Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WBUR and the “Education Bubble”

May 25, 2010 - Kudos to the WBUR team for focusing attention on the growing amount of debt that college students are facing upon graduation. I am pleased to be a part of this timely series. And I am particularly pleased to see that the conversation has moved beyond simply blaming one single entity, say the loan providers, but rather focusing the discussion on the shared responsibility between colleges, loan providers, government, and students/consumers. It truly should be a shared responsibility.

Given how valuable a college degree has become, sorting out what is an acceptable amount of college debt can be difficult for families. Add in the dreams of attending the perfect college and an 18-year-old making these decisions and you see the challenges. There is no question that students and families must take responsibility for the decisions they make, and they must learn to be savvy consumers. But, what about the responsibility of colleges? Should they allow students and families to take out “whatever it takes” in loans to attend their institution? Are families allowed to buy a $2 million house if it is clearly beyond their means? And who shares the responsibility of pushing families into that $2M house? Should students be able to take out $80K in debt if they have no realistic chance of repaying that loan? Isn’t the answer that everyone shares some responsibility for this issue?

As a starting point, there is a need for much more transparency at the time students and their families are deciding about college. How about helping families connect the dots between anticipated debt and a student’s anticipated starting salary? Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty - one could change her major or chart a different course - but it’s a good place to begin. Or, how about clearer information about what share of students graduate from a given institution… let alone get jobs once they graduate? What about greater transparency of just how much it will cost? Will tuition go up from year to year? What’s the average duration of time to graduation at a given institution? What if only 50 percent of students actually graduate within six years… is that a good risk for a student to take? Shouldn’t families be able to factor these important facts into their thinking?

If the numbers don’t add up, parents should take heart in knowing that less expensive options exist. As students have more information based on real data, they can make informed choices and, hopefully, not put their futures in jeopardy by attending a college that they cannot afford, or one where the odds of completion are bleak. And, then everyone wins.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

ConnectEDU Mentioned Among Some Education Reform Heavyweights

May 19, 2010 - I enjoyed reading Rick Hess’s blog earlier today and am flattered that he refers to ConnectEDU as a “terrific and path breaking” organization and includes our efforts as part of a great group of education organizations that are “smart problem-solvers creating new possibilities.” Of note, Rick punches up the well-known leading education entities such as Teach for America and New Leaders for New Schools as well. Rick makes the point that organizations like ConnectEDU have so far flown below the mainstream media’s radar as it relates to education reform. Which is an accurate point. But I’d like to make another point.

When solutions, like ConnectEDU’s, are deployed within school districts and colleges, educators are now empowered to take the daily interventions needed in order to keep students on track to complete high school or college or, more generally, make a successful transition. Without these types of tools, educators are asked to prevent problems that they can’t even see. Case and point: In many instances, students are not enrolled in the correct high school courses required for high school graduation, and the discrepancies aren’t discovered until a few weeks before graduation when a degree audit is completed. Often times, several years too late to prevent the situation. Or, think about how the “data aggregation” or “data driven decision-making” movement has resulted in the creation of solutions that amass large amounts of data, create very sophisticated pivot tables, and analytics models… when all an educator really needs to know is – who needs help, what help do they need, and where can I find them?

My point is this - a good first step to reform is to simply provide a rationalization to the educational process itself. Get the data into a single location, process the information in real-time (not days, weeks, months, or years later), and deliver it to those who surround the student (teacher, parent, counselor, administrator, coach) in a simple, relevant context so that they can drive the change they so desperately desire to create. With these types of solutions, which are supportive of both the status quo and the innovators of change, we stand a chance to create an informed process that results in prevention… and therefore reform. But little steps, simple steps, could go a long way to having HUGE impacts in today’s education process.

My two cents...

Monday, May 10, 2010

National College Access Network

May 10, 2010 - I could not be more excited about ConnectEDU’s partnership with the National College Access Network (NCAN). This is a great opportunity to work together to increase so many student’s college and career opportunities! This partnership results from our shared commitment to maximizing the college and career opportunities for ALL students. ConnectEDU is excited to support the individual programs within the National College Access Network to ensure that they are provided with the very best in data-driven decision making and college and career planning technology.