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Posts by Kevin Carey


December 14, 2011, 08:55 PM ET

Credits, Credentials, and Collective Consciousness

As was reported yesterday, well-known Stanford professors Peter Norvig and Sebastian Thrun are currently teaching an online course in Artificial Intelligence that is available, for free, to anyone in the world. Unlike the previous generation of open courses, which were limited to lecture videos and syllabi, students taking this course can submit homework and take quizzes and tests for grades. When the midterm was administered last month, 175 Stanford students sat for the exam in Palo Alto, while 23,000 non-Stanford students took the same test in locations around the world, with "many scoring on par with" the Stanford students. "Those who also complete the final exam this month will get a letter signed by Thrun, along with their cumulative grade and class rank." They won't, however, receive official Stanford college credit. The higher-education system is currently set up so that a... Read More

November 7, 2011, 04:24 PM ET

The China Syndrome

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference about higher education when someone observed that the word "tuition" has deep etymological roots in the guardianship / mentoring elements of learning, and that the present habit of discussing college "prices" reinforces a strictly transactional fee-for-service concept of higher education that demeans the institution. It's a fair point, but then I read this Chronicle / New York Times article about the huge surge in recruitment of Chinese undergraduates to American campuses:
Not long ago, Tom Melcher of [the private consulting firm] Zinch China was contacted by the provost of a large American university who wanted to recruit 250 Chinese students, stat. When asked why, the provost replied that his institution faced a yawning budget deficit. To fill it, he told Mr. Melcher, the university needed additional students who could pay their own way, and ...
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October 3, 2011, 11:24 AM ET

Flying Trapeze Tax Policy

Most colleges and universities are non-profit and as such don't pay taxes. As a broad matter of social policy, this is probably a good idea. But as two educational institutions in my Capitol Hill neighborhood illustrate, it doesn't always work very well. The first is the Washington, DC branch of Trapeze School New York, located on a vacant lot near Yards Park on the Anacostia River, a few block from where the Washington Nationals play baseball. Trapeze School is a privately-owned company and as such pays taxes, receiving no special treatment from the government. Trapeze School is also great. Trust me, there are few legal things more fun to do than swing and tumble on a flying trapeze. (Note: I suggest substituting "trapeze instructor" for "yoga instructor" as the emblematic job of the future.) Trapeze School only operates in five cities—New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, and Los ... Read More

August 29, 2011, 10:52 AM ET

The End of College Admissions as We Know It

While I write a lot about higher education, I've always tried to avoid college admissions as a topic. The large majority of college students attend schools that have either open or relatively non-selective admissions policies. Yet media coverage of higher education obsessively focuses on the selective admissions rat race among a small percentage of very privileged young men and women whose parents are, not coincidentally, possessing of disposable income and the inclination to pay actual money for newspapers and magazines. These students are also least affected by public policy—regardless of what happens with Pell grants, students loans, for-profit colleges, and accountability for graduation rates, they'll be fine. We give the most attention to college students who need it least. I didn't want to be part of the problem. At the same time, I'm very interested in how information... Read More

April 11, 2011, 12:44 PM ET

The Meaning of Kaplan U.

The Washington Post's lengthy account of how the Washington Post made a huge, successful, and increasingly troubled bet on higher education isn't as hard-hitting as it might have been (a common weakness of self-exposes, I'm guessing), but it provides a clear, well-documented business narrative that nicely encompasses the last decade of federal policy toward the for-profit sector. And that's how I think the Kaplan story is best understood: as an account of systematic, bipartisan policy failure by federal policymakers in Congress and multiple presidential administrations. For a long time there have been only two things standing between bad actors and the vast billions of public dollars provide by the federal government through student financial aid. The first thing is the strong value system that governs traditional public and private non-profit colleges, as expressed through the... Read More

February 28, 2011, 08:21 AM ET

But the Pension Fund Was Just Sitting There

In 1997 I was working for the Indiana State Budget Agency. Hoosiers are fairly conservative people, and while sometimes that manifests in retrograde attitudes toward ideas like same-sex marriage, it also means they tend to not collectively do really stupid things with money. This is a state so chastened by a bad canal-related investment in 1841 that it didn't issue general-obligation debt for another 160-odd years. So I distinctly remember the buzz around the office back then when we got word from our colleagues in New Jersey about the crazy stuff their governor was about to do. Christine Todd Whitman unseated incumbent Democrat Jim Florio in 1993 running on an anti-tax platform. The problem with cutting taxes, then as now, is that every dollar of tax revenue goes to someone, and that someone is usually quite aware of the situation. One of the things New Jersey did with its tax revenues... Read More

October 7, 2010, 04:00 PM ET

Ken Cuccinelli, Enemy of Freedom

I've written about higher education long enough to observe that people in the academy care a lot about the issue of tenure. I don't, by and large, mostly because, like most people, I don't have it and never will. Education Sector could fire me tomorrow, but I could also walk out and work elsewhere. So we both have an interest in maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship. Tenure, by contrast, seems to consist of a process whereby universities ruthlessly exploit large numbers of unsuspecting graduate students by tricking them into entering a Thunderdome-style tournament where you exchange 10 years of indentured servitude for a lottery ticket chance for permanent job security. Those who win then get to turn the tables on the university by working as hard and teaching as well as they like, with the university responding with various passive-aggressive measures involving stagnant pay, ...

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October 6, 2010, 03:00 PM ET

The New $1-Million Community-College Prize

While I didn't attend yesterday's White House community-college summit, having not been invited other pressing engagements, I'm told by those who were there that it featured many genuinely substantive discussions about access, cost, and quality in the two-year sector. That's a good thing. While I don't think one can honestly say that the Obama administration has come up with a legitimate Plan B since the American Graduation Initiative went down in flames earlier this year, presidential time matters and this will help community colleges emerge from their perpetual status as under-resourced, under-researched, and under-recognized.

One concrete effort announced yesterday was the new $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. To me this an example of philanthropic money wisely spent. Higher education is a mammoth, diverse, and largely autonomous sector of society. Nobody, not ...

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October 1, 2010, 05:00 PM ET

What Do For-Profits and Horrible Despots Have in Common?

Former Clinton aide and current for-profit higher education lobbyist Lanny Davis—whose other clients include Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, a man who Foreign Policy ranked as the 14th-worst dictator in the world after he "amassed a fortune exceeding $600 million while the masses are left in desperate poverty"—has dutifully published an anti-"gainful employment regulation" article on behalf of his paymasters that doesn't even try to be truthful or make sense. For example:

Liberals supporting these proposed regulations rightly complain about marketing and other abuses. But the fact is, such abuses occur at non-profits and public institutions as well as at for-profits and, in any event, the gainful employment regulation doesn't even address the issue of these abuses

So we should be against regulations that prevent some abuses in the for-profit sector...

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September 29, 2010, 10:00 PM ET

Christine O'Donnell's Student-Loan Lies

In response to revelations that her LinkedIn profile features false claims about attending Claremont Graduate University and the University of Oxford, Republican candidate for the United State Senate Christine O'Donnell issued a statement through a P.R. firm alleging that other, unknown persons created her false LinkedIn profile back when she was a little-known cable news commentator/ex-anti-masturbation activist, and, moreover:

Perhaps a more important educational issue for Americans is the government takeover of the student loan industry, passed as part of the Obamacare law. This ill-conceived, unconstitutional government monopoly has thrown into jeopardy thousands of jobs in the private student loan industry. Even worse, now college students have nowhere to go for their student loans except the same people who brought them TARP and the embarrassing federal BP oil spill response....
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