I was in college when “Downeaster Alexa” came out.
Here, have some frission.
I was in college when “Downeaster Alexa” came out.
Here, have some frission.
As the US continues its march towards restoring Dickensian working conditions, community college instructors in Kalamazoo, Michigan, are depending on donations to make it through January, due to a “miscommunication” over pay schedules.
Some highlights from the article. Serious medical condition? Good luck with that:
When the drive began last week, they first distributed aid to employees who had the greatest needs. “There was someone who has diabetes and won’t get through the month without insulin,” she said. “She got a gift card.”
Speak out about your atrocious living conditions? Careful now - wouldn’t want things to get any worse, would we?
“I have no discretionary money to put aside for this,” said one part-time Kalamazoo Valley instructor, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job.
And my favorite: the luxurious lifestyle of the idle college professor - tinned food and all:
The anonymous instructor said she had received two gift cards and a small check, plus two cans of food—one of apricots and one of corn.
“The full-time teachers have stepped up for us,” she said. “I am not out of the woods yet, but I probably won’t go hungry.”
A college education is no guarantee of success- or is it?
There are legions of entrepreneurs who dropped out of college or never went to school and made fortunes. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerburg made billions. There are lots of nameless millionaires who struck it rich in the tech business, sans college degree.
There are also legions of college drop outs who have managed to fail in every endeavor they try.
Of course, financial security is only one reason to go to college. What value ought to be placed on education itself? An undergraduate college degree does not confer any real expertise on the student. Instead, the new graduate is expected to understand the question which need to be answered and to recognize and discern between various answers in the quest for knowledge.
For a select few foregoing a college degree is a practical alternative. These are the rare individuals who unique visions, drive and talents. They do what needs to be done and accomplish goals.
For the rest of us a college education helps us get a leg up and succeed in a world of challenges. Not a bad thing.
BENJAMIN GOERING does not look like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, talk like him or inspire the same controversy. But he does apparently think like him.
Two years ago, Mr. Goering was a sophomore at the University of Kansas, studying computer science and philosophy and feeling frustrated in crowded lecture halls where the professors did not even know his name.
“I wanted to make Web experiences,” said Mr. Goering, now 22, and create “tools that make the lives of others better.”
So in the spring of 2010, Mr. Goering took the same leap as Mr. Zuckerberg: he dropped out of college and moved to San Francisco to make his mark. He got a job as a software engineer at a social-software company, Livefyre, run by a college dropout, where the chief technology officer at the time and a lead engineer were also dropouts. None were sheepish about their lack of a diploma. Rather, they were proud of their real-life lessons on the job.
“Education isn’t a four-year program,” Mr. Goering said. “It’s a mind-set.”
The idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Feeling squeezed by a sagging job market and mounting student debt, a groundswell of university-age heretics are pledging allegiance to new groups like UnCollege, dedicated to “hacking” higher education. Inspired by billionaire role models, and empowered by online college courses, they consider themselves a D.I.Y. vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick.
Risky? Perhaps. But it worked for the founders of Twitter, Tumblr and a little company known as Apple.
Walter Fortson never expected to finish college, especially as inmate 819161D at the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility, in Hunterdon County, N.J. A few years ago, he chose to be a crack dealer to support his family and his reckless spending habits. He thought he was too smart to get caught, until one day in 2008 when he made a bad move.
He was a 25-year-old black male driving through an Atlantic City public-housing project in an expensive red Chevrolet Suburban with gleaming chrome hubcaps and out-of-state tags. Thinking he looked suspicious, police officers pulled him over and found crack cocaine, marijuana, and two handguns in the SUV. One officer pointed a gun at his head, he recalls, while the other handcuffed him and said, “You know that your life is over, huh?”
Mr. Fortson believed him. “To be a black male convicted felon, I thought my life was over,” he says.
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Today, though, Mr. Fortson is an honor student in his senior year at Rutgers University at New Brunswick. While serving part of a six-year sentence for drugs and weapons offenses, he met a Rutgers historian who tutors inmates and runs a re-entry program that helps felons go from prison to college. That associate professor, Donald Roden, helped him through the admissions process after he was released early from prison.
Mr. Fortson is a rarity in higher education, for reasons that have to do with race, economics, expectations, and criminal-justice practices. As one of many young black men with a criminal history, he has been given a second chance. He is an exception to a rule which seems to dictate that punishment for a crime does not end when a felon leaves prison. A criminal conviction often creates barriers to voting, employment, and housing, and forecloses opportunities to attend college.
By enrolling in a four-year college, Mr. Fortson is also defying higher education’s gender gap, which touches all races and ethnic groups but is widest among black students. Black women earn almost twice as many degrees—at every level—as black men.
Grades are broken. Students grub for them, pick classes where good ones come easily, and otherwise hustle to win the highest scores for the least learning. As a result, college grades are inflated to the point of meaninglessness—especially to employers who want to know which diploma-holder is best qualified for their jobs.
That’s a viewpoint driving experiments in education badges. Offered mostly by online start-ups, the badges are modeled on the brightly colored patches on Boy Scout uniforms but are inspired primarily by video games: Just as most video games offer ways for players to “level up” frequently, to keep them excited, most education-badge projects involve rewarding achievements more fine-tuned than passing (or acing) a course. In a remedial math course, for instance, a badge might be awarded for mastering a concept, whether “surface area” or “median and mode.” Or badges might certify soft skills not usually measured at all in college courses, like teamwork or asking good questions.
So what if colleges replaced grades with badges?
Erin Knight, leader of an education-badge project run by the Mozilla Foundation that provides a platform for students to display such badges on their Web sites, argues that grades shift students’ goals from learning to earning, because the stakes are so high when the result of an entire course is reduced to a single letter.
Here’s a puzzle: The gasoline tax is to transportation as what is to higher education?
The economic logic of the gas tax is simple. It goes toward the cost of roads, transit, and other transportation improvements, and the people who pay it are the people who benefit from it. For higher education, the answer is tougher. Individual “users” benefit, financially and otherwise, but so does society as a whole. Economists say you could think of tuition as their share of that cost. (Whether tuition covers the right share relative to the benefit is another question.) But what about society’s share? Shouldn’t there be a dedicated tax for that benefit?
The argument for yes seems apparent.
In financial terms alone, the payoffs to society are “astronomical,” says Phillip A. Trostel, a professor of economics at the University of Maine at Orono. Based on what he calls conservative calculations, the returns to the federal and state governments from their spending on higher education over students’ lifetimes amount to 10 times the expenditures.
Yet on a nationwide basis, states’ support for higher education per full-time-equivalent student has fallen to just $6,290, the lowest in 15 years.
Student veterans hired by the Department of Veterans Affairs to help fellow ex-service members transition into college have routinely waited four to six weeks — and, in one case, four months — for unpaid wages, prompting eviction worries and mounting debt, according to a survey of program members obtained by NBC News.
Ashley Metcalf, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan — and the student veteran who organized the survey of other VA “work-study” employees at 18 campuses — said he’s been living on credit cards since June and was forced to obtain an emergency loan because the VA has failed to compensate him for about 100 hours he’s logged in the VA program.
‘How can this happen? If I was working for McDonald’s and they said they’re not going to pay me for 10 weeks, I’d have a lawsuit,’ said Metcalf, an Air Force veteran now enrolled at the University of Colorado Denver.
A voicemail left Monday by NBC News with the VA media relations office was not returned. According to the VA website, the ‘work-study allowance’ is available through the post-9/11 GI Bill. Student veterans employed by the program earn the minimum wage from the VA for devoting hours to specified, on-campus jobs such as ‘providing assistance to veteran students with general inquiries about veteran benefits,’ the site says, adding: “VA will pay you each time you complete 50 hours of service.”
But Metcalf’s survey found VA work-study employees at five campuses who reported waiting one month to two months for payments — and a student in North Dakota who was not compensated for four months. (Among the 18 schools represented in the survey were Texas A&M, Florida State and the University of Kentucky). Survey participants also revealed that a number of student veterans have quit their work-study jobs due to the chronic payment delays, hamstringing veteran-services departments at some campuses.
Metcalf, who spent six years on active duty in the Air Force and another six as reservist, also has reached a career crossroads.
“I’m going back into the (Air Force) Reserves in January,” he said. “I can’t afford to not work. And even though it’s a requirement that I be a full-time student to stay on the GI Bill, I can’t afford to live like this.”
One only wonders, does Romney think these vets are “entitled” to their pay?
In Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville said that “there is hardly a political question in America which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.” That observation seems especially apt as we await oral arguments, scheduled for October 10, in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, the most recent affirmative-action challenge to reach the United States Supreme Court.
The policies under review in Fisher are complex, and many commentators have been reluctant to speculate about what the case might mean for affirmative action in general. But whatever happens in this case, we must recognize that controversies about race-conscious admissions have unhelpfully narrowed the debate about equality of educational opportunity and diverted attention from the extraordinary inequalities that continue to exist.
The scope of the judicial question about affirmative action is undeniably narrow. Most Americans who attend college matriculate at institutions that accept a majority of their applicants and then struggle to find resources to provide them with a quality education. Those students often take on sizable debt to attend, and far too many never complete a degree, whether because elementary and secondary schools have left them academically underprepared or because their families have no tradition of higher education or because they cannot balance the demands of school and employment. Moreover, as Michelle Alexander observes in The New Jim Crow, too many minority young men “matriculate” into the prison system, often in states that devote proportionately greater resources to prisons than to higher education.
Those realities suggest that the percentage of minorities at selective institutions has little to do with the educational opportunities available to Americans (minority and nonminority) who struggle to attend underfinanced universities, or who have no hope of attending college at all. Shortly before his death, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. suggested that the second phase of the civil-rights movement ought to be a general campaign against economic inequality. Today, proponents of equality must embrace that suggestion by encouraging institutional change and social innovation that more effectively respond to inequalities in access to postsecondary education.
Our current system for collecting student loans makes no distinction between deadbeats who cheat and the much greater numbers of people who just don’t have the money to repay. As predatory debt collection agencies ruin the lives of more and more Americans, we are ignoring an easy and fair solution.
Gregory McNeil, 49, is living out his days at a veterans home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His room is so cramped he can barely fit his twin bed, dresser, and the computer desk he had to sneak in because it was against regulations. His only income comes from the Social Security disability payments he began receiving last year after undergoing quadruple-bypass heart surgery. These payments go directly to the veterans home, which then gives him $100a month for his expenses. McNeil fears that if he leaves the home, the government will seize a portion of his Social Security to pay off the federal student loan he defaulted on two decades ago. “This veterans home may become my financial prison,” he says. “And this is no way to live.”
McNeil’s fears are well grounded. For years, private collection companies acting under contract with the U.S. Department of Education have hounded him. The government garnisheed his wages for a time, and threatened to sue him. He says he always wanted to repay, but has never had the income he would need. Meanwhile, interest continues to accrue on his debt, and has already tripled the amount he owes.
McNeil’s troubles date back to the late 1980s, when, after leaving the Navy, he decided to go back to school to study electronics. He borrowed about $15,000 in federal student loans to attend a local branch of National Education Centers, a for-profit trade school chain that claimed an exceptional track record in helping students find employment. He soon realized, however, that the training was much less than advertised. And he discovered that the company—which later shut down, due in part to a high default rate among its former students that threatened its access to federal funding—would do little to help him find a job. “They considered you placed if you were flipping burgers part time at McDonald’s,” he says.
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Last updated: 2014-03-07 2:19 pm PST
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