Category Archives: Education

We Don’t Need No Edumacation

How a government prioritizes spending of the tax money it collects from its citizenry says a lot about the values of the people controlling that government.

Beginning next week in Germany, for instance, all universities will be free of charge, as the last German state charging tuition abandoned those fees.

“Tuition fees are socially unjust,” Hamburg Senator Dorothee Stapelfeldt told a reporter for The Australian. “They particularly discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up studies. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

Meanwhile, here in Texas, which has seen an oil and gas boom of epic proportions of late and a corresponding state tax windfall, receiving an education at a state university costs an average of $21,978 a year – or about $88,000 per bachelor’s degree if your son or daughter can make it in four years.

That’s a handy trick for a family in Texas where, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the per capita income is less than $26,000 and more than 17% of the population lives in poverty. ‘Course, Texas is in 49th place among all states in spending per secondary education student, which in itself gives you a pretty clear idea about education and comparative values and all, right pardner?

Also posted in Government, War

Dear Students: Bend Over & Take It

Yup, they just shot down a bill that would let some of the poorest of Americans – college kids – refinance student loans totaling more than $1 trillion in order to take advantage of today’s lower interest rates. Just like the rest of us can do with our mortgages if we so choose.

A pay provision in the bill, however, would have increased tax rates so that wealthy Americans making their money on stock dividends and other investments would pay the same rate as people who make their money from wages. So Republican senators blocked the bill.

“Today is a really good day for billionaires. For the 40 million people dealing with student loan debt, it wasn’t such a good day,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “This raises the fundamental question: Who does Washington work for? Does it work for those who can hire armies of lobbyists to make sure that every single loophole in the tax code is protected for them? Or does it work for young people who are trying to get started in life?”

This is what you call a rhetorical question. The answer has always been obvious, but more so each day since the Supreme Court formally put U.S. elections on the auction block to the highest bidder: Washington works for those who can hire armies of lobbyists.

Really, we here in America do not enjoy a representative form of government. Instead, the super rich always allow us to choose between two beholden and compliant candidates of their choosing.

For certain: When it comes to the “race” for president, Elizabeth Warren will not be one of them.

Also posted in Government, Kids, Politics

Preparing for the Future

What state leaders do in places where they actually care about the well-being of the citizens they represent:

“The Tennessee Promise is an ongoing commitment to every student from every kindergartner to every high school senior. We will promise that he or she can attend two years of community college or a college of applied technology absolutely free.” Tenn. Gov. Bill Haslam

Haslam, by the way, is a Republican.

By contrast here in Texas, the GOP establishment’s gubernatorial heir apparent believes the most important thing for the betterment of Texans is to spend $300 million in tax money to put 500 state troopers on the Mexican border.

Also posted in Politics, Uncategorized, Verbatim

Bright Spot in the Dim World
of Higher Education

I’ve become increasingly concerned about the state of U.S. public universities, especially as my younger kids approach college age, and my college-age son struggles with increasing tuition and we both struggle with student loans.

In Texas, government and university officials used to pretend that all residents whose kids had the mental capability could count on getting those kids a degree at a state-funded university, i.e. one funded in part through money we pay in taxes. That pretense has pretty much been exposed as a lie by now. For reasons that no doubt have a great deal to do with politics, the major Texas universities have not even tried to keep up, through campus building programs and the hiring of qualified professors, with the state’s population growth.

As a result, unless your child qualifies for an academic or athletic scholarship, you probably can’t afford to send him or her to, say, the University of Texas or Texas A&M unless your annual family income is above $50,000 – preferably well above that amount. In Texas, the new American caste system kicks into high gear at the college level. If your family doesn’t make enough money, you can’t get into a top state-run university, let alone an elite private school.

But I digress. This isn’t intended as a critique of the public university system in These Modern Times, although I could have a lot of acerbic fun with that.

Instead, I’d like to highlight a growing positive development in higher education, one that allows people to take university courses of their choosing online – for free – often from top instructors from some of the finest schools in the country, including the likes of Harvard, MIT and Houston’s Rice University.

Rice just announced it’s partnering with Coursera, which describes itself thusly:

We are a social entrepreneurship company that partners with the top universities in the world to offer courses online for anyone to take, for free. We envision a future where the top universities are educating not only thousands of students, but millions. Our technology enables the best professors to teach tens or hundreds of thousands of students.

Through this, we hope to give everyone access to the world-class education that has so far been available only to a select few. We want to empower people with education that will improve their lives, the lives of their families, and the communities they live in.”

I’m good with that concept. It’s a little like the concept on which public universities once were founded. The difference is that you can’t take a series of Coursera classes and then walk way with a university degree. But you have the ability to learn about that which is relevant to your current situation. You can gain knowledge that would help you obtain certain kinds of work. In many instances, if you pass the class you receive a signed certificate from the class professor.

I like this idea so much that I decided to go back to school.

In a week, I’ll begin a 10-week Introduction to Finance course taught by Gautam Kaul, a distinguished professor of finance at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. The course will be aimed at applying “the concepts of time value of money and risk” in order to determine the value of various assets. I’ve found myself increasingly interested in economics over the past couple of years, and as such I am excited to be embarking upon this educational adventure.

Also posted in Self-reliance