Education News Digest: 10/13/2011Posted on: 10/13/2011
Challenge to Students: Have Space Station Run Your Experiment
Make a two-minute video. Get an experiment flown to the International Space Station.
YouTube and Lenovo, the computer manufacturer, announced on Monday a science contest called SpaceLab for students around the world ages 14 to 18, and it is not quite like any other science contest.
For one, the students, who can enter individually or in teams of up to three, do not actually have to perform any experiments. Instead, they will make videos to pitch ideas for experiments that could be conducted in the zero-gravity environs of the space station.
The two winning entries will be built and flown there, and astronauts will conduct a demonstration that will be broadcast to classrooms via YouTube.
“The headline idea was, ‘let’s create the world’s largest, coolest classroom in space,’ ” said Zahaan Bharmal, director of European marketing for Google, which owns YouTube.
These will not be the first student experiments to get to the space station. Students at 12 school districts around the country are currently writing proposals for experiments to fly there next spring, part of a program run by the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education in Capitol Heights, Md. “It’s changing the way kids are looking at science,” said Jeff Goldstein, the center’s director. “I’m hoping that what we’re doing here is creating those magical moments for many of these students.”
Earlier this year, 27 student experiments, out of 1,027 proposals, flew on the last two space shuttle flights.
Those experiments were small — each about the size of a test tube — but meaningful. One, from seventh graders in Portland, Ore., tested the growth of protein crystals in microgravity, while another, from 10th graders in Omaha, was titled, “Honey as a Preservative on Long Duration Space Flights.”
“These students are being given the opportunity to do real research in orbit,” Dr. Goldstein said. “It’s not something cute.”
His program stems from an existing agreement between NASA and NanoRacks, a small company that owns laboratory space on the space station. The cost is $20,000 per school district, but the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education raised enough to pay for 21 of the 27 districts that took part.
Dr. Goldstein said that he hoped to fly two sets of experiments every year, and that the next opportunity for school districts to participate would be announced in a month.
NanoRacks has also sold space to a single school, Valley Christian High School in San Jose, Calif., which conducted a 30-day experiment in February looking at how basil, marigolds and Wisconsin fast plants, a relative of broccoli bred for classroom use, behaved in microgravity. (The seeds germinated, but did not grow much, possibly because of gases released from the sealant used to seal the box.)
“I’ve been able to see more of what a real-life science career would be like than if I had just gone through school and sat through the classes,” said Karen Lu, a junior at Valley Christian.
For the YouTube contest, NASA has signed an agreement with Space Adventures, a company in Vienna, Va., that is best known for arranging trips by space tourists to the space station. Space Adventures will act as a middleman to prepare the winning experiments for flight.
Mr. Bharmal came up with the idea when Google invited employees to suggest a marketing campaign. “When I was a teenager, 15 or 16, space was the thing that really inspired me,” said Mr. Bharmal, now 34.
Experiment proposals can cover science questions in biology or physics. Restrictions include no dangerous animals, no explosions and nothing sharp.
After the Dec. 7 deadline, entries will be whittled to 60 finalists, distributed among three geographical regions. For each region, there will be 10 finalists in the 14-to-16-year-old category and 10 in the 17-to-18-year-old category.
A popular vote among YouTube visitors will provide one-quarter of the final score. Also judging the finalists will be a panel of experts including Stephen W. Hawking, the physicist and cosmologist.
Google will the fly the regional winners to a ceremony in Washington next March, where two grand prize winners will be named. Those winners will get the choice of a trip to Japan to see the launching of their experiments or a trip to Russia for seven days of cosmonaut training, although for the latter, they would need to wait until they turned 18.
Source: New York Times
Education: Too much testing?The high-stakes measurement of student progress through annual standardized tests has, in many classrooms, restricted creativity, innovation and individuality. It has emphasized the skills involved in taking multiple-choice tests over those of researching, analyzing, experimenting and writing, the tools that students are more likely to need to be great thinkers, excellent university students and valued employees. But, by pressuring schools to raise achievement, it also has ensured that more students reach high school able to read books more sophisticated than those by Dr. Seuss — which, sad to say, was a major problem a decade ago — and tackle algebra by ninth grade.
There is now widespread agreement that the federal No Child Left Behind Act, with its sole emphasis on standardized tests in English and math, was overly rigid, unfair to good schools and constricting to the curriculum. It's equally important to remember that the law was enacted for a reason — to pressure schools to do more for disadvantaged, black and Latino students.
Gov. Jerry Brown weighed in on this conundrum last week as he vetoed a bill that sought to make the state's measurements of schools broader and more meaningful. His lengthy veto message contained an inspiring reminder that no one talks about learning for the sake of learning anymore. Even before the economy nose-dived, the entire conversation about schooling had been reduced to a mantra about economic competition and good jobs. Those are key, absolutely. But so is learning as a way to develop a thoughtful mind that gathers and uses quality information to reason well throughout life.
At the same time, Brown's message sounded oddly anachronistic, as though he were drawing his lessons about education from his own experiences as an intellectual youngster from an educated, well-off family with access to a heavily enriched education. Yet he obviously knows that student demographics and the academic landscape have changed in California; as mayor of Oakland, he started two charter schools to boost achievement among the city's disadvantaged students.
Rather than adding new measurements of progress, no matter how well intentioned, Brown said, the schools needed to move away from data and toward a more holistic approach to assessing educational quality. "Adding more speedometers to a broken car," he wrote in his veto message, "won't turn it into a high-performance machine."
His suggestion: panels of inspectors to visit and assess schools. It was unclear whether he was suggesting this in addition to the existing testing system or in place of it, but in any case, his message included a few whiffs of the Gov. Moonbeam of old.
We mean that in the nicest possible way. It's far more inspiring to think of education being judged by the engagement of students on campus and portfolios of their work rather than through a narrow snapshot of learning as measured on a few testing days. Brown can be caustic — as he was in his veto message, throwing jibes at experts, academics and, yes, editorial writers — but he also can be visionary. His anti-testing message is sure to please the California Teachers Assn., which has staunchly opposed most aspects of reform, yet it didn't sound like its intention was political expediency. Rather, Brown appeared to write from a deep-seated conviction that the state is not on the path to great education. He's right.
That makes it all the stranger, in ways, that he vetoed SB 547, writtenby Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). The bill would actually have limited the amount that test scores could count toward a school's Academic Performance Index, the yearly measurement of its progress, and would have included dropout rates, which have for too long been virtually ignored by accountability measurements. Beyond that, it would have required schools to show that they were providing an enriched curriculum and preparing students for jobs or for attending college without needing remedial help. The bill intentionally did not spell out how those would be measured, leaving the details to be worked out by a committee appointed by the state Board of Education. Because the governor appoints the board, Brown had an opportunity to bring his school visitation idea into the mix. We'd be glad to see it.
But there are lots of things that panels of school inspectors would be unlikely to find out about a school. They wouldn't see, for instance, how most students are doing; it would be impossible for them to look at more than a sample of the student body (and that sample might be manipulated by school administrators). They might view some nice portfolios of student work, but they wouldn't see how much work a teacher might have put into burnishing them to make students look more proficient. They might interview enthusiastic students, but most important, they wouldn't see all the students who weren't there — the dropouts who gave up. The dropout rate has been shamefully ignored by the reform movement at both the state and federal level, and a distaste for hard data is not a good reason to keep ignoring it.
California is at a particularly awkward stage educationally. It is phasing out its old curriculum standards and tests and bringing in new ones that should be a big improvement. Teachers have to prepare their students for the existing tests but also worry about piloting the new ones; their professional lives have become a hodgepodge of acronyms. Deadlines are looming for states to apply for waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act, but California is increasingly unlikely to even try because of the Obama administration's restrictive demand that states include test scores in teacher evaluations.A congressional overhaul of the law is also in the works. In the midst of all this, Brown's veto leaves the state with the same test-heavy accountability system that everyone, including the governor, agrees is overdue for a rewrite.
If Brown has a realistic new vision for education in California, he should pull the relevant parties together quickly and develop a concrete proposal that the state can afford and carry out effectively. Just saying no to others' efforts isn't going to fix the car either.
Source: Los Angeles Times
Teachers suggest five steps to better professional development
Teachers have all attended bad professional development. Your principal tells you a sub will cover your class the next day because she is sending you to a workshop described only by a five-letter acronym. You go to the district’s online PD catalogue, CPS University, where it takes you half of your prep period to sign up. When you arrive, you spend an hour playing get-to-know-you games before you realize that the session is meant for beginning teachers--but you are entering your eighth year.
You sit in the back, and your mind wanders to all the things you could be
doing with this time: planning for next quarter, analyzing data from your
latest assessment, or finding ways to reach a group of English language
learners who are struggling despite your best efforts. You wish this PD would
address those things. You leave with a book, binder, and t-shirt, but with no
understanding of how to improve your practice.
Unfortunately, this type of dispiriting professional development is all too common and its impact is doubly devastating. Not only do teachers miss a chance for professional growth, but students lose critical instructional time with their teacher.
However, high-quality professional development is critical to teachers’ long-term effectiveness. A teacher’s work is dynamic: Students and responsibilities change, new research is conducted, and more rigorous standards are adopted. PD needs to be reformed, not eliminated.
As teachers, we welcome any proven changes that will benefit our students, but we need support. We need strategies to engage students, data to monitor their learning, and new methods to help them meet demands of the 21st Century. And sometimes, all we need are a few ways to get our students to sit down and listen!
As teachers, we have experienced effective professional development. It was collaborative, ongoing, and connected research to our unique work in the classroom. This kind of PD changed the way we taught and directly affected our students’ achievement. In order to ensure more of this high-quality PD in CPS, we suggest the following modifications:
Protect professional development time from administrative tasks
Time reserved for professional development needs to be protected to maintain the focus on teacher learning. Currently, many schools use portions of full-day PD to hold all-staff administrative meetings, to give teachers time to catch up on grading or classroom work, or to train teachers on a variety of administrative programs. While all of these activities are necessary, meetings, grading, and trainings are not professional development, and should not be labeled as such. Schools need to find ways to communicate logistical information to teachers in more efficient ways (for example, online communication such as email or webinars, or before- or after-school meetings) and ensure that professional development days are not co-opted by anything except high-quality learning for teachers.
Differentiate professional development by content, expertise, and delivery method
Teachers have different strengths and weaknesses. A first-year teacher who has problems controlling his classroom needs different professional development than a 12th-year teacher who is fine-tuning her approach to support vocabulary acquisition for ELL students.
One way to create more differentiation is to give teachers with excellent or superior ratings on the new evaluation system more autonomy to choose PD offerings to best suit their individual needs. However, this choice is only significant if the PD offerings are diverse and clearly connected to classroom practice. Professional development should be aligned with the new observation rubric, and there should be several options for each strand.
Further, CPS should use the power of technology to afford teachers greater flexibility in their PD offerings, perhaps by creating online communities for teachers to share questions and suggestions with their peers or by building a bank of classroom videos so they can watch specific techniques in action.
Finally, PD should be realized as an opportunity to create dialogue between public and high-performing charter schools to share techniques that will benefit all of Chicago’s students.
Maximize the productivity of CPS’s online professional development catalog
CPS University, the district’s online professional development headquarters, has serious problems. Searching for specific classes is cumbersome, the descriptions of the classes and providers are often unclear, and the site design is dated. Small changes to CPSU could greatly increase its productivity. For example, labeling classes according to content or level of experience (like college courses) would make it much easier to find relevant PD. Ratings and post-survey feedback should be made public, essentially turning CPS University into something akin to yelp.com.
In addition to directing teachers to PD that would best meet their individual need, the site would also give teachers a voice in supporting high-quality PD offerings while deterring them from courses that others haven’t found beneficial.
Cultivate teacher leadership and collaboration
Often, it is teacher-leaders in a school who can most effectively diagnose and address teacher needs. CPS and CTU should identify, train, and nurture a class of school-based teacher-leaders--who have consistently earned high evaluation scores--to lead professional development in each school. These leaders should be given the guidance to identify their school’s particular areas of need, research effective solutions, and create systems of communication and trust among their colleagues. They should work cooperatively with their principals and collaborate with teacher-leaders from other schools. Finally, they should be compensated monetarily or with a reduced teaching load in exchange for their leadership.
Establish professional development using an ongoing cohort model
The Consortium on Chicago School Research defines effective PD as a blend of quality pedagogy, exposure to content and frequent participation over time. Unfortunately, a majority of our professional development opportunities are “one-and-done,” standing in stark contrast to the recommendations of research. We need more professional development options that are continuous and cohort-based, allowing the same groups of teachers to meet regularly throughout the year in a professional learning community. In a learning community, teachers build relationships as they learn together, try what they’ve learned in their classrooms, and bring it back to their peers to share experiences, reflect, and recalibrate.
We believe that while PD can be complicated and expensive, it is an essential component of improving teacher practice. We think the suggestions we have outlined will enable teachers to connect innovative strategies and new research into their classroom, thereby ensuring that professional development can succeed in the way that matters the most - raising student achievement.
Source: Catalyst Chicago
The college bubble
Close your eyes and imagine student-loan debt as the proverbial “elephant in the room.” Or dorm room, if you will. This shouldn’t be difficult: More than half of you surely owe, have owed or will owe a balance, perhaps elephant-sized. And who wants to talk about that? Plus, everyone knows what a student dorm looks like. Or at least smells like.
Anyway, picture in your mind this cramped Sacramento State or UC Davis dorm: Is your Dumbo freshly bathed and in good shape? A bit unwieldy? Or does your pachyderm just plain stink?
Until recent years, most student debt resembled the first two: nearly trouble-free, paid off in a decade. But a hushed, yet budding contingent of financial experts are worried that excessive borrowing by students without any real credit history is creating America’s next trillion-dollar economic bubble.
Both Forbes magazine and The Economist published “higher-education bubble” stories this year; each made the case that student loans are the next subprime mortgages. And just before the start of this academic year, Moody’s Analytics, a wing of the behemoth Wall Street credit-rating agency, released “Student Lending’s Failing Grade.” This study suggested that tuition hikes, record student debt and unchecked lending are fostering conditions that alarmingly parallel the real-estate bubble and bust of the 2000s.
“Fears of a bubble in educational spending are not without merit,” Moody’s warned.
And, even if this is premature, everyone agrees the country is in a higher-education crisis that will surely get a lot worse. As UC Davis director of financial aid Katy Maloney told SN&R last week: “The state’s such a mess, the federal government’s such a mess, it does make you scared about a lot of things.”
Maloney is quick to report, however, that most UC Davis grads exit with “quite manageable” debt obligations. Plus, grant money is on the up. And paying off student loans is easier than ever, in theory, because of new Obama administration income-based repayment programs.
But this fall’s Super Congress—the unusual supercommittee of 12 lawmakers who will weigh heavily on the fate of higher ed in America—and its $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts, could further cripple higher education. And, ominously, it’s not uncommon now to hear people question the value of a college degree.
“There’s a kind of backlash conversation arising nationally,” observes Nancy Shulock, of Sacramento-based Institute of Higher Education Leadership & Policy. She calls this “dangerous”—the last thing society needs is people doubting higher education—but it’s hard, she adds, “because the economy is in such a bad shape. And almost everyone knows a college graduate flipping burgers.”
Meanwhile, leaders don’t have answers. So governments will remain broke; tuitions invariably will surge; and student borrowing, defaults, forbearances and deferments will rise.
And there’s also the small fact that earning a college degree no longer guarantees a well-paying job. Or a job at all. Just ask the estimated 34 percent unemployed recent U.S. graduates, a growing legion nearly three-times larger than the overall jobless. Or the thousands of students who borrowed thousands in private and federal loans, only to never graduate, due to hardship, cutbacks, whatever.
Their debt is an elephant for life: In 2005, the Bush administration passed a law disallowing bankruptcy on student loans. Now Uncle Sam will garnish wages, tax returns and even Social Security checks to get paid. And, as one national financial aid expert told SN&R, “a third of college graduates will be paying back their loans when their children go to college.”
They say the only thing more expensive than a college education is not getting one. Will they be saying this 10 years from now?
Inside the numbers
It’s minutes before 9 a.m. on the first Monday of UC Davis’ school year. Inside a newish building dressed in wooden shingles and vertical glass windows, a trio of undergrads queues at a financial-aid office window, waiting for an employee to roll it open. The line across the quad at the UC Davis Coffeehouse is nearly 10 times as long. But by 11 a.m., financial aid wins: longer, but quieter and not as caffeinated.
On the second floor is financial-aid director Katy Maloney’s office. She’s worked for the university since 1989 and, while her job isn’t Stand and Deliver glamorous, she keeps the wheels turning so that the approximately 61 percent of undergrads who received grants and 47 percent who took out loans can pay for their education.
But what’s really interesting about Maloney is how tuned in she is to the truth and fiction of all that’s good and bad with higher education in Davis, the Sacramento area, California and the nation.
For starters, the director—who espouses both a sympathy for student needs but also a tough-love ethos—is quick to point out that UC Davis, and all of the UCs, still dole out more grant money than loans, which is something that can’t be said at more private, public or for-profit colleges nationwide. And that, even during the past three years’ astronomical tuition hikes, “every time they increase the fees, we get more grant money.”
But students also take out more and more loans. Consider the numbers:
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, the totality of outstanding U.S. student-loan debt has grown by 511 percent in just over a decade. This is a rate nearly five-times more rapid than the increase of the national U.S. debt—ahem, tea party—and twice as fast as mortgage and home-equity liability during the same period.
Last year, for the first time ever, the sum of outstanding student-loan debt exceeded that of household credit-card debt, this according to the College Board.
This rise in student debt is mostly attributed to tuition hikes and fees, which during the past decade have nearly doubled, outpacing inflation for all sectors, including health care. In fact, student debt is now a 10-figure number: The entirety of outstanding national student-loan obligation will reach $1 trillion by Christmas this year.
And still more people keep going to school: Some 70 percent of high-school graduates enroll in community or four-year colleges, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest data. This in addition to more adults going back to school than ever; students between the ages of 50 and 64 who enroll have grown by nearly 20 percent since 2007.
So what happens if this trend continues for another five, 10, 20 years? Is that “college bubble” territory?
“I don’t dwell on it too much, but I could see that happening,” UCD’s Maloney explains. “As far as if it keeps on going. I could see families [saying] ‘I can see how it’s not worth it.’ If it does continue, and people end up using loans, can’t get jobs, can’t pay it back, it’s going to be bad.”How bubbles go ‘pop!’
Mark Kantrowitz is the guy to talk to if you need help paying for college. The oft-quoted, Pittsburgh, Penn.-based financial-aid expert, who operates www.finaid.org, told SN&R last week that, while tuition is up and a degree doesn’t guarantee a job per se, the so-called “college bubble” isn’t quite fully formed.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re at a bubble yet,” he argued. “But we’re definitely headed to a place with decreased college affordability. And, 10 years from now, we’re heading to a place where we’ll have more students with more problems.” Problems such as more loan defaults and delinquencies.
To have an actual economic bubble, Kantrowitz says you need: 1. an excess in liquidity, such as free-flowing, available credit during the housing bubble of the 2000s; and 2. a price of an asset that is disconnected from the true value of an asset, such as home prices during this same period.
“And the bubble bursts,” he says, “when liquidity is gone.”
The catch is that a college degree isn’t a hard-and-fast asset like a home or a dot-com business or a currency. How do you place a value on it?
Yet analysts, such as those at credit-rating agency Moody’s or PayPal founder and hedge-fund speculator Peter Thiel, still say a bubble and a burst is exactly what will happen to higher education. Here’s how:
Demand for student loans is driven by tuition costs, which will remain on the up. Excess liquidity, or credit, exists in the form of student loans, of which demand, too, will increase.
But, as the price of a college degree goes up, its true value lessens due to high unemployment, marginal salary differences between graduates and nongraduates, and more student-loan delinquencies or defaults.
If these nonpayments reach critical mass, loan money invariably tightens up, just like credit during the subprime mortgage crisis.
When liquidity disappears, the college bubble bursts.
This nightmare scenario postulates a textbook of awful repercussions. Ironically, many are the very problems everyone told SN&R this country faces today: underfunded colleges and universities, overpriced tuition, difficulty in affording school for middle- and lower-class students, students paying more than governments, high unemployment.
Students in particular have hopped on board this college-bubble-thesis train. Perhaps this is because it speaks to their frustrations—with personal debt, job prospects—but also because the idea of “predicting the next bubble” can be seen as a rather sexy prophesy. Something cool to blast on about on Facebook.
Anyway, one student in particular did more than just babble: He found the bubble concept so inspiring, he built a website in late 2008, www.studentloanbubble.com. This student, who operates under the prosaic moniker “Student,” called SN&R from a Pittsburg area code last week to explain his take on the theory.
“Universities have access to unbelievably cheap capital,” Student noted, “because they use students. They build buildings and hire faculty, something the state should be paying for. But instead, students take out loans, and from the state, who makes a profit of it.”
This is true: The federal government makes an estimated 15 cents on every dollar it loans to students.
“The student puts the money in, and what you get out of the diploma, or whatever, never materializes,” Student argues. “And tuitions will have to fall at some point.”
Like any good student, though, there are holes in Student’s argument that you could drive a school bus through. And also, like any good grad, his proclivity for such academia-speak as “ad hominem” irks. But still—like Moody’s and Forbes and The Economist—perhaps he, too, is on to something?
Or then again, wasn’t it Moody’s itself, along with its credit-agency contemporary Standard & Poor’s, who triple-A stamped all those bogus subprime-mortgage credit default swaps in the nascent 2000s, arguably the spawn that birthed America’s housing bubble into a potential global catastrophe the first place?
Crisis real and now
No matter what you zero in on in the higher-ed world, it all comes back to state funding vs. student contribution.
“People are concerned that the burden has permanently shifted from the public good to the private good,” explained Sac State assistant professor of public policy and administration Dr. Su Jin Jez.
It’s more than a concern: This year, for the first time ever, students will pay more into the UC system than the state of California from its general fund.
And the state’s impasse makes it difficult to even look forward. “I feel like the past how-many years makes me not want to make guesses about the future,” she explained. “I think we see right now people are questioning the value of higher education.” And that’s the tragedy: “There’s no reason you should question going to college.”
Also on Sac State’s campus, Nancy Shulock, who works as executive director of the Institute for Higher Education Leadership and Policy, can at least put her thumb on a silver lining: “A good byproduct of people asking that question” is that something finally might get done.
For instance Shulock, who just last week unveiled a report looking at the so-called “policy drift” in California leadership, thinks the “onus now is really going to be on the colleges to better structure” its system.
This would help, because, at the very least, there are serious equity matters: The state spends two-thirds more on the UC than its community colleges, “the largest such disparity in the nation,” according to Shulock. And Jez notes that the state’s Latino population, which will be the majority soon, is another big elephant in the dorm: “We’re doing a really bad job educating Latinos—this should be a crisis.”
But instead of the state anteing up, the burden is still on student borrowing.
At both Sac State and UCD last year, freshman and first-time student borrowers needed an average of nearly $5,000 in federal student loans, a number that has almost doubled since the beginning of the decade. Sacramentans with student-loan debt carry some of the highest balances in the nation, too, according Moody’s.
The U.S. Department of Education, which released its most recent student-loan default rates this past month, reported that failures to pay were up across the board, at public, private and for-profit institutions (specific data for bachelor degrees at UC Davis and Sac State were unavailable).
Meanwhile, Sac State upped its tuition 23 percent this fall. And just this past month, the UC Regents proposed to increase student tuition by 32 percent over the next four years; they’ve requested the state to pick up half this tab, but no one’s expecting an assist from Gov. Jerry Brown.
And in Washington, the newly minted Super Congress will decide over the next month how to further gut higher-ed funding. On the table includes whether to finance the Pell Grant, which is $1.3 billion underfunded; or preserve higher-ed write-offs such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, or a $2,500 claim on returns. The Budget Control Act of 2011, which was enacted in August, already eliminated subsidized interest loans for graduate students and also prompt payment discounts, which will appease GOP deficit hounds to the tune of a paltry $26 billion over 10 years.Saving our schools
The consensus, for now, is to salvage higher-ed by helping students first.
Northern California-based The Institute for College and Success says one of the first good moves will be to keep large tuition increases off the board, and out of the headlines, even if state funding drops. “Large tuition increases are troubling in part because it signals to students that costs are rising more fast than their ability to pay them,” explained program director Debbie Cochrane. “So kids won’t apply.”
UCD’s Maloney, who laments Congress’ unwillingness to work with President Barack Obama on such pet issues as middle-class education tax write-offs, hopes that relatively new income-based repayment plans will help stave off a spree of loan defaults.
“If you call the government and go, ‘You know what, I can’t pay,’” she explained, “they’ll totally work with you.” But she urges students with unwieldy debt to make that call. “You have to communicate with them; you can’t just run away.”
She also urges the Super Congress to preserve the Pell Grant.
“They keep talking about how they might not want to fund that,” she says, “and that concerns me, because that is a major source for us, and for low-income students.” Maloney estimates that Davis receives $40 million a year via Pell Grants. Without, that “would be devastating.”
FinAid’s Kantrowitz takes the Pell Grant funding debate one step further.
“I’ve been arguing for a long time that Congress should double the maximum Pell Grant” he said. This makes good economic sense: more Americans with bachelors degrees mean more higher-earning jobs, and, subsequently, more income-tax revenue, which will pay for ramped-up grant costs over 10 years.
But right now, he laments, there is no leadership in Congress on higher-ed issues.
“When Sen. [Ted] Kennedy died, he was the last true champion for improvements on student aid.”
Here in Sacramento, it’s a similar story as in D.C., with the state Legislature’s unwillingness to invest in higher education. So universities such as UCD are now publicly working to raise $1 billion from private donors to offset state-funding cuts. This privatization effort, called “The Campaign,” has netted approximately $708 million from more than 83,000 donors since its inception in 2006.
“So, in a way, when people say the UC is privatizing, it’s kind of true,” Maloney says.
Yet going private will never be enough to cover UC Davis’ nearly $2.7 billion in annual operating costs. That’s why the university just revealed its intention to kick-start a dramatic, quick addition of 5,000 students, specifically to increase funds as state contributions decrease.
But more students simply means more students borrowing—which will keep feeding the ever-growing, trillion-dollar elephant in the dorm room. The government won’t lead, the schools keep growing—maybe the burden is on the students to enact some kind of change?
Maloney admires the recent upswing in student action. “I like what I’ve seen in the last few years,” she said, “I’ve seen a lot more protests. … I didn’t see a lot of action or activity before.
“Maybe that will make a difference.”
By the numbers
More students are enrolling in two- and four-year colleges than ever. Yet more students, many with zero or even poor credit history, are taking out student loans, both from the federal government and also private lenders. Meanwhile, the state Legislature and Congress have taken the butcher’s knife to higher-ed funding. Let’s crunch the numbers.
the amount by which student-loan debt has grown in the past decade
of high-school graduates enroll in college
estimated total of outstanding U.S. student-loan debt, in dollars,by year’s end
of individuals between ages of 50 and 64 have returned to college
average student-loan dollar amount borrowed by freshman at UC Davis and Sacramento State
increase in tuition and fees at Sacramento State this year
amount in dollars UC Davis students receive in federal Pell Grants annually
proposed increase of tuition and fees at UC Davis over next four years
dollars saved by Congress from subsidized-student-loan and other higher-ed cuts this past summer
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