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higher education

President Obama Signs New Education Reform Act

Image Via CBS.com

Image Via CBS.com

On March 30, 2010 at the Alexandria campus of Northern Virginia Community College, President Obama signed into effect the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. This act was “two major victories that will improve the lives of our people for generations to come,” said President Obama.

This education act will save taxpayers almost $70 billion by removing banks’ abilities to act as middlemen in the student loan process. Instead, this money will be moved into the Pell Grant program to help fund community colleges and colleges that have been historically black colleges.

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Is College the Only Path to Success?

job industryLast year, President Obama made it clear that he wants America to “have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world” within the next 10 years. It just seems like the thing to do: You graduate high school, go to college, and then get a job in your degree field.

But what if that’s not what you want to do?

For some students, like Brian Crave, going to college just doesn’t seem appealing.

“He’s been afraid we might push him (to attend college)” Brian’s mother said. Now, she isn’t pressuring him to attend school because “kids learn differently, and some just aren’t college material.”

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President Obama and the State of Education in the U.S.

classroomThere is a certain level of disconnect with reality in the citizenry of the United States. We pat ourselves on the back, proudly boasting that we are “the best country in the world.” And while that may be true to some extent – people have amazing opportunities and freedoms here – an inability to see that it might be possible that we aren’t always the best in everything we do may be holding us back. Nowhere is that more true than the United States’ lagging educational system.

According to a 2006 investigation by the ABC program 20/20, a Gallup Poll survey showed that 76 percent of Americans were completely or somewhat satisfied with their kids’ public school.

Now, here comes the disconnect:

In 2002, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a report on the state of education in 24 industrialized nations. The United States ranked 18th out of 24 nations. The report was based on results from three surveys that tested 14- and 15-year-old’s literacy and their abilities in essential mathematics and science.

“A child starting school in Canada, Finland, or South Korea has both a higher probability of reaching a given level of educational achievement and a lower probability of falling well below the average,” UNICEF said in a written statement.

Let that sink in for a moment. We’re in the bottom 25th percentile for education. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama’s Plan for Higher Education in the Stimulus Package

president barack obamaSo what exactly does President Obama have in mind in terms of using stimulus package funds for higher education?  Information about Obama’s higher education plan — and everything else in Obama’s proposed American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan — is available on the newly revamped White House website.

In a nutshell, here’s what Obama wants to do for higher education.

  1. Increase the minimum Pell Grant by $500.
  2. Create a $2500 partially refundable higher education tax cut for close to 4 million students, which will affect about one-fifth of high school seniors who currently receive no tax break under the current system.
  3. Triple the number of fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students in science.
  4. Prevent layoffs and educational cuts throughout the country.

Will this happen? If so, will this work?  Stay tuned!

Higher Ed Leaders: We Need a Cut of the Stimulus Package!

On December 16, higher education leaders from across the U.S. took out full page ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post to ask Congress and Barack Obama to include them in the proposed stimulus package that’s being drafted in Congress.

University presidents, chancellors, and other educational leaders called for the government to set aside five percent of the package for colleges and universities.  They argued that for the first time in history, the younger generation is not more educated than the older generation, and that this could have serious repercussions for the economy. To remain economically competitive, they argued, colleges and universities need an investment of at least $40 million.

Sounds good to me.  We’re bailing out banks and auto companies.  Perhaps it’s time to bail out students who are suffering from the effects of budget cuts on their campuses, or who can’t afford to pay for college in the first place.

Gender Gap and the “Boy Crisis” in Higher Education

Is there a “boy crisis” in higher education in the United States? Are females outperforming males at disturbingly high rates?

Yes and no. It depends on how you look at it.

The numbers do seem to indicate that something is going on. According to the U.S. Department of Education, significantly more college degrees are being awarded to women than men. Women earn about 62% of all associate’s degrees, 57% of bachelor’s degrees, and 59% of master’s degrees. This is especially interesting because, on the undergraduate level, there isn’t much of a gap at all between males and females entering college. The problem is with male graduation rates.

However, some argue that the so-called “boy crisis” is overstated. A recent report by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) argues that the most significant disparity in educational achievement isn’t gender—it’s socioeconomic status and income level, which makes a far greater impact than gender. The gender gap in education is quite high among poorer students, but among students of middle class or higher status, the gender gap in favor of women is only slight.

Another important part of the educational gap to consider is the question of marketable skills and majors. Traditionally, majors that have attracted women (education, nursing, liberal arts) have led to lower paying careers, while majors that have traditionally attracted men (sciences, computers, engineering, business) have led to higher paying careers. As more women take on nontraditional majors, and as these fields open up more to women, this gap is closing. However, this disparity certainly hasn’t gone away—and it’s just as important as the question of whether more women than men are graduating from college.

Furthermore, it’s important to look at the entire socioeconomic picture for women after college. Women still only make about 76 cents for every dollar that a man makes. The degree to which this gap has closed over the years (it was closer to 50 cents after World War II) is certainly something to applaud—but there’s still a serious gap. Moreover, the gap between male and female wages increases quite a bit as women get older and into the years where people typically accumulate wealth. Right out of college, the gap isn’t all that high, but after the childbearing years are over, women tend to make significantly less than men. Women who choose to have children commonly find themselves downwardly mobile in the workplace, and the same is not true for men who have children—a fact that is not being offset much at all by women’s increased graduation rates.

So should we be concerned by the gap between male and female educational achievement? Of course. But the situation is more complicated than it looks on the surface. For a more accurate understanding of gender inequality in education and beyond, it’s important to look at the bigger picture.


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