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Syllabus: Week of June 17, 2013

Published:  June 21, 2013
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Welcome to the Syllabus, a guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.


Program Steers Struggling Students to Benefits That Help Them Stay in College, Casey McDermott
The Chronicle of Higher Education

A 2009 study showed that 71 percent of young adults who left college cited financial reasons for their departure. Students who struggled to complete their college education for financial reasons might be interested to learn that a new pilot program—The Benefits Access for College Completion—has been introduced to help those students attain their degree. This new program helps students obtain the public assistance and benefits necessary to overcome financial challenges including food stamps, fuel vouchers, and car repair funds.  This allows some students a much-needed second chance at an education and a better life for themselves and their families. The goal of the program is to provide short-term assistance to students in order to aid them in contributing positively to their communities in the long-term.

Nonprofit Colleges Compete on For-Profits' Turf, Goldie Blumenstyk
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Not only are for-profit universities facing challenges amid government scrutiny and falling enrollments, but they are also facing fierce competition from nonprofit and public colleges that are creating more flexible and convenient pathways for students. According to a Deutsche Bank Securities study, by the end of 2013, 87 percent of the United States population will have the option of taking online courses from an in-state public or nonprofit college.  The same study shows that progressive nonprofits, which are defined as having an active online education, have seen a growth of 15 percent in enrollment since 2006.  Conversely, for-profit online-only programs have experienced a steep decline in enrollments since 2009. This is due in large part because the nonprofit and public options are often far less expensive than their for-profit counterparts. However, despite the declining trend of enrollment in for-profit institutions, there is a need for technical programs, especially in fields like medical technology, culinary arts, and high-tech mechanics.  According to Jeffrey Silver, an analyst with BMO Capital Markets, “The [for-profit] sector really has to [go] back to its roots and focus on jobs. I don’t think the sector is disappearing but it’s never going to be what it was.”

Ed Schools Are Under Attack Again, Walt Gardner
Education Week

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently examined 1,200 education programs at 608 institutions and made the determination that they were all part of an “industry of mediocrity.” Of all the institutions studied, only four received a four-star rating.  One school in particular, UCLA, was labeled as “hardly worth attending.” A shocking label, given that its education school was ranked second in the country, by U.S. News and World Report.  Walt Gardner at Education Week takes issue with the report and points out that unlike Finland, a country much smaller than the U.S. where education schools are as prestigious as law and medical schools, you cannot have both quality and quantity. The United States has a huge demand for teachers annually. There are 98,000 public schools in the U.S. that employ approximately 3.2 million teachers. Every year, 200,000 new teachers enter the classroom. Within the first year, 20,000 quit. Within the first five years 90,000 of that initial cohort of 200,000 or 45 percent have quit. This turnover costs schools an estimated $7.2 billion annually.  While there is certainly room for the U.S. to improve, it is unrealistic to be highly selective in its teacher preparation programs given our current structure.


Graduation Rates Hit New High: Good News For Everyone?

High School graduation rates are at a 40-year high. A recent study shows that 75 percent of students are earning a high school diploma and the graduation rates of Latinos and African American have increased to 5.4 percent and 3.3 percent respectively. This improvement in numbers is attributed to better data collection and research regarding drop-outs over the course of the last decade. Despite this improvement, the study showed that around a million students still drop out. Some experts state that if educators pay attention to student outcomes before they even reach high school, even more students can be helped across the finish line. Specifically, middle school interventions can help ensure a smooth path for students before they even get to high school. Those programs that have been effective in enticing students back to the classroom to finish their degrees have had great success creating a flexible schedule that resembles a college schedule in its structure.

Although there is still work to be done to increase high school graduation rates, what do the increases mean for higher education?

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