Today is a "time when college has
never been more important," according to the U.S. Department of Education
(DOE) who announced
its latest $75 million competition--"First in the World (FITW)." It will create grants to "fund the
development and testing of innovative approaches and strategies at colleges and
universities that improve college attainment and make higher education more
affordable for students and families."
The rationale behind this contest is
that college is a must at a time when "costs have never been higher,"
according to the May 15, 2014 Department of Education news release. Earlier this year, President Obama took his
"fair shot at success" tour out on the road, targeting rising college
costs as the alleged roadblock to must-have higher education as Breitbart News reported.
The FITW press release also said that
they draw "on the approach of the Department’s Investment
in Education Fund (i3), in which higher levels of evidence of success
divide the competition into several tiers of funding." Those are tiers of
funding that happen to come out of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,
according to the Department of Education.
Yet again, FED LED ED reaches into the American taxpayers' wallets and
nudges a nation along from shovel ready to future ready.
The Investment in Education fund is
subtitled "i3" because, they say, it's built on a theme of threes, representative
of three years of its funding (2010-12) through the Office of Innovation and
Improvement (OII),three levels of federal support, and three objectives all
outlined in last summer's Department of
Education press release "The
Power of 3: Reflections on the 2013 i3 Annual Project Directors Meeting." Read with a translator. It is written in Educanese,
the purposefully unintelligible and euphemistic language of FED LED ED.
i3 also touted
private-sector fund matches in 13 states and the District of Columbia. FITW is structured in a multi-layered web of
programs, grantees and agencies that support the college and career readiness mandate
and underserved populations like the P-12 Success for All Foundation, Achievement Network, Diplomas Now, and the National Forum to Accelerate
Middle-Grades Reform, a project which began in 2002 to recognize
"academically excellent and socially equitable middle schools."
Then there's the School Transformation Network, whose
goal is to develop a P-16 "approach to use technology integration to
address instructional practices with the new Common Core State Standards."
Interestingly, Texas, among the 4 states
to have rejected the Common Core, really isn't missing out on what's going on
in California, New York, Illinois or any in-network state because it has a School
Transformation Network through TASA, the Texas Association of State
Administrators, which was previously headed up by Jeff Turner, the recently
ousted superintendent of the Dallas area Coppell Independent School District
(ISD). Turner told
the Dallas Morning News in April that he planned to keep a foot in the door on
the future-ready education front.
This year, FITW competition grants will
be awarded in only one tier (development grants), but "additional evidence
will be incentivized through the competition," according to the Department
"Evaluation will also be a key
component of the program. Successful applicants must demonstrate not only an
innovative project design, but outline a rigorous plan for how the project will
be evaluated to demonstrate its effectiveness."
What defines an innovative project
design or a rigorous plan? According to the i3 directors meeting press release,
it explained "Evidence, derived from rigorous qualitative and quantitative
evaluations, is the sine qua non of i3 projects, and the content of the more
than 11 concurrent sessions addressed topics ranging from 'the good, bad, and
ugly' of logic models to the challenges of gathering and analyzing such extant
data as student test scores, enrollment information, and attendance and
disciplinary indicators." Likewise,
it said that individual project evaluations would fit into a National Evaluation
of the i3 program that would be be built on an analysis of the findings of the
i3 project evaluations. Understand it better now?
No doubt, across America, college
tuition costs have spiked. Breitbart
at in-state tuition hikes at the University of Texas, Texas A&M and Texas
Tech University systems. The FITW press
release cited College Board statistics that showed "average tuition and
fees at public four-year institutions in 2013-14 as more than three times
higher than they were in 1983-84, after adjusting for inflation."
However, the College Board may not be
the most impartial stakeholder to pull up primary source information. It's headed
up by Common Core architect David
Coleman who is busy aligning every college entrance exam in America to the
Common Core State Standards, including the SAT, which will be ready in 2016,
Likely, those statistics hail from the National
Center of Education Statistics (NCES). They broke down nationwide
college costs from data provided by the Department of Education. In turn, they tracked back to academic school
year 1981-82 up through 2011-12. Those
findings portrayed a broad nationwide brush stroke of cost increases from public
two and four year institutions and private colleges, although it did not itemize
in and out of state tuition fees in side-by-side comparisons.
The figures lumped together current
dollar costs of undergraduate tuition, room and board that was estimated to be
$14,300 at public institutions, $37,800 at private non-profit institutions, and
$23,300 at private for-profit institutions in 2011-12 comparative to the 2001-02
school year. NCES stated that "prices
for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 40
percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent, after
adjustment for inflation. The inflation-adjusted price for undergraduate
tuition, room, and board at private for-profit institutions was 2 percent lower
in 2011–12 than in 2001–02."
Breitbart News has also examined
the affordability issue. In fact, a 2013
report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) debunked the myth of out-of-control
tuition as the result of state funding cuts.
Cheaper by the Dozen: 12 Myths about Higher Education's Cost and Value"
used the Texas university systems to model the national trend of skyrocketing tuition
between 2000-10. TPPF showed tuition hikes
were instead the result of university operating costs. It pointed out that between 2000-10, Texas
higher education state subsidized funding fell 10 percent but the average
tuition jumped 115 percent; fees rose 61 percent.
"In truth, there have been mild
decreases in legislative funding accompanied by wild increases in university
spending," the report illustrated in myth #2. Additionally, TPPF stated that a 72
percent tuition spike between 2003-09 occurred faster than the rate of inflation
and healthcare costs, pre-Obamacare.
TPPF also cited findings by Ohio
University economist Dr. Richard Vedder who wrote " In 2009, spending by
Americans for post-secondary education totaled $461 billion, an amount 42
percent greater than 2000, after accounting for inflation." This astronomical dollar amount was the
equivalent of 3.3 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and an
amount greater than the total GDP of countries like Sweden, Norway, and
TPPF highlighted student loan debt at
$1.1 trillion, where it was in 2013 when the report was written. It was higher than national credit card debt. Today, the student loan debt
clock is closing in on $1.183 trillion.
TPPF also presented evidence that that the
class of 2012 graduated with an average of $29,000 in loan debt that with
interest "could approach $40,000."
They sourced a 2013 Fidelity survey of 750 college graduates who between
"ballooning student loans, credit cards and money owed to family members,
were facing an average of $35,200 in college-related debt."
To add insult to injury, college
graduates face an uncertain economy across the country. Breitbart Texas reported
on dismal findings of college grads unemployed, underemployed or
employed in service worker jobs to pay off some of that student loan debt.
Similarly, in 2013, CNN Money highlighted
36.7 percent of college graduates who were working in jobs that didn't even require
a college degree. According to the
article, economists have labeled it the "mal-employment" rate that
has hit the 25 year-old and under highly educated crowd.
The article also stated that college graduates
with degrees in accounting, engineering or computer sciences were more likely
to find work as well as those students who worked in their chosen fields while
still in school. Andrew Sum, director of
the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northwestern University, who crunched
the mal-employment numbers, identified the South, Southwest and West as weaker
According to the Federal
Register, the Daily Journal of the United States Government, FITW's purpose
is to fulfill President Obama's goal for the nation that by 2020 the United
States will "once again lead the world in the proportion of its citizens
holding college degrees or other postsecondary credentials."
The Daily Journal continues onto
describe the program with a fiscal year 2014 budget of $75,000,000, with up to
$20,000,000 set aside for Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). "There will be one competition with one
set of priorities and one set of selection criteria. We will consider an
institution as an MSI for purposes of this competition if the institution meets
the qualifications for an MSI as described in the application package and the
institution certifies that it meets those qualifications through the
application. Institutions of higher education may only submit one application
and may only be awarded one grant."
FITW's Absolute Priority I
is about increasing access and completion for underrepresented, underprepared,
or low-income students. The Journal
cites an NCES report that "consistently indicate that students from
higher-income families are more likely to finish postsecondary programs of
study than lower-income students."
The imperative is "that we" must
increase this potential college population.
Absolute Priority II applies to the same population in community
colleges with the goal of a "seamless transfer" from two-year to
four-year institutions to enable attainment of a bachelor's degree.
FITW, a Fund for
Improvement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) program, joins FAFSA (Free Application for Federal
Student Aid), which Breitbart News reported
as another Department of Education pricy policy that provides more than $150
billion each year in low-interest loans, "in grants that you don't have to
pay back" and work study programs.
The FITW grant application
process opened on May 16 and runs to June 30. Projected number of awards are listed at 38. Pages
28495-28504 of the Federal Register contain the details.
Race to the Top, the go-to-college
edition, rages on at all costs.