Some of the News Fit to Print
ABOUT HIGHER ED
CREDIT HOUR STILL RULES
It’s an understatement of near-epic proportions to say that policy makers and politicians are smitten with Western Governors University’s brand of competency-based learning. After years of slow growth in the wake of its founding (by governors of 18 Western states) in 1997, the nonprofit institution has been embraced (if not hyped) as one possible answer to the challenge of educating more students (especially adults) at a lower cost. The article is in Inside Higher Ed.
WHAT COLLEGE STUDENTS NEED MOST
In July, the interest rate on certain federal student loans will double, to 6.8 percent. Who could want that? Not President Obama or Mitt Romney, both of whom railed against the scheduled increase last week. And not Senate Democrats or House Republicans, who have competing plans for preventing the hike. The only question in Washington seems to be whether the two sides will agree on how to pay for extending the lower rate for a year. We hope they don’t. The editorial is in The Washington Post.
TIME TO RETHINK STUDENT LENDING
Instead of using tax money to fund student loans, let’s use those resources to hire more professors, build more labs, facilitate e-learning, and fund more internships. The federal government could provide matching grants or low-interest loans to the nation’s community colleges, teaming them up with private firms willing to help educate their own future employees. The quid pro quo for business would be input into college curriculums, to ensure that the training meets a real need. The goal should be to increase the supply of higher education, thus making it more affordable so that students in the future don’t need as many loans to attend. College is vital to our children’s financial success, and our economy’s growth depends on a highly educated workforce, but we need to rethink student lending. The editorial is in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
THE IMPERILED PROMISE OF COLLEGE
Frank Bruni writes in The New York Times: Because of levitating costs, college these days is a luxury item. What’s more, it’s a luxury item with newly uncertain returns. Yes, many of the sorts of service-industry jobs now available to people without higher education are less financially rewarding than manufacturing jobs of yore, and so college has in that sense become more imperative. And, yes, college graduates have an unemployment rate half that of people with only high school degrees. But that figure factors in Americans who got their diplomas and first entered the job market decades ago, and it could reflect not just what was studied in college but the already established economic advantages, contacts and temperaments of the kind of people who pursue and stick with higher education.
BIG SHIFTS AHEAD FOR MATH INSTRUCTION
Across the nation, big shifts are afoot as 45 states and thousands of school districts gear up to implement the Common Core standards in mathematics. The standards will change the grade levels at which some content is introduced, push aside other topics altogether to achieve greater depth, and ask students to engage in eight "mathematical practices" to show their understanding, from making sense of problems to reasoning abstractly and constructing viable arguments. The article is in Education Week.
WHEN WASHINGTON FOCUSES ON SCHOOLS
Checker Finn writes in Education Week: With trivial exceptions, Washington does not run schools, employ teachers, buy textbooks, write curriculum, hand out diplomas, or decide who gets promoted to 5th grade. Historically, it has contributed less than 10 percent of national K-12 spending. So its influence on what happens in U.S. schools is indirect and limited. Yet that influence can be profound, albeit not always in a helpful way.
STATES MOVE SLOWLY TOWARD DIGITAL TEXTBOOKS
For all the noise nationally, movement to digital has been slow at the state and district level. Digital textbooks still account for only a small fraction of overall textbook sales. Still, several states have enacted changes in recent years to make it easier for districts to go digital and use free material in the classroom that's available digitally. The article is from Stateline.