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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.

Learning A New Language Could Be The Thing That Finally Gets You A Raise

The Elite Daily – Helena Negru

“Generation-Y grew up watching the worldwide news and chatting with friends across the globe, which brought us the nickname “globals.” This connected lifestyle made us Millennials feel “at home” everywhere because we are always updated with the local news in India, Milan or Bali. With one click, a Millennial can select a date across the ocean and reserve accommodation in a remote village. This lifestyle made us embrace the world and care for its wellbeing more than other generations. Another benefit of our “global” lifestyle is the ability to adapt to a foreign culture easier and embrace the opportunities to work, study and live abroad.”(more)

Middle-class minorities are most at risk of falling behind on student loans, report says

The Washington Post – Danielle Douglas-Gabriel

“Middle-class African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately falling behind on student loan payments, signaling that higher education is failing to ward off financial instability for minorities, according to newly released data. Researchers at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth analyzed delinquency rates, average loan balances and median income at a Zip-code level and found higher numbers of past-due student loans in predominantly African American and Hispanic communities…“These data tell us that debt-financed higher education is not the solution to racial inequality, since it doesn’t overcome longstanding economic disparities. It may even be contributing to the problem,” said Marshall Steinbaum, a research economist…”(more)

China cuts tax to boost innovation

China Daily- XINHUA

“BEIJING — China cuts more than 300 billion yuan ($46.15 billion) of taxes in 2015 to boost mass entrepreneurship and innovation, according to official data.
Among this, tax exemptions and breaks on small enterprises reached 100 billion yuan and tax cuts designed to encourage high technology development totaled 140 billion yuan, according to the State Administration of Taxation.”(more)

Education Does Reduce Inequality

The Wall Street Journal – Dan Greenstein and Jamie Merisotis

“In recent months some of the leading economic minds in the country have declared that when it comes to explaining rising inequality, education doesn’t matter. Larry Summers, former Treasury secretary and former president of Harvard, said at the National Press Club in February that it’s an “evasion” to suggest education and training as a solution to inequality. “The core problem is that there aren’t enough jobs,” Mr. Summers said. “If you help some people, you could help them get the jobs, but then someone else won’t get the jobs.” Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, piled on a few days later: “Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.” We could use stronger rhetoric, but let’s say it this way: nonsense. Education remains the chief American institution that promotes economic and social mobility for poor and disadvantaged citizens. It’s not an evasion; it’s the direct answer to the question of what the nation needs to improve its talent pool and improve economic opportunity and social equality.”(more)

Brainomics: How Improving Brain Health Impacts the Economy

The Huffington Post – Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D.

“A new study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth finds that closing the education gap would increase economic growth and reduce economic inequality. It sounds great, but is it really that simple? I think so — I believe the brain is the most significant path to raise the standard of living, not just nationally, but globally…The study suggests several public policy strategies to close socio-economic gaps that affect academic performance, including greater investment in early childhood care and education, criminal justice reform and family-friendly workplaces. However, there is another area crucial to educational achievement and life success: cognitive development and brain health. This area of science is concerned with the health and development of a child’s brain and how that is impacted by his or her external environment…The Washington Center study — correctly — notes the importance of early childhood education in closing achievement gaps. However, new scientific evidence shows there is another window of opportunity for gains: in middle school. Rapid frontal lobe development and pruning during adolescence makes middle school the perfect time to positively impact cognitive brain health.”(more)