The outrageous inflation in public college tuition finally slowed in 2019.
Facing inadequate state funding and charging whatever the market would bear, public universities loaded historical debt on both successful and unsuccessful students. Students loans are at a historical high and a major political talking point.
The slowdown in tuition inflation is also due to fewer students enrolling in college. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollment has dropped below 18 million for the first time in this decade. Overall post-secondary enrollment fell 1.3 percent — over 230,000 students — from the prior year.
This should not have been a surprise. High school graduation numbers have declined for a decade. Many colleges are now attempting to retrieve some of the 36 million adults with some college credits but no degree. Their marketing assumes everyone is college-able. Many could not afford to continue. Others were never college-able.
Therefore, most states reduced requirements for college graduation. California eliminated algebra; it was seen as a “barrier to graduation” except for science and engineering fields requiring algebra. Some states reduced credit hours for college degrees, forcing universities to weaken programs in order to graduate more students in just 120 credit hours.
Higher education governing bodies are clueless to the fact that more than 60 percent of students change majors at least once, requiring them to attend more than four years. Many states ended zero-credit remedial courses and put students in regular credit courses, further weakening the value of a degree.
Faculty voice in academic affairs is fading as many universities are hiring more adjunct faculty for financial flexibility. Adjuncts’ employment next semester depends on their remaining silent and giving high grades to maintain tuition-paying student “customers.” By replacing tenured faculty lines, the management of academics in higher education has shifted administrators’ main concerns to marketing.
New enrollment of international students at US universities in 2018-19 declined by 10.4 percent, compared to 2015-16, according to the Institute of International Education in its Open Doors publication. Higher education is a major American “export” through international student tuition. We have lost an estimated $11.8 billion in income and 65,000 in jobs, according to NAFSA.
Analyses point to one main factor: the anti-immigrant and anti-foreigner atmosphere created by President Trump’s statements, travel bans and visa restrictions.
Because our K-12 science education is weak, the US now relies on international students joining the US workforce after graduating. In 2017, a record 276,500 foreign graduate students received work permits through our Optional Practical Training, according to the Pew Research Center. Nearly 1.5 million foreign graduate students had received OPT work permits between 2004 and 2016. This rate of growth has now slowed dramatically.
Affirmative action at Harvard was held legal by the regional court decision. But the very specific requirements of the earlier court decision on the University of Texas at Austin were maintained. A 2019 ballot initiative to restore affirmative action in the state of Washington failed under protests by Asian-Americans, whose students would be suppressed as “over-represented.”
The SAT announced its plan for providing an “adversity score” based on the average of two ratings for a student’s school neighborhood environment. The score would indicate obstacles a student faces, such as crime and poverty. The plan received massive public pushback.
Many universities are going “test optional,” no longer requiring students to provide an SAT or ACT score in their admissions application. After nearly 20 years of No Child Left Behind K-12 overtesting, many states are facing a testing backlash that extends to universities. In an effort likely to spread to other states, California faces a lawsuit claiming the SAT is biased against all minorities and economically poor students, despite Asian-American students scoring much higher than white students. But the SAT or ACT is provided to students free in many states. And private test-prep courses being relatively ineffective raising scores — these are aptitude tests.
In October, a federal judge held Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in contempt of court and fined the the Department of Education $100,000 for violating an order to stop collecting loans from thousands of students who attended former for-profit colleges. On the positive side, the USDE ended its support of competency-based education experiments. Over a dozen institutions had waivers to receive federal aid for these programs that consist of little more than take-a-test, get-course-credit. Competency-based, just-take-a-test programs have not been widely accepted, with large scale programs limited to Western Governors and Southern New Hampshire.
A new report from the pro-tech Educause Center for Analysis and Research found that more than 70 percent of the 9,500 faculty members they surveyed favored teaching mostly or entirely face-to-face. In a prior Educause survey of over 40,000 undergraduates across 118 schools, over 70 percent of students preferred learning mostly or completely face-to-face.
There has now been enough time for a generation of faculty and students to play with digital screen education and conclude what works. Will schools return to effective, face-to-face teaching? Or will the ed-tech industrial complex ramp up their propaganda efforts?
You know the answer.