The peaceful days of 2016 when eight justices in the U.S. Supreme Court did not take on big issues for fear of a 4-4 deadlock after the death of Conservative icon Justice Antonin Scolia, are now over. This fall the Court will take on some of the country’s and U.S. colleges’ most controversial issues like affirmative action, presidential border powers and maybe even sexual assault accusations on campus.Read More
HSI FUNDING CONTINUES BUT BELOW THE TRUMP RADAR
A few months after taking office, President Trump met with a group of African-American educators to extol Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He promised to increase their funding (so far unfulfilled). There was a lot of hoopla in the press. But other higher education programs serving minorities including Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) have not been highlighted by the Trump administration nor the media. In fact, many in the administration and the press don’t seem to really know about HSIs. They remain under the radar. That may be a good thing. Former Trump CEOs have been known to revel in the hands-off freedom Trump gives them as long as they prosper and stay out of the news. For now, HSIs are thriving. In fact, at this point the number of HSIs are growing at a faster rate than funds are growing to cover them. New specialty medical and STEM HSIs are increasing. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has so far not threatened to cut back on programs serving minorities; she mainly seems to want to diversify and broaden them to include all students. That may mean not only new sources of funding for HSIs but also a wider dispersal of funds to non-Hispanics. But that may not happen – as long as HSIs stay out of the Trump spotlight.
AMERICAN APPRENTICESHIPS NOT LIKE GERMAN
This summer, President Trump’s brightest post-secondary education spotlight has shone on apprenticeship programs. This is not a new idea to many Democrats. “Our model is Germany” Chicago Mayor and former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanual declared in a June address to the National Press Club about education. But, in fact, American apprenticeship programs will probably not be anything like German ones. For one thing in Germany apprenticeships begin at age 15 and cover hundreds of blue and white color careers such as bank tellers. In the U.S. the college vehicle will most likely be our unique community college system with its insistence on new tech, academic certificates and degrees but adjunct professors. The German tradition of retraining and retaining long-term employees and former apprentices is also not the American way.
AS LATINO VOTE FADES FROM NEWS, IMMIGRATION REFORM CHANGES
The silence has become deafening. Two weeks before the Nov. 8 presidential election, TV pundits covering the election campaign rarely failed to mention the significance of the growing Latino Vote that would propel candidate Hillary Clinton to victory. Nuances however were lacking, such as the uneven distribution of the Latino electorate – where in only 10 states, almost all of them in the West, are Latino voters over 10 percent; and its diversity where, unlike the black electorate, some 27-30 percent of Latinos regularly vote Republican. More significantly, almost no one pointed out that close to 50 percent of 2016 potential Latino voters – U.S. citizens over the age of 18 – were millennials known for their ardent support of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, as well as an unreliable pattern of turning out to vote.
Since the election, mention of the Latino Vote in the press is almost non-existent. Perhaps it is now viewed as too defuse. But the silence could impact the politics of immigration reform. Until recently, immigration issues in the United States were seen as being mainly about Latinos– with good and bad consequences. But now the need for Trump’s southern border wall has been challenged by an almost net neutral influx of Mexican crossers. The growing percentage of illegal immigrants (now almost half, increasingly of Asian heritage) who overstay their visas also diminishes the Latino impact. Even more significant, the refugee crisis in Europe has shifted concerns about immigration to refugees from the Middle East and to high skilled workers. As the immigration debate shifts away from Latinos, so may the power of the Latino Vote.
DACA REMAINS, DAPA ENDS, PARENTS IN LIMBO; DREAMERS CONFUSED
There’s a lot of confusion about DACA, DAPA, DREAMers and their and undocumented parents and siblings. Trump engenders confusion it’s true, but even most Congressional representatives are confused about DREAMers. By definition DREAMers are millennials ages 18-32 or so who came into the country illegally before the age of 16; graduated from high school or obtained a GED and have lived in the country without authorization and without committing a serious felony for at last five years. In June of 2012, President Obama ordered a prosecutorial discretion program called DACA (Deferred Action [from deportation] for Childhood Arrivals) for DREAMers who applied and qualified individually. By 2016 more than 700,000 had been given two-year work permits and a second extension on the program.
President Trump announced in June 2017 that he would retain the program – for now. But it does not protect participants from deportation if they have been involved with serious misdemeanors or felonies. And parents of DREAMers (adults who knowingly came into and stayed in the country illegally) were never included. “Undocumented” parents whose children are citizens – naturalized or born in the U.S. – were to be given a waiver under DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans). But that program was stopped before it began by court order and terminated by President Trump this June. The future? DREAMers probably will continue to be used as a political wedge by both parties for piecemeal immigration reform negotiations up to the next election, maybe beyond. •
FUTURE OF HEA, DOE IS “LIMITED” UNDER TRUMP PRESIDENCY
It didn’t go as planned. A panel of national education policy leaders meeting at the National Press Club six days after the presidential election that everyone had assumed Hillary Clinton would win undoubtedly thought they would be discussing the likely bipartisan reauthorization of the HEA (Higher Education Act) sometime in 2017. Instead, the six education experts from left, center and right of the political spectrum sat glumly before a room full of reporters and speculated if the U.S. Department of Education itself and the HEA would survive at all or in skeletal form in the new Trump administration with its Republican dominate House, Senate and Supreme Court the next four years. “It’s a huge thing to eliminate an entire cabinet agency,” the CEO of the American Council on Education Terry Hartle remarked somewhat hopefully. “President Reagan wanted but wasn’t able to do it when the DoE was only two years old. But they could starve it nearly to death as he did.” Increased subsidized student loans, crack-downs on for-profit colleges, and President Obama’s memos protecting DREAMERs and urging Title IX sanctions on colleges without comprehensive sexual harassment policies all could be rescinded. Kevin Carey of New America darkly predicted more protests and violence on college campuses over increased episodes of discrimination. There were some areas of consensus where the panel agreed such as fixing the Plus Loan program under the often cooperative Senate HELP committee leaders Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking member Patty Murray (D-WA) – if she stays on. But not for the entire 1,000-page HEA bill. “It will have to be done step-by-step, in pieces,” said Gerard Robinson of AEI, “like a layer cake.”
IS IT ROMANTIC? RECORD 1 MILION FOREIGN STUDENTS STUDY IN U.S.A.
Isn’t it romantic? State Department and officials of the International Institute of Education were positively bubbling with love as they announced in mid-November that more than one million foreign students were now studying at U.S. colleges on temporary non-immigration visas. Roughly split between undergrad and grad students, 47 percent come from China and India. But three American continental countries also account for the top ten national sources: Canada, Brazil and Mexico. The majority of international students study in public institutions including two-year community colleges where they pay often three times more tuition than state residents. Among the top five host states are California, Texas and Florida where there are also large Hispanic populations. “I don’t think we should romanticize the growing presence of foreign students in the U.S.,” Marcelo Barros of International Advantage told the panel. There is concern about American students being replaced.
ARE “FOR PROFIT” COLLEGES AWFUL OR ABUSED?
Usually an educational policy discussion at a DC think tank does not erupt into a “lively verbal debate.” But it did at the libertarian-oriented CATO Institute in mid-November. Maybe it’s the sign of the times. Probably it’s because Richard Vedar, an outspoken educational policy expert and beloved provocateur, took on the usually soft-spoken former Assistant Secretary of Education Robert Shirer to analyze if America’s many for-profit colleges that have been under attack by the public and private educational establishment for years are truly “awful” or now are “abused.” Shirer argued their “predatory practices” were awful. “They focus on profits for their investors, charge too much, often deliver low quality education and leave students in high debt often without a degree and job prospects.” Shirer seemed to feel it was necessary to take legal action to ban ITT from enrolling new students who use federal financial aid, even though the school claims it prompted the almost overnight closure of the nation-wide technology college. Thousands of students across the country, including a large proportion of Hispanic first-generation college goers, were left suddenly in the lurch. “High costs, high drop out rates, high student debt and low job prospects are common in our nations’ public colleges with their luxurious atriums, climbing walls and gourmet food dining rooms all paid for by (taxpayer) revenue they think come from God,” Veddarargued. “The single focus attacks on for-profits is abuse.”
ELECTION PUNDITS WRONG ABOUT LATINO VOTE: WAS IT THE MILLENNIALS?
Pundits across the political spectrum had predicted the turnout of Hispanic voters would be historic November 8 – at least 13-15 million of the 27 million eligible voters were expected to turn out with some 80 percent or more voting for Hillary. While official Census turnout statistics won’t be known until mid-2017, exit polls show that only about 12 million voted, 29 percent for Trump. The biggest reason the experts got it wrong? Almost all failed to account for the fact that nearly half – 47 percent – of the Latino electorate are Millennials – notoriously unreliable voters and political party loyalists. •
Written by Margaret Orchowski
SECOND LADIES CAN INFLUENCE EDUCATION POLICY
“Every day, President Obama hears about community college challenges because my wife tells me about them when she comes home from work, and I tell the president the next day,” Vice President Joe Biden often has said. It’s clear that Dr. Jill Biden has set a new standard for second ladies of the United States: to have a career and to drive progress in that field thru pillow talk that goes directly to POTUS. It could be that whoever wins the Presidential election November 8 (still unknown at time of writing), the new second lady will be a similar voice for education. Karen Pence, the wife of the Republican VP candidate Mike Pence, was an elementary school teacher for many years. She is particularly interested in art as therapy. In Indiana she founded the First Lady’s Charitable Foundation that instituted art therapy for cancer patients as well as focused on arts education and child literacy in Indiana schools. Democratic VP candidate’s wife Anne Holton Kaine was Virginia’s Secretary of Education, focusing on gender inequality issues including encouraging women to major in STEM fields and to take on leaderships roles, especially in politics—handy if she is to be the first second lady under the first woman U.S. President. As former governors’ wives, both the second lady candidates know how to work in the political world to get things done; nowadays they are expected to be activists—especially in education policy.
CAN THE CONGRESSIONAL ED COM BE A WELCOME BIPARTISAN MODEL?
On July 11, what some people have claimed was an increasing impossibility, actually happened. The Congressional Education Committee passed five education bills, all with bipartisan cosponsors and support. Three were particularly aimed at Hispanic college students. Students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions pursuing careers as physicians, dentists or other health care professionals would be helped by “The Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act” (H.R. 5529) sponsored by Nevada Republican Joe Heck and Texas Democrat Ruben Hinojosa. “The Enhanced Financial Counseling Act” (H.R. 3179), sponsored by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), would expand the timing, frequency and content of federal aid advising. And the “Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act” (H.R. 5528), cosponsored by Reps. Heck and Jared Polis (D-CO), would allow the use of income data from two years prior when applying for financial aid. In a Congress as torn by stubborn partisanship as this one has been, the cooperation came as a surprise to some. But then, it did happen in the home stretch of the 2016 elections season where any sign of positive Congressional actions was a relief for the anxious electorate. This time the Senate may just follow.
DREAMERS INSPIRE SEN. DURBIN TO KEEP TRYING
“When I first proposed in 2001 the idea of granting a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers, my good friend from the other side of the aisle Utah Senator Orin Hatch came to my office and said “Hey Dick, you just stole my idea,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) told a packed audience of law students and immigration specialists at Georgetown Law School in early September. “So we decided to co-sponsor the DREAM Act together. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX), Sen. Ted Kennedy and President George W. Bush all supported the idea. The hearing was to be Sept. 12, 2001. And then 9/11 happened. The immigration debate suddenly became one of national security,” the Senator sighed. Now 16 years later he is still trying. “DREAMers are my inspiration,” he said. “They are the reason I keep running for re-election.”
THE LATINO VOTE IS DIVERSIFYING. THAT’S GOOD NEWS AND MAYBE BAD
The good news is that finally even the media has discovered during the last weeks of the election that the Latino electorate is rich with diversity. Some are finally reporting on the glorious mix of national, cultural, religious, racial and socio-economic backgrounds that are American Latinos. The bad news? It’s complicated and increasingly clear that Latinos do not respond as a bloc to issues and appeals, even in Spanish. Forty-five percent of the Latino electorate are millennials. Marriage between Latinos and Asians is the largest intermarriage trend in America. Latinos are going to diverse colleges and becoming middle class in every state of the union. As the number of Americans with Hispanic heritage increases so will their diversity. The future? Will the Latino vote go the way of the once powerful Italian American vote?—too diverse to count as a bloc?” •
Peggy Sands Orchowski
As important as education is to Hispanic voters, two other issues were identified in the Latino Decisions survey as even more important: “the economy and jobs.”
Both parties recognized these top concerns in their platforms under economic growth and trade. But each party platform had a different emphasis on the issues and a different focus on what needs to be done.
“We are the party of a growing economy that gives everyone an opportunity to learn, work and realize prosperity,” the Republican Party Platform begins. They blamed taxes and too big government. “Government cannot create prosperity: individuals do that through self-discipline, enterprise, savings and investment. But government can limit or destroy these efforts,” the platform states. The Republican policy solution as seen in the platform are: fair and simpler taxes.
“Creating jobs” is one of Trump’s biggest promises. “What are our priorities? Before we build bridges to Mars, let’s make sure the bridges over the Mississippi River aren’t going to fall down,” he said. “Rebuilding America will create 13 million jobs.”
The Democratic platform addresses economic issues not as a tax policy but as a “fight for economic fairness and against inequality” for a “thriving middle class, which is shrinking.” Democrats blamed Wall Street for the rising inequality. “We must make Wall Street work for the job-creating economy by making loans more affordable for small and middle businesses…and making the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.”
“Prosperity is not a zero-sum game. We can create millions of new jobs and raise the minimum wage,” Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro said at the Democratic convention. “Hillary Clinton is working to build an infrastructure of opportunity—a way for Americans to get where they want to go in life: great schools to prepare us for college and career, a strong health care system and an economy where no one who full-time time lives in poverty.”
There was one issue where both parties seemed to agree, however: international trade. The Republican and Democratic Parties’ platforms use almost the same words to make their arguments:
“We need better negotiated trade agreements that put America first…that protect American interests and that don’t limit American access to their markets,” the Republican platform says.
The Democratic platform states: “We need to develop trade policies that support jobs in America…that do not undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment.”
Will trade deals be an area for bipartisan agreement in the next Congress? •
Peggy Sands Orchowski
Republican and Democratic Hispanic delegates, speakers and office holders were clearly visible and heard during the back-to-back Republican and Democratic presidential nominating conventions in July in Cleveland, Ohio, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Both parties’ platforms contained policies of particular interest to Hispanics.
While many of the platform positions reflected media stereotypes, there were surprises as well. The biggest difference in platform policies involved higher education and immigration.
The most audacious Democratic platform proposals are to “make community colleges free” and all college students “debt free” by graduation. “Money and costs should not stand in the way of getting a college degree or credential nor should college debt hold you back when you graduate” the platform states in a separate section “Making Debt Free Colleges a Reality.”
The Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton calls it the “New College Compact.” “Every student should be able to go to college debt free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition.” The call for “bold new investments by federal and states in education (‘investments’ meaning usually revenue raised from taxes or government bonds)” as well as “colleges holding the line on costs.”
This reflects a finding by a comprehensive survey of Latino voter issue priorities by Latino Decisions and the Latino Victory Project presented to the Democratic Convention’s Hispanic Caucus on March 27. “College affordability” was identified to be the top issue of Democratic Latino voters in battleground states: 71 percent,” Matt Barretto the co-founder of Latino Decisions pointed out.
The Republican Party platform’s higher education focus, however, was on the rising costs of college; a subsection of the platform titled College Costs. “The cost of a college education has long been on an unsustainable trajectory” the platform claims. But Republicans strongly believe that government “investments” are not the solution. “The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans but rather private sector participation in student financing should be restored. Regulations that increase college costs must be challenged against its negative economic impact on students.”
The Republican platform on higher education also focuses on perceived increasing violations of First Amendment “freedom of speech” rights violation at U.S. universities. It also addresses what republicans see as the abuse of Title IX to withhold educational funds for “wrongly defined sex discrimination” accusations.
The Democratic platform does not address the campus “political correctness, micro-aggressions and limited free speech” issues that have been the subject of much recent media coverage, however. Instead, they dedicate two subsections on issues of higher education that are of importance to many Hispanic heritage students: “Cracking Down on Predatory For-profit Schools” and “Supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions.”
Closing down for-profit “professional” schools is a tricky issue for Latinos although none of the Democratic delegates addressed the conundrum during the convention. But many Hispanic families find the shorter study times and professional certificates of good for-profits can better fit their needs than a vague bachelor’s degree in a ffour- to six-year college that may not lead to specific professional jobs. The platform promises to strengthen HSIs and restore year-round Pell funding that some democrats have routinely voted against.
It would seem by the extent of media coverage that the biggest presidential election issue of 2016 is immigration. In the Latino Decisions survey it ranked as the second top policy issue for Democratic Battleground Latino voters. But it ranked only eighth (out of nine issues) for Republican Latinos. “Protecting America from Terrorism,” however, was the second highest ranked presidential candidate issues for Hispanic Republican voters and was tied for fifth by Democratic Latinos.
Despite the minute media attention to candidate Trump’s every twist and turn on immigration, however, immigration reform only warranted a few paragraphs in the Republican platform while it took up more than four pages in the Democratic platform.
Under the sections “Government Reform” and “Immigration and the rule of Law” the 2016 GOP platform makes it clear, as it did in 2012, that Republicans consider immigration policy to be about protecting American jobs and national interests and that illegal immigration must be “reduced.” As in 2012, the Trump GOP platform states: “We oppose any form of amnesty” and “consider securing the borders, all ports of entry and enforcing our immigration laws to be our highest priority.” Those include making e-verify a national requirement and sanctioning “sanctuary” cities.
In 2012, a media firestorm centered on the GOP’s platform phrase “will encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.” Democrats labeled it “self deportation.” That phrase is not included in the 2016 platform.
In 2012 also, the platform stated: “The (700 miles of) double-layered fencing on the border…must finally be built.” In the 2016 platform that phrase reads: “We support building a wall along the entirety of our southern border.” The replacement of the word “fencing” for “wall” reflects Trump’s major campaign vow to build a big wall on the Mexican border. It is this year’s platform firestorm that the New York Times labels “extreme dangerous nativism.”
The Democratic platform on immigration, on the other hand, comprises four pages focused on “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System” through comprehensive immigration reform. It “supports legal immigration within reasonable limits that meets the needs of families, communities and the economy and maintains the U.S. role as a beacon of hope for people seeking safety, freedom and security.” “Immigration enforcement must be humane and consistent with our values,” including “incorporating completely immigrants already living in the country. The Platform calls on ensuring that all immigrants regardless of immigration status have access to quality health care and that DREAMers will have expedited pathways to citizenship including service in the military. Bars limiting legalization for members of mixed status families will be removed.” The policy shows the clear hand of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and platform committee member Luis Gutierrez (IL).
In the end, the platforms were passed easily the first day of the Republican and Democratic conventions with little floor discussion of the policies. They had been argued, tested and tweaked well before the conventions, often in public forums. They mean little in reality since no candidate of either party is required to campaign on the platform policies. But they are an exercise in prioritizing party issues and sentiments. Reaction to platform policies during the campaign can determine the priorities of the new president in their all important first 100 days. •
Peggy Sands Orchowski
I’ve had time now to consider lessons I learned after attending the back-to-back Republican and Democratic conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia this summer. The differences were clear how the republicans and the democrats organized their agendas and their conventions. Is that a clue how they might govern if elected?
Each convention offered immediate enduring impressions.
In Republican Cleveland, the biggest impression was the overwhelming presence of thousands of multi-generational law enforcement officers from city and county police agencies across the country. They were armed but friendly. Demonstrations were peaceful. Many pedestrians with delegate credentials around their necks, took selfies with smiling protesters and cops. The GOP message: public safety and law and order.
“Small government” operations also was a lesson in Cleveland. There were no official RNC [Republican National Committee] activities until the late afternoon. Credentialed conventionees could easily attend thinktank and media events in town and then access the convention arena by foot, taxi or streams of official busses. After detailed security clearance by black uniformed Secret Service agents, once inside the “Q” convention arena there was little
evidence of controls by the RNC or Trump staffs.
Anyone could visit “Radio Row” and perhaps be interviewed by the some 100 radio talk show hosts ensconced there 18 hours a day after gavel-in at 4 p.m.; the convention program seemed often to be spontaneously organized with sudden appearances of barely announced guests, largely unknown to the national media.
The loud floor protests by the “Never Trump” delegates of course flummoxed Trump delegates. But when asked, a Virginia delegate told me “this is what democracy looks like.”
Outside and inside the convention hall, my overall impression was minimal party control and lots of law enforcement presence. Is this how the Trump administration would govern?
It was quite the opposite at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia. Uniformed police presence was relatively non-existent. But inside the convention arena, there were hundreds of eager friendly DNC volunteers from across the country. Unfortunately, few if any of them could give accurate information about the fairly horrendous convention logistics.
Getting to the convention at the Wells Fargo gigantic sports arena eight miles from downtown was difficult. Delegates and media could only enter its perimeter via official busses. The arena was surrounded by eight foot fencing a good mile away with only one secured access point for press and delegates. Once cleared, attendees including handicapped delegates then had to walk almost a mile of empty pavement to get to the arena. The few golf carts were reserved for DNC [Democratic National Committee] VIPs and guests of national TV media CNN and MSNBC. Twice I was caught in heavy rain downpours, struggling to walk alongside delegates in wheelchairs – all of us soaking wet!
Protestors had no physical – visible or audio even – contact to delegates around the arena. Two teachers from New Jersey told me that they walked eight miles with their students in 99 degree muggy heat from Philadelphia Hall to the arena on Monday. They were upset to be stopped by the fences a mile away in sheets of rain.
Unlike the RNC, however, the DNC organized multiple workshops focused on issues of blacks, Latinos, gays, women and other DNC ID target groups. At the massive conference center, however, there was no place for caucus attendees to sit, eat or rest. There was, however, an almost empty second floor area of fine tables, chairs and sofas, but it was reserved exclusively for DNC VIPs. Gatekeeper volunteers shooed everyone else away.
The democrats’ Radio Row was also very controlled. While dozens of talk radio hosts were allowed to set up directly next to the entrance of the convention center for maximum visibility, who they were allowed to interview was tightly vetted and controlled by designated DNC “bookers.” Their priority: only DNC “surrogates.” Two bookers told me that radio show hosts who did not abide by the DNC guest vetting would be kicked off Radio Row.
The democrats’ highly professional convention evening program featured Democratic and Hollywood stars, unlike the GOP’s. It was clearly polished, controlled, orchestrated and staged from the top. But it also evolved. On the last day, American flags appeared on stage; a memorial to fallen police officers and a speech by a Muslim parent of a fallen U.S. soldier were suddenly included. The firing and immediate disappearance of long-time party leader Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was not fully explained.
My impression of the Democratic convention then was one of a politically strategic TV-oriented tightly controlled event by top DNC operatives with visible privileges. The majority of delegates were minorities: 25 percent black; 62 percent female. Operations were carried out by a mass of enthusiastic, college-educated, ideological, ethnically diverse but mainly female, uniformed, volunteer, unpaid gate-keepers and minders. There was almost no sign of law enforcement officials anywhere.
It may be how the democrats will govern. •
You might hear that “immigration reform is dead” in the 112th Congress. But in reality, since January 2011, hardly a week has gone by without a panel discussion, conference, congressional hearing or expert analysis on immigration in Washington, D.C.
There are many immigration initiatives pending, and some serious bipartisan interest in getting something done before the next election. A trend for what immigration reform might look like in the 112th Congress is beginning to emerge. The focus is different than during the last decade, as are the politics and leadership.
The conversation on immigration reform in 2011 seems to be focusing on two elements. The first is on granting more green cards to educated and skilled immigrants. The second is on increasing internal as well as border enforcement. The strong advocacy for legalization of “undocumented” immigrants by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy and by Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill. – no longer on the House immigration subcommittee – is noticeably dimmer.
President Obama advocated for educated immigrants in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 25. He spoke about the need for an initiative known as the STAPLE Act that would grant automatic green cards to foreign students who earned advanced degrees in the STEM fields. Similarly, he sup-ported passage of the DREAM Act that would also give an eventual green card to students who, as advocates tell it, had been brought into the country illegally without their knowledge by their parents and had graduated from high school and college. “What a waste of our educational resources and of the talent of educated young people by keeping them from staying and working here,” Obama often says.
The STAPLE Act has been pushed in Congress by Bill Gates for years; an initial bill may be proposed in this coming session. The “DREAM” concept has had a long history of bipartisan support in both chambers and had been regarded by immigration strategists as a major driver of comprehensive immigration reform. But in the last days of the 111th Congress, Democratic leaders decided to allow the bill to go to the chambers as a stand-alone proposal. Many Republican senators who had previously voted for the DREAM Act (such as Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas and some Democrats) voted against it, how-ever, on the grounds that it did not reflect what its advocates claimed.
It is possible that a rewritten DREAM Act could pass in the 112th Congress. It seems the president sincerely wants it. But the likelihood of it driving a comprehensive immigration bill that includes a broad amnesty for illegal immigrants is not likely. What is more possible is that a Democratically driven DREAM Act might be used as a tradeoff for other immigration initiatives such as the STAPLE Act, a broader temporary agricultural worker pro-gram, a reduction in family unification visas and even a limited birth-rights citizenship act that would exclude children born to birth tourists.
More likely is that any increase in any visa category could be accompanied by stronger enforcement initiatives. The Obama administration pretty much continued the push of the Bush administration to increase border enforcement and improve deportation retention facilities and processes. Now both state and federal initiatives are turning to internal immigration enforcement, to improving the functions of ICE (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau), America’s first-ever internal immigration enforcement agency.
Foremost among the internal enforcement initiatives are those that pro-pose improving and eventually making mandatory American employers’ use of the E-Verify system. It’s an electronic database that would confirm every new employee’s work permit and immigration status. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who continues as Sen. Kennedy’s replacement to head the Senate immigration subcommittee, is a strong advocate of E-Verify. His first immigration hearing last year was on that proposal. He often proclaims that “almost all Americans like immigrants but do not like illegal immigration” and that the way to stop the latter is to prevent employers from hiring immigrants without work permits.
Meanwhile the House immigration subcommittee – now called Immigration and Enforcement Policy – has changed to the Republican majority. Former chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., is now the ranking member; Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., is chairman; and Steven King, R-Iowa, the former ranking member, is co-chair. Although Gallegly headed the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, he is less of a zealot on some immigration issues than King, who early in the 112th Congress introduced H.R. 104, which would prohibit birthright citizenship to anyone whose parents were both illegally in the country. Their immigration hearings in March focused on the impact of illegal immigration on minority American workers and on the H1B visas. The strident advocacy-voice for the “undocumented” of Gutiérrez has now been replaced by the softer-toned voice of resident commissioner from Puerto Rico Pedro R. Pierluisi.
At the White House, immigration strategy is not clear. Many Hispanic leaders feel the president has not taken a strong enough leadership role. But Department of Homeland Security immigration advisor and former Kennedy legislative director Esther Olavarria maintains that the White House “wants and believes comprehensive immigration can pass in this Congress. We will not support piecemeal legislation, even the STAPLE Act,” she said in March at the Urban Institute. However, Cecilia Muñoz, former senior advocate of La Raza and Obama’s director of intergovernmental affairs, seems to have conceded otherwise. The White House agreed to the stand-alone DREAM Act in December, and the president indicates they may try again.
Whether one believes in a piecemeal or comprehensive strategy, immigration legislation is clearly alive and well in the 112th Congress. There is even some evidence of bipartisan support for some of it. Both parties are reaching out to the growing number of diverse Hispanic voters, the Republicans with some notable successes: the five new Hispanic congress-men and the new Hispanic senator in the 112th Congress are all Republican. Being Republican and supporting some stand-alone trade-off immigration proposals may be seen increasingly as a good political career move.
Boosting college completion rates in the U.S.A. in order that we are once again “the most educated country in the world” has become an almost mantra-like goal among education policymakers, especially in Washington, D.C. But can we do it? That is the question. What policy changes would be needed, and what obstacles stand in the way?
To find that out was the charge of some two dozen leading postsecondary education policy-makers and advisors who were summoned by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a right-of-center think tank in Washington, D.C., to write and report on cutting-edge research about the Degrees of Difficulty: Can American Higher Education Regain Its Edge? Their conclusion, presented at AEI on Feb. 15, was a qualified “yes.” That is, they agreed that a large proportion of the U.S. population could achieve some col-lege education attainment during their lives, at different levels and even at different ages.
In fact, the unique openness of America’s postsecondary education institutions toward widely diverse students (from teenagers to adults and senior citizens of all backgrounds), structures (private, public, for-profit, nonprofit, community, state, national and global, on-site, online, real and virtual), offerings and degrees of all kinds was the (perhaps unintended) theme of the 11 reports, four panels and some 20 experts who appeared in the daylong conference. Diversity represents the obstacles, challenges and probable likelihood of America educating its widely different growing population.
The conference was moderated by the always well-organized, charismatic, often wryly funny Mark Schneider of AEI and the American Institute for Research. Four panels considered “Where We Stand,” “Sub-Baccalaureate Programs,” “Policy Problems and Solutions” and “Reform Lessons from the States.”
The central question of the conference – “how does college attainment matter?” – was perhaps best summarized by the Lumina Foundation’s Dewayne Matthews. “In the end, it’s about the quality of what is offered,” he said. Quality of the teachers, the institution, the college experience, the course content, the remediation before, the computer-enhanced education during, the degrees earned, the shift from credit-based to skills-based learning, the job perhaps to be won from it all – in the end, it’s the quality of each of these segments that makes postsecondary educational achievement matter, he said.
Another agreement was that there is a perceptible shift of the goal of education. It’s increasingly about preparing for the jobs to fol-low, about increasing skills learning that gives access to a wide range of posts, positions, professions and leadership.
“We have to produce more educated workers at all levels,” said Travis Reindl of the National Governors Association. “A lot of our growth will have to be in the sub-baccalaureate programs.”
America’s community colleges are unique to this end (according to Columbia University’s Thomas Bailey, who presented a report at the conference). They are being seen widely as a solution to the goal of increasing college attainment. But it’s other sub-baccalaureate programs such as career education (often offered by for-profit colleges), internships (usually unpaid and college-supported) and apprenticeships (usually paid and business-supported) in various states as well as in other nations (like Switzerland) that are being studied and duplicated. These were analyzed in several papers, such as the one by Diane Auer Jones of the Career Education Corporation.
Similarly, Brian Bosworth, founder and CEO of Future Works, a postsecondary regional economic development and education program, focused on the value of certificate programs. His views came from a decade in international development assistance work in Latin America; his organization is based out of Seattle, Wash., and works with national and state organizations to implement labor market and college achievement success for low-income youths and working adults.
Because of the wide range of postsecondary educational players, the panel on problems spent some time examining the challenge in the United States of credit portability. “While solutions are usually focused on streamlining credit transfer laterally between institutions (say from a community college to a four-year degree institution), there is no empirical evidence to suggest that that will increase degree attainment,” Josipa Rokas of the University of Virginia argued. “Neither does streamlining credit transfer between states. Best are alternative ways of earning credit, such as by examination, credit for work experience, military training and prior learning even living abroad.”
A big problem connected with students drop-ping out before attaining degrees is the amount of time it might take to find a required course in a major. Some students graduate with dozens of unneeded credits (and costs) that they under-took in order to maintain full-time status while waiting to take one course to finish a degree. “This could reflect a number of underlying issues from poor advising to what has recently been described as a ‘motivated, even ambitious but directionless generation that have few if any concrete plans,’” writes Rokas.
But he also sees it as a challenge for college policymakers to “push the boundaries of our thinking about higher education from a focus on credit hours and granting degrees based on hours in a classroom.” Instead, he suggests, the focus should be on whether students have learned anything or have any specific skills.
“What do degrees really mean?” Rokas asks in his paper Equalizing Credits and Rewarding Skills. “What specific competencies do they rep-resent is a question that should be asked by higher education as a whole.”
That gets back to the quality question raised by the Lumina Foundation, which Rokas also credits with raising the questions about degree relevancy. “Higher education is not simply about ‘time in the seat.’ It’s about what students can do and know at the end. It is possible that nothing short of a fundamental transformation of our understanding of the day-to-day business of higher education will be necessary to increase the production and attainment of college-end rewards that will also in the end garner labor market rewards.”
OBAMA WANTS HIGHER GRAD RATES – BUT DO COLLEGES? – Cal State universities are typical. When students are accepted as freshmen, they get a letter advising that it will probably take five or more years to get a four-year degree because of scheduling limitations. In their junior year, three or four years later, students often decide they want to tweak their major – from creative writing, say, to grant writing, or from civil engineering to computer (note: these are real examples!) – but it will take an extra year. Need one more class to graduate? The course isn’t offered till next year, and you’d better take a full load to qualify for grants and loans. Result: most college grads take five to six years to graduate, often with dozens of more credits than are needed and thousands of more dollars in costs and debt. The Obama administration is stressing the goal to double the graduation rate of American college students. But are colleges motivated to do that? “It’s a big problem at many (so-called) four-year degree colleges,” Eduardo Ochoa, new U.S. assistant secretary for postsecondary education, admitted to me in February. “It’s something we struggled with at Cal State when I was VP there.” Can he do something about it now that he is working on the national level to promote graduation rates? “We’re open to new ideas for initiatives that would reward institutions who commit to students’ completing quality degrees in four years,” he said. But no punishment is planned if they don’t. Of course, it’s all about money, and for now, it’s clear – more money is made by keeping students on campus.
PHILOSOPHY PROFS MIGHT WINCE AT DUNCAN’S PHILOSOPHY – “Every high school graduate must know about how postsecondary courses they are pursuing can help them get a job! They need to choose courses that tend towards a career and are not dead end,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a packed audience of college administrators in Washington, D.C., last February at the launch of a Harvard School of Education report, Preparing for Prosperity. No one in the audience visibly fainted. But it was probable there were no philosophy professors in attendance. Not all is lost however. Some departments will have to revise their course marketing to the new “job utility” philosophy: “Aristotle in the Market Place?” anyone?
BILL GATES IRKS TEACHERS’ UNIONS – Bill Gates is not just the founder of Apple computer company and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is also America’s greatest philanthropist in education reform and therefore has major influence on education policy. When he appears at a congressional hearing, he is the single witness. When congressmen address him, they all sound like they are making proposal pitches (oh wait, actually, they are!). When he speaks, education administrators and policymakers listen. And unions shudder. In March, Gates proposed that public school budget reform should include ending traditional teachers’ bonus pay for seniority and earned advanced degrees, and granting it mainly on merit and performance. He also favors increasing class size after grade three. He’d prefer that such changes be done incrementally, but the state and local budget crisis facing American schools now makes that almost impossible, he says. Now the changes are urgent.
TOUT CA CHANGE, TOUT C’EST LA MEME CHOSE – A new Rutgers University report (including findings of an undercover investigator) confronts the current jobless recession dilemma by recommending tying together postsecondary education institutions, business employers, labor reps and private and for-profit organizations to develop training programs that will fit available jobs. Big idea: combine Labor Department work force development money with Education Department programs. Thirty years ago, I was the Southern CA Director of a nationally funded program of consortium of health manpower trainers and employers. Our big idea: combine HEW manpower development money with Labor Department programs. The consortia were de-funded in the 1980s; the term manpower” killed by PC. Now in 2011, report presenters at the Center for American Progress in March are extremely enthusiastic about their creative new approach. I guess good ideas never die.
WOMEN AMBASSADORS REDEFINE “OLD BOYS CLUB” – At an informal discussion at the National Press Club in March with women ambassadors from Colombia, Holland and India, they agreed on one thing despite their widely diverse backgrounds: women foreign ministers (Colombia has had five recently) and ambassadors have redefined what used to be considered the ultimate “Old Boys Club.” “In fact, our last female foreign minister from Colombia is now serving on the United Nations Security Council,” said the Honorable Carolina Barco. Her Excellency Meera Shankar laughed when she said, “We’ve had so many women foreign ministers in India that my young daughter asked me, ‘Mother, is it possible for a man to be prime minister?”
A greater emphasis on the acquisition of both “hard” and “soft” workplace skills and on career and technical education – also known as CTE – should be included in our national strategy for higher education, the Harvard Graduate School of Education argues in a report, Pathway to Prosperity, that was presented in Washington, D.C., in early February with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
The secretary agreed heartily. “It is urgent that we turn to a CTE focus,” he told a packed audience of college administrators at the report’s launch on Feb. 2. That includes trilin-gual education, like Spanish and Chinese, Duncan suggested.
“The goal of postsecondary education today must not just be to earn a degree or certificate, but to get a job,” Duncan continued. “Getting a degree should not only require higher-level math skills like algebra 2, but also skills needed as a successful employee. All college students should learn to communicate at all levels, to do team-work problem solving and to master life skills such as prioritizing and organizing.”
This “path to prosperity” that prepares stu-dents for college and a career can’t be on two different tracks, Duncan said. “It must be a sin-gle track, a fast track for all. School reform needs to provide multiple pathways to postsec-ondary success and viable alternatives to a bach-elor’s degree.”
“The modern labor market has changed beyond recognition,” the Pathways to Prosperity Project, based at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, points out. “While the total number of jobs in America in 2008 had grown by 6.4 mil-lion, those held by people with no postsecondary education had actually fallen by some two mil-lion. Labor market projections indicate that nearly two-thirds of all new job openings will be in “middle-skill occupations” in fields such as health care, for workers with an associate degree or occupational certificate.” By 2018, nearly two-thirds of all jobs in the U.S. will require some college-level education in these fields.
The definitive word in that statement is “some” college-level attainment. Postsecondary education for Duncan definitely includes two-year degree and short-term certificates, not just four-year and advanced degrees. In fact, the report found that “most jobs even in the second decade of the 21st century do not require a four-year degree.” Of the 47 million jobs expected to be created by 2018 (some 47 million), only a third will require a bachelor’s or higher degree. Surprisingly, this does not mean second-class wages, however. The report actually found that “27 percent of workers with postsecondary licenses or certificates/creden-tials short of an associate degree earned more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.”
But American students need more flexibility. The “college (generally assumed to be offering a four-year degree) for all” movement must also be challenged – especially as that movement has led states to allow the admissions requirements of four-year colleges and universities to become the default curriculum for all high school stu-dents,” Robert Schwartz, academic dean, Harvard Graduate School of Education, is quot-ed as saying. “Unless we provide more choice in the last two years of high school and more opportunities for students to pursue program options that link work and learning, we will con-tinue to lose far too many young people along the path to graduation.”
“The traditional single-track process (com-plete college first, then get a job) especially “does not work well for low-income and young people of color,” according to the report. “Many of these students are frustrated by an education they often find irrelevant and removed from the world of work.”
“This is exacerbated by weak or nonexistent career counseling, rising college costs, inade-quate financial aid and the frequent need to bal-ance careers with jobs,” Duncan said.
The nation’s employers need to be asked to play a greatly expanded role in supporting the multiple pathways to prosperity (education, training and job) system, the report concludes. “America is the only developed nation that depends so exclusively on its higher education system as the sole institutional vehicle to help people transition from secondary school to careers and from adolescence to adulthood,” says Schwartz, who heads the Path to Prosperity project at Harvard. “Far bigger con-tributions from the nation’s employers and govern-ments are needed to provide more opportunities for work-based learning.”
The report details several examples of suc-cessful school system, community college and employer CTE programs that link challenging academic with focused tech curricula, through-out the country. They include “Project Lead the Way,” the “Career Academy Movement,” “High Schools that Work,” California’s LINKED Learning Initiative, Massachusetts’ regional tech ed programs, and a legislated comprehensive CTE system in Florida.
Perhaps the leading example of CTE corpo-rate/school system partnerships, however, were those described by the IBM Foundation’s presi-dent and VP for corporate citizenship and cor-porate affairs. According to Stanley S. Litow, IBM contributes $180 million through its Reinventing Education program for training and implemen-tation of new innovative technologies helping Americans and children and adults in some 170 countries to learn to read. In 1996, ’99 and ’01, Litow hosted National Education Summits for CEOs, state governors, business leaders and the president of the U.S. The former New York City deputy chancellor of schools (the nation’s largest school system) also helped create IBM’s Corporate Service Corp, which deploys hun-dreds of IBM’s top emerging leaders in commu-nity assignments in the developing world.
Asked if the company financed these projects for charity or for business, Litow answered “both.” The millions of dollars spent for the projects each year come out of the foundation’s resources as well as out of human resource funds. Litow claimed that IBM “was committed to developing the work force the nation needs, right here in the country itself.”
It is rare when you hear a first lady indicate she has regrets. But Michelle Obama did recently, in front of a university auditorium full of students interested in studying abroad. She urged them to do so and suggested that she wished she had herself when she was in college.
“Getting ahead in today’s workplaces isn’t just about the skills you bring from the classroom,” she said at Howard University Jan. 19, the after-noon before the elegant State Dinner at the White House for the visiting president of China. “It’s also about the experience you have with the world beyond our borders, with people and lan-guages and cultures that are very different from our own. These experiences set the stage for young people all over the world to come together and work together to make our world stronger.”
The first lady enthusiastically detailed the num-ber of opportunities that college students now have to go abroad. “We’re headed in the right direction,” she said. “But still there are many stu-dents here in the U.S. who have that chance but are reluctant to seize it. Maybe they feel that study abroad is something that only rich kids do, or they ask ‘How will this really be relevant in my life?’”
“Now I say this because I understand these feelings,” the first lady continued. “I felt that same way when I was back in college. The idea of spending time abroad just never registered with me. My brother and I were way more focused on getting in, getting through and getting out of college than we were finding opportuni-ties that would broaden our horizons.”
Interrupted several times by loud applause, Obama continued: “The truth is also, however, that with the high cost of college these days, many young people are struggling just to afford a regular semester of school let alone pay for air-line tickets and living expenses to go halfway around the world to study. So we know it’s not enough for us to simply encourage more people to study abroad. We need to make sure that they can actually afford it.”
The first lady described several new pro-grams oriented to giving more students from widely diverse backgrounds the chance to study abroad, especially in China. “My husband just announced the “100,000 Strong” initiative to double the number of Americans who study in China – a program that the Chinese government is offering – listen to this! – 10,000 scholarships to cover all in-country expenses for American students and teachers who study in China.
“We’re launching a new “Community College Minimester” program that provides shorter-term, more affordable study abroad opportunities. And we’re placing a special emphasis on reaching Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Historically Black Colleges with these programs,” the first lady said, amid cheers and standing applause.
Valery Lavigne, a senior at the College of New Jersey who was born in the Dominican Republic and who had just returned from five months in China, confirmed everything the wife of the pres-ident said as part of a panel that followed the first lady’s talk.
“Even though I started learning Chinese in high school, I was still a little hesitant about going abroad, mostly because my main obsta-cles, like I imagine most students, are financial. But then I heard an EOF student talk who had just gotten back from Oxford University in England, and I knew I just had to go abroad myself. I’m glad I got the opportunity through the Gilman International Scholarships program, which provided everything I needed – not only financial support but also encouragement from staff and other scholars.” Now Lavigne is “giving back” by making recruiting for Gilman Scholars her return project.
The Gilman Scholarship program is among the most successful and growing U.S. govern-ment-sponsored study abroad programs, such as the Fulbright Program, the National Security Language initiative and Critical Language Scholarships. “Gilman was established particu-larly to increase the number and diversity of young people who are studying internationally,” said Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Ann Stock, who followed Obama at the podium.
The Gilman Program offers grants for U.S. undergraduate students of limited financial means. Its specific mission is to “broaden the student population that studies abroad who have been tra-ditionally underrepresented, including not only those who might not participate due to financial constraint but also community college students, students in underrepresented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, and those with disabilities.
In 2009, 13 percent of the Gilman Scholars were Latinos, compared to 6 percent in national study abroad programs, according to the Open Doors report of the International Institute of Education in New York City. In 2001, only 8 per-cent of Gilman Scholars were Hispanic.
The congressionally funded program (through the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000) gives those who qualify up to$5,000 for school expenses and airline tickets and an additional $3,000 for studying critical-need languages such as Arabic, Farsi, Chinese (both Mandrain and Cantonese), Russian, Swahili, Korean and a number of Turkic, Persian and Indic languages. The Gilman program encourages students to choose nontraditional study abroad destinations – mainly those other than Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
“Of course for many students who are the first of their families ever to go to college or even leave their home states, going to England can be very far-reaching for them, and we consider that as well,” said Marianne Craven, managing direc-tor of academic programs for the BECA. Students apply for the Gilman grants once they have been accepted into a college-based study abroad pro-gram for which they will receive academic credit and which requires them to study in another country for at least four weeks.
“Grants are based on student qualifications and the programs they are going on. We encour-age stays for a semester if possible,” said Craven. “But we are looking for diversity. There is no age limit for students, and no general criteria for language achievement – no pre- or post-tests. But of course, language learning is a big part of the experience.”
Two Hispanic Students: One in China, One in India
Lavigne was just the kind of student the Gilman Scholarships were established to help. Growing up in English and Spanish, “I always liked languages,” she said. So in her junior year in high school, she started studying Japanese. In her senior year, she took a special online course in Chinese. “Studying these languages greatly enriched my social anthro-pology major,” she said. “After all, for my genera-tion who grew up with other languages, we know that the best way to understand another culture is to know the language.”
“There were a lot of choices in study abroad programs to go on,” Lavigne said. “Although my [Latino] heritage is important to me, I was look-ing for something different. I wanted to go for my personal growth and career development as well. Once I decided on the Chinese program, though, I saw the costs and thought, ‘there is just no way I can go!’ I couldn’t have done it without the Gilman Scholarships. Now I advise everyone not to look at the bottom line of the program you want to go on. Many of the costs can be negotiat-ed – especially personal expenses once you are in the country where living costs are cheaper.”
In China, Lavigne studied at Beijing University in a special Council on International Educational Exchanges (CIEE) program. She spoke mainly Chinese with her fellow exchange students, who were from all over the world but especially Russia, Korea and Spain. “I almost always ate in the campus cafeteria with Chinese students, who were very friendly and interested in meeting us,” she said. She took martial arts classes, shopped in local stores and traveled throughout the coun-try, both with CIEE students and alone, by train, bus and even donkeys.
Lavigne continues to take Chinese courses, and remains in contact with her friends in China. And yes, she learned to write a bit in Chinese. “Necessity is the mother of all language learn-ing,” she laughed.
“In the end, I learned as much about myself as I did academically. The experience made me become more adaptable, independent but also able to work with all kinds of different people. It made me realize that I want to work with inter-national people, teaching in the United States or abroad, maybe being able to enter the Foreign Service and the State Department some day.” Until then, Lavigne is applying for the Peace Corps – hoping to be placed in China. The first lady and the audience applauded that.
Erika del Cid, a senior in political science/international relations at Virginia Commonwealth University who grew up in Woodbridge, Va., of El Salvadoran parents, came to many of the same conclusions as Lavigne, after studying in India. At first, she had wanted to go to France, since she’d studied French for seven years in school. Then she thought about Latin America, but her parents promised her a graduation trip there. “The only other country I really wanted to go to was India.”
There were lots of reasons why India attract-ed her. She enjoyed Bollywood films. She is a vegetarian and loves Indian food, and she had grown up with many Indian and Pakistani friends in her hometown and schools in Virginia. “I actu-ally knew a lot about what to expect there,” said del Cid. “It was noisy, colorful, crowded with pedestrians, and had a completely different infra-structure, especially traffic.” She knew people pushed and shoved there and didn’t say “sorry” or “thank you”; “It seems rude, but they’re not; that’s just the way it is,” she said. “The food was spicy; the people were friendly. All my senses were on high all the time,” she said.
Del Cid lived in a foreign student dorm on Hyderabad’s university campus (unlike many other buildings there, the dorm had air condi-tioning and seat toilets in the bathrooms, which del Cid said she very much appreciated). But the exchange students attended regular university classes with Indian students. Instruction was in English. “The grading was completely different,” she said. “They don’t have multiple-question tests; all the exams were open questions, and their answers were expected to be pages long. I was advised to write big and repeat a lot.” The issues they discussed in political science classes were also completely different than in the states. One big topic: farmer suicides. “They also talked a lot about religious ideas in politics, about Hindi vs. Moslem disturbances.” Del Cid did not see much tolerance for the mixing of religions and ethnic groups. But everyone constantly asked her about studying in the United States. “Everyone wanted to come.”
Her most surprising experience happened almost every day. “Everyone thought I was Indian. Only one student of all she met guessed that I was Latina – on her second guess.” Being considered native was a big advantage on the streets, she said. “I didn’t get accosted as much by street vendors, who at times could be exceed-ingly physically aggressive, and I was often charged the cheaper Indian prices for everything I bought in the stores.” Many acquaintances invited her to their homes, to see “their” India. But she also saw how skin color affected blatant racism, class and social status, and poverty. “The thing I never could get used to were all the muti-lated children begging in the streets (she would give them a bottle of water, not money), and how many even simple middle-class families had ser-vants in their homes,” she said.
Del Cid would love to go back to India and spend more time. But not immediately. After graduation, she is applying for teaching posi-tions in Spain or El Salvador. And she is actively encouraging other Latino students to go abroad to study and live for a while.
There are more and more opportunities for Hispanic students to do so. Many colleges and even professors have unique study abroad pro-grams, such as Political Science Professor Larry Martínez at California State University-Long Beach. Every summer, he takes a dozen or so students to Kazakhstan for four weeks of joint accredited classes, study projects, travel and a model United Nations day with native students. “Model U.N. gets the students emotionally involved in arguing issues from another coun-try’s point of view,” Martínez said. The course is called “Politics Through Culture.” More than 50 percent of the California students who go are Latinos. “That matches our campus demograph-ics,” said Martínez. “Latino students go because it’s what all students should do as part of their university studies.”
Perhaps Lavigne summed the study abroad experience up best at the panel with the first lady. “It wasn’t until I studied abroad in China that I realized that I am not just an American cit-izen, but I am a citizen of the world. I know that my career and life goals do not have to be limit-ed to even one country, one region nor even one continent.”
EDUCATION REFORM MORPHS INTO OVERSIGHT – The big new ideas for education that President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pushed the first two years of his presidency might be the peak accomplishments of this administration’s first term. They started with Direct Pay for college loans, which took out third-party bank officials in the loan process; and included “Race to the Top” competitions for state school systems reform. But with a now-Republican-dominated Congress, it seems that new education initiatives will focus on oversight. This means an enhanced push for teacher evaluations based on student performance and accountability studies of schools of education. There is bipartisan support for the concept of major pro-grams such as charter schools and No Child Left Behind, but the amount of resources for program expansion vs. accountability first will be what is fought over in the months to come. The underlying question that support will depend on is this: “How does this program increase American competitiveness?”
CEOS DOING WELL – EVEN IN UNIVERSITIES – Seven years ago, no college presidents made salaries of one million dollars. But that was before university trustees pushed their institutions to be operated more like businesses. One indication they were heard: many college presidents added CEO to their titles. As of 2008, 30 of these chiefs made seven-figure salaries, according to an annual survey in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Dozens of public and private college presidents make more than $500,000. “We have to remain competitive,” said a University of George Washington spokesman. “Salaries reflect the stressful 24/7 nature of the position,” said David Warren of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
“Presidential salaries have virtually no impact on tuition increases.”
RACE DIVERSITY INCREASINGLY MIXED – Diversity in America increasingly means not only mixing among various ethnic and racial groups, but also increasingly inside those groups themselves. A comprehensive series of articles in The New York Times in late January, “Race Remixed: A New Sense of Identity,” shows that “the crop of students moving through college right now includes the largest group of mixed-race people ever to come of age in the United States, and they are only the vanguard: the country is in the midst of a demographic shift driven by immigration and intermarriages.” Almost all of them prefer to be referred to as “mixed race” and are increasingly marking their census forms as such. Within the ethnic groups, stratification is also taking place. Every Latino knows (even if the American media do not) how diverse the Hispanic community is. But so is the Black community, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson. According to his new book, Dis-Integration, the Black community has been dividing into four different socioeconomic and cultural groups since the 1970s. One group includes the 10 percent of the Black population who are foreign-born – “the highest educated immigrants ever seen,” Robinson writes. No one knows quite how the growth of the multiracial population will change the country, the Times reports. Optimists say the blending of the races is a step toward transcending race. Pessimists say that a more powerful multiracial movement will lead to more stratification at the expense of the number and influence of other minority groups, particularly African-Americans
CONGRESSIONAL COMS POLITICAL NAME CHANGES – Regular readers of Uncensored
already know that the House Education Committee’s name changes depending on who is the
majority: Democrats name it the Education and Labor Committee; Republicans rename it to Education and Workforce. Now the Republicans have changed the name of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees; now it’s simply the Immigration Policy Group.
IS OBAMA “FIRST TIGER DAD?” – Suddenly, everyone is talking about Tiger Moms – those audacious, usually Asian-heritage mothers who push, demand and expect their children to earn only the highest grades, perform the best in athletics and music, win top prizes, trophies, awards and scholar-ships – beginning in elementary school. Their target: to get their kids into the best universities in America. The furor started with a book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, by Any Chua and raged throughout the media. Are American parents too soft? Are Asian parents too hard? How much should be demanded and expected? How much discipline? The book came out in early January at the same time as two documentary films hit urban theaters, Race to Nowhere, about our overstressed American schoolchildren, and Two Million Minutes, contrasting the study lives of Indian, Chinese and American pre-college stu-dents. Even President Barack Obama took up the theme in his State of the Union speech on Jan. 19. “The responsibility begins in our homes and communi-ties,” said the president. “Parents need to make sure the TV is turned off, homework gets done, the winners of science fairs are celebrated and our kids are taught that success is a function of hard work and discipline.” Could Obama be America’s First Tiger Dad?
An important change is happening in Congress’ view of Americans’ ability to speak other languages – a perception that could help especially Spanish-heritage speakers gain priority for top civil service jobs.Other language skill is increasingly seen as not only important for academicians, researchers and diplomats, but as a critically necessary capability for professionals and American workers of all levels – especially in government services.
“Language capability is needed to provide vital state and local services for growing U.S.populations with limited English abilities.Understanding other languages is also vital to U.S. economic security as American companies must compete in the global marketplace. And it is becoming a major factor in national security as threats become more complex, interconnect-ed and unconventional,” said Hawaii Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, chairman of the Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce.
Tracking and improving Americans’ foreign language capability has been a passionate inter-est of the soft-spoken legislator, who is the only Chinese-American in Congress and who always uses the traditional greeting “Aloha.”
“Because of the rich cultural and linguistic diversity in my home state of Hawaii, I under-stand well the need to communicate about disaster relief, social services and other government programs in a variety of languages,” he says.
The good news is that because of broad new approaches to early language learning and an increasing variety of opportunities for overseas language immersion (even for the very young),growing success can be measured.
“To the extent that Americans undertake the study of the major world languages in extended course and program sequences that provide adequate opportunities for overseas immersion study (preferably at younger ages, as well as in the university), many Americans may now expect to attain full professional level proficiency in those languages, and the real possibility of using their language knowledge to enhance their future careers in an increasingly globalized U.S. work force,” reported Dan E.Davidson, president of the Joint National Council for Languages (JNCL).
But recent reports by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveal language shortfalls that harm government effectiveness,competitiveness and undermine national security, according to Akaka. In 2009, a GAO report found that almost one-third of all State Department positions abroad are filled by Foreign Service Officers (FSOs) who do not meet the job’s language requirements. In addition, 73 percent of FSOs serving in Afghanistan and 57 percent serving in Iraq do not meet the language-proficiency requirements of their positions. “I fear that we are failing to create a long-term solution to the nation’s foreign language demands,” Akaka said.
The Hawaiian native held a hearing in mid-summer to discuss Closing the Language Gap: Improving the Federal Government’s Foreign Language Capabilities. Two panels of government and language experts agreed with Akaka’s legislation (S1010) that would establish a National Foreign Language Coordination Council in the White House. It would be headed by a National Language Advisor appointed by the president.
The council would oversee and implement national security language-training initiatives,develop and monitor the implementation of a national foreign language strategy, and conduct a survey of the status of federal agency foreign language expertise and agency needs, among other things.
To demonstrate the almost universal need for other language speakers in government, Akaka suggests that a number of agencies be involved in the council. The legislation proposes that the secretaries of Education, Defense, State,Homeland Security, Labor, Commerce, and Health and Human Services as well as the attorney general and the director of National Intelligence be represented on the council.
“Developing a strategic language recruitment,training and implementation plan for all of these agencies must also be tied in with the core mission of each agency,” said the director of the GAO Homeland Security and Justice Team, David Maurer. “A good example is the Department of Defense, that does it through their integrated defense team approach,” said Maurer.
“The Defense Department is building a Total Force with skills in foreign languages of strategic importance,” said the director of the Defense Language Office at the U.S. Department of Defense, Nancy Weaver. “These capabilities are needed to support today’s military operations, which require our forces to understand the languages and cultures of the regional population. How the indigenous population perceives our presence and our work will influence our success. Being able to communicate with them in their language is a strategic and tactical enabling factor.”
“However, acquiring the necessary language and cultural skills is a time intensive process,”Weaver continued. “Once gained, these skills tend to deteriorate rapidly if not used frequently.Just as importantly, these skills do not translate easily from region to region. We have made great progress in providing basic language and cultural training to our deploying personnel, but still are working to build a better foundational capability that provides more individuals with true expertise, professional-level language skills,and advanced levels of regional expertise.”
Another agency with very broad other-language needs is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “The department’s mission touches many individuals in the United States who may lack English-language skills and, in addition,has some 2,200 employees stationed abroad. As such, the ability to communicate effectively is a topic of vital importance to DHS,” said Jeff Neal,chief human capital officer of the DHS.
“At this time, we do not have an overall,departmental foreign language program,” Neal admitted. “Certain components, such as U.S.Customs and Border Protection (CBP), do require proficiency in foreign language, most frequently Spanish, and these components screen candidates for employment for their proficiency in, or ability to learn, languages. For example, applicants for the position of CBP officer must take either an Artificial Language Test or a Spanish Language Proficiency Test. These tests measure current proficiency in Spanish or ability to learn Spanish.
“For Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), foreign language ability is considered a collateral duty, and employees self-certify their proficiency in languages other than English. As to personnel assigned abroad, when the position or the U.S. ambassador has required foreign language skills, DHS Components and offices select officers who already possess the foreign language capability and/or have provided officers with foreign language training. Generally, the components are fulfilling their language needs internally, through their own hiring or training programs, or through contract arrangements. A more consistent department-wide approach,however, could prove beneficial,” Neal testified.
“The DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) has delegated authority to enforce an Executive Order to “Improve Access to Services for Persons with Limited English Proficiency.” It requires federal agencies to examine the services they provide and implement a system by which Limited English Proficiency (LEP) persons can meaningfully access those services, without unduly burdening the fundamental mission of the agency. “Far from burdening DHS’ mission, language access can enable more effective and efficient screening and immigration processing at our nation’s ports of entry and fair administration of customs rules and citizenship benefits. It is also essential in areas such as detention and asylum adjudication,” said Neal.
There are ongoing studies of best practices for language personnel recruitment, training and implementation programs such as “the highly successful Flagship programs,” according to JNCL President Davidson. He points out that elements of successful programs include articulated (universally recognized and transferable) curricula across schools and colleges; dedicated programs for heritage speakers; Internet-based language learning; intensive months-long overseas language immersion components and adult language speaker maintenance programs that feature content-based university courses in the language.
“Currently, students who participate in the Flagship Programs, whether or not they have had the opportunity to study the language in school,have the real possibility of attaining three-level proficiency by the time they are ready to enter the work force, upon graduation. This is clearly a model that should be disseminated generally, for it guarantees a capacity and an ongoing source of well-educated U.S. speakers of all the major critical languages,” said Davidson.
“This kind of model should be expanded to serve government personnel language capacity building directly. Akaka’s legislation in support of a National Foreign Language Coordination Council would provide a much-needed national strategy that would advance much that has been recommended,” he concluded.
The former under secretary for personnel and readiness in the U.S. Department of Defense agreed.
“It is critical that the Cabinet secretaries speak about the imperative of language back-grounds of their personnel,” David Chu said.“They need to hold their appropriate sub-Cabinet officers responsible and to apply Cabinet resources to make sure the language capacity in their agencies is being built and maintained.Some kind of formal arrangement like that would be a very powerful way to set a federal priority for building language capability.”
“A good model for the White House-based Language Advisor is the Office of Science and Technology that has existed in the White House for well over a decade,” said Richard Brecht,executive director of the Center for Advanced Study of Language, at the University of Maryland.“It is a bully pulpit for building science and technology capability in the country. Education and research is a big part of their mission.”
Davidson was not so sure that the model was apt. “Science has a face validity in the public that foreign languages may not have,” he said. “There needs to be a strong public information mission for the White House Foreign Language Advisor’s office to enable people to understand what a foreign language career might look like. Getting young people overseas as early as possible can provide a strong driver for career visioning.”
But Davidson reported some surprising findings in latest research on critical-language acquisition. “Americans throughout the country are interested as never before in learning critical languages, as is evidenced by the notable growth of K-12 programs in Chinese, Arabic, Japanese and Russian. The public needs to know about the successes Americans are making in long-term study of world languages, just as their counterparts in other parts of the world are doing in unprecedented numbers.
Davidson recommends that state and local jurisdictions incorporate foreign language training in career-training programs through all levels of education institutions, including continuing education for lifelong language maintenance.He also urges increased federal support for proven models of long-term language proficiency programs for students and teachers at the secondary and college level, especially those with overseas language immersion programs. He stressed the need for content-based course offerings at advanced and superior language levels as well as continued research in the field of world language acquisition.
Despite the determination of Akaka to pass legislation and to motivate departments to plan for increased language capacity recruitment,training, tracking and maintenance, little has happened since the July hearing. A strategic language plan that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano had asked to be rewritten,made more concise and ready for her to sign and be published by fall apparently hasn’t happened. Akaka’s legislation was read twice and assigned to the Senate Education Committee(H.E.L.P.) in May but was never brought up.
The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (the supposed answer to the Pentagon’s QDR), which was previewed in late November,gave priority to U.S. civilian as well as to the Agency for International Development’s role in conflict management, especially for President Obama’s two main foreign aid initiatives in health and agriculture. The plan includes civilian nation-building and peace-promoting operations to complement military efforts in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq. But the language-training component was not emphasized.
n December, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reported that an officer-training program that would enable certain officers who trained in learning the Dari, Pashto or Urdu languages to receive preferential consideration for assignments commanding battalions and brigades in Afghanistan had lagged. It is a program that the admiral strongly supports and which, according to Mullen, “like most good initiatives, can only stay good with hard work and going through the growing pains.”
In December, The New York Times reported that colleges throughout the country were suspending undergraduate degrees in languages.The State University at Albany was reported to have stopped new students from majoring in French, Italian, Russian and the classics due to budgetary reasons. At Louisiana State University,officials cut majors in German and Latin and basic instruction in Portuguese, Russian, Swahiliand Japanese, after losing $42 million in public funding that had supported those programs the past two years.
Still, the Modern Language Association reported that college language classes are actually up over 2006, when the last survey had been conducted. One reason is a surge of interest in languages such as Arabic and Spanish.
Akaka plans to reintroduce his White House-based Foreign Language Council proposal in the new 112th Congress. It comes just at a time when the Obama administration reportedly plans to issue a Presidential Directive to increase federal workplace diversity. Currently, Hispanics hold only 3.6 percent of senior-level federal positions.
SHE’S BAAAACK! ... AND INCITING REVOLUTION – For the past two years, Uncensored has been following the saga of the broom-sweeping Time magazine-cover-adorning, butt-kicking, (former) Chancellor of D.C. Schools Michelle A. Rhee. In November, her boss, Washington,D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty, who kept his promise to cover her politically if she just did what she had to do, lost his political bid for a second term. A few weeks later, D.C.’s American Federation of Teachers’ (AFT) union leader George Parker, who, after two years of fighting,finally agreed to Rhee’s evaluation-oriented teacher contract, also lost his race for a second term. Rhee decided to resign, defiantly.“There was a complete lack of accountability in the city’s school system when I came; I changed that, and I intend to keep on fighting nationally,” she said at a luncheon her last day on the job – the same day the movie Waiting for Superman came out featuring some of her brazen successes. In a Time cover story in December, her plan was revealed. Rhee has started a national education “movement”called “Students First.” “Unions do a great job doing what they have to do to advocate for their teacher members. Now I intend to do the same for students,” Rhee announced. She hopes to sign up one million Students First members and raise $1 billion in the first year.
CHINA UP, INDIA DOWN, SOME GOING HOME– Students from all over the world came to the United States in record numbers in AY 2009-10, reaching an unprecedented total of almost 700,000 (690,923). “This year’s growth was primarily driven by a 30 percent increase in students from China– many of them undergraduates – making up almost 18 percent of the total international student population,” according to Open Doors,the annual report from the Institute of International Education (IIE). The surge also made China now the top sending country,replacing India. Mexico, which was No. 7 last year, no longer was in the top 10. As usual, a majority of the international students are graduates and study in the STEM fields. But a Duke University study found that a growing number of first- and even second-generation India-heritage students are returning to their homelands as their emerging economy and investments in new universities and research increase substantially. “It’s gone from Brain Drain, to Brain Gain, to Brain Balance to now Brain Circulation,” said IIE Vice President Peggy Blumenthal.
HELICOPTER PARENTS BECOME VELCRO PARENTS? – You’ve heard of“helicopter parents” – the ones seen day and night hovering over their children in every endeavor. Now we have “Velcro parents,” the ones who cannot detach when their kids go off to college. Even college presidents are not immune, admitted Haverford College’s chief in a November Washington Post editorial. It’s a “realignment process,” writes Stephen Emerson: one goes from over-head hovering, to side-by-side guidance, to the young autonomous adult taking the lead.
TEMPTING CONSERVATIVE HISPANICS– Hispanics are being feted,recruited and supported by political parties as never before, and some are finding success with the GOP. Five new Hispanics in the 112th Congress are Hispanic, as of course is the first Latina governor in the United States – Susana Martínez of New Mexico. In December, Americano, the conservative bilingual organization founded by former Congressional Speaker Newt Gingrich, held its first annual Forum in D.C. It featured former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Carlos Gutiérrez (former secretary of commerce), and journalist Rubén Navarrette,among others. Conservative views were shared on panels about education, health care, immigration, grass-roots organizing and the media. Presenters agreed that while U.S. Hispanics are widely diverse, they shared pride in the growing success of Latino heritage music, food and culture in the U.S. “The best way to reach the growing Hispanic intergenerational community in the future may be through media oriented to specific Latino interests – in English,” said Navarrette.
SCOTUS LAW CLERKS LACK ACADEMIC DIVERSITY – The golden ticket for any law degree graduate is to secure a one-year clerkship at the Supreme Court of the United States (aka: SCOTUS). Each of the nine justices usually hires up to five clerks every year.They seek law school grads who are capable of doing brilliant research and writing first drafts of history-making opinions that will set precedent and will impact Americans in every corner of the land. Yet more than 50 percent of the SCOTUS clerks come from only two East Coast law colleges: Harvard and Yale – “coincidentally” the only two law colleges from which all the present nine justices graduated. Another 25 percent of chosen clerks have graduated from only four other universities: Virginia, Stanford, Columbia and Chicago.Only Judge Clarence Thomas looks beyond the Ivy League for his clerks, according to Todd C. Peppers, public affairs professor at Roanoke College and author of a book about Supreme Court clerks, Courtiers of the Marble Palace.
Margaret (Peggy Sands) Orchowski was a reporter for AP South America and for the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. She earned a doctor-ate in international educational administration from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She lives in Washington, D.C., where she was an editor at Congressional Quarterly and now is a freelance journalist and columnist covering Congress and higher education.
LAME-DUCK SURPRISE! COMPETES ACT PASSES – Remember all the legislative maneuvering that Tennessee Congressman Bart Gordon had to go through to pass the COMPETES Re-authorization Act (H.R. 5116) in the House last fall (see Uncensored November 2010)? The bill would double research budgets at some of the nation’s top science institutes, increase STEM education funds and spur regional manufacturing innovation programs. But no one really thought that it would pass the Senate in the final days of the 111th Congress. No one except Gordon. After an American Competitiveness event at the Center for American Progress late in the year, Gordon, who did not run for re-election, told me he was sure it would pass before he left Congress. Throughout the long day and night sessions in the final weeks, the Lame Duck focused on the DREAM Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislation – the COMPETES Act was never a subject of the press. But amazingly, on Friday Dec. 17, it was passed unanimously by the Senate. President Obama signed it into law the first week of January. “It is an example of the good bipartisan work,” said Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, the new Democratic “ranking” member.
REPUBLICANS CHANGE HOUSE ED COMMITTEE – A change of majority always impacts congressional committee structure, and hence, potentially, the legislation that comes out of them. This year is no different as the House changed to a Republican majority. Besides the usual switch of chairmen and minority/ majority offices, Republicans also have reduced the total size of each committee. In fact, the number of committees each congressman has to serve on has been reduced from three to two: “Members cannot be asked to become more engaged if they sit on three different committees and more than a handful of subcommittees,” House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said in late December. He also reduced House members’ office budgets overall by 5 percent. Republicans also changed (once again!) the name of the Education and Labor Committee: back to the Republican’s favorite name: Education and the Workforce Committee.
SURPRISE NEW IMMIGRATION SUB-COM CHAIRMAN – One big midterm election assumption did not happen. Everyone had predicted that if the Republicans won the majority in the House, Iowa’s Steven King would be chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration Sub-Com. Immigration policy experts such as Demetrios G. Papademetriou called King “the most knowledgeable” congressman about immigration on the Hill.” But much to everyone’s surprise, Speaker John Boehner chose Californian (Santa Barbara County) Rep. Elton Gallegly to head the committee with primary jurisdiction for immigration legislation. Gallegly headed the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus and is as tough on increasing immigration enforcement as was King. But unlike King, his first priority probably would not be reinterpreting the 14th amendment to exclude the U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants. More likely, Gallegly’s priorities will focus on border enforcement, E-Verify (the electronic verification system that works like a credit card check) and an easier agricultural jobs temporary visa program. Some of this may be traded for passage of a limited DREAM Act.
MILITARY, SPORTS, BOYCOTT RHETORIC – CAUSING VIOLENCE? – In the days after the shooting of Arizona’s moderate Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in early January, there was much breast beating in the media about how heated partisan rhetoric might have caused a “toxic” environment that could drive “people on the psychological edge” to violence. Harsh military rhetoric is pointed to – especially that used by Sarah Palin during the campaign that literally and figuratively “targeted” the congresswoman. Maybe violent sports rhetoric in elections should be included as well. And certainly Rep. Raúl Grijalva’s passionate calls all last year to boycott Arizona can be questioned. His post-shooting pleas for civil rhetoric and policies rang just a wee bit hollow after his threat to shut down his constituents’ livelihoods.
PROS AND CONS OF GRADING – Many college professors not so secretly feel that grading papers and projects is a pain. It takes time, often requires difficult subjective judgments, and students can be very anxious about the results. But grading is also extremely important for both teacher and student. In a recent discussion about grading, several community college professors in California asked, “How can the student learn if they don’t know what they are getting right or wrong? And how can the teacher teach if they don’t know what the student has learned or not, or learned incorrectly? Only by grading student work can that be discovered.” But there were problems with Internet grading. While the student may get instant corrections, the teacher is often excluded. “In fact, the professor has no way of knowing what and how the student is learning and, consequently, how effective they and their (sic) methodologies are as a teacher,” one professor concluded.
THREE-YEAR B.A. DEGREE – American colleges are the most diverse in the world, and so is the time it takes to get a degree. Two-year degree completion often takes four years; four-year degree graduation takes normally six years. Now Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa.) President William Durden is suggesting a three-year (period) degree “to save money.” The idea might have value if those three years are taken up solely by true college-level courses. But nearly half of college students today spend much of their first year in remedial courses. To get a real three-year college program, perhaps high school degrees should include a college-prep 13th year, as do European schools. (February 2010)
B.A. DEGREE IN THREE YEARS? FEW HAVE THE TIME – It may sound counterintuitive, but an idea that has been pushed by two George Washington University (GWU) professors for a bachelor’s degree in three full years would be impossible for most students because – they don’t have the time. Not even for studying. A recent AEI (American Enterprise Institute) report found that full-time students at four-year colleges spend only 14 hours a week studying on average (versus 24 hours in 1971). Is it because of having to work? In 2009, 79.3 percent of part-time college students worked and 39 percent of full-time students, according to the Labor Department. “Working is an obstacle for a degree in three,” admitted the GWU profs, and AEI found that working students spent even less time studying than nonworking ones. But that wasn’t the main reason for the general reduction in studying time. “Students at every level appear to be studying less in order to have more leisure time,” the AEI report concludes. (November 2010)
BIDEN HAMMERED DAILY ABOUT VALUE OF C.C. EDUCATION – Apparently, Education Secretary Arne Duncan has strong support for his community college initiatives from Vice President Joseph Biden. In fact, Biden is “being hammered every day about the importance of community college for the future of America,” according to his wife and community college professor, Dr. Jill Biden. “I come home from school and talk about what we need. He’s immersed in it. He can’t get away from it. He knows the stories of my students,” the second lady revealed in a recent interview. “I think the administration has begun to respond ... helping with financial aid, increasing Pell Grants and making the tuition tax credit available to students.” But there’s more. Professor Biden said that what community colleges need most “is not just money; it’s awareness. People need to realize that community colleges really give you a good education.” Apparently, the vice president, the president and certainly the secretary of education are “getting it” – daily. (March 2010)
STUDENT PROTESTERS WIN BUT FEEL IT’S UNFAIR SOMEHOW – Student protesters at the University of California (UC) are in a conundrum. After organizing all-night sit-ins of university libraries in November to protest budget cuts limiting services, they were taken aback when UC administrators told them “Come on in!” Seems many of the administrators these days were student activists themselves in the good ol’ ’60s era of student protests and are sympathetic, even supportive, of student demonstrations to protest budget cuts by the state that they themselves abhor. “As long as the protestors don’t harm public property, they’re welcome,” said UCBerkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. “It’s the best of our tradition of effective civic action.” But the protesters were flummoxed. It somehow didn’t seem like a real protest when administrators were on their side. And then the chancellor went on to raise $80,000 from UC alums to extend department libraries’ hours. “What does victory for the left look like ... when you get what you want but someone else gets credit for it? It feels like defeat,” complained Michael Cohen, the Solidarity Alliance co-chair. Protesting sure ain’t what it used to be! (March 2010)
DEVELOPMENT OFFICES AND COLLEGE ACCOUNTABILITY – The accountability idea that created the most buzz at a recent college accountability conference in Washington, D.C., was the suggestion by many to track the work force success of the institution’s student graduates, not only just after graduation but also five to 10 years and more afterwards. The idea of tracking an institution’s graduates’ job success was considered the most politically important but also the most difficult to do. Maybe it’s a task that should be given to the institution’s development and alumni offices! They have techniques to find anyone! (April 2010)
SENATOR REGRETS LACK OF COLLEGE OVERSIGHT – Sen. Lamar Alexander told Politico recently that he would “like to see Republicans step up oversight on higher education. We did a poor job on oversight when we had the majority before,” he said. By oversight, however, he means fewer regulations and more investment in research. “That’s as important to job growth as lower taxes,” said the former Tennessee University president. (December 2010)
FEISTY CHANCELLOR FOLLOWS HIS OWN DRUMMER – University Chancellor Charles Reed is personable and outgoing. He speaks openly and frankly. He also is in charge of one of the biggest university systems in the country: the California State University (CSU) System with 23 campuses and almost half-a-million students. His opinions and actions carry weight. So his outspoken responses to some tough questions in politically cautious Washington, D.C., last February were refreshing if not a bit startling. For instance, Question: Has the ending of affirmative action in 1998 in California hurt the admission numbers of minorities at the CSUs as it has the University of California system? Answer: “Not at all. I reviewed the law carefully and realized there were no sanctions for ignoring it. We now have a higher proportion of Blacks and Latinos at our universities than their percentage in the state population.” Question: So you still pursue affirmative action? Answer: “We do it in many ways.” Question: Does CSU demand proof of the immigration status of their students as it does proof of California residency? Immediate answer: “No. If an applicant has attended high school for three consecutive years before graduating, that is all we need for acceptance.” But, he added: “We are very careful about not having more than 10 percent out-of-state and foreign students.” (May 2010)
THE ELDERLY, THEY ARE OUR FUTURE – The newest power bloc in America has now been identified. It’s not Gen X, Latinos or angry soccer moms and barbecue ’burb dads. It’s the after-retired or nearly retired or never-will-be-entirely retired active ageing Americans. The over-55-year-olds are the largest segment in the population and potentially the most happy and creative. A series of 50-year follow-up longitudinal studies out of the University of California (UC)-Berkeley found that “old age” actually is a period of development. The older brain is more flexible and often more creative. As left-brain/right-brain divisions erode, oldsters can integrate memories and knowledge between the two hemispheres in more nuanced ways. Gender roles begin to merge. Oldsters become happier as they pay less attention to negative emotional stimuli. “They become more vivid as people, more what they already are,” said UC scholar Norma Haan in typical Berkeleyspeak. But columnist David Brooks writes that the new elderly are also “takers.” They take federal money – $7 for every $1 given to youth. They take opportunities from younger people in jobs and increasingly in graduate and retraining programs as well as internships. Even political action groups will be dominated by seniors, who are more reliable than young people as voters – the majority of the Tea Party movement is over 50, after all. But older people also are givers – especially to their grandchildren, alumni groups and charities. “Old people now have the time, energy and, with the Internet, the tools to organize. The elderly: they are our future,” Brooks writes. (April 2010)
ZERO SUM GAME? – After Arizona, the big debate in immigration reform might be about who gets one of the million-plus new green cards given out each year. At present, more than 65 percent are given to extended family members of permanent immigrants; and 15 percent, to needed workers. In a new book, Brain Gain, Brookings Institute Director Darrell West suggests that this might be reversed as it is in Canada. The idea to give green cards to all foreign students graduating from U.S. colleges with advanced degrees in the STEM fields is very popular. The idea of increasing the number of temporary visas for needed workers or the total number of permanent visas is not. “It could be a zero sum game,” says West. (September 2010)
TALK ABOUT DROPOUTS – LOOK AT INTERNET CLASSES! – Here’s the mantra: “We work online; we shop online; let’s learn online!” Educational technology consultants (like J. Edgar Garr) love to write about “Johnny” who is bored, bored, bored by his textbook but loves to read his class assignments online, devour interesting tidbits that are linked, compose his report online and attach images and quotes he’s researched on the Web (OK, so he plagiarizes, but never mind) and send it on to his teacher, who might even suggest corrections that the now supposedly highly motivated Johnny might even do – and all by high-speed (lord forbid it should not be high-speed!) Internet access! Of course, some experts admit that there will need to be a new type of thinking to truly take advantage of this approach. And some teachers who have embraced the idea of teaching students personally, unseen, while still in their pajamas (does anyone wear those anymore?) are finding that most of their time is spent telling a student which button to push on the new technology (yes, even the young ones!). What analysts need to start looking at, however, are the online course-completion rates. At one community college last year (name, class, teacher – available on a need-to-know basis only), the new online class started with 35 students, and the excited teacher got full pay for not having to appear in a classroom. The completion rate 10 weeks later: zero! (November 2010)
Thebattle is on over regulation of the nation’s fastest-growing higher educational sector: the for-profit career colleges. Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., summarizes problems at these colleges regarding course quality, overly aggressive marketing, low completion rates and high loan default rates as “sub-primes go to college.” He supports strict “gainful employment” rules to bring them under control.
But Illinois state Sen. Iris Y. Martínez, president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), worries that the proposed rules “will have unintended consequences that will negatively affect Hispanic students. We applaud efforts to address the bad actors in the career college industry,” Martínez writes. But in a resolution passed unanimously by Hispanic state legislators in November, her organization urges that the impact of the gainful employment rule be studied further, and a more comprehensive approach to the problem be developed.
Durbin expressed passionate concern at the growing number of career college students taking on burdensome long-term student loan debt in order to cover high tuition costs at career colleges who “end up with low-quality degrees or none at all.” Career colleges have proliferated mainly due to the fact that most of their some two million students use federal loans and grants to pay for their education, according to the Democratic senator. At a June press conference in Washington, D.C., Durbin announced that he and then-Senate Education Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, “were ready to take action.”
The senators support proposed regulations that have come to be known as “gainful employment” or “the 8 percent rule.” The labels are based on the mission of federally supported education institutions to “enhance the gainful employment of their students.” The regulations propose a formula for measuring a program’s gainful employment rating based on both its student loan debt to prospective earnings ratio (no more than 8 percent annually) and its degree/certificate-completionand loan default rates.
Not surprisingly, the career colleges and their proponents have been fighting the proposed regulations. The for-profit sector comprises a wide variety of institutions ranging from small privately owned institutions to publicly traded corporations. Thirty-nine percent of their degrees are completed by minorities (compared to 20 percent at public and 17 percent at private not-for-profit institutions). But 90 percent of their revenue is generated by federal student grants and loans, according to Forbes magazine, citing recent government studies. Withdrawal of eligibility for the funds would cause significant financial loss for the institutions.
Implementation of the gainful employment act could “provide a significant moment in the Obama administration’s attempt to regulate – and arguably rein in – the sector,” according to Inside Higher Education.
The NHCSL calls the gainful employment rule “the most contentious of all the policy changes recently recommended by the Department of Education that threaten to disqualify specific institutions and programs from receiving federal funding. The same individuals for which federal funding is targeted will be those who are the most impacted by this proposal. It is concerning that the gainful employment rule may impact a student’s ability to train in a field that could get them a real job upon graduation,” states the organization’s policy brief, “The ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule and Hispanic Students.”
“All must recognize that loan repayment is a serious responsibility and that they should not stretch themselves too thin. However the strict guidelines may deny aid to students with a particular passion for a vocation that is not particularly high paying by making it impossible to qualify.”
In July, the Department of Education announced that it would delay any immediate implementation of the gainful employment rule and would issue proposed rules in November.
In its unanimously passed resolution, the NHCSL urges the Department of Education to “hold implementation until other specific remedies to address the abuses by some within the career college industry could be considered.” Recommendations include the requirement that career colleges evaluate the employment demand for graduates of given programs, with intent to achieve graduate employment rates of 65 percent; and to admit only students the institution deems have the ‘ability to benefit’ from its degree programs.
But there is also another deeper underlying issue in this controversy: the virtual targeting of only for-profit colleges.
“Any policy change in higher education should treat all institutions the same,” said New Mexico state legislator Nora Espinoza, a Republican who moderated the panel on gainful employment and the education industry at the November NHCSL conference in San Antonio. The organization’s resolution includes a resolve to establish the same or similar rules and standards across all areas of higher education, including public and nonprofit institutions.
“One of the most disturbing and divisive trends in America today is the trend toward a two-tiered system of post-secondary education,” the NHCSL policy brief states. “Increasingly our nation’s higher education opportunities are becoming polarized into a system of “haves and have-nots,” based not only on the ability to pay but also on the perceived ability to pay back (federal loans). Many are concerned that the proposed rule may further exaggerate this by making even generally effective programs ineligible for financial aid.”
“It is a shame that the gainful employment act discriminates against career students by restricting their access to student loans,” wrote Alma Morales Riojas, president and CEO of MANA, a national Latina organization, in the Daily Caller. “These schools provide unique opportunities to Hispanic Americans in cities around the country that traditional college simply do not. Most Hispanics – like more and more people from every background in America these days – simply cannot take four years off to further their education; they have to support themselves while doing it. Career colleges give them a real chance for success.”
“Of course, such accountability must apply to all postsecondary education institutions, not just the for-profits,” Durbin hastily added, when questioned at the June press briefing at the National Press Club.