Monthly Archives: October 2011

Latin America: Higher Education in Crisis

October 27, 2011

CL Society 72: Parents

A recent article in the Economist (10/8/11) entitled “Universities in Latin America, The struggle to make the grade,” reports on the overall health of the institutions of higher education in the region and the prognosis is not good. Although there are some giant and reputable universities in Latin America, innovation and excellence in higher education has not been the hallmark of the region. Teaching techniques are deemed old-fashioned, research contribution and output has been subpar and the drop out rate of students continues to rise.

Quacquarelli Symonds, an education consultancy, on October 4, 2011 published the first regional ranking of Latin American universities by “combining measures of reputation, research output, academics’ qualifications and staff-student ratio. Of the 200 top universities, 65 are in Brazil, 35 in Mexico, 25 apiece in Argentina and Chile and 20 in Colombia. The University of Sao Paulo, the richest and biggest university in Brazil’s richest state, came top.” For a breakdown of the ranking, go to this link

All and all, the University of Sao Paulo appears to be the only institution getting the high marks, especially in its scientific research endeavors making it a world leader in tropical medicine, bio-fuels and parasitology. Their success is attributed to public support it receives from the government as well as private funding and international collaborative efforts with other institutions and research organizations.

Some of the problems attributed to the failing health of the Latin American universities appear to be the following:

• the insular nature of the institutions that discourage hiring faculty from abroad but recruit their own students to faculty positions rather than persuading them to seek positions in the business and industrial sectors;

• old-fashioned / out-dated curriculum;

• absence of recognition/reward such as funding/promotion to faculty for excellence in teaching, innovation or research;

• institutions are not held accountable (e.g. loss of funding) for poor academic performance and student
dropout rate.

There is a big rise in demand in Latin America for quality education at universities that are both affordable and accessible. Perhaps the University of Sao Paulo will serve as a positive example of one such institution that has succeeded in all these aspects. The rigid rules of the past need to give way to flexibility in hiring, promotion and compensation of faculty as well as an overhaul of curriculum and infrastructure which support and rewards research and innovation.

Alan A. Saidi
Sr. VP & COO, ACEI, Inc.

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Student Uprising: A global movement

October 20, 2011

Inútiles mojados

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

A recent (10/19/11) blog on Huffington Post states that “according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, students took out more than $100 billion in loans in 2010 and will have a $1 trillion in outstanding loans this year—twice the amount of 5 years ago.”

We have now moved into the second month of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the movement has not only taken hold in towns and cities throughout the country but spreading around the world. Chile, is one country where for the past five months, students, teachers, school administrators and their supporters have taken to the streets of Santiago protesting the high cost of education. The Occupy Wall Street protesters have been and continue to be criticized for their lack of a simple concise message. We’ve become so indoctrinated with sound bites, distilled mash-ups of easy to digest ideas that we expect the same from hundreds of thousands of leaderless self-motivated individuals who are pouring into the streets dissatisfied with a myriad of social, economic and political issues. One message that is clear to my eyes and ears is the current state of U.S. education and the student loan debt crisis. And one thing that the protesters in Chile and those in the Occupy Wall Street have in common is that a large number of those protesting are students or recently graduated college students facing a bleak employment market while saddled with unforgiveable student loans with high interest rates.

The goal of the student protesters and their supporters in Chile is to transform their country’s education system. They are seeking a referendum to significantly increase the funding and quality of public schools which they claim have been on the decline. In fact, they demand education to be 100% public. Most of the better public schools in Chile are charter schools and students still have to pay to attend such schools. And just like their US counterparts, the Chilean students are often in debt for years after graduating from university.

There is no question that our educational system too is in crisis. State institutions have cut back on course offerings as well as teaching and administrative staff. Our schools are failing.. In the words of Mark Twain: “Every time you stop a school, you’ll have to build a jail.” If we want our children to succeed we need to provide them with an educational system that is rich in resources and infrastructure with trained personnel. But that is not what is happening. More and more public schools are closing down or becoming fee-based charter schools. Those that continue to operate face overpopulated classrooms, are understaffed with teachers and administrators preoccupied with the “No Child Left Behind Act” testing mania instead of concentrating on the actual act of teaching and learning. With revenues generated from property taxes on the decline because of high foreclosures, we can safely conclude that more local schools will feel the affect of the financial downturn. Why is it that when our elected officials are faced with a budget crisis they immediately roll up their sleeves, sharpen their scalpels and unabashedly cut, slice and saw away at our public education system? Why is there this vitriol directed at publicly funded institutions which can serve our student population just as affectively as private institutions? Why do we have a system in place that is set up to drive its student population into debt the very day they enter their classroom as a college freshman?

We continue to talk about the importance of maintaining our competitive edge in the global market yet we turn out backs at our educational system. Right now we are scoring a C- in the handling of our education crisis. Dismissing the protests and ignoring the demands of our young people and their future will certainly put us on the fast track to an “F.”

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.

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International Programs:  An Economic Development Solution for Community Colleges 

October 13, 2011

West Virginia Northern Community College

These are challenging times for community college leaders. Many states across the country are facing unprecedented budget reductions in higher education systems. As community colleges receive fewer state dollars, these institutions must develop alternate funding sources. Trustees are faced with difficult decisions as cost pressures mount against the backdrop of state accountability measures, competition and serving greater numbers of challenged students. One solution to leading community colleges out of the current fiscal crisis is growing global education programs. 

Many community college trustees recognize that the definition of “community” has expanded to the national and international scale as result of pervasive technology change. Service area activity has impact beyond one’s locale and vice-versa. Community college students must compete and cooperate on a global scale. Thinking globally and acting locally is therefore a win-win for community college constituents. Creative leaders at leading two-year institutions are implementing models based on multinational partnerships and ways of linking global education to college completion and localization. 

In 2008-9, nearly 100,000 international students attended U.S community colleges. This represents a 62.5% increase from 2004-5. The economic impact of international students at these community colleges was more than $2 billion in 2007-8. However, global education is often among the first initiatives to be questioned or cut in difficult financial times when it can be the solution to funding, completion agenda and making global local. Globalization of higher education will continue to increase in the long term. Community colleges participating in internationalization benefit from the global movement of students and faculty, a point long recognized by four-year institutions.

Global education represents a vital component of community college services for the following reasons:

• Relevancy in an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace. Students are demanding international experiences and curriculum. Community colleges possess the institutional flexibility to provide global activities.

• Increased operating funds. International students are increasingly choosing U.S. community colleges before transferring to four-year institutions. Community colleges responding with internationally competitive educational programs increase student enrollments and positively impact operating budgets.

• Student workforce competitiveness. Resident community college students who do not have international experiences incur an employability penalty in the global labor pool. Global competency is valued by employers.

• Support of the college mission. Global education (student exchange/study abroad) addresses mission issues of completion, comprehensive international curriculum and community relevance.

It is high time community college leaders who want to stay ahead of the curve look into what futurist John Naisbitt, best-selling author of Megatrends, identified as two simultaneous but opposite trends in modern society where we rapidly embrace both the universal and the tribal, the global and the local in our daily lives.. We now not only “Think Globally, Act Locally,” but also “Think Locally, Act Globally”.

Zepur Solakian

Center for Global Advancement of Community Colleges (CGACC)

Executive Vice President, 

Global Communication & Public Relations

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We bailed out the banks why not our students?

October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Student Loans

If you haven’t heard already, people are protesting on Wall Street and it’s not the bankers demanding more deregulation or some garbage like that. No, this time, it’s the average man and woman, young and old, from all walks of life and political or religious convictions and they’ve been raising their voices against the inequity between Wall Street and the rest of us. They’ve now entered week 3 of the protest and no amount of police brute force, pepper spray, and arrests has deterred people from continuing to pour onto the streets in New York. The protests are now spreading and people are rising throughout the country.

You may be asking yourself as to what the protestors are demanding? The Occupy Wall Street protestors have a list of complaints and one is the student loan debt. There is even an online petition that proposes to forgive all student loan debt in order to boost the economy. Now, you may be wondering to yourself, why the student loan debt? Here’s why my friends.

The student loan debt in this country is now $830 billion! This is higher than the credit card debt, and there are more credit card holders than students. So, as you can see, the student loan debt is a huge burden. Back in the days I was on the slow track of getting my bachelor’s degree, my loan was federally sponsored with low interest rates which I managed to finally pay off in 15 years. Students today are taking on more of the riskiest debt, the unregulated private student loans which offer the least amount of protection and pay the highest interest rates up to 19%! Add to this already unforgiving recipe the fact that the job market is at a standstill you can imagine the impossible scenario facing our college graduates.

Many of those out there on the streets of NY are asking: “You’ve bailed out Wall Street, what about us?” Which if you ask me is a darn good question! By forgiving student loans, we can help boost the economy because we’re putting hundreds of dollars a month back in the pockets of the middle-class families and helping young people who’re entering the workforce. Okay, now you’re probably still wondering, what does this have to do with Wall Street? A great deal my friends, a great deal. Just as Wall Street helped spur the housing bubble with mortgage-backed securities, they’ve also spurred the student loan bubble with student loan asset-backed securities. This means that Wall Street capital has encouraged really aggressive marketing by high-interest private loans to students and now what we see is student loan defaults that jumped 26% last year. And just as foreclosed home loans keep dragging the economy and limiting people’s choices, so do private student loans. But while people can walk away from a home loan through filing bankruptcy, the same can’t be said for student loans.

All this is also a testament to how messed up our entire educational system has become that in order to get an education and remain competitive with the rest of the industrial and emerging nations, rather than nurture and financially support our future generations of scientists, nurses, teachers, artists, doctors, and engineers we saddle them down with backbreaking student loan debts. Way to go!

For those who balk about government intervention, I say, why not channel some of those extra billions of dollars going out the door to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq for example, and direct them into an education fund for our students right here. Students who benefit from these federally funded loans upon graduation will pay off their debt by doing for instance say 2 years of community service, or joining the Peace Corps, or AmeriCorps where they will gain invaluable work experience.

So what do you think? Isn’t it time that we gave the same immunity to our students as we did to the banks? At least we can be safely assured that by forgiving the student loan debts, our young graduates can turn around and start a life rather than be indentured servants of a bank. They’ll help boost the economy, something we’d naively thought the banks were going to do once they were bailed out. Boy, were we duped!

The Frustrated Evaluator

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