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US student debt tops $1.31 trillion: Does Betsy DeVos have a plan?

The Christian Science Monitor – Mengqi Sun

“Student loans were the leading cause for a substantial increase in household debt last year, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Thursday. While the high balance of US student debt is not news anymore, the new record-high $1.31 trillion balance, up 2.4 percent in the fourth quarter, is another reminder of the severity of a problem that has cast a shadow over the nation in recent years.”(more)

Opposing Perspectives on Student Debt

Education Next – Jason D. Delisle

“Two new books offer opposing views on college affordability and the student debt crisis. In Paying the Price, Temple University sociologist Sara Goldrick-Rab concludes that “the lesson from today’s student debt crisis … is that college is unaffordable.” Beth Akers and Matthew Chingos disagree, contending that there is no student loan crisis. The two D.C. researchers pore over the data and find, in Game of Loans, that college prices and student debt loads are more affordable than the dominant political narrative would have us believe. Some readers might be tempted to read only one of these books—whichever one aligns with their prior beliefs. But those who read both volumes will be rewarded. Game of Loans and Paying the Price take different approaches to their subjects. In the former, the authors use high-level statistics and careful logic to diffuse the rhetoric surrounding student debt; in the latter, the author argues that the rhetoric is justified as she documents students’ personal struggles to pay for college. Despite the contrasting styles and perspectives, there’s some common ground between the two that could inform future financial-aid reform.”(more)

Trying to Solve a Bigger Math Problem

The New York Times – Emily Hanford

“Algebra is clearly a stumbling block for many incoming college students. Nearly 60 percent of community college students end up in remedial math — that’s more than double the number in remedial English. Four-year public colleges are not far behind. According to government studies, 40 percent of their incoming students take at least one remedial class; 33 percent are in math. One explanation is obvious: limited academic preparation. Another is that much of the community college population is older, and rusty at factoring quadratics and finding inverse functions. Less obvious is that students end up in remediation who don’t need to be there.”(more)

Most colleges enroll many students who aren’t prepared for higher education

The Hechinger Report – Sarah Butrymowicz

“The vast majority of public two- and four-year colleges report enrolling students – more than half a million of them–who are not ready for college-level work, a Hechinger Report investigation of 44 states has found. The numbers reveal a glaring gap in the nation’s education system: A high school diploma, no matter how recently earned, doesn’t guarantee that students are prepared for college courses. Higher education institutions across the country are forced to spend time, money and energy to solve this disconnect. They must determine who’s not ready for college and attempt to get those students up to speed as quickly as possible, or risk losing them altogether.”(more)

The Top 10 Higher Education Issues We All Agree On

Forbes – Ama Nyamekye

“It’s easy to see how extreme partisanship could extend beyond for-profit colleges into core higher education. Raucous debates about immigration and freedom of speech are highly relevant to colleges and universities. So as we witness today’s inauguration of President Trump, it’s important to recognize that the many challenges and opportunities facing higher education lend themselves to bipartisan consensus – perhaps more than any other area of public policy. Because areas of agreement in higher education far exceed areas of disagreement, both sides of the aisle ought to be able to support a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that will materially improve outcomes – particularly for the nearly half of working adults (and especially young adults) who feel that no matter what they do, they’re unable to get ahead and, in fact, are falling behind, and whom traditional colleges and universities are not adequately serving. One area of agreement is that rankings are far too important in setting direction for America’s colleges and universities. To draw attention to this fact (and, cravenly, to draw rankings-obsessed readers), what follows is a ranking of what we all agree on as President Trump takes office.”(more)

The pay gap between college grads and everyone else is now wider than ever

The Denver Post – Christopher S. Rugaber

“Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record. The growing disparity has become a source of frustration for millions of Americans worried that they — and their children — are losing economic ground. College graduates, on average, earned 56 percent more than high school grads in 2015, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute. That was up from 51 percent in 1999 and is the largest such gap in EPI’s figures dating to 1973.”(more)