Consequences of Graduate Debt

An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education titled, “Graduate Student Debt Matters”, discusses the implications of the enormous amounts of debt that graduate students are carrying with them.

Today, it seems like universities are selling debt rather than an education, which leads to numerous problems. Many students are taking out loans in an attempt to fund their education in any way that they can. The large amounts of debt result in keeping the economically privileged out of school, which in turn further increases the disparity between those who are economically privileged and those who are not.

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Market Analysis to Student Loans

To build off the previous post regarding student debt,  an article posted in Forbes on November 21, 2011 takes an economic, market analysis approach to the problem.  Many people, regardless of political preference, economic status or field of work are recognizing the need for a remedy for this national crisis.

The Forbes article entitled “Higher Education Needs Market Discipline,” discusses the poor return on investment that bachelor and graduate degrees offer.  The article points out that the amount of debt accumulated by post-high-school students in the US is approaching $1 trillion.  This is more than the total national credit card debt.  What is more alarming is MBA degrees received from  mid-ranking schools have a near zero return on investment.  The article alleges that this is a cry for market discipline through transparency, rationality and innovation

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Simple Solution to Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt, student loan debt…. It is hard to walk onto a college campus and not hear students alarmed by the amount of debt they will have by the time they graduate.   It is not rare for students a seeking bachelor degree to graduate with $100,ooo or more in debt.  The thought of graduate school is simply frightening.  What is a student to do?  The current trend in the Occupy Wall Street movement is straight forward– default on your loans.

An article in The New American posted November 22, 2011 highlights this movement.  The organizers of the Occupy Student Debt announce an national initiative directed at recruiting student loan borrowers and requesting that they willfully default on their loan payment.  The goal is that borrowers will pledge to stop repaying their student loans once 1 million people vow to do so as well.

This initiative has obvious risks.  The article discusses the moral implication that people voluntarily enter into student loans, know they have to repay them and feel the need to do so.  On top of that, defaulting on a loan is a black mark that most people are not willing to be a part of.

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Movement and Learning

Can exercise stimulate brain function enough to improve cognitive output? Yes, say some doctors and educators. According to John Ratey of Harvard Medical School, “Exercise makes our brains ready to learn.” Schools that have studied the correlation between movement and intellectual yield have found a rise in students’ problem-solving abilities, reading comprehension and test scores. See the full ABC News article here.

Perhaps a fast-paced game of basketball isn’t possible for all schools. What about a ‘walking classroom’? A number of professional offices have installed ‘walking workstations’, treadmill-and-desk combinations. According to this New York Times article, employers have seen increased concentration when these treadmills are used in conjunction with work. Would this be possible in schools as well?

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Technology and the Admissions Process

MBA programs are utilizing more technology in their admissions processes.  This use of technology may give students a better chance to show their creative side and set themselves apart.  New methods of evaluation, which include PowerPoint presentations, CDs, DVDs, and other advancements, could change the future of admissions.

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Teaching Analytical Writing Through Rubrics

A goal across all levels of education, particularly undergraduate and beyond, is to instill strong analytical thinking and writing skills in students. After learning the value of rubrics when teaching these skills, Maria Rost Rublee, Ph.D., University of Tampa, researched analytical writing rubrics, but found that most instructor resources were geared toward middle and high school level students, not undergraduates. She decided to construct her own.

After creating the rubric, Rublee shared it and expectations of critical writing with her students. She also conducted an informal assessment of the success of the rubric. The result? Students better understood the expectations of a quality, analytical paper, and this showed in their final grades. See her results and rubric in this article.

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Using Twitter to increase student engagement

Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. There is a plethora of social networking sites grabbing attention of people worldwide. But is it useful in the classroom? An experimental study of undergraduate students found that, when Twitter was used in discussions, students were not only more engaged in the learning process but also had higher grade point averages.

For a survey of Twitter usage among college faculty in 2010, click here.

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College Debt Still Growing

An article in the New York Times, “College Graduates’ Debt Burden Grew, Yet Again, in 2010″ discusses how the average debt for college graduates has continually increased over the years and at the same time, the unemployment rate has continued to rise as well.

According to the article, students who graduated from college in 2010 with student loans owed an average of $25,250, an increase of 5% from last years statistics. Along with the increasing amount of debt, the unemployment rates were at an all time high of 9.1% in 2010. The average student loan debt varies widely from state to state, with New Hampshire at the top of the list with an average student loan debt of $31,048. It is estimated that the average national loan debt for 2011 will be $27,200.

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Obama-Reducing the Burden of Student Debt

An article in the New York Times titled, “President to Ease Student Loan Burden for Low-Income Graduates” discussed the recent announcement that President Obama will be enacting new programs to lower monthly student loan payments.

Obama announced that he plans on enacting repayment programs for student loans that would be fashioned as a “Pay as You Earn” option, which would allow graduates to pay 10 percent of their discretionary income for 20 years and the rest of the federal student loan debt would then be forgiven. The high cost of education and the growing debt burden of student loans is having an increasingly potent effect on graduates, and with the weak economy, the college affordability issue is becoming a pressing matter.

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Trend Where Professors Might Actually Teach

Tenure and teaching accountability is a largely debated topic from kindergarten to graduate school.  Many universities are restructuring what and when professors teach.

An article in the Chronicle of Higher education published October 16, 2011 discusses this change and how professors are reacting to it.

In the past newly hired professors negotiated their teaching terms to allow ample time for researching and other non teaching activities.  Universities are now tightening up room for negotiations to require more actual teaching hours.  Universities are realizing that these “special deals” are inconvenient and uneconomical. An example of a “special deal” is a professor starting a program with the local high school.  A lighter teaching load seems reasonable when the contract was first negotiated, but once the program is in place, professors continue their lax teaching schedule.

Many top private research schools will continue to allow professors lighter teaching schedules in return for academic research.  However, the majority of universities throughout the US will have to consider restructuring professor hours.

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