Thursday, January 10, 2013

Friday Fragments

The book is out, and shipping!  


Fearless prediction time: The City College of San Francisco will get some sort of extension -- possibly presented as “probationary” -- on its deadline to show improvement or lose accreditation.  Given the size of the college, and the political impact of a loss of accreditation (which would almost certainly lead to closure), I just don’t see the hammer falling in March.

Unfortunately, it appears that many of the folks who need to agree to drastic changes are making that same calculation, and foot-dragging as a result.   

The saving grace, perversely enough, may be rapidly declining enrollments.  It’s one thing to argue with an accreditor; it’s quite another to argue with the public.  Here’s hoping that sane minds prevail on campus and they get their stuff together before the death spiral becomes unstoppable.


I don’t know if the “flex degrees” that Wisconsin is rolling out will work, but they strike me as a promising start.  It appears that they’ll be focused more on competencies than on credits, which is a prerequisite to any meaningful progress.

I’m hopeful that this option, and others like it, become sufficiently popular that the Department of Education starts to get a little more willing to move on financial aid rules.  Right now, those are the greatest barriers to campus innovation.  Charge the Department of Ed with improving results, rather than preventing change, and we can get somewhere.  On, Wisconsin!


Voice is data.  I don’t mind so much paying for monthly data use, but breaking out voice as its own separate item leaves a bad taste.  Why can’t it all just fall under data?  Verizon, I’m looking at youuu...


This story about Pell grant restrictions struck me as inevitable.  Among the effects of reducing Pell grant eligibility are reduced enrollments by low-income people, increased reliance on loans (especially private ones that aren’t subject to federal limits), and increased time spent on working for pay, rather than studying.  

Historically, social mobility has been an antidote to the political effects of economic polarization.  When that mobility goes away, it’s harder to explain to a have-not why she shouldn’t resent the haves.  There was a time when conservatives understood this.  Nelson Rockefeller didn’t pour money into SUNY because he was a closet socialist; he poured money into SUNY to offer people who might otherwise have been threatening a stake in the system.

And yes, degrees do still help with mobility.  I noted with gratitude the latest study showing that while a degree isn’t any sort of guarantee, in the aggregate, you’re much better off economically having one than not having one.  That’s why recessions increase enrollments in community colleges.  (That, and the lower opportunity cost of enrolling when other opportunities are scarce.)  Folks on the ground know that education matters.

I’d rather have students work fewer hours for pay, have time to study, and graduate with less debt.  I just don’t see what’s so radical or threatening about that.