Posts published in October, 2015

Students Should Work For Free Tuition

“Free” has been the higher education buzzword of the year, as Democrats have proposed a range of plans to infuse billions of federal dollars into public institutions to lower tuition to zero or close to zero, Inside Higher Ed reports. But as politicians pitch debt-free and tuition-free college, some are also pushing another narrative: that they expect students to work in exchange for those new benefits. (real clear education)

Model Local Partnership For College Transition Support

Long Beach Promise Expands

Ashley A. Smith, Los Angeles Daily News

For the last seven years, Long Beach, Calif., has worked to develop a path from the earliest levels of public school to college by establishing a partnership among its city government, state university, community college and K-12 systems.

That partnership — the Long Beach College Promise — has been successful in increasing access to college for the city’s students and was one of the examples for the Obama administration’s America College Promise, which plans to provide two years of free tuition to community college students.

And the administrators for the Long Beach program only expect to see more success. On Thursday, officials announced hat the initiative would expand from offering one tuition-free semester at Long Beach City College to a full year. The tuition is funded by donations to the Long Beach City College Foundation, which saves about $600 for each participating student a semester.

“We’ll continue to push to provide as much access to our local students as possible,” said Eloy Oakley, superintendent president of Long Beach City College, adding that officials hope to set an example for a future statewide program.

He also expects to see more students taking advantage of going to college now that the program has been extended at the community college. Students in the Promise program can also receive preferred admissions to California State University at Long Beach.

Since 2008, nearly 12,000 Long Beach students have received one free semester at the college. Of the Long Beach public high school seniors who attend a community college, 77 percent enroll at Long Beach City College. And 1,700 students took advantage of the free semester this past fall, Oakley said.

“We’ve long been fans of the Long Beach College Promise. As President Obama was putting together the initial proposal, we looked to Long Beach as a model, and Long Beach continues to inform the administration around priorities of America’s College Promise as we work with Congress on passage of America’s College Promise Act,” said Ted Mitchell, U.S. under secretary of education, in a phone call with reporters about the expansion. “What has been truly astounding has been the community action taking place in Long Beach and states like Oregon and certainly Tennessee, where communities are coming together and saying they’re not going to wait for Congress to act.”

In Indiana this week, Shelby County became the first in the state to provide free community college to qualified students from the area to attend Ivy Tech Community College. The program is called Advantage Shelby County.

Oakley serves on one of the committees that is part of the White House’s recently announced independent coalition –College Promise Advisory Board — which is being led by Jill Biden, a community college professor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden. The group is working to spread the free community college message across the country to either start or boost programs like the one at Long Beach.

“This is a model that should be replicated. We do it in Long Beach and people think it’s business as usual and don’t understand how special it is,” said Jane Conoley, president of Cal State Long Beach.

Already other cities in California, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento, are using Long Beach College Promise as a starting point for developing similar partnerships. Oakley said he looks forward to a potential California Promise program emerging.

Despite the program’s success, challenges remain. Oakley said even with the prospect of at least some tuition free, the college has struggled with getting students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. He believes simplifying the FAFSA would alleviate much of that problem.

The Broken Record of Student Debt


by Dr. Watson Scott Swail, President & CEO, Educational Policy Institute

I recently read an article by Mitchell Weiss of in USA Today titled “Student Loan Debt: America’s Next Big Crisis.” Weiss points out that the percentage of delinquent student loans rose from 11.1 percent to 11.5 percent between the first two quarters in 2015. On the surface, that doesn’t sound like much. But given that there are $1.19 billion in student loans, that amounts for approximately $137 million in delinquent loans in the second quarter of 2015. Weiss also notes that past due student loan debts account for one third of all “seriously past-due debt payments” in the United States.

That’s huge.


I’ve written about the financial strain put on recent retirees due to either their own student loan debt or their children’s or even grandchildren’s debt. The impact on taxpayers, social security, and other government support programs is immense and will loom even larger. Just recently I wrote about Lumina Foundation’s new report on affordability, and previously I have spoken out against Bernie Sanders and others who have their new plans for making college free. My conclusion has remained the same: they’re talking about the wrong end of the equation by ignoring the costs of higher education (read the August 19, 2015 Swail Letter).

Mitchell Weiss suggests that all loans be restructured to make payments more manageable. This is helpful but does not get at the growing issue of the expensive of higher education.

I am not a proponent of free tuition programs. I believe in affordability, but everyone should take some of the burden of the cost of a higher education. To do so, we have a responsibility to first reduce the cost of higher education, and second, determine better, more responsible ways for students and families to pay their responsible piece of the cost.

Ultimately, once we can agree on a fair level of payment on behalf of students, which is what Lumina is trying to get around, we have to look more seriously at income-contingent loans (ICLs). Used for years in other countries, and even offered as a vehicle for the US Department of Education, it never took root here for a variety of reasons. Financial experts and economists don’t like them because they are akin to a credit card company calling you to extend your payments. This makes the monthly more affordable but it also increases your interest payments, leading to tens of thousands of dollars in extra debt for high debtors. The same thing goes for auto dealers pushing people to 84 month loans now. Only a few decades ago the maximum auto loan term was for 36 months. Now the typical is 72 and is pushing longer. The same is happening in the mortgage industry where the typical mortgage term is 30 years. But only a decade or so ago is was a 25-year term. now shows 40- and 50-year mortgages.

To make the ICL more fair than the examples above, there typically is a sunset on total debt. The current US ICL has a loan sunset of 25 years, such that if the borrower has been unable to pay off the total during that period, the loan is forgiven in full. This is the primary difference between a car or mortgage company program and a government-subsidized program: the former never stops compounding interest, while the student ICL forgives at some point.

Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact proposal would significantly reduce student debt for those attending public institutions by eliminating the need for loans. To do this, she would provide approximately $175 million in grants to states that, in effect, make up for the reduced fees from loan-based tuition fees. There is, however, a catch for state institutions: they have to show they can contain costs and increase higher education funding over time. Thus, states cannot bait and switch with federal money. To receive it, they’ll have to continue to make progress on their funding and system performance.

The second part of the Clinton proposal is to reduce interest rates and cut the ICL term from 25 to 20 years, further expanding affordability to students who have already incurred student debt and those that still will at private institutions.

The reality is we have to do something about student debt, and to do that appropriately we have to think more about cost drivers in higher education as well as the looming question of the linkage between higher education and the workforce and the relative cost of teaching and learning beyond high school.


Things to think about when choosing a college

By Melissa Burns


It is not always easy to make a decision, however it may become simple as soon as you know all the pros and cons. Choosing the university to study at and your future career one should keep in mind the following criteria:

What to study

Make an honest confession to yourself what subject/activity/field you like the most. This is a starting point on your way to success. When you choose what you like, you will be satisfied, motivated, inspired and full of positive energy. Try to understand what is your real passion and calling. Complete some career tests to know yourself and your skills better. After a test you may do a research of the best universities specializing in this or that field. Liaise with the students so they may give you a piece of advice how their study really is. Although it is cool to study at a top tier university, try to rely on your own financial side too.

Where to study

Now is the time for choosing the right university. Your new life period will differ from the one you had at high school – new environment, new studying system, new place. University location is significant too. Still, central universities have a great infrastructure, additional libraries, courses, part-time job. On the other hand, there are also a lot of places for fun like bars and night clubs that are less in a small city, anyway it is up to you how to balance between studying and relaxing time for the successful graduation from the university.



To cover your accommodation, living expenses and tuition fees you should ask the administration of the university or find the information just on its site about Scholarships and Student Finance. It is vital the way you present the information in an application. You may follow the link on some tips for Scholarship Application. It is a special procedure specific for each university, still has some common characteristics. Find some pieces of advice on living expenses in different countries here Student Finance.

Living Abroad

If you are excited about any other culture or want to study different languages, you can go abroad. You will be completely immersed into a foreign environment and culture there. Before exploring a new country, one should get familiar with its traditions, rules and cuisine. That is a great opportunity to travel while you are still a student. You will definitely make new friends there and be happy with your new experience!


Before graduate from the university, try to get a real practice when you are still a student. Find an internship or apprenticeship and go after it, you will already have a work experience that is essential to move on. Learn how to create an outstanding CV, how to work with a team and improve your writing with blogging. Find a lot of the job searching sites and apply. Do not expect that companies are just waiting till your graduation. Be active, interrogate with many people, take part in exhibitions and be optimistic and confident. Also, you can work part time like at different pubs or restaurants or even a cleaning company like SYK End of Tenancy Cleaning that may not be connected to your major but still they will pay you.

So, making an important step in your future life is not that complicated when you think over all the issues connected to university studying. Just remember one thing – whatever you choose, it should inspire you!

Author’s bio:

Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she  is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education

Why Congress Should No Kill Oldest Student Aid Program

From New America Foundation

The federal government’s oldest grant program that helps low-income students gain access to college may be on the chopping block.

No, I’m not talking about the Pell Grant program, which is the government’s primary source of aid for financially needy students. I’m referring toSupplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which go first to Pell Grant recipients who need more money to pay for college and then to other students who have “exceptional” financial need. Unlike Pell Grants, which are awarded directly to students, SEOG funds are distributed to colleges, which add their own institutional aid dollars to the program and then award the money to students.

As Congress begins work on renewing the Higher Education Act, the law that governs federal student aid programs, key lawmakers have called foreliminating the SEOG program as part of a broader effort to simplify the government’s financial aid system. They say that the system is too complex, in that it offers multiple, and sometimes redundant, federal grant, loan, work study and tax credit programs to help students pay for college. They argue that the aid programs should be streamlined so there’s only one program in each category. Under this scenario, the one grant program would be Pell Grants, which typically go to students with annual family incomes below $50,000.

It’s not hard to see why these policymakers are taking aim at the SEOG program, which Congress created in 1965 as part of the original Higher Education Act. (For full disclosure, the Education Program at New America proposed eliminating SEOG in this report, which I helped write.) For one thing, the program is exceptionally small. In the 2015 fiscal year, the government spent $733 million on it, compared to the roughly $30 billion it spent on Pell Grants.

For another, the formula that the federal government uses to distribute SEOG funds to schools is outdated, and, as a result, the grants are not well targeted. Elite private colleges receive a disproportionate share of the funding, even though they enroll a much smaller share of low-income students than regional state schools and community colleges. Multiple efforts to make the formula more equitable have met fierce resistance from private college lobbyists andsenators representing states that are home to these exclusive colleges.

But before bidding adieu to the SEOG program, it’s important to note that it has one feature sorely lacking from the Pell Grant program: colleges participating in the program must contribute at least 25 percent of the award amounts. In other words, the program requires colleges to spend a portion of their own institutional aid dollars on need-based aid.

In contrast, the Pell Grant program doesn’t require any similar contribution from colleges. Institutions receive the money with no strings attached. As a result, colleges have no obligation to use Pell Grants to supplement institutional aid they are providing to financially needy students. Instead, many colleges appear to be using the federal money to supplant their own aid, and then shifting their funds to recruit more-affluent students. This is one reason why even after historic increases in Pell Grant funding, the college-going gap between low-income students and their wealthier counterpartsremains as wide as ever. Far too often, low-income students are left no better off.

At a time when colleges are increasingly using institutional aid to chase afterthe “best and brightest” students to rise in the rankings, and affluent students to increase net tuition revenues, it may be counterproductive to kill a program that, in the words of Stetson University president Wendy B. Libby, “leverag[es] hundreds of millions of dollars in student aid from colleges and universities.”

“While simplification that reduces cost and redundancy is welcome, eliminating programs that provide significant amounts of funding from colleges for students is not,” Libby wrote in a column for the Orlando Sentinellast December. “Simplification does not help taxpayers when it leads to increased pressure to raise Pell Grant funding because of cuts to state and institutional aid for low-income students.”

Jon Oberg, a former U.S. Department of Education official and researcher, agrees. “Any simplification must favor programs with a track record rather than conforming to mindless legislative talking points about the desirability of simplification for its own sake,” he told me. “SEOG would be a program into which other programs might be folded, not the other way around.”

Oberg, who has spent many years analyzing federal student aid programs, has long argued that the SEOG program provides a better model for supporting low-income students than Pell Grants. “Empirical evidence shows that, for the lower-income population, increases in SEOG are associated with more support from state and institutional matching sources, whereas increases in Pell are associated with less support from states and institutions,” Oberg said. “SEOG, therefore, gives more bang for the federal buck and provides incentives for states and institutions to keep up their investments in this population.”

If Oberg had his druthers, Congress would significantly expand the SEOG program. To finance the increases, he would eliminate tuition tax-break programs, like the American Opportunity Tax Credits program, which do little to help low-income students gain access to college, and he would stop providing Pell Grants to students to attend for-profit colleges, many of which have been caught up in scandal.

In addition to growing the SEOG program, he’d overhaul it so that grants from the program “would more closely follow financial need.” In other words, schools like Harvard, which educate a fairly small number of low-income students, would no longer receive a disproportionate share of the money.

Oberg would also require colleges that participate in the program to use the additional funding to reduce the debt burden of low-income students on their campuses. Schools failing to meet this requirement would risk losing eligibility for federal student aid programs.

Lawmakers should consider Oberg’s proposal. It may not simplify the federal student aid programs, but it would likely make them work better. And shouldn’t the ultimate aim of student aid reform be to make the programs more effectiv

Aligning K-12 and Postsecondary With WorkForce Needs And Pathways

Policymakers and educators alike want students to land good jobs once they graduate from high school or college. But are students prepared for the careers that are in demand? And is the coursework offered in high school or college aligned with today’s jobs?

A new report from Education Commission of the States, Aligning K-12 and postsecondary career pathways with workforce needs, examines the policy efforts in 13 states to improve alignment between high school and postsecondary career/technical education (CTE) programs and workforce needs.

“It is critical to prepare students for high-skill, high-demand jobs,” said Jennifer Zinth, director of High School and STEM at Education Commission of the States. “To help with that process, policymakers should consider ways to improve alignment between high school and postsecondary CTE programs, and ensure that both high school and postsecondary programs truly address current or anticipated workforce needs.”

A chart allows for an easy way to compare and contrast approaches to policymaking activity from the 13 highlighted states.

Some important takeaways from this report: 

  • Some states, including Colorado and Illinois, have taken a statewide approach, creating or assigning an existing state-level entity to develop or revise career pathways.
  • Other states such as Louisiana are encouraging or requiring the creation of regional partnerships of K-12, postsecondary and business/industry partners to better align career pathways with workforce needs.
  • California is a state that has created one or more competitive grant programs to support local alignment initiative. Other states have made an appropriation to one or more statewide entities to finance such efforts.

For questions, contact Education Commission of the States Communications Specialist Brady Delander at or (303) 299.3622. 

Why More Governmental Reform Of K-12 Than Higher Education?

By Michael W. Kirst and Will Doyle

Education reform in the United States in the last half-century has been overwhelmingly focused on K-12 education. Educators in primary and secondary schools have gone from a tradition of relative autonomy to the point where the impact of local, state and federal policy initiatives can be observed in most every classroom in most every public school in the country. In contract, while higher education has undergone policy reforms, the impact of these reforms has not been nearly so far-reaching. Since public opinion has been shown to be a driver of policy change in other areas, we review trends in public opinion regarding how the public views K-12 education and higher education. The evidence we review shows that the public has long been more critical of K-12 than higher education, and has only recently begun to question the value of a college education. K-12 is now in an era where there are two main bottom lines: improving classroom instruction and increasing student achievement. K-12 policy has shifted from primary concern with adults, who are employees of school systems, to outcomes for children. State funding for higher education appears to be on a downward trend. The federal government finds itself in the same situation, unable in particular to keep up with the rapidly increasing costs of higher education. Instead, policymakers find themselves in the paradoxical position of needing higher education more – due to the increased importance of a college degree – and being less able to directly control the system of higher education (Zumeta, 2012). Our view is that most of the action regarding accountability for higher education has been in the form of what Tyack and Cuban term “policy talk” (Tyack, 1991; Tyack and Cuban, 1997)

A prime cause for lack of comparative governmental reform of higher education is that public concern about – and disapproval of K-12 education – is much greater than concern about postsecondary education. For decades, the annual K-12 Gallup poll gives schools in a state or nation a C-, while a 2001 poll demonstrated that the public gives higher education a B/B+ (Gallup and Immerwahr, 2001). [1] Without this aroused public, postsecondary education reforms did not attract much political momentum in the past 20 years. Generally the public supports higher education and does not demand reform. Instead, the public seeks greater access and affordability to colleges and universities. (Immerwahr and Johnson, 2007; Immerwahr, 2004, 2000, 1999b).

Immerwahr (1999a) highlights the key differences in public opinion regarding K-12 education and higher education. First, the public knows more about K12 education, and relatively little about higher education. Second, the public tends to view the quality of K-12 education as problematic, and higher education as being of very high quality. Third, the public generally understands that K-12 is paid for through tax dollars, while there does not appear to be broad public awareness that public colleges and universities also receive state support. Instead, most people think that higher education (even public higher education) is funded primarily by tuition (Immerwahr, 1999a). Given that most people don’t know how these institutions of higher education work, there is unlikely to be consensus on policy changes for this sector.

One of the most important findings for the reform of higher education, particularly in the area of college success, has to do with the public’s perceptions regarding responsibilities for educational success. Immerwahf (1999a) reported that 75% of Americans say that almost all K-12 students can learn and succeed in school given enough help and attention. But for higher education, the story is quite different:

With virtual unanimity (91% to 7%) people think that the benefit of a college education depends              on how much effort the student puts into it as opposed to the quality of the college that student   is attending…when it comes to college, the public blames the problems on the  student consumer rather than on the higher education producer (Immerwahf, 1999 p. 10).

A crucial reason for a fundamental shift to enlarged state education control is the widespread of loss of confidence in local K-12 educators and their communities.

[1] For many years of polls see

Are Community Colleges Ready For Free Tuition?

Report questions free community college 
A new report argues that community colleges aren’t ready for the consequences of providing “free” tuition until they provide intensive counseling and “emulate” the for-profit college sector with relevant course work and internships. (Inside Higher Ed, Sept. 28)source:ECS

College Readiness Subgroup Gaps Pervasive In Best Suburbs

 By Michel J Petrilli  Fordham Foundation     What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all its children. – John Dewey

The intuitive appeal of this oft-quoted maxim is obvious. It speaks to the conviction that all of the children in a community or a country are “our kids” and that we should want the very best for them just as we do for our own flesh and blood.

Taken literally, however, it is also problematic, for it equates “sameness” with “equity.” That’s an error in part because what “the best and wisest parents” want varies—some seek traditional schools, others favor progressive ones, etc.

But it’s also a mistake because children’s needs vary. Kids growing up in poverty and fragile families, and dysfunctional communities need a whole lot more than kids living with affluence and stability. And when it comes to their schools, poor kids may need something a whole lot different. That’s why I’m a big fan of No Excuses charter schools, which are showing great promise for low-income children—even if they might not be a good fit for many of their upper-middle class peers.

All of that’s been on my mind of late as I ponder the plight of the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) outside of Washington, D.C. (My second-grade son is one of its 155,000 students.)

MCPS, to its credit, is a system that’s long been publicly committed to equity. Especially under the decade-long tenure of Jerry Weast, its hard-charging superintendent throughout the 2000s, the district, its schools, and its board were obsessed with addressing achievement gaps. It poured additional resources into its poorest schools—aimed particularly at pre-school programs and smaller classes—earning it plaudits from reform organizations and equity hawks alike.

Yet beyond these targeted investments, the MCPS strategy has been one of Deweyesque sameness. Schools throughout the County use the same curriculum and enjoy the same quality of teachers—teachers who participate in the same professional development experiences.

What’s not the same, however, are the outcomes.

Let’s allow the pictures to speak for themselves. The chart below shows the percentage of MCPS students who met the district’s “college ready” benchmark on either the SAT or ACT this past year. Note that the denominator here represents those students who took at least one of those college-entrance exams.

Source: Table C1, Montgomery County Public Schools, Office of Shared Accountability, SAT Participation and Performance and the Attainment of College Readiness Benchmark Scores for the Class of 2015.

Those proportions—and gaps—are devastating enough. But not all MCPS students take the SAT or ACT; in fact, participation rates vary significantly between racial and income groups. Now let’s look at the proportions using all students as the denominator. (I’m assuming here that everyone who skipped the tests would likely fail to reach “college readiness” benchmarks. That’s probably mostly right, though not totally right. Keep that in mind.)

Source: Table C1, Montgomery County Public Schools, Office of Shared Accountability, SAT Participation and Performance and the Attainment of College Readiness Benchmark Scores for the Class of 2015.

Yes, you are reading that right. Montgomery County is getting just 11 percent of its low-income students to the college-ready level, and fewer than one in five of its minority students. (Low-income students make up about a third of MCPS’s enrollment.) After all of the efforts of Jerry Weast and Joshua Starr. After spending hundreds of millions of extra dollars on pre-school, smaller classes, and all the rest. Eleven percent.

This surely explains the heart-breaking situation at Montgomery College, the county’s enterprising and generally well-regarded community college, where almost 80 percent of students coming straight from high school must take remedial math—and where more than half of students never make it past remediation.

Source: Tables A-13 and A-14, Developmental Education at Montgomery County, Office of Legislative Oversight.

To be sure, “college ready” is a high standard. The SAT, ACT, and NAEP all find that just 30–40 percent of high school graduates nationally meet that mark. And in fairness, MCPS sets an even higher standard for college readiness than the testing organizations do (1650 on the SAT versus 1550, and a 24 on the ACT).

Still, these numbers ought to be causing serious soul-searching on the MCPS school board. They ought to be dominating conversations about who should replace Starr as the next superintendent. They ought to be plastered across the Washington Post’s metro section.

The next superintendent should look at these numbers and develop an urgent and aggressive plan. He or she might start by asking: Is MCPS’s “curriculum 2.0” strong enough? Truly aligned to the Common Core? Might we learn something from the District of Columbia Public Schools and its efforts to create a robust, knowledge-rich curriculum in grades K–12? Might the county get off its high horse and invite D.C.’s best charter schools to set up shop in Langley Park or Wheaton or Gaithersburg? Are we doing enough to provide career- and technical-education opportunities to our young people, especially since we’re not doing enough to get everyone ready for college?

The search committee for the next superintendent might ask themselves: Why not try to poach Kaya Henderson from DCPS? Or Susan Schaeffler from KIPP DC? Or consider experienced reformer Jean-Claude Brizard, who lives just across the line in Northwest, D.C.?

The one thing they—and we—shouldn’t do is remain complacent.


Montgomery County deserves credit for making these data public and for its willingness to wrestle with its achievement gaps. That’s more than can be said about many suburban districts. Now it needs to take the next step and acknowledge that its low-income students may need something strikingly different than its affluent children do. It needs to reject “sameness” and strive for real equity instead. That is, of course, if it believes that many more low-income students than 11 percent could be—and should be—ready for college after thirteen years in its highly-lauded schools.