Student aid funds most job training

Most federal support for job training flows through student aid, not workforce development programs, writes Mary Alice McCarthy on EdCentral. Federal student aid provides $150 billion a year to college students in vocational certificate and associate degree programs, while only $20 billion goes to all federal workforce programs.

Nursing students at Cuyahoga Community College train on a mannequin named "Steve."

Nursing students at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland train on a mannequin named “Steve.”

Ready to Work: Job-Driven Training and American Opportunity and What Works in Job Training: A Synthesis of the Evidence, both released by the vice president’s office on July 22, lay out the federal workforce development system.

While there are 47 employment and training programs implemented across ten federal agencies, most federal funds  come from four agencies and a few programs, McCarthy writes. Including the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, $18 billion is spent by Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (CTE), and military tuition assistance programs financed through the Departments of Defense and Veteran’s Affairs.

These days, community college is “where people go to get skills for work,” she writes. Yet there’s “minimal accountability” for the large and growing share of federal student aid for college students in job-training programs. Many programs don’t fit the administration’s call for “job-driven” training designed with employers to fill high-demand jobs.

Federal student aid “is oddly exempt from national discussions about how to improve America’s job training programs. Until those dollars are truly on the table, we’re not talking about the federal policies that can really make a difference in connecting postsecondary education and work.”

Job training is very hard to do well outside the workplace. . . . Engaging employers, identifying in-demand skills, accelerating learning, designing programs to meet diverse and non-traditional learners, providing effective student supports – it all works and it’s all hard.

Job training can’t do it all, writes McCarthy. “Globalization and technological change are transforming production processes and disrupting labor markets around the world, generating profound changes in how firms hire, compensate, and train employees.”

On the education front, we need policies that will make schools – particularly institutions of higher education – more responsive to the needs of students for concrete skills and transparent credentials. On the employer front, we need policies that promote firms to either invest directly in the skill development of employees (apprenticeship programs, on-the-job training) or that enable their workers to more easily combine work and learning (better leave policies, tuition assistance, etc). Policies also need to recognize that people will be moving in and out of jobs more often, and will need support for up-skilling and periodic bouts of unemployment.

And, “it doesn’t matter how good your job training programs are if there aren’t enough jobs to go around.”

CCAP: Fed aid drives up college costs

Federal aid has failed to improve educational opportunity for low- and moderate-income students, concludes Dollars, Cents and Nonsense: The Harmful Effects of Federal Student Aid.  Instead, the financial-aid system has enabled colleges to raise tuition, the study by the Center for College Affordability and Productivity finds. The proportion of lower-income college graduates is lower.

By fueling a rise in tuition, federal aid has led to “enormous student loan debts.”

With their indifference and even hostility to academic excellence, these programs have contributed to grade inflation and mediocre learning outcomes. They have . . . promoted the non-academic side of university life, complete with luxury housing, climbing walls, golf courses, and hedonistic living. . . . These programs have led to underemployment of college students, to credential inflation, to rent-seeking amongst members of university communities. In short, they have eroded the quality and integrity of higher education.

Richard Vedder, the Ohio University economist who runs CCAP, discusses how federal student aid led to tuition increases. “What if that rate of tuition increases had continued after 1978 instead of the 3 to 4 percent increases actually observed? What would tuition fees be today? About 59 percent lower. State universities charging $10,000 in-state fees (a common fee today) would instead be charging a bit over $4,000.”

Pilot will test Pell aid for college grads

Low- and moderate-income college students are eligible for Pell Grants — until they earn bachelor’s degrees. With so many four-year graduates struggling to find jobs, the U.S. Education Department is funding an experiment at Lewis and Clark Community College in Illinois.  Unemployed or underemployed college graduates will receive Pell aid to fund up to a year of job training, reports Community College Week.

California: Do more to reach high-need students

In many parts of California, community colleges aren’t reaching “the people who are most in need of education and technical training charges California Competes. The state will need “2.3 million additional degrees . . . to have an engaged citizenry and robust economy.”
map preview
The group’s interactive online map shows community college enrollment by zip code and educational need. Adults with a high school diploma or less are underserved, the nonprofit group argues.

The California Competes Council recommends financial incentives for colleges that raise enrollment in high-poverty, high-unemployment areas. In addition, the council suggested collecting and analyzing enrollment data in all open-enrollment institutions, including adult education, for-profit and nonprofit colleges and UC/CSU extensions.

Community colleges should reach out to high-need students, said Robert Shireman, executive director of California Competes. Technical training may be a bigger draw than transfer to earn a four-year degree, he said.

After college . . . what?

Cartoon by Liza Donnelly

U.S. slips behind in college graduation

U.S. college graduation rates are rising — but not as fast as other developed nations, warns a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In 2000, 38 percent of Americans age 25 to 34 had a degree from a community college or a four-year institution, putting the nation in fourth place among its peers in the OECD. By 2011, the graduation rate had inched up to 43 percent, but the nation’s ranking had slipped to 11th place.

More than 70 percent of Americans enroll at a four-year college — the seventh-highest rate among 23 nations tracked by the OECD. But less than two-thirds earn a degree. “Including community colleges, the graduation rate drops to 53 percent,” reports the New York Times. “Only Hungary does worse.”

A bachelor’s degree is worth $365,000 for the average American man and $185,000 for a woman over a lifetime, the report estimates. Four-year graduates earn 84 percent more than high school graduates, on average. A graduate with an associate degree makes 16 percent more.

While Europe is turning out many college graduates, unemployment and underemployment are high for young people. In Spain, a part-time job at Starbucks is considering a coup.

The U.S. “is one of the world’s biggest spenders when it comes to education,” but is not keeping up with other nations, according to the OECD. “In the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. was way ahead of any other country… but other countries have done a lot better at getting their resources where they will make the most difference,” said Andreas Schleicher, an education policy adviser to the OECD.

The United States spent an average of $15,171 per student in 2010, factoring in college and job training, the highest in the world. (That includes $11,000 per elementary student and more than $12,000 for each high school student.) Switzerland spent $14,922 per student, while Mexico averaged only $2,993. The average OECD nation spent $9,313.


When work disappears

When Work Disappears for all but the well-educated elite, what happens to society? asks Megan McArdle in The Daily Beast.

In much of the industrial world, it seems to be increasingly difficult for people to earn a decent living without a fairly elite set of skills . . .

It’s impossible to look at what’s happening to the bottom half of American society and not worry.  Some of the breakdown is cultural–a fraying of the basic ties that keep people connected and cared for.  Some of it is economic, the disappearance of steady employment that allows people to do the bourgeois work of planning for the future.  And in some ways, those trends are reinforcing each other.  A community cannot insist that its members work hard and plan for the future if there are no jobs available; the resulting erosion of work and education ethics makes unemployment worse.

Education — sending more kids to college, retraining people for new jobs –no longer seems to be the solution, she writes.  College graduates are having trouble finding “solid employment.” Instead of making the workforce more productive, “we may just be forcing people to jump over a higher bar to gain access to a shrinking number of jobs.”

George Will also worries about the growing educational and economic divide.

Today, the dominant distinction defining socioeconomic class is between those with and without college degrees. Graduates earn 70 percent more than those with only high school diplomas. In 1980, the difference was just 30 percent.

Soon the crucial distinction will be between those with meaningful college degrees and those with worthless ones.

Education may not be the great equalizer, Will writes.  “Jerry Z. Muller, a Catholic University historian, argued in the March-April 2013 issue of Foreign Affairs that expanding equality of opportunity increases inequality because some people are simply better able than others to exploit opportunities. “

Even nursing grads struggle to find jobs

Nursing “pays well, and people will always require health care, so there will always be a need for nurses,” says Amber Tench, who’s working on an associate degree in nursing at North Georgia Technical College. But new RNs are having trouble finding jobs, reports Georgia Health News.

More than one-third of newly licensed RNs graduating in 2011 had not found employment four months after graduation, according to a September 2011 survey of more than 3,700 new RN grads by the National Student Nurses Association.

Eighty percent of the grads said employers were hiring only RNs with at least two years of experience; 70 percent said the market was flooded with new graduates like themselves; 45 percent encountered hiring freezes; and 20 percent said that even previously employed RNs were being laid off.

On, new graduates complain that they can’t get started in their profession.

“I’m working at a retail store in the mall.”

“Out of the seemingly hundreds of applications I’ve put in, I’ve had only two interviews, neither of which worked out. At this point, I’m feeling pretty hopeless and really just need a job.”

“Help!!! I’ve tried hospitals, nursing homes, and doctors’ offices. I’ve stayed up all night crying about this for months, and I feel like by the time I do finally get a job I’ll practically [have forgotten] everything I’ve learned!”

New RNs are volunteering in hospitals to gain experience in hopes of qualifying for a job.

Because of the weak economy, fewer nurses are taking time off to raise children; older nurses are postponing retirement. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a strong demand for RNs and other health-care workers in coming years, brand-new graduates want to start working now.

You can live in the basement without college debt

It’s better in to live in your mother’s basement, drink beer and play video games all day than to major in English or sociology, go into debt and then live in the basement, says Aaron Clarey, author of  Worthless: The Young Person’s Indispensable Guide to Choosing the Right Major.

Has this ship sailed?

See additional editorial cartoons by Matt Davies at Remapping Debate.