Archive | October, 2010

The Great For-Profit Debate

27 Oct

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One of the largest current debates in the education spectrum is the value of online degrees versus degrees from traditional “brick and mortar” schools. Many for-profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Brown Mackie offer online degree programs for students that are not able to attend college in-person on a full-time basis. Some view these online programs as an opportunity for adult students as they try to juggle having a family and a job along with earning a degree. Others believe these schools are making a profit off its students’ tuition in exchange for a degree that holds little value in the real world.

Now Congress is weighing in on the debate as well, which is forcing major changes for several of the largest for-profit schools.

This past summer, Congress proposed “gainful employment” regulations for the for-profit industry. The general premise of the proposed new laws is that schools that have too many graduates in default on their student loans will no longer be able to offer loans to incoming students. This would obviously have a catastrophic impact on schools that do not meet the required numbers.

Congress gets involved

Congress decided to step in after examining the growing number of college graduates in default on their student loans. Naturally, default numbers rose with the increase in unemployment. However, of all the default cases, a whopping 43% were graduates of for-profit schools.

This statistic led to the impression that a degree from a for-profit school was basically a worthless piece of paper. Media coverage was roundly negative and basically called for the elimination for the entire for-profit education industry.

Not so fast my friend

Then fall came around and things started to change. People who supported for-profit schools started to speak out. There were several rallies on Capital Hill and letter-writing campaigns to members of Congress.  Feeling the heat, Congress decided to push back the gainful employment regulations indefinitely.

This turn of events demonstrated that for-profit schools do produce satisfied graduates that go on to find meaningful employment. But like with anything else, the for-profit industry has its share of bad apples that could ruin it for everyone.

How for-profit schools got a bad rep

One of the major culprits of the for-profit mess seems to be accreditation. While some for-profit schools share accreditation with prestigious universities, others simply have no accreditation at all. This causes the most headaches for for-profit graduates once they begin their job search.

Unfortunately, some students do not perform sufficient research before entering college. Many students become excited about future opportunities and are motivated to begin their educational journey as soon as possible. Several years later they can’t find work because they have a degree that most employers in their field do not deem as valid. Meanwhile, they have accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in debt thanks to the student loans they had to take out to afford tuition.

Don’t blame the students

However, a lack of research on the students’ part should not receive all the blame for this mess. It has been widely reported that some for-profit schools use deceptive practices to get students enrolled. Many schools for have quotas for admissions officers to make sure they bring in enough new students to keep their jobs. Hoping to avoid the growing unemployment pool, admissions officers at some for-profit schools will tell a student anything to get them to enroll. This often means misrepresenting the value and specifications of a degree.

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Do you trust this guy enough to invest 50K?

Plenty of unanswered questions

This issue raises some very important questions. Should Congress take away federal loans to schools that have too many students in default? Does the for-profit industry need regulated? Should colleges be able to operate without accreditation? Or should students have the right to attend schools regardless of accreditation? Let me know what you think!


Inventive Study Habits

19 Oct

One of my responsibilities at work is to teach a study skills session at the beginning of each quarter. We found that some of the adult students needed a refresher because they have spent the last few years out of the classroom and their study habits had become rusty.

Students brushing up on their study habits.

I am always looking for ways to improve this seminar, so I approach students who attended to get their feedback. Here are some of the things that I have been told were the most effective.

Study in different locations– This is one of the most enthusiastic responses I receive from students who attend the workshop. Apparently I’m not the only one that found this effective. Reviewing the same material over and over in the same spot just makes it all run together. Try changing things up next time you are preparing for a big exam. Spend some time studying at home if it’s quiet, then the library, and then take a trip to your favorite coffee shop. Location doesn’t matter, as long as you find a few places where you can focus.

Study the entire quarter instead of cramming– This seems like common sense but few people approach their studies this way. Instead of being stressed out and relearning material right before an exam, simply review notes and course material throughout the duration of the class. By the time the exam rolls around, you will have a firm grasp of the material and there will be no need to stay up all night frantically trying to memorize everything. A few of my students took this advice and their improvement was astounding. It just takes some discipline and it made their lives much less complicated by finals week.

This student should have started studying a LONG time ago.

Become an active reader– Some students struggle on quizzes and exams because of their reading style. They take the time to read the required chapters and then toss the book aside. When the time comes to retain this information, nothing is there. One simple way around this is to always have a highlighter in your hand as you read. Mark up key concepts. This will make reviewing so much easier down the road. I also suggest jotting down questions in the margins as you read. This way you will have them right in front of you next time you have the opportunity to ask questions in class. And don’t worry about reducing the resale value of the book. Some of my students use this as an excuse, but it’s not worth the extra $2.50 to get a “C” when you easily could earn an “A.”

Find your motivation– Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself up for a long night with your micro-economics textbook. Find ways to reward yourself in these cases. Get through two or three chapters and watch an episode of The Office. Or call a friend. Or eat a piece of cake. You know yourself better than anyone, so find whatever it is to motivate you to get through something unpleasant.

I could go on all day, but those are a few of the tips that students say have helped them turn a corner from average to the top of their class. What are some of your best study tips? What “outside the box” techniques do you use to help boost your grades?

A Wag of the Finger

12 Oct

My high school sucked. So did my middle school, elementary school, and primary school. That’s right Howland School District, you are getting a very special Inventive Education “Wag of the Finger.”

Just to clear things up, I’m not one of those “I hated going to school so I’m going to whine about it” type of people. In fact I love school. I double majored as an undergraduate just because I couldn’t decide if I found psychology or sociology more enjoyable. Right now I am in grad school full-time despite working 55+ hours per week, and I actually enjoy it! I’m one of those weird people that never skips class because I genuinely enjoy showing up and learning something new (with the exception of Intro to Geology, but I think I deserve some slack there).

The Problem with Howland

The problem with Howland Schools is that it has the ability to be a premier educational institute, yet is operated like a school with a shoestring budget. Every single year Howland puts up a school levy that passes with flying colors. Yet any Howland student must scratch their head and wonder just what happened with the new funds.

Will Work for Sugar and Toys

The annual levy was a big deal when I was in elementary school. Every year the drill was the same. They would pack the entire school into the gym the day before Election Day. They would get all the students excited to attend with the promise of free candy. Once all the students were hopped up on sugar, they would tell us just how fortunate we were to be enrolled at such a fabulous school. Then they would talk about the big upcoming levy and that it would not pass unless we helped. And if we didn’t help, then we would lose any hope to take any more field trips or get new playground equipment or taking field. Once we had the perfect combination of sugar and fear, they would send us home with the message that we needed to go around our neighborhoods to ask everyone to please vote yes for the levy.

A Laundry-List of Issues

This Karl Rove-esque tactic to deploy all the cute children worked year after year. The only problem was that the school district only fell further and further behind. All the school buildings were run down and in need of renovations.


Where's all that money going again?


Most of my classes had well over 30 students. All of the textbooks were 25-30 years old. In fact, I actually was under the impression that they stopped printing textbooks in the late 1960’s. There was no auditorium at the high school for any type of productions. When I joined the swim team I had to pay a $400 fee so the school district could rent out pool over a half-hour away from the high school.


I swear these are the most current books available!


Curriculum Fail

I could go on and on, but the most damning shortcoming is the lack of curriculum. The school offered no alternatives to the very basic courses. When I entered college I was both appalled and amazed to learn that several of my classmates had a leg up on me since their schools offered a much more diverse curriculum. Whereas the information I was learning in classes such sociology and philosophy was brand new, it was review for many of my classmates. Not only where they more prepared to excel at such classes, but they had been exposed to so many things they had a much narrower career focus.

While a handful of Howland School District employees have bolstered their salaries, thousands of students have lost the chance to find their place in the world. There are so many ways Howland could open the curriculum to help students gain a passion that will lead to a meaningful career. Until these changes are made, my finger will remain wagging.

Is Howland a Unique Case?

Did your school operate like Howland? If not, what type of programs helped you down the road?

An Inventive Take on Special Education

5 Oct

I know I already wrote a piece on a new educational program at Kent State. I know there are stories from all around the nation that deserve attention. However, last year I was privileged to work for an organization that gave me such an uplifting experience that I can’t help but rave about it.

I was about to enter grad school and desperately searching a part-time job to help pay the bills while I was in school. I was starting to hit panic mode because it had been a month since my contract at my old job had run out and I was not gaining much traction with my job search. Then I was fortunate enough to get a call from Tom Hoza, the director of a brand new program called the Campus Transition Project (CTP).

An Eye-Opening Opportunity

Tom and I met later that afternoon to discuss the CTP. After a few minutes, it became obvious that Tom was putting together something truly remarkable that had the potential to provide life-altering experiences for its students and their families.

Your blogger being hilarious as always.

The objective of the CTP is to help high school students with special needs transition into adulthood. Every day the students were challenged to learn about themselves and the world around them. They were exposed to options they never knew they had before. The students quickly developed passions for new endeavors. For the first time their lives, the students were treated like adults that were going to contribute to society as adults. They responded by exceeding everyone’s expectations.

However, it became obvious they were not receiving the same treatment outside the CTP. With all the reasons for optimism, we knew it was an uphill battle as all the students accomplishments were being undone at school and home.

How the Schools Failed

The students would regularly learn a new skill, yet were unable to apply them in a real-world setting where they were always being treated with kid gloves. For instance, one day we took the class to a laundry mat where they learned how to do their own laundry. They all picked up the skill very quickly. A week later we asked how their new chore was coming along. To our surprise, none of the students’ parents would let them help out with a task they were more than capable of performing.

One student was visually impaired, yet quickly mastered navigating the tricky Kent State campus. After the first few weeks he knew his way around better than the majority of the freshmen on campus. Yet, for some reason he always seemed uncertain of himself. He never quite gained the confidence that he could get around without someone by his side. We figured out the reason for this once his family visited for our open house. His mom wouldn’t let him so much as walk across the room without someone holding his arm and giving him directions he didn’t actually need.

The CTP students were a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy. All their lives they have been treated like their disabilities are too detrimental to live an independent and fulfilling life. It makes me wonder how many students with special needs across the country will never live up to their potential because they are treated with kid gloves every day of their lives.

Can the CTP Survive?

Sadly, the future of the CTP is up in the air. It was made possible by a two-year grant with the possibility of extending the program for a long-term basis. It could come to an end in May, or it could be growing strong 100 years from now. Not only does the CTP need to be extended, it needs to be replicated in schools across the country. The first year had astounding results as it helped 11 students find their place in the world. Over the course of the school year they evolved from timid students that always waited to be told how to think and act, to opinionated and productive members of society capable of making an impact on the world.

Keep the CTP Alive

To learn more about the CTP and find out how you can help keep the program alive, contact me at or Tom Hoza at Helping out is as easy as dropping off supplies, contacting your representative, or spending an hour with the students to share some of your expertise.

The Ladies of the CTP

*All photos taken by Jared Slanina

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