Thursday, July 25, 2013

An Education in Higher Education

I am a firm believer in high education being a necessity for all students graduating high school after 1995. I should clarify that in my perspective a higher education does not mean a bachelors degree. Community colleges have contributed and continue to contribute to global prosperity by providing technical education and diversity development among students young and old.

Therefore, what I really mean by higher education is to spend time in an environment that is about problem solving and out of the box thinking compared to studying for a test that only has 1 right answer. The test standards are great for measuring understanding but do not test the ability to apply knowledge; that is what I believe post-secondary education does and it is a vital tool for any modern day employee.

So then how do we make higher education more affordable? Because even with my very modest $20,000 in student debt ($6,000 below the average for my 2011 class), I was barely scraping by for the first 2 years after graduating college. Higher paying jobs is part of the solution and hopefully as we start to move forward after the Great Recession we'll see a rise in pay for all employees, especially younger adults. However wages rise and fall with the ebbs and flows of the market, student loans remain increase at a rate of 6-8% anually. So it is probably more important to address the cost of education than the rate of compensation.
"But at least at public colleges and universities — which enroll three out of every four American college students — the main cause of tuition growth has been huge state funding cuts. Every recession, states face a budget squeeze as their tax revenue falls and demand for their services rises. They have to cut something, and higher education is often a prime target."
The rise in tuition is not due to elaborate recreation facilities or due to over compensation for professors and staff. It is primarily due to state funding continually being cut during economic down turns and not being restored when the economic climate and revenues recover. As a result, the federal government has been working to increase Pell Grants and loans to undergraduate students to create tools for students to find financing for tuition. So the federal government is spending more and more money on higher education funding, while the states have continued to decrease their contribution to funding.

So now that we've identified the major cause of increasing tuition, how do we begin creating solutions? One solution which President Obama and Senator Rubio - two people who I'd not usually group together - is to ask higher education institutions to disclose more information. This has been the tactic with other problem children from healthcare to wall street.

Would it be beneficial to ask states to provide students better bang for their buck? Absolutely. Would it be beneficial to base federal funding upon the percentage of students who attend class on a regular basis or upon the amount of students who double major? You bet. Would it be beneficial for the federal government to base their funding to a school upon the commitment of the respective state's funding? Very likely.  Should the federal government reward schools that increase efficiency by offering fast tracked classes or online/hy-bred options? Yes

There are so many ways to make high education more efficient, effective, and in the end more beneficial to the student - financially and educationally. I hope that congress and the states can start the dialogue with a sense of urgency to stop using student loans to fund public higher education; because "States will soon have to pay out trillions in public pensions for the retiring baby boomer generation — squeezing the funds for training the next generation of workers even more."

President Obama on Higher Education, 24 July 2013
NY Times: Tuition Skyrocket
Sen. Rubio and President Obama agree on something?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sequestration isn't a Scare Tactic

I recently have been reading a lot of negative comments about President Obama from Republicans about the sequestration. Hearing negative comments about the Obama Administration is nothing new, it is the run of the mill daily statement since 2008. Normally these items don't bother me, but arguing about the sequestration does get under my skin.
"On Tuesday, the Army estimated that 6,651 civilian workers could face furlough, representing a loss in pay of $40 million. The Air Force estimates just over 800 civilian workers could face furlough, representing about $6 million in lost pay."
They say 'go ahead, let the sequestration happen; we already gave in and let tax cuts expire'. The difference between tax cuts expiring and a sequestration is there is quantifiable data with sequestration that will mean people loosing their jobs. Tax cuts expiring meant families continuing the adjustment made to their budgets when the economy got tough and continuing their saving efforts; sequestration will mean thousands of people suddenly unemployed. There is a real difference between these two actions.

What I think is most troubling, we've already increased taxes on all Americans(part a) but now Republicans are dragging their feet again and wanting sequestration to occur (part b). Part a the economy can survive. We'll continue slow growth, taking much longer to recover from the Great Recession than desired of a strong and determined county. Part b the economy would struggle to survive but when you add in that we've already asked the middle class to shoulder a tax increase, you're setting up the economy to fail.

I don't think you can say you support military families and then from the same mouth say you want to lay off thousands of military workers. I would normally have the policy that "you made your bed, now get cozy there" and let the fault fall where it would. However as badly as I wish to see supporters of the sequestration given a one way ticket out of Washington, I am not willing to let American military families suffer to see this happen.

My final thoughts. Sequestration was designed to be such an extreme cut to the budget that congress would be forced to act to avoid pushing the economy further into recession. The American people began the hard and slow growth out of recession just to be turned completely backward by extreme tactics.
55% of Adult Americans find the Republican policies to be unfavorable.

Civilian Defense Workers Will Loose Jobs
Q: Do you have a favorable or unfavorable impression of the policies the Republicans in Congress will pursue in the next four years?