Will declining Midwestern universities increase geographic inequality?

by MooshiMooshi

Universities, especially the land grant universities, have long taken a leading role in developing local economies. This is increasingly important today, as regions compete to attract companies and professionals who work in the knowledge sector (think of the current Amazon competition, for example). Universities often function as a hub, nurturing and advising high tech startups and small companies that move research into production. Think of the roles played by Stanford and Berkeley in creating Silicon Valley, or Duke and UNC in creating the Research Triangle tech hub. Universities not only provide ideas and research for companies, but also in many cases sponsor major hospitals with state of the art facilities, healthcare outreach to the community, and provide sports and cultural events, all things that make a region more attractive to companies and educated workers.

Sadly, declines in funding for public universities, which are particularly important in the Midwest where there is less tradition of well endowed private universities, threaten all of this. This is something that has the potential to exacerbate geographic inequalities, since underfunded Midwestern public universities will end up having less and less ability to fill their roles as economic drivers. Is this another sign of the death spiral in the Midwest? Is there a solution?

The Decline of the Midwest’s Public Universities Threatens to Wreck Its Most Vibrant Economies


Where the 1% attend college

by MooshiMooshi

Here is an utterly fascinating collection of data charts, showing where the types of colleges that the 1% attend vs the schools that the bottom 60% attend. It isn’t surprising that elite private schools do not enroll many of the bottom 60%. Near the bottom is a great chart showing the colleges with the highest mobility rates – the schools that propel students from lower income families into a higher income category, The chart shows the top 10, but you can type in the name of any school and get its position. My own employer came in at 75, which is not bad at all considering there are at least over 1000 schools on this list. We also have less than 1% enrollment of one-percenters, and 48% from the lower 60%.

The question that must be asked: why isn’t more charitable giving directed to the schools that are most successful at propelling lower income students into higher income categories? Charitable giving to universities is dominated by money going to the elites, which do not function well as engines of mobility. I think this idea of mobility as a measure of success needs to be more publicized, and donors who care about education should be encouraged to give to the schools that are already doing a good job at mobility.

Some Colleges Have More Students From the Top 1 Percent Than the Bottom 60. Find Yours.

Opinions? Should colleges be rewarded for helping more students move upwards?

Out of state students

Both MooshiMooshi and Rhode sent in posts for this topic.

by MooshiMooshi

Are cuts to public state universities forcing kids to go out of state?

This article, from the NYTimes, contends that increasingly, this is the case. The article discusses reasons why some states are sending so many students out of state, and the second article shows the data, state by state.

Public Colleges Chase Out-of-State Students, and Tuition

How Cuts to Public Universities Have Driven Students Out of State

In my experience, some states have traditionally sent lots of students out of state – CT and MA come to mind immediately. Even back in the 80’s, it was assumed in CT that many students would leave. Both states had relatively underfunded flagship public universities at the time, and little tradition of widespread public university education. The best students always went private. But other states, like CA, had a long standing tradition of public higher education. In the state where I graduated HS, very few students went out of state, and that appears to still be the case. But CA is now sending a lot of students out. And Illinois???

How is your state doing according to the data? If your state is sending a lot of kids out of state, do you agree with the reasons given? Do most students in your state go to public universities or do many go to private schools? And do you think we should continue to have state based public higher education systems? Or should everything thing be national, or even private?

* * * * * *

by Rhode

This article describes how public college students migrate. Did you follow the pattern of your home state? What about your kids?

The interesting backbone to this article is the reduction of state aid to public colleges. How does this affect you? Are your children’s colleges choices or how far the budget will stretch affected?

The broader question I have is what do you think about the reduction of state aid to public colleges?

At least in RI, the aid from the state is supposed to subsidize RI student costs, so that way our state public colleges are very affordable. In an odd twist, the cost to keep the lights on is the cost of out-of-state tuition, so the state aid basically fills the gap between “what the state thinks RI students should pay” and “what it actually costs to run the college”. I’ve never agreed with the model – it’s a catch-22. The college needs to recruit out-of-state students to keep the lights on, so the state thinks that the college doesn’t care about in-state needs, and then reduces aid, forcing tuition to increase across the board. If the college focuses on drawing in-state students, then programs may be cut because the college doesn’t have enough out-of-state tuition to keep the lights on.

What about your state? Is funding to public colleges decreasing? Do you think it’s important for states to fund public institutions? What about the federal government? Should more aid be given to reduce tuition costs across the board?

Big Data keeps tabs on college students

by Rocky Mountain Stepmom

Institutions collect startling amounts of information on students. Do the students have a right to know how it’s being used, and should they be able to opt out?

As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education

[The linked article is behind a paywall, but here’s a PDF that will stay posted for a limited time.]

20160710.As Big Data Comes to College, Officials Wrestle to Set New Ethical Norms – The Chronicle of Higher Education (1)

University of Adjuncts

by Honolulu Mother

Gawker recently ran a series on the plight of the growing class of full-time-adjunct professors who, more and more, are doing the actual teaching in U.S. colleges and universities. You can see the whole series here:

Your Professors Are in the Struggle and They’re Not Winning Yet

Executive summary: it’s a terrible career path, and adjuncts don’t have the time or institutional support to be available to students outside of class the same way tenure-track professors are.

One obvious takeaway is that getting a PhD with plans to become a professor is highly inadvisable in this academic environment. But this trend may be concerning to Totebaggers for other reasons. For instance, as a parent of kids coming up on college age, I find it striking that the amount an individual college student pays per credit is similar to the amount the adjunct teaching the entire class is being paid per credit. That math seems wrong. And college students are going to find it more difficult to come up with references for first employment or grad school applications if the people teaching their classes are as likely as not to be gone the next year or the year after.

Is this a trend you’ve been following, and what are your thoughts on it?

Overinvestment in College Lending

by WCE

College Loan Glut Worries Policy Makers

I was intrigued by this article, because both of my babysitters hoped to “go to college to improve themselves” but in my opinion, would have been more suited for a vocational program or apprenticeship.

I think that government continues to loan money to people who are poor risks (housing followed by education) because government is unwilling or unable to discern who is a worthy borrower without appearing racist or classist. Lending laws affecting banks and private lenders may or may not have similar effects, depending on how they are written and enforced. Lending money requires judging people and that’s hard for both social and policy reasons. Repayment depends in part on family/cultural background and not just on individual, statistical creditworthiness, which makes judgement even more complicated in a society where credit decisions are based solely on individual (or possibly married couple) attributes.

Agree or disagree? What do you think about a European-style approach to higher education, where slots are more subsidized but limited to applicants with higher demonstrated academic aptitude?


The U.S. government over the last 15 years made a trillion-dollar investment to improve the nation’s workforce, productivity and economy. A big portion of that investment has now turned toxic, with echoes of the housing crisis.

The investment was in “human capital,” or, more specifically, higher education. The government helped finance tens of millions of tuitions as enrollment in U.S. colleges and graduate schools soared 24% from 2002 to 2012, rivaling the higher-education boom of the 1970s. Millions of others attended trade schools that award career certificates.

The government financed a large share of these educations through grants, low-interest loans and loan guarantees. Total outstanding student debt—almost all guaranteed or made directly by the federal government—has quadrupled since 2000 to $1.2 trillion today. The government also spent tens of billions of dollars in grants and tax credits for students.

New research shows a significant chunk of that investment backfired, with millions of students worse off for having gone to school. Many never learned new skills because they dropped out—and now carry debt they are unwilling or unable to repay. Policy makers worry that without a bigger intervention, those borrowers will become trapped for years and will ultimately hurt, rather than help, the nation’s economy.

Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin compares the 7 million student-loan borrowers in default—and millions of others who appear on the same path—to homeowners who found themselves underwater and headed toward foreclosure after the housing crash.

“We needed individual households to stabilize property values and help revive communities,” she said. “We want to stabilize this generation of student borrowers and revive their prospects for the future. I think students are essential to our future economic growth and contributions to productivity.”…

The Obama administration faced criticism that it was too slow to help ailing homeowners during the foreclosure crisis, which impeded the economy from recovering more quickly from the recession. The administration is determined to avoid similar criticism with student-loan borrowers.

It has already put forth an array of programs to help borrowers, including slashing monthly bills by tying payments to incomes, and forgiving some of their debt. But this time they face a different challenge: How to get borrowers to pay anything—even a penny—for an asset they never received.

Effects of increasing international student populations on college campuses

by WCE

I have friends who are STEM academic advisers at OSU and UIUC. My OSU friend confirmed the accuracy of this article. When I was in graduate school, my department was ~75% international students. I think people can learn the fundamentals of engineering in the U.S. with a limited grasp of English, but I’m not sure that other disciplines, especially language-intensive ones, are suitable for people with limited English proficiency. I was surprised to see how high the percentage of international students at Mt Holyoke and Bryn Mawr is (28%) and I wonder if the education there is affected. One of my acquaintances left his engineering professorship in part over how repeated cheating by international students was handled by the local university.

Do you think a US college education will continue to be valuable? Do you share my concern about students with limited English requiring slower instruction in language-intensive disciplines?

On a recent Monday, 22-year-old [Shao] woke up in the apartment he shares with three Chinese friends. He walked to an engineering class at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he sat with Chinese students. Then, he hit the gym with a Chinese pal before studying in the library until late into the night. He recalls uttering two fragments in English all day. The longest was at Chipotle, where he ordered a burrito: “Double chicken, black beans, lettuce and hot sauce.”

At first glance, a huge wave of Chinese students entering American higher education seems beneficial for both sides. International students, in particular from China, are clamoring for American credentials, while U.S. schools want their tuition dollars, which can run two to three times the rate paid by in-state students. On the ground, American campuses are struggling to absorb the rapid and growing influx—a dynamic confirmed by interviews with dozens of students, college professors and counselors.

Heavy Recruitment of Chinese Students Sows Discord on U.S. Campuses