Childhood’s ‘long shadow’

Only 4 percent of low-income Baltimore children had earned a college degree by age 28, concludes a Johns Hopkins study that followed 790 first graders for 22 years. Forty-five percent of higher-income children went on to earn a degree.

“A family’s resources and the doors they open cast a long shadow over children’s life trajectories,” Johns Hopkins sociologist Karl Alexander says The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth and the Transition to Adulthood.

White men from low-income backgrounds were less likely to attend college, but more likely to find well-paying blue-collar jobs. At age 28, 45 percent were working in construction trades and industrial crafts, compared with 15 percent of black men from similar backgrounds.

At age 18, 89 percent of white dropouts were working compared with 40 percent of black drop-outs.

White women from low-income backgrounds were much more likely than black women to be in stable family unions with a working spouse or partner.

At age 28, 49 percent of black men and 41 percent of white men from low-income backgrounds had a criminal conviction. But whites were much more likely to be working because of their stronger social networks, the study found.

Duncan twists truth to hit for-profit colleges

Seventy-two percent of for-profit colleges’ career programs “produce graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan at a White House news conference. That earned
two “Pinocchios” for lying from the Washington Post’s fact-checker. Essentially, Duncan compares apples to oranges — with a few lemons thrown in — to make for-profit colleges look bad.

Here’s why career-minded students choose for-profit colleges over much cheaper community colleges.

Wanted: Employees with autism

Autism Can Help You Land a Job, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Germany-based software company SAP believes people with autism may be better at certain jobs. The company wants up to 1 percent of its workforce — 650 people — to be autistic by 2020, according to Jose Velasco, head of the autism initiative at SAP in the U.S.

People with autism spectrum disorder—characterized by social deficits and repetitive behavior—tend to pay great attention to detail, which may make them well suited as software testers or debuggers, according to Velasco, who has two children with the condition.

. . . “They have a very structured nature” and like nonambiguous, precise outcomes, Mr. Velasco said. “We’re looking at those strengths and looking at where those traits would be of value to the organization.”

“Autistic employees at SAP take on roles such as identifying software problems, and assigning customer-service queries to members of the team for troubleshooting,” reports the Journal.

Perfect people

In “the upper reaches of the meritocracy,” young college graduates are trying to be “perfect avatars of success,” writes New York Times columnist David Brooks. He urges employers “bias hiring decisions against perfectionists” with “a high talent for social conformity” and no personality.

They got 3.8 grade-point averages in high school and college. They served in the cliché leadership positions on campus. They got all the perfect consultant/investment bank internships. During off-hours they distributed bed nets in Zambia and dug wells in Peru.

. . . Students who get straight As have an ability to prudentially master their passions so they can achieve proficiency across a range of subjects. But you probably want employees who are relentlessly dedicated to one subject. In school, those people often got As in subjects they were passionate about but got Bs in subjects that did not arouse their imagination.

Brooks wants employers to reward job applicants who’ve done something unfashionable, such as going to a Christian college to explore their values.

Interviewees should be asked: “Could you describe a time when you told the truth and it hurt you?”

“If the interviewee can’t immediately come up with an episode, there may be a problem here,” advises Brooks.

My first reaction: Now overachievers will have to come up with an unfashionable thing — but not too unfashionable — in addition to grades, leadership, internships and Peruvian well-digging. I recommend competing in an obscure sport, performing a medieval musical instrument or any activity that can’t be verified by the prospective employer.

Traditionally, job applicants admit to perfectionism when asked for their faults. If that’s out of fashion, they’ll need a new fault. Perhaps, inability to lie with conviction would be a good one. “I tell the truth, even if it hurts me. Let me tell you about the time . . . “

College heads resist federal database

College presidents say their institutions should be reporting their graduates’ debt levels and job placement rates, but don’t want the federal government collecting and publishing data on student outcomes. They really don’t like Obama’s proposed ratings system.

Employers ask for old SAT scores

“Plenty of employers” ask job candidates about their SAT scores, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Consulting firms such as Bain & Co. and McKinsey & Co. and banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc. ask new college recruits for their scores, while other companies request them even for senior sales and management hires, eliciting scores from job candidates in their 40s and 50s.

College Board keeps SAT scores on file forever, so lying is risky.

Some companies are reluctant to hire people who’ve scored below the 95th percentile in math.

However, Google, which used to look closely at “grade-point averages, test scores and alma mater,” has changed tactics, reports the Journal. Internal studies found “very little correlation between SAT scores and job performance,” said Kyle Ewing, head of global staffing. Google now puts more stress on “interview questions that probe how a potential hire has solved complex problems,” reports the Journal.

Enrollment dips as jobs rebound

Community college enrollment, which boomed during the height of the recession, is down across the country.

Higher education productivity is declining: We’re spending a lot more and sending a lot more high school graduates to college, but not getting as much brains (well, degrees) for the bucks.

Teaching entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship should be “a general education outcome” for community college students, “like effective writing or quantitative reasoning,” some argue. “Better to train students to hang out their own shingles than to train them for jobs that no longer exist,” they believe. 

Every Major’s Terrible

Every Major’s Terrible:

Post-college tests could help job seekers

Post-college tests, such as the CLA+, could help non-elite college graduates prove their competence to potential employers.  Grade inflation has eroded the signaling value of a college degree.