Weekly Journal. Week 11

The article of Ryan Craig “The Top 10 Higher Education Issues We All Agree On” was written in January 2017. This article introduced the issues that president Trump administration was challenged in the very beginning of its term. Now I would like to discuss these issues and to try to evaluate the work of the Trump administration. Today I will introduce first five higher edication issues from this article.

1. Completion is the most powerful lever.

The author wrote that “with drop rates approaching 50% at many four-year institutions and 80% at many two-year colleges, there can be no disagreement that “solving” completion would produce many more college graduates than “solving” accessibility.” [1]

Now the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students in the United States is 40%. [2] Therefore, we can state that there is a positive change regarding this issue.

2. Bachelor’s degree “addiction” is hurting students.

According to the Trump’s administration in 2017, bachelor’s degrees are an “addiction.” Although Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos referenced vocational training as examples of new pathways, in the absence of any material evidence, it takes a Candide-like idealist to continue to insist that a bachelor’s degree is the optimal or only path to establishing the core cognitive and non-cognitive executive function skills that lead to successful white collar careers – particularly given the completion challenge. Alternative pathways and credentials that measure and guarantee outcomes will emerge for a wide range of professions and should be strongly encouraged from a public policy perspective. [1]

In February 2020 president Trump called for a $5.6 billion, or 7.8 percent, cut in Department of Education funding and reductions for most core funders of academic research, but also proposed a nearly $900 million increase in career and technical education funding that U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos called “perhaps the largest increase in CTE ever.” [3] It looks like the current government did some job in this direction.

3. Colleges need to do much more to help graduates get great jobs.

Ryan Craig claims that unprecedented unemployment + underemployment rates for new graduates produced by the Great Recession has changed student behavior – likely unalterably given the affordability crisis. As a result, traditional arguments that “college prepares you for your fifth job, not your first job” increasingly fall on deaf ears; students know that if they don’t get a great first job, they’re much less likely to get a great fifth job. This means colleges need to do more than just increase career services budgets; they must ensure students are equipped with the technical skills employers increasingly require for entry-level positions.

I did not find any evidence that colleges did more to help their graduates get better jobs. So, let me assume that there is no change here.

4. Employers bear much of the blame.

According to the writer, employers have blithely and blindly driven credential inflation, insisting on bachelors and increasingly master’s degrees as requirements for positions that may not require them. Opaque Applicant Tracking Systems and imprecise job descriptions have turned getting in front of a human hiring manager into a “rigged” game, particularly for new graduates with little to no work experience. And while employers have put up technological walls to employment, they’ve been content to continue campus-based recruitment at a select number of schools because that’s the way it’s always been done. [1]

Unfortunately for students, I did not find evidence that employers changed their hiring policies. Therefore, no change.

5. Accountability shouldn’t start and end with for-profit colleges.

For Ryan Craig, there’s no question that many for-profit colleges took the logic of traditional colleges to its logical extreme: enrolling students in programs with an uncertain (and often very poor) return, taking advantage of the bachelor’s degree “addiction” enabled over decades by thousands of colleges and universities, and utilizing aggressive marketing and enrollment tactics to do so. There’s also no question that Gainful Employment metrics provide a useful (if somewhat flawed) way of filtering out low return-on-investment programs. [1]

Honestly, I am not sure how I can evaluate the changes regarding this issue. So I simply cannot answer whether there are some positive changes because this issue look more subjective rather that based on some data.

Next week I will discuss remaining five issues that Donald Trump’s administration had about four years ago.


[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryancraig/2017/01/20/the-top-10-higher-education-issues-we-all-agree-on/?sh=676b083fa876

[2] https://educationdata.org/college-dropout-rates

[3] https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/02/11/trump-budget-would-boost-career-education-spending-cut-funds-college-aid-research

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