Little Rock When it comes to looking at the plight and prospects for students from lower income and working families it is not a matter of “no news is good news,” but all the news is bad news! Let us count just some of the ways….
The Supreme Court kicks affirmative action to the curb and many argue that diversity can be achieved by accelerating the recruitment of students from lower incomes. The record is not good in this areas. In 2011, roughly 75% of the students at the 200 most highly rated colleges came from families in the top quartile of income while only 5% from bottom quartile. That was up from 3% in 1994, but that’s really not much progress in almost 20 years, is it?
No matter. All of the studies indicate that they’re just passing through anyway while the schools wave them in and process them out. 40% of US students start 4 year colleges and haven’t gotten a degree in 6 years. Including 2-year schools more than half don’t get a degree, worse than all industrial countries but Hungary. A lot has to do with income. One-quarter in the bottom half of income won’t have a degree at 24, but 90% in top quarter of family income will finish. Exciting work at the University of Texas indicates that a lot of the failure is rooted in the callousness of administrators, just turn stiling. When an administrator put students from more challenged backgrounds in different, smaller classes, being taught the same exact material by the same professors, they did equally as well as the others without the fear of failure and disregard.
Not that many of the administrators were paying attention to that kind of thing. In an Institute for Policy Studies report, they found that student debt and the number of adjunct professors both grew faster than average at 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents. Topping the list were Ohio State, Penn State, University of Michigan and University of Washington.
Meanwhile for their trouble and dreams, many will mainly just get deeper in debt. Between one-third and one-quarter of student loan borrowers are late on their very first payment. The feds estimate 35% under 30 years old are more than 90-days delinquent. Half of all 25 year olds will have credit reports reflecting student loan problems. And of course the amount of debt can be staggering, as we all know.
It’s hard to tell the predators except by degree, since neither are giving degrees. The Obama administration are cracking back at some of the more predatory for-profit education and training mills that rely on federal student aid for up to 90% of their income by limiting loan payments to no more than 20% of income after expenses or 8% of total earnings. Even those rules seem grossly inadequate according to the Institute for College Access and Success that found 114 of the for-profits had higher loan default rates than graduation rates.
Politicians of all stripes can preach the platitudes of erasing inequalities with education, but the present state of higher educational enterprise seems to be a come-on for low-and-moderate income students for a dream pushing, pocket pilfering shakedown.
The daughter of the founder of Gore-Tex, now heading a rightwing think-less tank, was quoted as saying “I don’t think government should have anything to do with education.” Wow! Governments created public education, mandate attendance, and fund it from pre-K to past college degrees, so they are all over education. Maybe if they would finally force accountability and programs that protect and advance students rather than making them simply grist for the mill and prey for feasting, we would finally have the educational opportunity so often touted and never delivered.