Sail's Pedagogy

Sail's posts about her class, classes she is taking, and education.

Virtual Worlds

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Subprime student loans and for-profit universities

First I would like to say that not all for-profit universities are bad. Many are very concerned by the quality of education at their schools. I got my Masters at an online university but one that is accredited by the Higher Education Commission. In a 2003 report by USA Today, 400 diploma mills are already in operation, with the shameful industry already worth $500 million per year, and the numbers are still rising.

But business and education can create an situation that not guarantee student success. Many of these schools promise students that they will get great jobs, and the amount of money that they just went into debt with will be easily paid off. The University of Phoenix is paying $80.5-million to settle a contentious six-year-old whistle-blower lawsuit filed by two former admissions counselors.

Apollo officials announced that they had instituted new programs at the University of Phoenix designed to ensure that students who enroll are adequately prepared to handle the academic work and will result in higher retention rates. This year Phoenix University’s enrollment of degree-seeking students grew to 443,000 as of August 2009, up 22 percent from 362,000 in August 2008. The biggest growth in Phoenix’s enrollments, by far, came among students seeking associate degrees, which rose by 37 percent, to 201,200 from 146,500 in 2008. This would it bigger than the entire California State University System, which had 437,000 students in fall 2008.

Let us look at the numbers:
There is the myth that if you go to college you make about $1 million more on average than a high school grad, but the degree does not make you the money. It is the indiviual skills and work ethics. Bill Gates dropped out of school and he is making plenty of money. If you add the expense of going to college (tuition, fees, books, room & board: $46, 700 / yr. public schools; $99,000 yr. / private schools) what isn’t taken into consideration is that the “$1 million college over high school grad” advantage doesn’t kick in until the grad has been out of school twelve years or more (don’t forget to include the four years of college where no money is earned) before the loan is paid off. That is if you graduate (half entering college never do), don’t default on your loan (17% write offs), aren’t delinquent (upwards of 24%) and pay without interruption (many defer payments or file for hardships while interest continues to accrue).

But the loan companies and the state of the current economic crisis has created a world in which too many people are never going to get out of debt. What many do not know, is you can never get rid of your student loans even if you declare bankruptcy. In 2008 Sallie Mae quit offering subprime private loans to students at for-profit colleges because the astronomical default rates had helped throw its stock price into a nosedive. But now these schools are making private loans directly to students, much the way used-car lots loan money to buyers rather than going through a third party.

This also makes it easier to mislead students. Colorado-based Westwood Colleges former students filed a class action suit alleging they were duped into borrowing institutional loans at a staggering 18 percent interest. According to the complaint, the college’s corporate bosses advise their admissions officers to sign students up for these loans without revealing how costly they are going to be. Thus borrowers don’t learn about the steep interest until after they leave school and receive their first loan bill. Career Education and Corinthian Colleges only expect to recover roughly half of the money they distribute through their institutional lending programs. Getting students in the door pumps up the numbers even when these schools know they will never get paid.

Each year, more than two million Americans enroll in for-profit colleges and their popularity has only grown since the financial crisis. While traditional four-year colleges are struggling with dwindling student bodies and budget gaps, proprietary schools are reporting record enrollments as the newly unemployed try to retool their skills so they can wade back into the job market. Some of the largest for-profit chains say their numbers have doubled over the last year. During the last three decades, the inflation adjusted price of college has more than tripled at public four year universities and gone up nearly as much a private four year universities. Total student loans in the last decade (in 2008 dollars) have gone from 44.6 billion dollars in 1998 to 94.5 billion dollars in 2008. During that time the number of undergraduates has only increased by a small percent from around 12 million to 14 million. Taken together these imply that the average indebtedness of the student has skyrocketed.

According to a College Board analysis of Department of Education data, 60 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients at for-profit colleges graduate with $30,000 or more in student loans-one and a half times the percentage of those at traditional private colleges and three times more than those at four-year public colleges and universities. Similarly, those who earn two-year degrees from proprietary schools rack up nearly three times as much debt as those at community colleges, which serve a similar student population. These figures are all the more troubling in light of these schools’ spotty record of graduating students; the median graduation rate for proprietary schools is only 38 percent — by far the lowest rate in the higher education sector.

So what do business think of these degrees? Numerous employers have not yet been sold into this alternative way of acquiring education, thus they still regard such degrees as invalid or dubious. The U.S. National Education Board has established 6 accreditation agencies to evaluate and provide accreditation to the higher learning institutions meeting the minimum criteria for a quality education, thus differentiating between the bogus degree programs. For example, the Distance education and training council provides accreditation for those institutes solely dedicated to online degree programs.  The agency is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Congress and the Obama administration have also had their hands full advancing other higher education reforms — in particular, legislation to kick private lenders out of the federally subsidized student loan program. This will create tens of billions of dollars in cost savings that will go toward larger Pell grants for low-income students. But that measure, vital as it is, affects only lending within the federal student loan program. It leaves untouched the private loans that are increasingly being foisted on students and the loosely regulated schools that are profiting as a result.

In May, the Department of Education revealed that it was considering reversing changes the Bush administration made to weaken the law that prohibits colleges from compensating recruiters based on the number of students they enroll. It is also thinking about adding teeth to the rules requiring proprietary colleges to show that graduates are finding “gainful employment” in their field and cracking down on schools that willfully mislead prospective students. “Our overall goal at the Department of Education in post-secondary education is to make sure that students … have the information they need to make good choices,” Robert Shireman, the deputy undersecretary of education, told financial analysts and investors during a conference call earlier this year.

Congress should require companies that offer private student loans to give the same kinds of flexible repayment options and consumer protections as are available through the federal student loan program, including allowing borrowers to repay their loans as a percentage of their income. Lawmakers also need to revisit changes Congress made to the bankruptcy code in 2005, which make it exceedingly difficult for financially distressed borrowers, including those with private student loans, to discharge their debt in bankruptcy.

The American Dream has changed along with the economy and few are aware. There needs to be an awakening to the facts that achievement of the American Dream through college and “job security” are things of the past and that people need to quickly get up to speed as to what needs to be done to survive financially through the working years into retirement.

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Happy 40th Birthday Internet

On October 29th, 1969 the Internet was born. The internet has changed our lives and our brain. I was fortunate enough to have been on the internet for almost 25 years now. Right when the World Wide Web was being created. I saw how scientists, mainly physicists were using the internet to communicate and collaborate with other scientists around the world.

Little did we know back then that the internet would evolve to what it is today.

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Howard Rheingold on Virtual Worlds

Shel Israel interviewed Howard Rheingold.

“It’s NOT the “future of the Web.”

However, I do see them getting less centralized and easier to use, and people will start inventing uses for them that we don’t foresee right now, and the population of enthusiasts will grow from a tiny cult following to a small cyber subculture. There are things you can do in such environments that you can’t do elsewhere.”

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Google’s Eric Schmidt on What the Web Will Look Like in 5 Years

This is part of a talk by Gartner analysis firm on what the future of the web might be. For those on the web now… this is interesting.

• Five years from now the internet will be dominated by Chinese-language content.

• Today’s teenagers are the model of how the web will work in five years – they jump from app to app to app seamlessly.

• Five years is a factor of ten in Moore’s Law, meaning that computers will be capable of far more by that time than they are today.

• Within five years there will be broadband well above 100MB in performance – and distribution distinctions between TV, radio and the web will go away.

• “We’re starting to make signifigant money off of Youtube”, content will move towards more video.

• “Real time information is just as valuable as all the other information, we want it included in our search results.”

• There are many companies beyond Twitter and Facebook doing real time.

• “We can index real-time info now – but how do we rank it?”

• It’s because of this fundamental shift towards user-generated information that people will listen more to other people than to traditional sources. Learning how to rank that “is the great challenge of the age.” Schmidt believes Google can solve that problem.

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Second Life Subcultures

If you have been in Second Life for a while, you get amazed at the different lifestyles, role playing and even games in Second Life. Botgrrl has created a mind map with the help of others on subcultures in Second Life.

This is a great teaching tool when bringing in new students.

Another article by Botgrrl of interest is on “Avatar Communication Within and Beyond Virtual Worlds.”

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Impressions of Second Life

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Texas Universities in Second Life

All of the state universities in Second Life are now starting in Second Life. This is a huge endeavor.

Dr. Leslie Jarmon is leading this project and talks at Metanommics.

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Training Paramedics in Second Life

PIVOTE provides a structured framework which replicates life and death medical situations in real time. The PIVOTE tool fosters the feeling of working with an actual patient instead of choosing options from a pull-down menu. This simulates real world experiences of paramedics.

Besides medical simulation — simulations of preparing for disasters are being created in Second Life.

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Second Life as a disruptive technology?

Great article on Second Life. It is a very strange place for many and many have a fear of Second Life. Some of this is caused by the bad media, other by the fear of this future technology.

Universities who are teaching in Second Life need to all work together to make create a great learning experience in Second Life

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