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The Education Thread
#1
2018 has been a big year for education-related news in the United States, and we've talked about that in various threads, but I figured an all-encompassing thread where we talked about it in all forms throughout the world could lead to some great discussions.  I also think it'll make it easier for certain stories to not get lost in the shuffle in an ocean of Trump news.

So, you think one country has a great model for education, or find yourself reading a book filled with ideas on how to better a system?  Let's talk!


I'll start with Seth Frotman stepping down from a CFPB position overseeing the $15 trillion student loan market a few days ago because of the Trump administration's hostility towards people affected.  Naturally, it was brought up in the Trump thread, but major news spreads so fast there that some stories just don't gain the traction they deserve.  

First, the needed backstory and new information regarding what for-profit colleges (others too) do during the three-year window where the U.S. government actually pays attention to borrowers:

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/201...trump.html

Quote:In the United States today, 44 million people carry $1.4 trillion in student debt. That giant pile of financial obligations isn’t just a burden on individual borrowers, but on the nation’s entire economy. The concomitant rise in the cost of college tuition — and stagnation of entry-level wages for college graduates — has depressed the purchasing power of a broad, and growing, part of the labor force. Many of these workers are struggling to keep their heads above water; recent research suggests that 11 percent of aggregate student-loan debt is more than 90 days past due or delinquent. Other borrowers are unable to invest in a home, vehicle, or start a family (and engage in all the myriad acts of consumption that go with that).

The full scale of this disaster is still coming into view. Just this week, the Center for American Progress (CAP) revealed that official government statistics have been hiding the depths of our student-debt problem. Federal law requires colleges that participate in student-loan programs to keep their borrowers’ default rates under 30 percent for three years after they begin repayment. But once those three years are up, federal tracking ends. Using a Freedom of Information Act request, CAP’s Ben Miller secured never-before-released data on what happens to default rates after Uncle Sam stops watching.

He found that many colleges (especially for-profit ones) have been artificially depressing their default rates during the three-year window by showering their borrowers in deferments — essentially, special allowances that empower debtors to temporarily stop making debt payments without going into delinquency. After the three years are up, the deferments disappear — and the default rates skyrocket.

Just about all of America’s institutions of higher learning are complicit in this sorry state of affairs. But for-profit colleges have been far and away the most malevolent actors. The entrepreneurs behind such schools looked at the masses of Americans struggling to claw their way up the socioeconomic ladder — and then at the giant stack of federal student loans available to such strivers — and hatched a plan for “disrupting” the higher-education market: Whereas many traditional universities had inefficiently concentrated their capital on research centers, student services, and faculty, for-profit colleges recognized that an ounce of marketing was worth a pound of quality instruction. Providing students with a good education and competitive job opportunities is a difficult, time-consuming, capital-intensive endeavor — but leading students to believe that you can provide them such things could be done with a few targeted investments in video and graphic design.

Through this innovative strategy — and a boom in the supply of desperate, underemployed Americans following the Great Recession — for-profit colleges quickly claimed an outsize share of federal student dollars. In 2014, 13 of the 25 colleges and universities where students held the most education debt were for-profit institutions. Collectively, students who attended such schools held $229 billion in debt.

The Obama administration tried to fight this practice post-recession, which you likely already know:

Quote:In light of these facts, the Obama administration concluded that it was actually a bad idea for the federal government to subsidize an industry that specializes in the production of useless diplomas and debt-burdened Americans. So, in 2014, the Education Department established new rules that denied taxpayer-backed loans and grants to colleges whose graduates routinely failed to meet a minimum debt-to-income ratio. In other words, if your school excelled at using sleek advertisements to get students through the door — but failed to place your graduates in jobs that pay enough to make their student debts sustainable — you wouldn’t get to live off taxpayers’ money anymore.

Now, we get to the Trump administration (with Betsy DeVos and the forefront) and Seth Frotman's reasons for resigning:

Quote:The Trump White House took exception to this policy. In its view, denying government subsidies to businesses that engage in massive fraud is a tyrannical violation of “free market” principles. Thus, Education secretary Betsy DeVos launched a plan to throw out the gainful-employment rules earlier this month. In making the case for her rollback, DeVos suggested that the Obama administration had unfairly targeted for-profit institutions for scrutiny — a claim ostensibly substantiated by the fact that dozens of for-profit colleges have opted to close (rather than submit themselves to accountability) since the rule went into effect. According to the Education Department’s own estimates, ending Obama’s lending restrictions to for-profit colleges will cost the federal government $5.3 billion over the next decade (as the number of student-loan borrowers who are forced into default will skyrocket).

As DeVos works to funnel more taxpayer money to low-performing, for-profit colleges, she’s cracking down on federal-student-loan forgiveness. The secretary believes that the Obama administration’s standards for forgiving a students debts (on account of financial hardship or false advertising) were far too generous — explaining, under “the previous rules, all one had to do was raise his or her hands to be entitled to so-called free money.”

Meanwhile, Devos is diligently working to ensure that banks and loan servicers remain entitled to every penny that they can squeeze out of student debtors through fraud and abuse. (In a bizarre coincidence, Devos has close financial ties to a debt collection agency that does business with the Education Department.)

In 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sued Navient, America’s largest servicer of federal and private student loans. The watchdog agency found that Navient had worked to keep debtors’ from repaying their loans too quickly (so as to maximize the interest payments they could skim) by “providing bad information, processing payments incorrectly, and failing to act when borrowers complained.” The loan servicer had also (allegedly) “illegally cheated many struggling borrowers out of their rights to lower repayments.”

DeVos has done everything in her power to undermine that lawsuit. Last September, her department announced that it would no longer share its student-loan data with the CFPB, arguing that the regulator had grown “overreaching and unaccountable.” In reality, the move rendered America’s largest student-loan companies unaccountable by making it impossible for the CFPB to conduct routine oversight of their businesses. DeVos proceeded to prevent Navient from giving the consumer bureau access to the documents that the latter would need to determine whether the loan-service provider’s practices had been above board.

To reiterate:

1. Ending Obama's lending restrictions could cost the federal government $5.3 billion over the next decade.

2. DeVos is cracking down on student loan forgiveness, calling it "free money," while making sure banks and loan servicers get "what's theirs."  That last quote is my own emphasis.

3. Devos has close financial ties to a debt collection agency that does business with the Education Department.

4. A lawsuit against Navient, America’s largest servicer of federal and private student loans, is being stalled by DeVos in every way.  That included a decision to stop sharing student-loan data with the CFPB in its pursuit of truth.

So, what have we learned?

Quote:The Trump administration looked out on a student-debt crisis that was financially ruining millions of young people, sapping economic growth, and allowing scam artists to grow rich off taxpayer funds — and concluded that the core problem with Obama’s college-affordability agenda was that it had failed to hold students and federal regulators accountable for their abuses of loan servicers and for-profit colleges.

Students might still find a way to be our nation’s future – but kleptocracy is its present.
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#2
Success Academy's first charter high school in New York City has been having massive turnover problems regarding its faculty.  It's so bad this year that the son of the founder is teaching an AP Economics class.  He doesn't have a college degree yet:

http://gothamist.com/2018/08/28/success_...kowitz.php

Quote:New York City charter network Success Academy has barely been open a week this school year, but some students are already learning valuable lessons about nepotism and organizational dysfunction. 

According to multiple reports, enrollees of a Manhattan branch of the city's controversial charter network were surprised to find their AP Economics class taught by the son of Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, Culver Grannis Moskowitz. 

The younger Moskowitz does not have a college degree, and recently transferred to Columbia University, after two semesters at Haverford College and a gap year. He is the only of Eva Moskowitz's three children who did not go to a Success Academy high school, instead attending the posh Avenues World School in Chelsea, where he apparently ran for class president and recorded some educational raps:

He likely did not take A.P. Economics, as the private high school does not appear to offer it as part of their upper level curriculum (A spokesperson for Avenues did not immediately respond to a request for comment). 

“Isn’t AP supposed to be college-level material?” one frustrated parent asked Chalkbeat, which first reported the news. “If he hasn’t graduated college, how is he teaching college-level material?”

Ann Powell, a spokesperson for Success Academy, said that the CEO's son worked as an intern for Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts-Manhattan over the summer, and "ended up filling in for an economics teacher who quit, and whose replacement is due to start [next] Tuesday." Of the 67 teachers who worked at the Manhattan charter school last year, only 18 are returning this year, the Wall Street Journal reports. 

The controversial charter network has earned a reputation in recent years for its exacting work environment and high turnover among employees. At some schools, annual teacher turnover rates frequently exceed 50 percent—nearly three times the average at district schools. Earlier this year, both the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer quietly left the company, fueling uncertainty among staff. 

"Generally, there's been low morale lately because of how much turnover there's been," one employee told Gothamist. "A lot of things are being put on hold. A lot of teams are short staffed."
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#3
One of our best remembered Prime Ministers in Australia was Gough Whitlam. He wasn't in office very long (unfortunately due to some appalling upheavals in our political system that still live on infamy) but he's still remembered today because he dared to be bold. He's certainly better remembered than the people who came after him even when they were in office longer - to a lot longer than him.

https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/...1977w.html

That includes education. Sure, his political opponents argue that it didn't change much in a number of tangible metrics but even his detractors agree it sent a message that education is and should be for everyone.

So, it terms of the US, it really should be seen less as a commodity (an increasingly out of reach one) and more as the building blocks of a great nation wanting to become greater. Same with healthcare. The right building blocks laid now will really pay off in future.

I do get at least some of the problems, including people more interested in the short term payoffs instead of investing in the future and then even more malignantly, the vested interests of those which it actually suits to perpetuate and even exacerbate the destruction of education in the US and beyond.
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#4
The Arizona Supreme Court removed a tax initiative from this year's ballot that would've raised $690 million for schools by raising taxes on the wealthy:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/30/us/ar...tined.html
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