Education

Get Rid of Bad Schools, Sez Education Chief

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duncan, a gale of creative destruction on the court

Unfortunately, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan wasn't talking about (finally) letting the nation's crappiest public schools fail. He was talking about something else altogether:

While the Obama administration seeks to increase oversight of for-profit schools, it acknowledges their significant role. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month urged the sector "to get rid of bad actors."

In most industries, getting rid of bad actors is easy, and doesn't require much concerted effort or direction from Cabinet-level secretaries. The gale of creative destruction is already raging in the private sector. The problem: sandbags full of federal money, in the form of Pell grants and subsidized loans, are keeping bad actors in higher education from being blown out to sea. (Whew. Sorry about the metaphor abuse, gang. I'm done now.)

New rules are being considered on for-profit colleges:

New federal rules, expected to be formally proposed in coming days, would tighten oversight of the industry. One much-debated proposal would cut federal aid to for-profit schools in certain cases if graduates spend more than 8 percent of their starting salaries to repay loans.

It's appealing, in the abstract, to get federal money out of at least one gosh darned part of the education sector. But if the central concern is loan burden on graduates, focusing on the for-profit status of the schools in question is a red herring. Taking on massive debt to pay for higher education is hardly a problem exclusive to for-profit colleges. Heck, the "I can't live in Manhattan on the salary I'm earning from my debt-funded liberal arts degree" story is practically an independent genre these days. All kinds of schools use federal money to inflate tuition figures and pad the bottom line. The schools aren't the ones to blame, and non-profit private and public schools are just ask guilty in this regard.

Duncan is actually a pretty reasonable guy. He said this, too:

"Among the for-profits, phenomenal players are out there making a huge difference in helping people take the next step in the economic ladder."

But it's not really his call. Instead, that honor belongs to the likes of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who "plans this month to begin hearings on the industry, examining recruiting practices and student loan default rates."

NEXT: The "Special Interests" That Rarely Get Called as Such

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  1. I keep waiting for story that will not increase my desire to emigrate from this failing nation to a tropical paradise at the earliest opportunity.

    This one didn’t do it, either.

    1. Dominica and Costa Rica offer great tax breaks to foreign investors.

      1. Isn’t there some new expatriate tax? Something about USA gov. takes all your money if you move out of the country.

        1. I remember reading about some sort of expatriot tax, but I don’t remember the details.

      2. Panama is at the top of my list.

        1. Reason being? I would have thought Costa Rica, which has a more stable history.

        2. Thanks for getting that song and video in my head. Some bar last night was playing it way too often.

    2. I recommend Australia. It has a growing economy, a growing population, a relatively open attitude towards immigrants, and a American style tradtion of freedom and democracy. Plus, you already know the language.

      1. Well, not exactly, but it doesn’t take most people that long to learn the language

      2. but NZ offers tax rebates if you want to make a movie…

  2. EOM

    1. I know. Two clown school stories in one day is a little much.

  3. But if the central concern is loan burden on graduates, focusing on the for-profit status of the schools in question is a red herring.

    Particularly since a significant number of the dreaded “profiteers” actually focus their curricula on skills (unlike that conjoined “Religion/Womyns’ Studies program) somebody might one day pay you to demonstrate.

  4. Someone needs to introduce Sen. Harkin to one of Fredo’s places.

  5. But if I don’t pay more, how do people know I went to a better school than they did?

    1. If you actually went to a real school, NutraSweet, you wouldn’t have to ask that question.

      1. Expensive schools are for rich people. People just need to get over it. You can get a worthless degree very cheaply if you shop around.

        1. You can get a worthless degree very cheaply if you shop around.

          You sure can! I have two worthless degrees!

        2. You can skip the education and just by a sheepskin for any school you want.

  6. These efforts aren’t limited to for-profit colleges: http://chronicle.com/article/6…..ges/64331/
    Pressuring colleges to improve their students’ default rates can provide pressure to the colleges to improve the quality of the education they provide. Since there is very little information available to students about the quality of education and value of degrees that different colleges provide (assymetry of information), using the federally subsidized student loan system as a way to measure education quality and to say that not all colleges have the right to subsidized student loans if they don’t provide a valuable product isn’t a bad thing. I just see it as addressing a market inefficiency due to assymetric information.
    Whether the Feds should subsidize student loans is a whole other question.

    1. “Pressuring colleges to improve their students’ default rates can provide pressure to the colleges to improve the quality of the education they provide. ”

      Not necessarily true. Colleges have little control over the earning potential of their graduates. Colleges offer accreditation in particular fields – a piece of paper saying “The recipient has shown capability in the following areas.”
      That’s what the student’s tuition pays for, and that’s what the student gets.

      There’s no reason for a student’s ability/inability to market himself should reflect back on the school from which he graduated.

      Additionally, it’s not the government’s job to distribute information. People should be able to make their own decisions. If they are too stupid to recognize “asymmetric” information, then they probably deserve to default on their loans.

      “using the federally subsidized student loan system as a way to measure education quality and to say that not all colleges have the right to subsidized student loans if they don’t provide a valuable product isn’t a bad thing. ”

      If it’s a market inefficiency, then the rules of the market will eliminate it. There’s no reason for the government to step in and regulate the shit out of it.

      1. You say “it’s not the government’s job to distribute information.” “If it’s a market inefficiency, then the rules of the market will eliminate it.” If the government doesn’t do this, who will? We have a pretty free market system right now and such information does not exist. All of the schools, which have the marketing muscle and resource and information, have a huge incentive to be dishonest about the value of the degrees they provide. How would your imaginary system work? Why doesn’t it exist right now?

        1. The system does exist. It’s called “don’t make stupid decisions about where you go to school.”

          Before I chose where to go to college, I had a good idea of what field I wanted to go into and then I found the schools that had a good reputation in that field. Then, I made sure the reputation was legit by doing things like finding what the program was ranked nationally – rankings based on the opinion of peer programs, aka what professors and professionals think of the program.

          There are already organizations that evaluate college programs and insure they meet a certain standard. Such as, ABET Accreditation – http://www.abet.org/

          No government necessary.

          As a general rule, don’t be a dumbass. And it’s not the government’s job to protect people from themselves.

          If a college has a lot of people asking about a women’s studies program, and they don’t have one, then they can see a demand for such a program and supply one. If the graduates of such a program take out loans to pay for it, and then can’t find jobs after graduation, that’s not the college’s fault.

          They simply saw a demand for a certain program, and then provided for that demand. End of Story.

  7. The headline is factually wrong and contradicted in the text of the article: the education chief said cut Federal student aid to bad schools, not close those schools.

  8. How about firing bad students?

    Since I bet that a major problem with “bad schools” and “bad teachers” is that they have bad students.

    1. Why is it that when school evaluations/test scores are low, schools talk about poor parental involvement, distracted students, low income students with no motivation, etc., but when evaluations/test scores are up, the schools claim it is because of good teachers teaching hard to teach kids??

  9. You know what would help a lot – stop subsidizing/guaranteeing student loans. I lot of the scummy for profit colleges immediately go away. And tuition prices drop at the rest (for or non profit).

  10. It looks like Phoenix University is going to get the most out of its massive contributions to the Democrat’s campaign coffers.

  11. If we are not going to stop sponsoring higher-ed with taxpayer money, they should at least means-test it.

    No Pell Grants or gov-backed loans for liberal-arts majors. If you want to study that stuff, do it on your own dime.

      1. That’s grade inflation Suki.

    1. But political *science* would still be covered, right?

    2. Since degrees in Geology and Applied Mathematics are sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo useful, why don’t we just let Big Math sponsor Science/Engineering students in return for a couple of years of indentured servitude?

  12. Is anyone else noticing that we continually raise the age for child welfare in this country with each passing year?

    Everyone agrees that foodstamps for starving poor kids and their families are, sure, a great idea. And something a rich nation should provide. Well, then we added full healthcare coverage for the same poor kids, which, ok, I guess. Sure, poor kids need the help.

    But then this healthcare bill pushed the age for when kids can remain on Mom and Dads health insurance to TWENTY SIX? 26 isn’t a kid anymore.

    And now they want to coddle kids who fail to turn their college degree in to a lucrative job by bailing them out? AGAIN?

    Jesus, how long until the government declares that 30 year olds who are stuck in career sucking jobs get subsidies for therapy?

    We are raising a nation a GIANT PUSSIES when we do stuff like this.

    1. The coup de etat comes when they declare that the age of consenting to a contract is 30, but they’ll probably still pay 16 year olds $8k to buy houses.

  13. The college degree bust is already in full swing, and the MSM is astonished that college grads are now learning trades.

    1. http://www.slate.com/id/2257066/

      One of the surest signs of a bogus trend story is a disclaimer that backs off from the hype contained in its hed. The Post piece follows this pattern, making a big sell in its hed, “More college-educated jump tracks to become skilled manual laborers” (June 15), before paring back with the fifth-paragraph assertion that there is a “small but apparently growing number of the college-educated who are taking up the trades.”

      A “small number” that is “growing” should be quantifiable, right? Even one that is “apparently growing.” But when the Post piece finally examines the data in the 18th and 19th paragraphs, here’s what it finds:

      Nationwide, 550,000 people are enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs, according to the Labor Department, and the number of students in unregistered programs might be almost as high.

      But determining how many went to college is difficult. Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys from 2009 show that more than 7 percent of workers in the construction trade have at least a bachelor’s degree, up from less than 6 percent in 1990 and 2000. The surveys are small, though, and not statistically reliable.

      In other words, there has been no demonstrable increase over the past decade in the percentage of folks in the construction trades who graduated from college. Notice that the Post doesn’t log the absolute change (if any) in the total number of people in the trades. For all the reader knows, the actual number of tradesmen is decreasing. If that’s the case, the number of tradesmen who graduated from college might actually be going down.

  14. Duncan last month urged the sector “to get rid of bad actors” [and noted that] “phenomenal players are out there making a huge difference”.

    Is there an edu-jargon difference between an “actor” and a “player”?

  15. I wish I had learned a trade. I can’t change a lightbulb. Of course, I can disassemble and assemble an M-16 lickety-split. Thanks to Uncle Sam. In fact, that may beomce a very important skill after this country goes into the shithole that Arnie Duncan and the other apparatchiks get through with it.

  16. Education Secretary Arne Duncan last month urged the sector “to get rid of bad actors.”

    Let’s start by getting rid of Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

    Education is in the end a PERSONAL choice – so what would be a “bad actor” in education? A school with no teachers?

  17. Taking on massive debt to pay for higher education is hardly a problem exclusive to for-profit colleges.

    Well, sort of. The default rate on student loans for for-profit colleges is 44%! That is about 4 times the rate of other colleges. The reason is simple. Most for-profit colleges are a joke. They will accept anybody (even recruiting at homeless shelters–really) and hardly anyone fails. Professors are judged by pass rates and student evaluations. Any professor who tries to make the classes actual college-level are fired because the numbers are too low.

    So why doesn’t the free market correct for this?
    1) Subsidized student loans. When a student defaults, the colleges still make money. They have incentive to move students through, but no incentive to make sure they learn anything.
    2) Griggs v. Duke Power: The solution to about half of the problems in college education is to allow employers to give IQ tests to prospective employees, but the government does not allow it (because IQ tests are RACIST), so people have to waste 4 years or more getting a degree to prove they are smart enough to pass an illegal IQ test.

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