Monday, September 28, 2009

On the skyrocketing cost of college and why spending more time in school may make our kids more competitive

 I was interested to read the cover story in today's Californian on President Obama's plan to extend the school year. His reason: our kids are at a disadvantage to kids in other nations who often go to school year-round. This idea may not be realistic given the current economic environment, but this is one issue on which I agree with the president. In his fascinating recent book "Outliers," author Malcolm Gladwell addresses this specific point, arguing that one of the reason Asian kids consistently outperform American children is that they simply spend more time in school, and in most cases don't have the traditional "summer break." They're not smarter, but they peform at a higher level simply because they are given the opportunity to do so via longer hours in class. Studies have shown a summer layoff retards academic retention, putting our kids at a disadvantage when they return to the classroom. No doubt  this wouldn't be popular, not only with some parents but with the powerful teacher's unions who will fight tooth and nail to retain the traditional three-month break for teachers. But it's something to consider.
 Finally, add all this to this weekend's "education issue" of the New York Times magazine, always an enlightening read. In David  Leonhardt's piece on the real value of a college education he writes this of the college dropout rate and rising tuition:

 "Nationwide, half of all students who start college don't end up with a four-year degree. Not only do these dropouts spend less time in class, but they also miss out on the signaling benefit of the degree-a mark of those who, among other things, have the discipline to finish what they start.
 "Some would-be dropouts may stay in school if Congress approves a pending proposal to increase Pell Grants to needy students. Still, college tuitions are rising and resources are being cut - two factors that affect graduation rates. Federal spending cushions the blow but isn't large enough to make up for the state cutbacks."

 If you want to read the entire piece in the New York Times, just click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Principal = main
Principle = a belief that guides one's behavior

No copy editor?