Tag Archives: Education

Can School Choice Save A Stagnating Economy?

In the Huffington Post, Dale Hansen sums up many liberals’ views when he claims, “The recent appointment of Betsy DeVos has proved one thing – conservatives are far more concerned about politics than they are about educating children.” But the competitive education reforms that Devos champions are essential to giving kids the skills to thrive in a global economy.

Median wages in the US have stagnated, but liberals who decry this fact ignore a root cause: a mismatch between the skills that students acquire in school, and the skills that they need to thrive in the workplace. Jobs in many sectors keep commanding higher salaries: IT wages rose 18.4 percent from 2011 to 2015. The problem, as renowned economist Tyler Cowen notes in Average Is Over, is that our economy leaves behind people who lack the skills to compete in these sectors. And traditional public schools are still focused on outdated classes like cursive writing, in lieu of preparing students for the economy of the future.

The U.S. needs an education system that’s as dynamic as the market our kids will enter, where new technologies can spring up overnight and render old ones obsolete. The warehouse model of one teacher lecturing to 20-30 students, which has remained almost unchanged since its importation from Prussia in the 19th century, is no longer working.

Continue reading at Townhall.

What DeVos can do to calm her critics

Early in his campaign, Donald Trump pledged, “As president, I will establish the national goal of providing school choice to every American child living in poverty. If we can put a man on the moon, dig out the Panama Canal, and win two world wars, then I have no doubt that we as a nation can provide school choice to every disadvantaged child in America.”

Now that Betsy DeVos is confirmed, America could be closer to achieving this goal, but the path will not be easy due to strong partisan opinions in both the House and the Senate.  Already pegged as the “most polarizing education secretary ever,” it is clear that DeVos has a tough job ahead of her.

In order to lead America’s education policy and quell the legitimate concerns raised by her opponents, DeVos should explain to worried Americans that school choice can still include an effective public school system.  Further, DeVos should repeal federal regulations that disincentivize states from adopting personalized education programs that could benefit their students.

While some criticism of DeVos has been political theatre, a few of DeVos’s colleagues have legitimate worries about her policies.  Two of them, Republicans Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, even broke rank to make the confirmation vote close.  DeVos is a strong advocate of school choice policies and the reallocation of public school funds to voucher programs and private schools, which can be a scary prospect for senators from rural areas like Alaska and Maine.

Continue reading at American Thinker.

Committee senators failed to address key questions at DeVos hearing

American students continue to trail behind students from other industrial countries in educational achievement.  In the most recent Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) report, American students ranked 25 out of the 72 countries that participated in the study.  This report comes after an equally appalling Pew Research study revealed that American students are floating in the middle of the pack.  Betsy DeVos’s  confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on Tuesday was, therefore, an opportunity for Americans to learn more about the country’s trajectory in the next four years.

The committee hearing was not policy-focused and ended up being mainly a partisan debate.  Thus, it is important to discuss some pressing issues that were not clarified during the committee hearing as well as one specific issue that was hidden beneath the partisan quagmire.

Continue reading at American Thinker.

Costly loan forgiveness amendment will burden universities

The Department of Education is pushing a loan forgiveness amendment to federal student loan policy that would relieve students of their debt if they could make the case that the school “substantially misrepresented” the education received. This new policy would have vast financial implications, is poorly thought-out, and is unlikely to be adjudicated properly.

Under the current policy, there are two main situations in which a student can apply for loan forgiveness: when the borrower succeeds in legal action against the school or when the school fails to meet contractual obligations.

This policy change would add a third component, stating that when the school makes substantial misrepresentations toward the borrower, the borrower can be eligible for loan forgiveness.

At first glance, this amendment looks as though it is protecting the small guy against big, powerful universities. However, the wording of this amendment, “substantial misrepresentation,” goes well beyond the legal definitions of fraud, making it easier for borrowers to make expansive and unreasonable claims. “Substantial misrepresentation,” as defined here, could take the form of a university advertising salary expectations or job prospects which the borrower did not find themselves able to achieve. Or, it could mean the university providing a school ranking institution with any flawed or misleading statistics — a common practice.

While universities should provide honest and detailed statistics to college ranking outlets, the famed U.S. News and World Report rankings are well-known to be fraught with problems; metrics are played around with every year, changed in small ways. Universities must report their acceptance rates, so some have been known to artificially inflate their applicant pool numbers.

A large element of the ranking is subjective, based on reputation or intangible factors like faculty dedication to teaching. It should be no surprise that rankings are far from a precise science. Yet with this new Department of Education ruling, these flimsy metrics could be used to dole out costly loan forgiveness. This amendment is unlikely to bring about greater accountability in college advertising and ranking reporting. Rather, it will simply create an avenue for individuals to drag universities through mountains of paperwork in attempts to get vengeful claims. According to the proposed rule, these claims could cost taxpayers anywhere between $2 and $42 billion.

Continue reading at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Proposed student loan forgiveness rule would leave universities, taxpayers on the hook for billions

In response to pressure from the Obama administration, the Department of Education proposed an amendment to the regulation governing debt relief for federal student loans. The proposed amendment could have a severe economic impact, with the Department of Education estimating that the new regulation could cost taxpayers up to $43 billion over the next 10 years.

The current regulation was introduced to protect students from being victimized by colleges or universities. The regulation provided borrowers who had been deceived by schools an opportunity to avoid repaying their student loans. In its amended form, however, the regulation’s language is so vague that there is a real danger of it being interpreted too broadly, leaving colleges and universities vulnerable to meritless claims.

The proposed rule would make schools responsible for repaying the loans of their students if the institution is found to have made a “substantial misrepresentation.” This overly broad phrase is defined as a “statement” or “omission” with a “likelihood or tendency to mislead under the circumstances.”

In contrast, the legal definition of fraud is narrow. Fraud exists when a person with the “intent to deceive” causes financial harm.  The new rule extends far beyond that.

The proposed rule’s substantial misrepresentation provision does not require intentional misconduct by the school. This omission could cause academic institutions to face claims brought by former students who feel entitled to certain job prospects or salary expectations. If, for example, a statistic such as the average salary of alumni is skewed by an outlier, the school may be liable for students’ loans.

Continue reading at The Hill.