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College reality

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

In a few weeks tens of thousands of young Americans will leave home and begin the “college experience”. As they descend on campuses across the country, they will be greeted by impressive buildings, acclaimed alumni, elaborate social functions, and luxury hotel-like accommodations. In addition to getting used to their new “homes”, these newly minted adults will be asked to select majors that prepare them for post college employment.

Interestingly, the university structure and incentives may not always be aligned with what is best for students.

Universities are broken into departments. Each department is responsible for running a profitable business or demonstrating that there is enough demand for its offerings that it would be foolish for the university to close the department. Departments like engineering generally have large research budgets, so they are less concerned about student enrollment than departments like the humanities and social sciences that have fewer research dollars.

As might be expected, the departments with fewest research dollars generally work hardest to convince students to select majors within their purview. Until 15-20 years ago, this model worked well, because it was possible to obtain high quality employment with a wide variety of university degrees.

Technology has improved access to information so much that many jobs related to compiling, organizing, and disseminating information have already been or are being eliminated. Careers that have been hardest hit are law, social sciences, and the humanities.

Since there are fewer job opportunities for people with these degrees, many college graduates find it difficult to procure jobs that pay a premium over what was available to them before they attended college.

This shift creates a dilemma for the parents of a child who did not develop a proclivity for math in high school. Does the parent have the resources to send the child to college so he/she can graduate without debt and go on to a job that he/she most likely could have obtained without attending college? Is it better to consider a high paying trade like plumbing or electricity, rather than expending money on college? Or is it wiser to encourage the child to go to a community college and learn math, so he/she has the skills to obtain a college degree with higher earning potential?

It is a tough decision, but is something that should be discussed before a family blindly spends large sums of money on a college education that does little to improve a child’s long term earning potential.

College may no longer be necessary, high quality K-12 education is

News Herald – Juliann Talkington

Juliann

Even though psychologists have been talking about a lack of correlation between college degrees, course grades, and job performance for decades, most companies continue to rely on these credentials and marks to make hiring decisions.

In the past couple of years, however, a few companies have broken rank. Google, a Fortune 500 technology firm, and Ernst and Young U.K., part of one of the world’s largest accounting firms, have publicly announced they no longer require college degrees for employment.

Google’s chairman said the company is more interested in an applicant’s skills, ability to think in a logical way, work ethic, breadth of experience, public speaking abilities, and creativity. Ernst and Young said they are interested in talented individuals regardless of background.

This transformation is due, in large part, to free access of information through the Internet. Over five years ago Bill Gates, a founder of Microsoft, suggested that traditional university education, especially at fixed-place institutions will no longer be necessary, since most of the content will be available online for free.

The college experience is under additional pressure, because college costs are rising at a rate higher than inflation and a college degree no longer guarantees a solid middle-class income. In fact, the College Risk Report (collegeriskreport.com) suggests that the rate of return on most four-year college degrees is worse than 2-year degrees and in some instances worse than no degree at all.

There is a small group of students who receive full ride scholarships to attend college. For these students, the costs are so low that the four-year degree makes financial sense.

Some people assert that college is an excellent place to make contacts. This may be a valid claim for students who are outgoing and takes advantage of all the clubs, speakers, professors, and research opportunities available at a school, but is probably not the case for most students who meet few people outside their dorms and classes.

Without a traditional college education, strong K-12 schooling is imperative since this will be where kids learn basic skills, hone public speaking abilities, refine creative thinking, and develop logical problem solving capabilities. Work ethic can be developed at school, home or in extra-curricular activities like sports. Breadth of experience can occur at school or through outside clubs and activities.

This new employment paradigm suggests we need to worry more about high quality K-12 education and less about college.

Bill calls for California high schools to award ‘Seal of STEM’ to proficient graduates

Ed Source – Fermin Leal

“California high school graduates who have demonstrated high achievement in a STEM subject — science, technology, engineering and math — would receive a “State Seal of STEM” attached to their diplomas and transcripts, under a bill now before the state Senate. Assembly Bill 2072 aims to encourage more students to pursue studies in STEM by providing a special recognition that colleges and universities could review in the admissions process or that businesses could consider when hiring workers, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, R-Diamond Bar, said in a statement.”(more)

College Graduates Now Make Up Greatest Share of Workforce

Education News – Kristin Decarr

“A recent report from the Georgetown University Center on Education has found that, for the first time, four-year college graduates are making up the majority of the new workforce over those who earn high school diplomas but do not go on to higher education. Researchers found that of the 11.6 million jobs that were created after the recession, 11.5 million were given to people with varying levels of college education. Of that group, 8.5 million jobs went to workers who held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Meanwhile, people with high school diplomas comprised 80,000 jobs during the recovery.”(more)

High School Education Reduces Serious Health Risks Like Dementia

Education World – Nicole Gorman

“A new study further emphasizes the benefits of an education on the human experience…research from the Framingham Heart Study spanning the past four decades indicates that cases of individuals with dementia is on the decline, and that better educated populations are at a decreased risk…Those who had a high school diploma were determined to be less at-risk for both dementia and cardiovascular disease…This is just the latest study to find health benefits in a high school diploma. Last July, researchers from several universities linked a lack of a high school diploma to over a hundred thousand deaths in 2010, finding further evidence of a “strong inverse relationship between educational attainment and adult mortality.””(more)

What It Means That The High School Diploma Is Now A Moving Target

NPR – Anya Kamenetz

“About three months ago, Bill Nelson got an unusual phone call. Nelson oversees data and assessment for the Agua Fria Union High School District in southwest Phoenix, Ariz. The call was from a former student, who left the district back in 2011. He was “not quite a graduate,” Nelson recalls. At the time, the young man had failed part of Arizona’s high school exit exam, called the AIMS. But in 2015, Arizona rescinded the AIMS requirement, and made that retroactive. So this former student was in luck. After Nelson looked up his records, he was able to issue a new transcript and diploma, making the young man eligible for a steady, relatively well-paying job as a miner in Colorado. “He was really very happy,” Nelson says. Which raises a question NPR Ed has been exploring for some time: What does it mean to graduate from high school?.”(more)