Florida’s low-cost degrees pay off

Academics sneer at cut-rate college degrees, but Florida’s low-cost degrees pay off for graduates. The Florida College System (formerly the community college system) offers workforce-oriented bachelor’s degrees that cost $13,000 or less.  Graduates earn $8,000 more in their first year after graduation than state university graduates.

Colleges consider exit exams

Students are used to taking tests to get into college, writes Jon Marcus on the Hechinger Report. In the future, they may need to pass college exit exams to get out with a degree. Policymakers, parents and prospective employers want proof that graduates have learned something.

“There is a groundswell from the public about whether a college degree is worth what people are paying for it,” said Stephanie Davidson, vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University System of Ohio. “People are asking for tangible demonstrations of what students know.”

In Ohio, candidates for education degrees must write a lesson plan, submit a video of their teaching and pass other tests. Accumulating credits isn’t enough.

The Wisconsin Technical College System requires graduating students to submit portfolios, research papers, test scores or other proof of what they know.

The University of Central Missouri requires students to pass the College Basic Academic Subjects Examination before they are allowed to graduate. (But the cutoff score is below “proficiency,” Marcus notes.)

“Isn’t it amazing that the newest and most brilliant idea out there is that students should achieve particular skills and prove it?” Marsha Watson, president of the Association for the Assessment of Learning in Higher Education, asked wryly. “Wow.”

Grade inflation is rampant at colleges and universities, researchers say. Forty-three percent of grades given out by college faculty are As.

Yet one-half of students about to graduate from four-year colleges and 75 percent at two-year schools fall below the “proficient” level of literacy, according to a survey by the American Institutes for Research. That means they’re unable to complete such real-world tasks as comparing credit-card offers with different interest rates or summarizing the two sides of an argument.

In a survey, a third of employers said college aren’t qualified for entry-level work.

More and more states, including Missouri, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina, have approved using student exit-test results to determine how institutions are doing —though in most cases not yet to judge individual students or decide whether or not they should be allowed to get degrees — as one of the measures on which they base continued public university funding.

Nearly 50 colleges and universities in nine more states — Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Utah — are trying to develop a way to test students, before they graduate, in written communication and quantitative literacy, though so far this is also solely for the purpose of evaluating their own programs.

Developing ways to measure student learning “is time-consuming, complicated and expensive,” writes Marcus. It’s also deeply threatening to colleges and universities.

A few colleges now report learning outcomes for their graduates.

What jobs will the robots take?

The robots are coming to take our jobs, but which jobs will the robots take? Derek Thompson looks at the future of automation in The Atlantic.

. . . in the past 30 years, software and robots have thrived at replacing a particular kind of occupation: the average-wage, middle-skill, routine-heavy worker, especially in manufacturing and office admin.

Nearly half of American jobs today could be automated in “a decade or two,” according to a new paper discussed in The Economist. That includes retail, transportation, cashiers and counter clerks. (They’ll go even faster if the minimum wage is raised significantly.”

The 10 jobs on the chart have a 99-percent likelihood of being replaced by machines and software, writes Thompson. “They are mostly routine-based jobs (telemarketing, sewing) and work that can be solved by smart algorithms (tax preparation, data entry keyers, and insurance underwriters).”

The least vulnerable to automation are managers and health care and public safety workers.

Thompson concludes: “Machines are better at rules and routines; people are better at directing and diagnosing. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.”

For a cheerier view of the future, check out Are Robots Taking Our Jobs or Making Our Jobs?

Volokh’s Kenneth Anderson sees a future in skilled manual labor as in the “maker” movement.

Computer science majors get the most job offers, reports Forbes. Economics, accounting and engineering majors also are likely to have a job offer before they graduate.

10 years after 10th grade …

Ten years after 10th grade, 33 percent of young people had earned bachelor’s degrees or higher, reports a longitudinal federal study. Nine percent reported their highest credential was an associate degree and 10 percent earned a certificate, Another third reported “some college” but no credential.

Sixty-three percent were working and finished with school; another 19 percent were working and taking college classes. Five percent were taking courses and not working, while 13 percent were out of work and out of school.

Forty percent of those who’d attended college did not take out student loans and another 16 percent borrowed less than $10,000.  Thirty-three percent borrowed $10,000 to $50,000 for college and 11 percent took out $50,000 or more in student loans.

High school grades strongly predicted college success. Only 12.4 percent of C students (2.0 to 2.49) and 27.6 percent of C+ students (2.5 to 2.99) earned a bachelor’s degree. That rose to 50.1 percent for B students  (3.00 to 3.49) and 76 percent for students with a 3.50 or better.

Students want ‘jobs of the past’

Community college students want steady jobs with set hours, job security and pensions, writes a professor. “Too tired to hustle,” her students want “the jobs of the past.”

Colleges and universities will compete for a declining number of affluent, white students in the next decade, potentially driving some private colleges out of business, predict demographers. (It should bring down college costs, but don’t hold your breath.) The number of college-age blacks is declining too, while there are more Latinos and Asian-Americans. 

Rowe: College won’t pay off

“We are lending money we don’t have to kids who can’t pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist,”, says Dirty Jobs‘ host Mike Rowe. “That’s nuts.”

Will employers value your online degree?

Employers see online degrees as the equivalent of traditional degrees only under certain conditions. 

More teens drop out, take GED

Letting high-school-age teens take the GED encourages dropouts, some economists and educators fear. A quarter of GED test-takers are 16 to 18 years old, reports the Washington Post. They’re passing up a high school diploma for a much less valuable credential: GED holders earn as little as dropouts who didn’t pass the test and very few go on to earn a higher degree.

“We are making it easy for them to make a mistake,” said James Heckman, a Nobel-Prize winning economist at the University of Chicago.

If cognitive skills were enough, people who demonstrate high school equivalence by passing the GED would perform equally well in the workplace or in college, he said. Instead, dropping out of high school usually portends a lifelong pattern of dropping out, he said. Studies shows high school dropouts have higher rates of job turnover, college attrition, turnover in the military and even divorce, compared with those who stuck it out in high school.

“Sitting in school and showing up on time and doing in school what people ask you to do — those are useful, if dull, tedious traits to have,” Heckman said.

The GED isn’t easy: To pass, test takers must outperform about 40 percent of graduating seniors. It’s being revised to conform to Common Core Standards, which is expected to make it harder.

College rush is slowing

“The recession convinced many young American high-school graduates to take refuge in college instead of try their luck in a lousy job market,” reports the Wall Street Journal. But, now fewer high school graduates are going on to college, according to the Labor Department.

On 2012, 66.2 percent of recent graduates enrolled in college:  The share of female graduates enrolling in college declined from 72.3 percent the year before to 71.3 percent. Men, who are lagging in college attendance, declined from 64.6 percent to 61.3 percent.

Some graduates think they can find jobs, though unemployment rates remain high — 34.4 percent for high school graduates who aren’t in school.

I suspect young people are more wary of borrowing for college, especially if they’re not strong students.

More entry-level jobs require college degree

One third of employers say they’re hiring college graduates for jobs that used to require a high school diploma.