Today is a “time when college hasnever been more important,” according to the U.S. Department of Education(DOE) who announcedits latest $75 million competition–“First in the World (FITW).” It will create grants to “fund thedevelopment and testing of innovative approaches and strategies at colleges anduniversities that improve college attainment and make higher education moreaffordable for students and families.”
The rationale behind this contest isthat 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 hiscosts as the alleged roadblock to must-have higher education as Breitbart News reported.
The FITW press release also said thatthey draw “on the approach of the Department’s Investmentin Education Fund (i3), in which higher levels of evidence of successdivide the competition into several tiers of funding.” Those are tiers offunding 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 andnudges a nation along from shovel ready to future ready.
The Investment in Education fund issubtitled “i3” because, they say, it’s built on a theme of threes, representativeof three years of its funding (2010-12) through the Office of Innovation andImprovement (OII),three levels of federal support, and three objectives alloutlined in last summer’s Department ofEducation press release “ThePower 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 toutedprivate-sector fund matches in 13 states and the District of Columbia. FITW is structured in a multi-layered web ofprograms, grantees and agencies that support the college and career readiness mandateand underserved populations like the P-12 Success for All Foundation, Achievement Network, Diplomas Now, and the National Forum to AccelerateMiddle-Grades Reform, a project which began in 2002 to recognize
Then there’s the School Transformation Network, whosegoal is to develop a P-16 “approach to use technology integration toaddress instructional practices with the new Common Core State Standards.”
Interestingly, Texas, among the 4 statesto have rejected the Common Core, really isn’t missing out on what’s going onin California, New York, Illinois or any in-network state because it has a SchoolTransformation Network through TASA, the Texas Association of StateAdministrators, which was previously headed up by Jeff Turner, the recentlyousted superintendent of the Dallas area Coppell Independent School District(ISD). Turner toldthe Dallas Morning News in April that he planned to keep a foot in the door onthe future-ready education front.
This year, FITW competition grants willbe awarded in only one tier (development grants), but “additional evidencewill be incentivized through the competition,” according to the Departmentof Education.
“Evaluation will also be a keycomponent of the program. Successful applicants must demonstrate not only aninnovative project design, but outline a rigorous plan for how the project willbe evaluated to demonstrate its effectiveness.”
What defines an innovative projectdesign or a rigorous plan? According to the i3 directors meeting press release,it explained “Evidence, derived from rigorous qualitative and quantitativeevaluations, is the sine qua non of i3 projects, and the content of the morethan 11 concurrent sessions addressed topics ranging from ‘the good, bad, andugly’ of logic models to the challenges of gathering and analyzing such extantdata as student test scores, enrollment information, and attendance anddisciplinary indicators.” Likewise,it said that individual project evaluations would fit into a National Evaluationof the i3 program that would be be built on an analysis of the findings of thei3 project evaluations. Understand it better now?
No doubt, across America, collegetuition costs have spiked. BreitbartTexas lookedat in-state tuition hikes at the University of Texas, Texas A&M and TexasTech University systems. The FITW pressrelease cited College Board statistics that showed “average tuition andfees at public four-year institutions in 2013-14 as more than three timeshigher than they were in 1983-84, after adjusting for inflation.”
However, the College Board may not bethe most impartial stakeholder to pull up primary source information. It’s headedup by Common Core architect DavidColeman who is busy aligning every college entrance exam in America to theCommon Core State Standards, including the SAT, which will be ready in 2016,essay optional.
Likely, those statistics hail from the NationalCenter of Education Statistics (NCES). They broke down nationwidecollege costs from data provided by the Department of Education. In turn, they tracked back to academic schoolyear 1981-82 up through 2011-12. Thosefindings portrayed a broad nationwide brush stroke of cost increases from publictwo and four year institutions and private colleges, although it did not itemizein and out of state tuition fees in side-by-side comparisons.
The figures lumped together currentdollar 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 2001-02school year. NCES stated that “pricesfor undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 40percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 28 percent, afteradjustment for inflation. The inflation-adjusted price for undergraduatetuition, room, and board at private for-profit institutions was 2 percent lowerin 2011-12 than in 2001-02.”
Breitbart News has also examinedthe affordability issue. In fact, a 2013report by the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) debunked the myth of out-of-controltuition as the result of state funding cuts. “(Not)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 tuitionbetween 2000-10. TPPF showed tuition hikeswere instead the result of university operating costs. It pointed out that between 2000-10, Texashigher education state subsidized funding fell 10 percent but the averagetuition jumped 115 percent; fees rose 61 percent.
“In truth, there have been milddecreases in legislative funding accompanied by wild increases in universityspending,” the report illustrated in myth #2. Additionally, TPPF stated that a 72percent tuition spike between 2003-09 occurred faster than the rate of inflationand healthcare costs, pre-Obamacare.
TPPF also cited findings by OhioUniversity economist Dr. Richard Vedder who wrote ” In 2009, spending byAmericans for post-secondary education totaled $461 billion, an amount 42percent greater than 2000, after accounting for inflation.” This astronomical dollar amount was theequivalent of 3.3 percent of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and anamount greater than the total GDP of countries like Sweden, Norway, andPortugal.
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 debtclock is closing in on $1.183 trillion.
TPPF also presented evidence that that theclass of 2012 graduated with an average of $29,000 in loan debt that withinterest “could approach $40,000.” They sourced a 2013 Fidelity survey of 750 college graduates who betweenwere facing an average of $35,200 in college-related debt.”
To add insult to injury, collegegraduates face an uncertain economy across the country. Breitbart Texas reportedon dismal findings of college grads unemployed, underemployed oremployed in service worker jobs to pay off some of that student loan debt.
Similarly, in 2013, CNN Money highlighted36.7 percent of college graduates who were working in jobs that didn’t even requirea college degree. According to thearticle, economists have labeled it the “mal-employment” rate thathas hit the 25 year-old and under highly educated crowd.
The article also stated that college graduateswith degrees in accounting, engineering or computer sciences were more likelyto find work as well as those students who worked in their chosen fields whilestill in school. Andrew Sum, director ofthe Center for Labor Market Studies at Northwestern University, who crunchedthe mal-employment numbers, identified the South, Southwest and West as weakerlabor markets.
According to the FederalRegister, the Daily Journal of the United States Government, FITW’s purposeis to fulfill President Obama’s goal for the nation that by 2020 the UnitedStates will “once again lead the world in the proportion of its citizensholding college degrees or other postsecondary credentials.”
The Daily Journal continues ontodescribe 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 oneset of priorities and one set of selection criteria. We will consider aninstitution as an MSI for purposes of this competition if the institution meetsthe qualifications for an MSI as described in the application package and theinstitution certifies that it meets those qualifications through theapplication. Institutions of higher education may only submit one applicationand may only be awarded one grant.”
FITW’s Absolute Priority Iis about increasing access and completion for underrepresented, underprepared,or low-income students. The Journalcites an NCES report that “consistently indicate that students fromhigher-income families are more likely to finish postsecondary programs ofstudy than lower-income students.”
The imperative is “that we” mustincrease this potential college population. Absolute Priority II applies to the same population in communitycolleges with the goal of a “seamless transfer” from two-year tofour-year institutions to enable attainment of a bachelor’s degree.
FITW, a Fund forImprovement of Post Secondary Education (FIPSE) program, joins FAFSA (Free Application for FederalStudent Aid), which Breitbart News reportedas another Department of Education pricy policy that provides more than $150billion each year in low-interest loans, “in grants that you don’t have topay back” and work study programs.
Race to the Top, the go-to-collegeedition, rages on at all costs.