Dec 15

The Coming Storm

There are starting to be some stories breaking about what may be the single greatest crisis facing education and our society — college. The recent stories in the New York Times about the rising cost of college, the pieces in the Philadelphia Inquirer about scholarships being cut and the poor student-counselor ratio in Philly schools and the inevitable ramification of the credit crisis on student loans suggest that we are headed to a major crisis of higher education.

From the NY Times piece:

Over all, the report found, published college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

There are any number of reasons to be concerned about this. According to Infoplease, the difference in median income between a man with a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree in 2004 was $20,000. But more than that, college represents more than that — it represents both an academic and economic signpost and we cannot go back to a time in this country when it was an option only for the elite.

And I do mean elite. I worry about this now for the students of SLA, but I also worry about this for Jakob and Theo. In the time since I have been out of college, the cost of private colleges has more than doubled. If we see a similar rise, my alma mater will cost over $100,000 a year, which — unless education administration sees a dramatic rise in salary (ha!), that will consume the vast majority of my salary… and there could be at least two years when both Jakob and Theo are in college together. And while urban high school principals have never been the top of the pay scale in this country, there are certainly a lot of people who make a lot less than I do.

And the problem is that there isn’t a great answer here. The credit crisis will make it harder and harder for students to get loans for college, and the increased costs of college means that even for the ones who get loans will be saddled with masive debt when they do graduate, which isn’t a great way to start one’s adult life.

I don’t know where this ends, honestly. I don’t know why we’ve seen the kind of rise in college tuition that is so out of proportion to the rest of the economics of our country. I don’t know how we continue to hold college out as the gatekeeper to a middle-class adulthood, and I don’t know how it could be when a generation of kids start their life hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt — and that’s assuming that they can still get the loans.

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Tags: college, finance

Dec 09

My EduCon 2.1 Session

One of the hardest parts of running EduCon 2.1 is that all of us at SLA feel a fair amount of pressure to put our best foot forward with the sessions we run. That means for folks like Zac and Diana and Marcie and Tim and me who often go out and work with schools or present at conferences, we want to do something we haven’t done before. Needless to say, that means we stress ourselves out about what we want to do. Fortunately for me, I keep this here blog as a running record of my thoughts, which means I’ve got a pretty good place to look if I want to think about presenting my current train of thought. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ideas I wrote about in Where Does It Live?, and I realized that’s something I want to explore a bit more at EduCon. So here’s my session:

Where Does It Live: Building Systems And Structures Around What You Believe

  • School-Level Reform
  • Classroom Reform
  • Systemic Change

    The myth of the single teacher, bucking the odds to be that one great teacher in a school may make for a great Hollywood movie, but it rarely — if ever — leads to lasting, effective change. We must examine the manner in which our schools and classrooms are set up so that the greatest number of students, teachers and even principals can thrive and learn and feel valued. This session is focused on looking at institutional change, so that attendees can explore what they value and then examine the systems in their districts, schools and classrooms that must change to reflect those values

Hope to see you there!

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Tags: educon, educon2.1

Dec 09

Join Team Shift Happens on Kiva

This year, as we feel the pinch of difficult economic times, we should remember that there are those who still have much, much less. That’s why you should join Karl Fisch’s Team Shift Happens on Kiva.

Kiva is a micro-lending bank with a mission of helping to end global poverty. From the website:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs in the developing world.

And in Karl’s words:

Kiva allows individuals to contribute a small amount of money that is then loaned to entrepreneurs in impoverished communities. When that loan is repaid (currently almost 97% are repaid), then the individual that originally made the loan can choose to loan the money out to another entrepreneur, donate it to kiva to help with their operating expenses, or actually get the money back.

Poor people in impoverished communities often don’t have access to financial institutions and capital, and microfinancing addresses this problem. It is especially helpful to women, who often are the key to raising families — and communities — out of poverty. It’s also my opinion that this is one of the best ways to help achieve peace in the world.

I contributed my $25 for myself, but then I also bought $25 gift certificates for everyone in my family, and I look forward to dinner table conversations about who we’ve lent our money to over the next few years.

This could be an amazing school project, a wonderful addition to any "Secret Santa" office holiday spirit, or just a wonderful way to remind ourselves that we are connected to everyone on the planet, no matter where we live.

Thanks, Karl, for inspiring me to do more this holiday season.

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Tags: kiva, karl_fisch