A credit here, a credit there

Assembling credits from a variety of online courses, one man earned an associate degree from an accredited college for a total cost of $3,000. Courses ranged from art appreciation, music appreciation, macroeconomics and accounting to a series of Federal Emergency Management Agency courses, including Livestock in Disasters. Just a wee bit incoherent?

Also on Community College SpotlightSmoothing the rocky road to higher education.

Can schools raise social mobility?

Can schools spur social mobility? asks Mike Petrilli on Flypaper.

No way, says Charles Murray, who visited Fordham to promote his new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. Murray sees a growing division between well-educated elites, who marry college classmates, and a semi-educated class who are less likely to marry at all.


New York Times columnist David Brooks worries about “the opportunity gap.” College-educated parents spend more time with their children — “reading “Goodnight Moon,” talking to their kids about their day and cheering them on from the sidelines” — than working-class parents. Affluent kids are more active in sports, theater, yearbook, scouting, etc. They’re more likely to go to church and to volunteer. It all adds up.

What to do? asks Petrilli

Our argument, as it goes, is that we’ve never really tried. Because of low expectations, mediocre teachers, a lack of options, ill-designed curricula—name your poison—poor kids have never had a chance to see their talents flourish. Put them into the right educational environment, surround them with supportive adults, and (if you’re of the broader/bolder persuasion) provide them with all kinds of social supports too, and we’ll see our elite college campuses—gateways to the new Upper Class—democratize before our eyes.

But academic ability isn’t evenly distributed. Whether by nature or nurture, successful parents are raising successful children.

“We’ve gotten really, really good” at identifying talented children from low-income and working-class communities and providing scholarships to good colleges, Murray says. Petrilli thinks online learning could provide more access, but there are limits to how many diamonds will be found in the rough.

 The second strategy is to be more realistic about the kind of social mobility we hope to spur. Getting a big chunk of America’s poor kids into the New Elite in one generation might be a fool’s errand—our meritocracy has put them at too great a disadvantage. But getting them into working -class or middle-class jobs isn’t so impossible. Here’s a question for the KIPPs and YES Preps of the world: Would you be happy if, ten years from now, your middle schoolers were working as cops, firefighters, teachers, plumbers, electricians, and nurses? This would be a huge accomplishment, it seems to me, as most poor kids will go on to work in low-paid service jobs a decade hence.

Rewarding people based on “real merit” — skills and performance — rather than credentials — SATs and degrees — would mean less social equality, writes Mickey Kaus. “Web-schooled winners” who rise without a university degree are likely to be smart people who have smart children who do well in school and out. “The social centrifuge separating the meritorious from the less meritorious won’t have stopped spinning. In some ways it will be spinning faster, with greater precision. Sorry.”

 

To fix student loans, make college unnecessary

To fix student loans, make college unnecessary, writes columnist Ed Quillen in the Denver Post.

Sending more people to college is no solution. Indeed, it would make the problem worse, for it would just drive costs up further while putting a glut of graduates on the market, thereby depressing their earnings.

Instead, we need to extend our civil-rights laws to forbid job discrimination based on educational credentials. Employers would be free to test potential employees to see if they had relevant skills and knowledge, but they could not ask for educational credentials.

If college was optional, prices would plummet, Quillen predicts. “People who wanted to study medieval French literature could still pursue degrees at schools populated by scholars seeking knowledge,” while job seekers would learn by reading, studying online, apprenticeship or whatever enabled them to pass the qualifying test.

After all, you don’t need a degree in English to ask, “Do you want fries with that?”

As learning goes online, it will increase the pressure to find ways for independent learners to prove what they know.

Diploma mills expand online

The number of diploma mills grew by 48 percent worldwide last year according to the 2011 Accredibase Report.  Most operate online, reports BRB’s Public Records Blog.

The U.S. remains the world’s fake college capital with a 20 percent increase in diploma mills in 2010.  High school diploma mills “appear to be a growing segment” in the U.S.