Our contribution to you this week is a potpourri of educational subjects from out plethora (word of the week) of notes, incidental facts, references, opinions, etc. in an attempt to downsize our bounding “miscellaneous folder” — something on which to muse and ponder.
College debt is not only an affliction bestowed upon the young. The Federal Reserve recently announced that the over 60 years old population still own about $36 billion in student loans. Student loans cannot be shed via bankruptcy or other means. Thus, some of seniors are having social security tapped or bill collectors knocking on the door still.
While on the college debt subject, recently announced stats reveal an average debt in Massachusetts of $27,181 (compared to a $26,000 U.S. average) which ranks fourteenth nationwide. The range is wide from the likes of private schools like Wheelock ($45,000 debt), Curry ($41,000) to publics as Bridgewater State ($$27,700), UMass Boston ($24,200) or UMass Lowell ($27,600). Larger private colleges can take advantage of huge endowments or research dollars to lend student aid support or to help defray school operating expenses. For example, the average debt at Harvard University is $11,780 and Boston College is $20,598.
The Commonwealth prides itself in being at the top of many national rankings of educational achievement. However, we were caught a little off guard when we missed the Top Ten in high school graduation rates with an 83 percent listing. Tops in the nation was Iowa at 88 percent with Vermont a close second at 87 percent.
To it’s credit the state is addressing one of the main reasons for not having a higher rating. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is overhauling the training of teachers who instruct students who lack fluency in English — a group with the lowest rate of diploma completion.
When will the Commonwealth join the other 31 states who reject 16 as a legit dropout age and raise the bar to 17 or 18 years of age? Of course, that will only be positive if it is supported by curriculum alternatives that engage more students.
International enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities increased 6 percent last year. This was driven by a 23 percent rise from China. This occurs even as total enrollment is leveling out. Think about that fact! Some higher education institutions have increased their international enrollment by as much as 40 percent — most big public schools in the Midwest!
(Do you think it has any relevance in accepting these foreign students that they pay full out-of-state tuition and are not awarded financial aid?)
While we hail the reduction in overweight children, there is a significant other health issue that is alarming health care officials as well as law enforcement people. Eastern Massachusetts had the highest rate of emergency room visits involving illicit drugs than any other metropolitan region in the U.S.!!! — ranking first in cases involving heroin. Our neighboring city of Worcester’s lifetime heroin use is twice the state and national average.
(While those figures don’t just pertain to our focus on school kids, as parents you must know the community and the environment in which our young people travel.)
Now listen to this quote! “First, we want someone that oozes with integrity. Secondly, we want someone that genuinely cares about students, particularly their intellectual development, and who will engage in facilitating their maximum development as scholars, leaders, servers and then athletes. And, thirdly, obviously we do want to win.” These words were spoken by Boston College athletic director, Brad Bates, as he begins his search for a new football coach. Such words would be a foreign language to many big time college campus sports directors (or even other administrators) except for the last reference to winning. B.C., by the way, graduates 98 percent of its student-athletes.
This is in stark contrast to a local renowned hockey coach dismissing lightly the indictment of his perennial college power house program following an investigation of some troubling campus infractions including assaults. The “culture of entitlement” finding of the task force regarding the team was responded to as just “athletes being held to a higher standard” and “we’re moving on.” Doesn’t the coach establish and sustain the team culture which extends well beyond just winning? Where is his accountability?
As an addendum to our previous reference to a change in the minimum school dropout age, if keeping kids in school for more years has merit and makes sense, then when are we going to make definite moves to lengthen the school day for all than just a few district programs? Next year our state will join a six state project with federal aid to introduce an expanded daily curriculum in school districts needing a boost in achievement — in our case, Lawrence and Fall River. This should be at the top of the list for all districts’ five-year plan.
Textbooks are soon to go the way of cursive writing programs in our schools — that is, obsolete. Digital learning environments are more advanced throughout the rest of the world. Education Secretary Arne Duncan professed last week that “over the next few years, standard textbooks should be obsolete.” How do we equalize this effort for both the “have” and “have not” communities? We can’t further expand the divide that already exists in educational opportunity.
During the Christmas and New Year holiday season, let us not forget that promoting peace and harmony begins with you and me in each of our social and family endeavors.
Merry Christmas to all of you!