Cost of Education

The best career advice from this year’s graduation speeches

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This year's headline-grabbing commencement speeches have been high on thinly veiled critiques of the Trump administration and big on dire warnings about the state of American democracy.

Former secretary of state Rex Tillerson cautioned graduates at Virginia Military Institute about the end of American democracy if Americans don't “confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders.” Michael Bloomberg talked at Rice University of the threat from “our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party and in pursuit of power.” And 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, raising a Russian ushanka hat as part of a Yale University tradition, said Sunday that “we're living through a full-fledged crisis in our democracy,” telling students “to stay vigilant, to neither close our eyes, nor numb our hearts or throw up our hands.”

But not all of this year's graduation speeches are quite so political or cautionary. A few — though not many — seemed to remember that they were speaking before a group of people who were about to embark upon life as adults who will have to navigate the politics of the workplace, the complexities of new relationships and the decisions of adult life. (Oprah Winfrey to USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism graduates: “Invest in a quality mattress. Your back will thank you later.")

Here, some of the best advice offered by this year's commencement speakers so far that graduates — or anyone — can apply to their work and careers:

Oprah Winfrey, chair and CEO of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism at the University of Southern California

Winfrey, whose past speeches have drawn speculation that she might be planning a run for president — a rumor she has squashed — got plenty of attention for her calls for graduates to vote in her speech at USC on May 11. But after offering a litany of practical wisdom (“Eat a good breakfast,” she said. “Pay your bills on time. Recycle.") she also added some clear advice for graduates' time in the workplace.

“The number one lesson I can offer you where your work is concerned,” said the media titan, “is this: Become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do, that your talent cannot be dismissed.”

She also countered the typical “do what you love” advice that fill so many graduation speeches with something else. “You need to know this: Your job is not always going to fulfill you,” she said. “There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days you may not feel like going to work at all. Go anyway, and remember that your job is not who you are. It’s just what you are doing on the way to who you will become. With every remedial chore, every boss who takes credit for your ideas — that is going to happen — look for the lessons, because the lessons are always there.” (Read More...)

Who Is Studying Online (and Where)

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The number of college students enrolled in at least one online course -- and the proportion of all enrolled students who are studying online -- continued to rise at U.S. institutions in the 2016 academic year, newly released federal data show.

The statistics, part of a major release of provisional data on enrollments, employment and other topics from the Education Department's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, provide the most up-to-date information on enrollments in online and distance education.

The overarching story is a familiar one: even as overall enrollment in postsecondary institutions stays flat (unlike recent numbers from the National Student Clearinghouse, the federal data show enrollments staying roughly constant, not declining), online enrollments climb.

As a result, so, too, does the proportion of all students at institutions eligible to award federal financial aid who are taking at least one course at a distance, as seen in the table below.

The increased likelihood of being enrolled online is occurring at most levels and types of institutions in higher education.

Since 2014, the proportion of undergraduate students at Title IV-eligible institutions who are enrolled in at least one distance education course has risen from 27.1 percent to 30 percent in 2016, and the proportion of graduate students enrolled at least partially online has grown from 32.5 percent to 36.6 percent in 2016.

Community college students (30.9 percent) were more likely than undergraduates at four-year public institutions (29 percent) and four-year private colleges (25.6 percent) to be enrolled in at least one online course.

But more than two-thirds of the students taking at least one online course in 2016 were at public institutions, while roughly 18 percent were at private nonprofit colleges and 13 percent were at for-profit institutions. And the growth in the number of students taking at least one online course in 2016 was greater among public institutions than it was for private institutions, a change in the pattern of recent years. (Read More...)

As Graduation Rates Rise, Experts Fear Diplomas Come Up Short

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college.  CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

Berea High School in Greenville, S.C., graduates 80 percent of its students, but ACT scores indicate few are ready for college. CreditSean Rayford for The New York Times

GREENVILLE, S.C. — A sign in a classroom here at Berea High School, northwest of downtown in the largest urban district in the state, sends this powerful message: “Failure Is Not an Option. You Will Pass. You Will Learn. You Will Succeed.”

By one measure, Berea, with more than 1,000 pupils, is helping more students succeed than ever: The graduation rate, below 65 percent just four years ago, has jumped to more than 80 percent.

But that does not necessarily mean that all of Berea’s graduates, many of whom come from poor families, are ready for college — or even for the working world. According to college entrance exams administered to every 11th grader in the state last spring, only one in 10 Berea students were ready for college-level work in reading, and about one in 14 were ready for entry-level college math. And on a separate test of skills needed to succeed in most jobs, little more than half of the students demonstrated that they could handle the math they would need. Read More...

Is college worth it? Is this even the right question?

Are graduates getting value for their money?  Merrimack College/Flickr ,  CC BY-NC-ND

Are graduates getting value for their money? Merrimack College/FlickrCC BY-NC-ND

Authored by Josipa Roksa, Associate Professor of Sociology and Education, University of Virginia, and Richard Arum, Professor of Sociology, New York University

Is a college degree worth it? Yes, on average, college graduates fare much better in the job market than high school graduates.

This question, however, ignores a more important set of issues: Are graduates getting value for their money? And are colleges preparing students responsibly for smooth transitions into adulthood?

There is no doubt, those with college degrees earn substantially higher wages. And even though the recent recession was difficult for everyone, the Current Population Survey indicates that in 2011, twice as many young adults without college degrees were unemployed as young college graduates.

But our research, published in a recent book, Aspiring Adults Adrift, shows that colleges are too often failing to impart students with critical thinking, problem solving and written communication skills that are important to their success in the labor market.

Financial challenges after a college degree

We followed close to 1,000 graduates from the class of 2009 across the United States as they transitioned from a range of four-year institutions into their lives after college. Two years after completing college, only approximately half of the college graduates not pursuing full-time graduate studies were employed full-time and earning over US $30,000. Read More...