Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Not really a mystery

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

The Greenville News tells us about a report that says South Carolina’s colleges rate an “F” in affordability:

South Carolina got an “F” in college affordability on a national higher education report card released today, underscoring a concern cited by members of South Carolina’s Higher Education Study Committee.

Poor and working-class families must devote 34 percent of their income, even after aid, to pay for costs at public four-year colleges, according to the 2008 higher education report card, Measuring Up 2008, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

We have high tuition here in South Carolina, and it’s gone up quite a bit over the eight or so years I’ve been teaching.  Why tuition has been skyrocketing – and it’s gone up a lot not only among the four year schools mentioned in the article, but at South Carolina’s two-year colleges as well – isn’t really a mystery.  Look at state funding.  While college enrollment has been increasing, state funding for colleges has been decreasing.  Even before the massive budget cuts we’ve been having in higher education this year, the budget for our two year schools was less than it was eight years ago.  (I assume that four year schools have similar issues.)  So what do schools have to do?  Raise tuition to make up some of the shortfall.

It should not surprise us that when we shortchange higher education, we end up with higher education that is more inacessible to those of us most in need of a quality education.

Edited to add:

Apparently, affordability is not graded on a curve. In the original report referenced above, almost every state joined South Carolina in an “F” for affordability.  Probably for the same reasons, too.

More bad news on the education front

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Kellie sent me a few links from the Upstate on the worsening financial situation in our colleges.

So, some colleges are cutting staff.  One school is cutting salaries 10%.  Clemson’s people face mandatory furloughs.

Something is rotten in the state of South Carolina.

One final point.  Here’s a quote from one of the links above:

The state’s technical colleges served about 39,000 full-time equivalent students and got $171 million from the state in 2000, compared to 53,623 full-time equivalent students and $154 million from the state in 2008 before the budget cuts, Booth said.

So, we have more full-time students than ever in the technical college system, and we have to serve them with less money than we had eight years ago.  Now, of course, we’re meant to serve them with much less money.  The $154 million figure was pre-cut.

If you happen to be a student at one of South Carolina’s technical colleges and you wonder why your teachers might look a bit hurried … well that’s why.

Death of a thousand cuts

Monday, November 17th, 2008

If you’re a South Carolinian, you should be aware of just how royally the budget for your state govenrment is screwed.

Since I work at one of the state’s technical colleges, here’s the bit that I want to emphasize:

The cuts have also affected colleges and universities. Officials at the University of South Carolina say they expect to have a plan next month on how to handle $36.9 million in cuts, but there are no plans for mandatory, systemwide furloughs, spokeswoman Margaret Lamb said.

USC’s not forcing folks to sit home without pay, but Clemson has.  But you know who’s really screwed?  The technical college system.  We can’t raise tuition mid-year like the large schools can.  We don’t have many fees that can be increased to make up for yet another round of budget cuts.

So if you care about having a workforce that can attract new jobs to replace those at plants who are closing their doors during this recession, ask your state representative what he’s doing to ensure that your local technical college remains open.

Having it both ways

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

There’s some argument on the merits of partial credit – giving students some points for getting at least part of a complex answer correct.  Sometimes, partial credit is beneficial – but the existence of partial credit causes another problem:

Some students simply won’t commit to an answer, hoping to somehow pass on a wave of partial credit.  As an example, consider the question below.  It’s part of a lab write-up where the students measured the pH of a solution of sodium hydroxide using pH paper and other indicators.

Question: Was the solution acidic or basic? _________________
Student answerAcidic, with the presence of base

Of course, the correct answer is “basic” – which was very obvious if the student had even glanced at the directions for using the indicators.  But instead of doing that, this student just thought he’d wing it, get done with the lab write-up a whole minute faster, and try to get points for his answer anyway.

I imagine that students keep trying this strategy because it has worked somewhere before.  But not today.


Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Tired of reading about politics?  Don’t have anything else to do on a Friday afternoon?  Why not brush up on metric units and unit conversions?

No, really!  Click below for more.


Grades and godliness

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

In an article whose title is bound to make Rev. BigDumbChimp annoyed, LiveScience notes a study that correlates religious attendance with educational outcomes:

Students in grades 7 to 12 who went to church weekly also had lower dropout rates and felt more a part of their schools.


Students who attend religious services weekly average a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services, said Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa.

Now as a science guy, I’ve got to wonder if the increase in grades also applies to sciences where the prevailing doctrine taught in many churches directly opposes the coursework.

But the overall result doesn’t surprise me at all.  Growing up in a relatively small part of South Carolina, I found that church and church related organizations were essentially the only structured social activities available outside of school.  This appeared to surprise the head researcher:

“Surprisingly, the importance of religion to teens had very little impact on their educational outcomes,” Glanville said. “That suggests that the act of attending church — the structure and the social aspects associated with it — could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion.”

As someone who went to church pretty regularly as a kid, this is completely unsurprising to me.  Kids are at church to socialize – or these days, to blow each other away.  The religious talk probably matters a lot less to kids than pastors and youth directors would like to believe.  But without the socialization, kids may do poorer in the school setting.

I wonder how the kids of UUs do in school compared to kids of Southern Baptists.  That might tell us whether it’s the act of attending church or something in the doctrines that helps educational outcomes.

You can read the abstract of Glanville’s study here – or get the whole study if your school subscribes to the journal online.  My school doesn’t, and it’s not worth the 30-mile drive to and from the university for a non-chemistry article. 🙂