College hopes, costs

From Princeton Review’s annual College Hopes and Worries survey of college applicants and their parents: Sixty-one percent say the main benefit of earning a college degree is to qualify for a “better job and higher income” or “career training,” while 39 percent chose “education” or “exposure to new ideas.”

Eighty-two percent expect their child’s four-year degree will cost more than $75, 000; seven percent think the bill will be less than $50,000.

More degrees, more jobs

President Obama’s job-creation plan, as reported by The Onion, includes: Everyone permitted one fake college degree per resumé.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  From remedial ed to the workforce.

What does a degree mean?

Many college students get a credential but not an education, writes an author of the Lumina Foundation’s proposed framework for defining what competencies students should master.

Professors are fascinated, puzzled and skeptical.

Defining degrees

What does a college degree mean in terms of student learning? So many hours of  seat time? The Lumina Foundation has developed a framework to determine the knowledge and skills students should demonstrate to earn an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree. But will colleges use the Degree Qualifications Profile?

Also on Community College SpotlightIs a college degree worth the debt? It’s a humorous (and bilingual!) animated video.

It’s a long road to the Big Goal

On Community College Spotlight: It’s a long road to Lumina Foundation’s Big Goal: 60 percent of adults with a two- or four-year college degree or a “high-quality” vocational certificate by 2025.

While 43 percent of GED earners enroll in college classes, few earn a degree.

Britain: 1 in 4 lap dancers has a degree

From Merry Old England: One in four lap dancers has a college degree, according to a University of Leeds study. The university graduates, who typically have arts degrees, say they couldn’t find other jobs. And the money’s good.

The preliminary findings of the year-long study, which will include interviews with 300 dancers, reveal that all the women interviewed had finished school and gained some qualifications. Most (87 per cent) had at least completed a further education course, while one in four had undergraduate degrees. Just over one in three dancers were in some form of education, with 13.9 per cent using dancing to help fund an undergraduate degree, 6.3 per cent to help fund a postgraduate degree, and 3.8 per cent using it to fund further education courses.

Via Hit & Run Blog’s Battle of the Sucky School Stats.

Inflating the F

The worst grade inflation turns F’s into D’s or C’s, writes Jason Fertig, a management professor at University of Southern Indiana. After changing the names, Fertig publishes semi-literate e-mails from a student who begged his way into an online class — he needed one more credit to complete a degree — then tried to pass by begging for unearned points. He failed.

Every F that is inflated to a D or C grade moves a given student to the next level without that student demonstrating satisfactory performance. . . . The damage to the worth of a college education and the ensuing credential inflation increases exponentially with every “Drake” that walks across that stage.

“Drake” is “not unique,” Fertig writes. And he’s a real student.

Predicting a degree's value

When money is tight, students and parents worry more about the value of a college degree relative to the costs, writes Sue Shellenberger in the Wall Street Journal.

College graduates earn 60 percent more than high-school graduates, estimates a 2007 College Board report with students in technical majors doing the best.

For a more specific payoff prediction, HumanCapitalScore.com will “generate a 10-year range of students’ likely postgraduation income based on their test scores, high school and college attended, grades and major.”

Payscale.com/best-colleges lists “median salaries of actual grads by college, type of college, major and job.”

Ambition leads to financial success, researchers have found.

In a surprising twist, a stronger predictor of income is the caliber of the schools that reject you. Researchers found students who applied to several elite schools but didn’t attend them — presumably because many were rejected — are more likely to earn high incomes later than students who actually attended elite schools. In a summary of the findings, the Bureau says that “evidently, students’ motivation, ambition and desire to learn have a much stronger effect on their subsequent success than average academic ability of their classmates.”

Of course, there are non-monetary rewards, such as “preparing for a rich, well-rounded life” and  “finding a career you love.”

Update: Where Does All That Tuition Go? AEI’s Mark Schneider explains why college costs keep rising faster than inflation.

And here’s a provocative infographic.

College bubble

The higher education bubble is bursting, writes David Frum of the American Enterprise Institute. “Between 2000 and 2005, the average wages of college graduates declined after adjusting for inflation,” he writes. College graduates have flooded the market. There may be jobs for the CalTech math major with a 4.0 grade point average, but not for the graduate with “a 2.8 communications degree from San Francisco State University.”

Not only are students not getting the economic payoff they expect, Frum writes, many aren’t getting a good education.

It’s often at the costliest universities that students are able to graduate with a degree in English without ever having read Shakespeare, a degree in history despite ignorance of the Civil War, or one in art history without ever having encountered the Renaissance.

In their own ways, universities indulge in some of the worst faults of the corporate sector, overcharging their customers in order to allow managers and staff to engage in wasteful or destructive activities that could never be justified on their own.

Universities need to rethink their practices, Frum writes.

Why does it take four years to complete a BA degree? Maybe liberal arts studies make more sense later in life?

For that matter, “maybe tough high school exit exams would serve the needs of employers who currently insist on a BA not for its own sake but as proof that a student was not too lazy or aimless to get one.”

Frum is responding to a Chronicle of Higher Education column arguing that four-year colleges need to become much more efficient to compete with online institutions and community colleges.

‘Super seniors’ clog colleges

San Jose State is pushing “super seniors” — credit-rich students who’ve taken classes for more than six years — to finish a degree and go away, making room for new students. About 1,500 students have been seniors for three or more years; 35 have been enrolled for a decade or more.  “Two particularly scholarly souls have studied for 15 years, each earning about 360 units toward a bachelor’s degree — enough to have graduated three times over,” reports the San Jose Mercury News.

For the first time in its history, this spring SJSU turned away 4,400 qualified students from its incoming freshman class because it could not afford to properly educate all qualified students who applied. Meanwhile, the number of seniors keeps climbing from 8,333 in 2005 to 9,757 in 2009.

Students who have 20 percent more units than are required for graduation — 300 seniors fall in that category — will be advised to finish quickly, though there are no consequences for those who choose to stay on.

“With the economy in shambles, I figure it is better to stay in school,” said Zachary Pallin, 22, a fifth-year senior who will graduate in 2010 — after six years at SJSU. First an English major, then a philosophy major, he has since settled on political science, with a minor in environmental science. He hopes to find work in the government or with a nonprofit organization. “I can focus on learning, while the economy gets better. Then I can actually get a job.”

Other heavily subsidized state universities have similar problems: Some students are postponing paying back loans that come due when they leave school. Others have fallen victim to poor advising, changed their major several times or just come to love the life of the professional student.

Cal State-East Bay now cuts off aid for super-seniors after two extra years.  Cal State-Fullerton offers better advising and priority registration to students who pledge to “Finish In Four.”

In North Carolina, students with more than 140 credits pay a tuition surcharge.

The University of Georgia is considering the ultimate insult: revoking long-term seniors’ perks such as priority parking and sports seating — sending them back to lowly freshman status.

Too many students are dithering on the taxpayers’ dime. A tuition surcharge for extra units and back-of-the-line status to get into classes would motivate students to get serious before they become sixth- or seventh-year seniors.