it and stood on it. “You can’t just show whatever you want,” she said.

U.S. is more educated — especially females

Educational gains have been steady and long-standing

One of Vox’s 21 charts that explain how the US is changing highlights the growth in schooling:  “The majority of the population over 25 went from not having a high school diploma to at least having some college in the span of 40 years.”

Women have overtaken men in earning college degrees.

Can tech break the college monopoly?

Online courses will revolutionize higher education when learners can earn low-cost credentials that lead to jobs, writes Kevin Carey in the New York Times. Carey is the author of The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere

. . .  traditional college degrees are deeply embedded in government regulation and standard human resources practice. It doesn’t matter how good a teacher you are — if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, it’s illegal for a public school to hire you. Private-sector employers often use college degrees as a cheap and easy way to select for certain basic attributes, mostly the discipline and wherewithal necessary to earn 120 college credits.

However, Carey believes alternative credentials such as badges will break colleges’ “near-monopoly” on job qualifications. And most students go to college to get a better job, he writes.

Not so fast, responds economist Bryan Caplan.

Degrees signal an array of traits: not just intelligence, but work ethic, conformity, and more.  “Harvard dropout” tells the job market, “This person was promising enough to get into Harvard, but so lazy and/or non-conformist that he wasted this golden opportunity.”

Conformity to social norms is a valued job attribute, adds Caplan. “Employers focus at least as much on workers’ general competence and people skills” as they do on specific skill sets.

He’d love to believe Carey is right, but he concludes “the status quo has a massive built-in advantage” because of the importance of “conformity signaling.” Furthermore, “governments at all levels annually cement the status quo’s advantage with hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies.”

Obama: You don’t need a degree

After years of encouraging young Americans to earn college degrees, President Obama is telling them they just need technical skills, not a degree. The $100 million TechHire initiative will try to persuade employers to hire technical workers with alternative credentials.

“It turns out it doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are at writing code,” Obama said in a speech to the National League of Cities conference. “If you can do the job, you should get the job.”

Dev Bootcamp promises to turn novices into web developers in 19 intensive weeks

Dev Bootcamp promises to turn novices into web developers in 19 intensive weeks

High-tech employers see “non-traditional training as a viable alternative,” writes Issie Lapowsky on Wired. “Training startups like Codecademy and General Assembly, as well as online course companies like Coursera, have been pushing” the idea for years.

TechHire will try to develop “standards for alternative education” and “a guide for employers on how to recruit tech workers from less traditional places,” reports Lapowsky. A company called Knack will “make a standard tech aptitude test free to employers and training organizations.”

The president says employers are losing money by leaving technical jobs unfilled. So, don’t they have an incentive to figure out how to test technical aptitude?

The $100 million would fund programs that help women, minorities, veterans and people with disabilities qualify for tech jobs. More than 300 employers have agreed to consider hiring graduates of these programs.

Does Harvard matter?

Frank Bruni’s Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania is “a soothing balm for upper-middle class parents whose children do not quite manage to scale the highest peaks of prestige,” writes Nick Romeo in The New Republic.

Bruni doesn’t challenge the desire for status, writes Romeo. He tells parents their kids can attain wealth and status with a not-quite-Ivy education.

Bruni provides anecdotes about non-Ivy “people who run huge companies or work at prestigious consulting or law firms,” notes Romeo. “There are ‘myriad routes to a corner office,’ as he puts it. He never seriously considers the possibility that college might shape students into adults who are not interested in a corner office.”

An Ivy education can be free — with no degree

Guillaume Dumas, a 28-year-old Canadian, participated in classes, partied and networked at Yale, Brown, Berkeley, Stanford and more — without paying tuition — from 2008 to 2012, he told Joe Pinsker at The Atlantic. He didn’t enroll. He dropped in.

For a few hundred dollars a month in living expenses, Dumas “reaped most of the perks of college: learning, partying, and meeting intelligent, like-minded people,” writes Pinsker. He didn’t earn a degree — or go into debt.

Guillaume Dumas

Guillaume Dumas

At 19, Dumas enrolled at a city college in his native Quebec “because that’s what everybody does,” he says. He started on a psychology degree, but wanted more.

“I was just sneaking into classrooms in literature and philosophy and poli-sci and even psychiatry,” he says.

He began sampling classes at Canadian universities, such as Concordia, University of Montreal and McGill, then tried Brown and Yale and later Berkeley and Stanford.

“A diploma starts to look a lot like a receipt printed on fine cardstock,” writes Pinsker. “It is proof not that one has learned something in college, but that one has paid for it.”

Dumas now runs a dating service for upscale singles, which provides an adequate income.  “There’s never been so many career or business opportunities in the world that don’t require a proper diploma,” he says.

Some people would be better off “not paying tuition and keeping that money to travel the world and launch a business,” says Dumas. He estimates that 5,000 or 10,000 people could drop in to college without anyone noticing. “They will just disappear in the huge institution.”

My first husband attended graduate classes at Stanford without being enrolled. A professor hired him as a research and teaching assistant, though he was forced to lay him off after a year or so.

National University could make college affordable

Thanks to advances in information technology, we can “create a 21st Century National University that will help millions of students get a high-quality, low-cost college education — without hiring any professors, building any buildings or costing the taxpayers a dime.” So writes Kevin Carey, who directs education policy at New America, in his new book, The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere.

national university was George Washington’s wish, Carey writes on CNN. He even left money for it in his will. Now it’s doable.

Anyone with an Internet connection can log on to Coursera, edX,, and many other websites offering high-quality online courses, created by many of the world’s greatest universities and taught by tenured professors, for free.

Tens of millions of students have already signed up for these courses over the last four years. Yet enrollment in traditional colleges hasn’t flagged, and prices have continued to rise. The reason is clear. The free college providers can’t (or won’t) give online students the one thing they need more than anything else: a college degree. Elite universities like Harvard and Stanford don’t want to dilute their exclusive brands. Nonelite universities don’t want to give away something they’re currently selling for a lot of money.

The U.S. Department of Education could create a nonprofit with the authority to approve courses and grant degrees, he proposes. “Any higher education provider, public or private sector, could submit a course for approval,” paying a fee to cover the cost of evaluation.

While many of the courses will be free, students will bear small costs for taking exams through secure online channels or in-person testing facilities. (Textbooks will be free and open-source). Students will also pay a modest fee of a few hundred dollars for the degree itself, enough to defray the operating costs of National U.

National University wouldn’t have football or fraternities, but many people would give that up for a low-cost credential.

Carey is speaking on his ideas about the future of learning this afternoon (Wednesday). Go here for the livestream.

Competency-based programs give credit for skills learned through work, independent study or other means, writes Matt Krupnick on the Hechinger Report.

That means those students can earn degrees more quickly and at a lower cost — even lower now that the U.S. Department of Education has begun a pilot program under which students at 40 institutions will be able to use federal financial aid to pay for it, which was not previously allowed.

But what about quality?

Competency-based programs “could very easily devolve into diploma mills,” said Amy Laitinen, a former White House and Department of Education advisor who is now deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation and an advocate of the concept. “It could go south very quickly.”

Sweet Briar College will close due to financial problems. A residential liberal arts college for women, Sweet Briar charged $47,000 a year, including tuition and room and board. Even with financial aid, the average was $25,000 a year. Not enough young women wanted a single-sex education at that price.

A college shake-out is coming: Sweet Briar won’t be the last private college to fold.

Support raises remedial students’ grad rates

ASAPASAP students at Bronx Community College

With intensive advising, tutoring and financial assistance, poorly prepared low-income community college students nearly doubled their graduation rate, concludes a study on Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP).

The City University of New York program cost $16,300 more per student. However, the cost per graduate was lower after three years, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. ASAP participants also were more likely to transfer and earned more credits than the control group.

Forty percent of the students in the study graduated within three years, compared with 22 percent in the control group. Nationwide, only about 15 percent of community-college students who start out in remedial education earn a degree or certificate within three years, the report notes.

While 60 percent of community college students are part-timers, ASAP requires full-time enrollment. Most participants are young, living at home with parents, single and childless.

ASAP provides three years of financial aid, including a tuition waiver, free textbooks and a free bus pass.

They are required to meet frequently with advisers whose initial caseloads (60 to 80 students per adviser) are much smaller than the typical caseload of 600 to 1,500 students at CUNY’s two-year institutions. The program also includes mandatory tutoring, career advising, and seminars on topics like study skills and goal setting. Students can register for courses early, which helps them get into classes they need to graduate on time, and they can enroll in blocked or linked classes with other ASAP students in their first year.

Priority registration is a huge benefit, writes Michael Feldstein. But CUNY plans to expand ASAP from 1 percent of incoming students to 19 percent. It will be harder for ASAP students to get into classes at convenient times. And what about the students who also need those classes but can’t afford to enroll full-time?

Several Ohio community colleges also are trying ASAP.