Monday, April 16, 2012

No Child Left Behind - No Child Left Without Debt


This weekend, I had an email exchange between fellow bloggers - one at Right Michigan and one at the Mackinac Center.  The subject was the cost of college educations.  I referenced this little stunner:

Tuition & Fees*Books & SuppliesRoom & Board**Personal & MiscellaneousTotal Budget
Michigan Residents (In-State)
GRADUATE STUDENTS$18,960$1,192$12,478$4,042$36,672

With college tuition running amok and students graduating with enormous debts [or leaving their parents with enormous debt], perhaps it is time for Michigan to lead the way in low-cost colleges rather than the state continuing to pour money into high-tuition institutions. 
It's fun to cheer on UM or MSU teams, but the reality is that the average undergraduate is not getting that great of a bargain at those major universities in terms of career preparation versus what many smaller colleges can provide... especially in the first two years.  Perhaps a more formalized and accredited "feeder" system of low-cost colleges might be something the state should be pursuing to reduce tuition support costs. 
Any thoughts?
Jack McHugh from the Mackinac Center responded with:

Charles Murray is my guru on college. Here’s his take: 
For Most People, College Is a Waste of TimeBy CHARLES MURRAY

The key point in the article was:
Imagine that America had no system of post-secondary education, and you were a member of a task force assigned to create one from scratch. One of your colleagues submits this proposal: 
First, we will set up a single goal to represent educational success, which will take four years to achieve no matter what is being taught. We will attach an economic reward to it that seldom has anything to do with what has been learned. We will urge large numbers of people who do not possess adequate ability to try to achieve the goal, wait until they have spent a lot of time and money, and then deny it to them. We will stigmatize everyone who doesn't meet the goal. We will call the goal a "BA." 
You would conclude that your colleague was cruel, not to say insane. But that's the system we have in place.
The article's proposed solution:
The solution is not better degrees, but no degrees. Young people entering the job market should have a known, trusted measure of their qualifications they can carry into job interviews. That measure should express what they know, not where they learned it or how long it took them. They need a certification, not a degree. 
No technical barriers stand in the way of evolving toward a system where certification tests would replace the BA. Hundreds of certification tests already exist, for everything from building code inspectors to advanced medical specialties. The problem is a shortage of tests that are nationally accepted, like the CPA exam. 
How is that good?
An educational world based on certification tests would be a better place in many ways, but the overarching benefit is that the line between college and noncollege competencies would be blurred. Hardly any jobs would still have the BA as a requirement for a shot at being hired. Opportunities would be wider and fairer, and the stigma of not having a BA would diminish. 
Most important in an increasingly class-riven America: The demonstration of competency in business administration or European history would, appropriately, take on similarities to the demonstration of competency in cooking or welding. Our obsession with the BA has created a two-tiered entry to adulthood, anointing some for admission to the club and labeling the rest as second-best. 
Here's the reality: Everyone in every occupation starts as an apprentice. Those who are good enough become journeymen. The best become master craftsmen. This is as true of business executives and history professors as of chefs and welders. Getting rid of the BA and replacing it with evidence of competence -- treating post-secondary education as apprenticeships for everyone -- is one way to help us to recognize that common bond. 
I pointed out that there was one problem with the idea of not going to college to prepare for a career... the U.S. has elected to dismantle the non-college route in favor of the NCLB route that supposedly prepares everyone for college.  Perhaps that's why so many former students with useless degrees are taking low-paying administrative jobs just to get something on their resume... and hopefully start to pay off those huge college debts.

Funding Status [source]
Fiscal Year 2002: $12,000,000
Fiscal Year 2003: $11,922,000
Fiscal Year 2004: $11,851,660
Fiscal Year 2005: $11,757,184
Fiscal Year 2006: $ 9,164,430
Fiscal Year 2007: $10,000,000
Fiscal Year 2008: $7,860,000
Fiscal Year 2009: $7,860,000
Fiscal Year 2010: $7,860,000
Fiscal Year 2011: $7,844,280
Now, federal funding to provide such vocational and technical education is at risk. President Obama has instead made it a priority to raise overall academic standards and college graduation rates, and aims to shrink the small amount of federal spending for vocational training in public high schools and community colleges. That aid comes primarily in the form of Perkins grants to states. 
The administration has proposed a 20-percent reduction in its fiscal 2012 budget for career and technical education, to a little more than $1 billion, even as it seeks to increase overall education funding by 11 percent. 
The only real alternative to public schools for career training is profit-making colleges and trade schools, many of which have been criticized for sending students deeply into debt without improving their job prospects. A little more than 1 in 10 students in higher education attend a profit-making institution. [source]

2012 IS HERE


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“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)