When you look at the national statistics on college graduation rates, there are two big trends that stand out right away. The first is that there are a whole lot of students who make it to college — who show up on campus and enroll in classes — but never get their degrees. More than 40 percent of American students who start at four-year colleges haven’t earned a degree after six years. If you include community-college students in the tabulation, the dropout rate is more than half, worse than any other country except Hungary.
The second trend is that whether a student graduates or not seems to depend today almost entirely on just one factor — how much money his or her parents make. To put it in blunt terms: Rich kids graduate; poor and working-class kids don’t. Or to put it more statistically: About a quarter of college freshmen born into the bottom half of the income distribution will manage to collect a bachelor’s degree by age 24, while almost 90 percent of freshmen born into families in the top income quartile will go on to finish their degree.
When you read about those gaps, you might assume that they mostly have to do with ability. Rich kids do better on the SAT, so of course they do better in college. But ability turns out to be a relatively minor factor behind this divide. If you compare college students with the same standardized-test scores who come from different family backgrounds, you find that their educational outcomes reflect their parents’ income, not their test scores. Take students like Vanessa Brewer, who do moderately well on standardized tests — scoring between 1,000 and 1,200 out of 1,600 on the SAT. If those students come from families in the top-income quartile, they have a 2 in 3 chance of graduating with a four-year degree. If they come from families in the bottom quartile, they have just a 1 in 6 chance of making it to graduation.
The good news for Vanessa is that she had improved her odds by enrolling in a highly selective college. Many low-income students “undermatch,” meaning that they don’t attend — or even apply to — the most selective college that would accept them. It may seem counterintuitive, but the more selective the college you choose, the higher your likelihood of graduating. But even among the highly educated students of U.T., parental income and education play a huge role in determining who will graduate on time. An internal U.T. report published in 2012 showed that only 39 percent of first-generation students (meaning students whose parents weren’t college graduates) graduated in four years, compared with 60 percent whose parents both graduated from college. So Vanessa was caught in something of a paradox. According to her academic record, she had all the ability she needed to succeed at an elite college; according to the demographic statistics, she was at serious risk of failing. Continue reading “Who graduates and who doesn’t”
Is a family with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection poor?
As the New York times reports, “Americans — even many of the poorest — enjoy a level of material abundance unthinkable just a generation or two ago. That indisputable economic fact has become a subject of bitter political debate this year, half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty.
“Starkly different views on poverty and inequality rose to the fore again on Wednesday as Democrats in the Senate were unable to muster the supermajority of 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster of a proposal to raise the incomes of the working poor by lifting the national minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
“Indeed, despite improved living standards, the poor have fallen further behind the middle class and the affluent in both income and consumption. The same global economic trends that have helped drive down the price of most goods also have limited the well-paying industrial jobs once available to a huge swath of working Americans. And the cost of many services crucial to escaping poverty — including education, health care and child care — has soared.
“Without a doubt, the poor are far better off than they were at the dawn of the War on Poverty,” said James Ziliak, director of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Poverty Research. “But they have also drifted further away.”Democrats have generally argued that addressing this disjunction requires providing more support for the poor, raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance benefits and making health care more affordable by expanding the reach of Medicaid and subsidizing private insurance for those who lack employer coverage. Continue reading “What poverty is like today”
Just in from Pew Research: 47% of Americans see themselves as lower or lower-middle class.
As PolicyMic reports: “600 economists now say it’s time the federal minimum wage to $10.10, including seven Nobel laureates, attaching their name to a letter from the Economic Policy Institute asking lawmakers to reform wage laws.
“It couldn’t come at a more pertinent time. On Tuesday during the State of the Union, President Obama is widely expected to state that he will raise the minimum wage for future federal contractors to $10.10 an hour from $7.25 via an executive action. The raise would affect some two million federal employees, and show that the president is serious about backing a proposal stalled in Congress to raise the minimum wage for all employees to $10.10 over three years and then index it to inflation.
“And Americans support it by huge margins. A January Quinnipiac poll discovered that some 71% of American voters support raising the minimum wage. That includes 52% of Republicans. As liberal economist Paul Krugman noted, perhaps the reality of class distinctions is beginning to sink in for many Americans as they see an economy recovery bypass so many of them and opportunities disappear across the board. A Pew survey found that Americans’ perception of their class status is converging towards reality, with some 47% of Americans defining themselves as lower and lower-middle class. Krugman thinks this is why economic inequality is now such a popular issue across the country. Continue reading “Revisiting the 47 percent”
If you are leading a class and imagine that students seem more distracted than ever by their digital devices, it’s not your imagination. And they aren’t just checking their e-mail a single time.
A new study has found that more than 90 percent of students admit to using their devices for non-class activities during class times. Less than 8 percent said that they never do so, reports InsideHigherEd..
“The study is based on a survey of 777 students at six colleges and universities. Barney McCoy, associate professor of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, conducted the study and The Journal of Media Education has just published the results. Most of the students were undergraduates, and graduate students were less likely to use their devices for non-class purposes. Undergraduates reporting using their devices for non-class purposes 11 times a day, on average, compared to 4 times a day for graduate students.
“Asked why they were using their devices in class, the top answer was texting (86 percent), followed by checking the time (79 percent). e-mail (68 percent), social networking (66 percent), web surfing (38 percent) and games (8 percent).While students admitted to being somewhat distracted by their own devices and those of others, they reported advantages to using the devices in class. The top advantages they cited were staying connected (70 percent), avoiding boredom (55 percent) and doing related classwork (49 percent).Texting in class is a source of constant frustration to professors, but about 30 percent of students reported that their instructors did not have a policy on the subject. (Of course there is a chance some of those students didn’t read the syllabus.)
Continue reading “How much do students text in class?”
Class in Britain used to be a relatively simple matter, or at least it used to be treated that way. It came in three flavors — upper, middle and working — and people supposedly knew by some mysterious native sixth sense exactly where they stood, reports today’s New York Times “As the very tall John Cleese declared to the less-tall Ronnie Corbett in the famous 1966 satirical television sketch meant to illustrate class attitudes in Britain — or, possibly, attitudes toward class attitudes — “I look down on him, because I am upper class.
“It is not as easy as all that, obviously. The 2010 election was enlivened at one point by a perfectly serious discussion of whether David Cameron, now the prime minister, counted as upper upper-middle class, or lower upper-middle class. But on Wednesday, along came the BBC, muddying the waters with a whole new set of definitions.
“Having commissioned what it called The Great British Class Survey, an online questionnaire filled out by more than 161,000 people, the BBC concluded that in today’s complicated world, there are now seven different social classes. (“As if three weren’t annoying enough,” a woman named Laura Phelps said on Twitter.) These range from the “elite” at the top, distinguished by money, connections and rarefied cultural interests, to the “precariat” at the bottom, characterized by lack of money, lack of connections and unrarefied cultural interests. Continue reading “Class more than upstairs/downstairs”
When it comes to bullying, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students are prime targets in gym class. Recent research conducted by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) revealed that a majority of LGBT youth are bullied in gym classes across the nation and that many feel unsafe or uncomfortable in the athletic environments.GLSEN analyzed the responses of more than 8,584 students between the ages of 13 and 20 in high schools and middle schools across the country, reports today’s Huffington Post “The research, which found “critical gaps in safety and support,” revealed that LGBT youth not only feel unsafe, but that they’re also underrepresented on athletic teams and aren’t fully backed by school staff and policies. Continue reading “On hating gym class”