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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.

How Being Multilingual Can Affect Your Financial Future

Odyssey – Serena Hajjar

“With growing interdependence among countries, multilingualism is becoming an increasingly important asset, especially in the workplace. Today, the most prosperous economies in the world are driven by open- and free-trade principles. This requires constant interaction with people from all around the world, people from vastly different cultures. To successfully participate in this globalized economy, it’s important to recognize that not everyone will speak your language (that would be a rather pretentious assumption)…the law of supply and demand plays a significant role in determining the economic value of various languages…to maximize your earning potential, learn a language which is in high demand, but low supply.”(more)

Promising practices: Creating a STEM workforce for all

SmartBlog on Education – Melissa Greenwood

“The future is bright for careers in science, technology, engineering and math…Research shows STEM will continue permeating many areas of the future world of work, and we hope the culture is one in which individuals — regardless of socioeconomics, gender, skin color or disability — have equal opportunities for success. But there are roadblocks to participation for some groups…SmartBrief Education gathered a group of experts for the Equity in STEM: Taking the Challenge to Build an Inclusive Workforce event to discuss ways to remove some of these roadblocks and build inclusive pathways to STEM careers. The panelists highlighted strategies to help bridge the gap among underrepresented populations, including girls and individuals with disabilities…Keep reading for a deep dive into these — and other — ideas that businesses, educators and others can begin using today to help build the inclusive STEM workforce of tomorrow.”(more)

Next steps for building an inclusive STEM workforce

SmartBlog on Education – Mina Dixon

“What will it take to ignite a student’s interest in a science, technology, engineering or math field? And how can stakeholders encourage women – who make up close to 50% of the US workforce, but comprise less than 25% of the STEM labor pool, data suggest –to pursue these 21st-century jobs? Strategies to build a representative workforce include early access to STEM education, role models and real-world relevance, according to Kathy Hurley, CEO and co-founder of Girls Thinking Global…Good programs that are working to bridge the STEM gender gap often share common characteristics, Hurley suggested. They avoid jargon and highlight how STEM concepts are used to address global issues.”(more)

Teachers Matter, Study Says, But Influence is Hard to Pin Down

Education News – Kristin Decarr

“New research from Brown University has taken a closer look at the importance of the role teachers play in affecting student achievement and other non-cognitive skills that help students succeed later in life — but admits that we don’t know how much. The paper, “Teaching for Tomorrow’s Economy? Teacher Effects on Complex Cognitive Skills and Social-Emotional Competencies,” notes that “the degree to which teachers are developing students’ abilities to apply knowledge in new contexts, learn on the job, and solve unstructured tasks through a combination of creativity, adaptability, and sustained effort remains an open question.” Researchers say this is due to teacher evaluations being largely dependent on student test scores. Doing so does not allow for an adequate picture of how these teachers are affecting student performance on cognitive measures needed to succeed in today’s workforce, they say.”(more)