Thursday, July 16, 2015

Friday Fragments

Apparently, Udacity is doing a variation on the old “security deposit refunded upon graduation” idea.  It will refund half of tuition upon completion of any “nanodegree.”

Some of us are old enough to remember when Udacity and other MOOC providers were going to be entirely free.  Now they’re half off, if you act quickly.  Economic gravity is a real thing.

I’ve toyed with the idea of the graduation security deposit before.  It has a certain appeal, especially for the student who completed nearly everything but just never bothered with the paperwork.  But I have to think it would tend to reward the students who are already the wealthiest, and further punish the ones who are already struggling the most.

As Tressie McMillan Cottom likes to point out, one of the reasons that for-profit providers were successful for so long at attracting low-income students was that they understood the difference between money now and money in the distant future.  When you’re riding the ragged edge of disaster financially, being told that you need to put aside a significant chunk of money now in order to get it back later is a non-starter.  You need it now.  For-profits get that, and go out of their way to move costs into “later.”  

Some read that as a character flaw in the poor, but I think of it as a reasonable response to an unreasonable situation.  If your life is unstable and unpredictable, wagering too much on any single outcome is a bad bet.  

In the rush to improve graduation rates, it’s easy to fall back on versions of cherry-picking, and to focus only on the students who are likeliest to make it anyway.  The real challenge is in improving outcomes among students for whom it matters most.


Packing sucks.  And that is all I will say about that.


On the bright side of packing, though, Thursday was my first day at Brookdale Community College.  The sun shone, everyone was gracious and welcoming, and even the parking was easy.

A first day, in the middle of July, is a representative sample, right?  Right?...