New America will host a panel discussion with student loan experts who will provide their views on the findings in a new report, "Why Student Loans Are Different" and how the report contributes to our understanding of student debt.
Thursday April 02, 2015
02:00 PM – 03:30 PM
[u'1899 L Street NW, Suite 400', u'Washington, DC 20036']
New America will host a panel discussion with student loan experts who will provide their views on the findings in a new report, "Why Student Loans Are Different" and how the report contributes to our understanding of student debt.More about the event
This disconnect between repayment, completion, and default exposes a significant flaw in the key metric the federal government uses to police its student-loan programs and decide which colleges to bar from eligibility. And it highlights the weakness of current attempts at accountability around student loans.The current measure of student-loan performance ignores what research shows is the most important indicator in determining whether students are able to avoid defaulting on their loans: whether they finished college. Borrowers who drop out with debt are also more likely to be unemployed and earn less than their peers who graduated. In fact, of student borrowers who entered college in the 2003-4 academic year and defaulted by 2009, 63 percent had dropped out.
Despite the government’s huge investment in the program, the college-going rates of low-income students continue to lag far below those of their more-affluent peers. In fact, the gap in college attendance between the highest- and lowest-income students remains as wide as it was in the 1970s, when Congress created the Pell Grant program. Many financial-aid advocates and college lobbyists say that the only problem with the government’s student aid programs is that they have not been adequately financed. After all, the percentage of the cost of attending a public four-year college that is covered by the maximum Pell award has fallen significantly over the past 40 years—from 77 percent in 1979-80 to 30 percent in 2014-15. These advocates argue that if Congress dramatically increased the maximum grant amount, millions more low-income students would be able to gain access to college.
America’s higher education system has largely remained an unchanged institution with universities today looking a lot like they did 100 years ago, according to education policy expert Kevin Carey. “Colleges and universities really have not changed in any fundamental way since their basic design ... when they were created in the late 19th century. They've used information technology to kind of sustain themselves but not really transform themselves,” Carey said.
Kevin Carey urges nearly identical advice not on parents and students but on colleges and universities, which he believes have actively resisted transformation by information technology in order to maximize profit and preserve centuries-old privileges. An education wonk at the New America Foundation, with degrees (Bruni would want you to know) from Binghamton and Ohio State, Carey elegantly blends policy analysis, reportage and (briefly) memoir into a hard-charging indictment of the eggheads and ivory towers many Americans love to hate. While Bruni extols all the other places you could go, Carey believes that the time is nearly at hand when students won’t need to go anywhere to learn everywhere.
But the cost is likely limited because only a small group would be affected, said Ben Miller, a senior policy analyst for higher-education policy at New America, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.The legislation would help to even the playing field, Miller said. "Right now there's a broader problem with inconsistency in how student-loan forgiveness is or is not taxed," Miller said. "Hitting a disabled vet with a tax bill, after we already know they can't pay the loan, undercuts the benefit they got."
Competency-based programs “could very easily devolve into diploma mills,” said Amy Laitinen, a former White House and Department of Education advisor who is now deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation and an advocate of the concept. “It could go south very quickly.” Designers of competency-based programs say they measure whether what people have already learned in life is enough for them to forgo academic courses typically required as prerequisites toward a degree.
The availability of real, free college courses means universities won’t have to rely on such flawed proxies in the future. Instead they’ll be able to pick and choose from among students who have already demonstrated that they can excel at demanding college work. Colleges are still figuring out exactly how to incorporate MOOCs into admissions, since the courses have existed for only a few years. Right now, students would list them among extracurricular activities, which in a sense they are.
Kevin Carey, the author of “The End of College” (and graduate of MIT’s freshman biology MOOC), predicts that the higher education system as it’s set up today can’t survive – and in his view, that’s a good thing.
That’s what Kevin Carey, author of “The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere,” works to solve and plan for in his recent book, and it’s the same problem he posed to college administrators Wednesday afternoon at a panel in New York City. Though Carey, who is well-versed in the world of higher education, points out that he doesn’t have all the answers on how to make college affordable, he is clear in his belief that colleges and universities aren’t taking the necessary — and sometimes risky — steps to try these “new models” of education.
According to new rankings generated by the New America, a non-partisan Washington, D.C. think tank, for all 68 teams in the tournament–and shared exclusively with TIME — Davidson cuts down the proverbial nets. Here’s how: we matched teams up in the classroom, using the tournament brackets to determine the games. If the on-court bracket results mimicked academic performance, the Final Four would look like this: Davidson wins the South, Maryland comes out of the Midwest, Baylor takes the West and Dayton wins the East. Davidson knocks off Baylor in one national semifinal. Maryland knocks off Dayton in the other semi, with Davidson taking the title game.
Carey’s “The End of College” positions itself as an exposé on the American university system, tracing how it evolved through many accidents of history. Recent studies have shown that many graduates lack fundamental skills, scoring at only a “basic” literacy level. Soaring tuition cripples students with debt. Faculty are rewarded for publishing rather than teaching. These are real problems that need addressing. Carey’s antidote is a kind of techno-utopian structure called “The University of Everywhere,” in which students learn through online courses taught by a talented few – his model is MIT’s edX courses – and here his vision falters in its Silicon Valley-esque reflexive faith in technology.
“Some of those are: increased amenities so they can stay competitive,” Ben Miller, a policy analyst with the nonprofit think tank New America, says. “Some of those are paying for the ‘all-star’ professors so that they can tout that they have Nobel Prize winners or award-winning researchers on staff.” But there’s something else at play, Miller says. Most schools have a “sticker price,” the amount they want students to pay.
So when Brooks writes, "It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms," he's being willfully blind. Stable marital norms are difficult to develop, refine and maintain at any income. In the face of extraordinary adversity—consider that approximately half of American students are growing up in low-income families—we should expect what he terms "an anarchy of the intimate life."
Brooks worries that, for the poor, "there are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically." But there are codes! They simply happen to be punishing, degrading codes shaped by poverty and material and educational inequality. In short, norms are built on resources and opportunities.
Even so, Ben Miller, a senior policy analyst at New America, formerly the New America Foundation, and another panelist at Monday’s event, said afterward that it would be a "massive mistake" not to create separate systems. "The way consumers make choices and researchers and policy makers look at things is dramatically different," he said.
The share of Americans defaulting on their student loans or putting them off for years is increasing, as New America Foundation researcher Jason Delisle argued in the Wall Street Journal last year. What's it like not to be able to pay your student-loan debt? Lots of viral articles have tried answering the question, but those stories tend to pull examples from the extreme end of the spectrum. A new report, published this week by the New America Foundation, relies on focus groups of ordinary borrowers to seek out a more realistic, and useful, answer.
In Carey’s view, universities that develop personalized online platforms will succeed in the global higher education market. In addition to traditional degrees, they will offer “open badges,” essentially searchable, open-source credentials that will allow employers to look up the assignments and exams a student was required to master. They will invest in immersive digital learning environments, rather than building $100 million student unions. They will become the “university of everywhere.” This is thought-provoking, fascinating material.
In The End of College: Creating the Future of Learning and the University of Everywhere, education researcher and writer Kevin Carey shows how innovations in digital learning can help higher education.
As Carey recognizes, this does happen at many liberal-arts colleges. Professors are active scholars, scientists, writers, and artists—they are creating knowledge on campus, not just disseminating it. The students feel strongly about this; they recognize that learning is more powerful when it is active rather than only receptive. This can also happen at larger universities—but it takes creative design and purposeful investment.