Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege!

Dear Commons Community,

According to a report released on Wednesday by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, American colleges and universities have succeeded in establishing and maintaining a system in which elite selective colleges enroll predominantly white students while black and Hispanic students, even high-achieving ones, largely attend public, open-access institutions. Because the latter group of colleges spends less on instruction and sees lower shares of students through to graduation, higher education has thus become a “passive agent” in perpetuating white privilege.

As reviewed in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the report, Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege:

“The postsecondary system mimics and magnifies the racial and ethnic inequality in educational preparation it inherits from the K-12 system and then projects this inequality into the labor market,” the report says.

From 1995 to 2009, freshman enrollments increased for African-American students by 73 percent, for Hispanic students by 107 percent, and for white students by 15 percent, according to the report.

But among white freshmen during that time, 82 percent of new enrollments were at the most selective four-year institutions, whereas most of the new freshman enrollments for Hispanic and African-American students—72 percent and 68 percent, respectively—were at open-access two- and four-year institutions.

The implications of those enrollment patterns are profound, the report argues. Students who attend open-access institutions are less likely to complete their degrees on time and less likely to go on to earn graduate degrees, it says. Meanwhile, when African-American and Hispanic students do attend more-selective institutions, the results are dramatic, the report says: The students’ earnings advantage, for instance, increases by 21 percent.”

There are many issues facing American higher education but those raised in this report cut to the core of the values of fairness, equality, and opportunity that many of us share but obviously are not doing enough to realize in our institutions.


MOOCs: Facts and Myths!

Dear Commons Community,

John Ebersole, the President of Excelsior College(formerly Regents College), a non-profit, independent institution, has an article entitled, MOOCs:  Facts and Myths, in the current edition of The EVOLLLUTION.  Here is an excerpt:


1. For-profit providers of MOOCs do have sustainable business models.

Whether consulting to build or present programs or offering technology to aggregate eyeballs, a model that can attract hundreds of thousands of participants must be taken seriously. The venture capital community agrees and has just invested $43 million in Coursera, a MOOC provider founded by two Stanford professors.[1]

2. MOOCs are an attractive vehicle for delivering a range of services.

Whether it’s providing cutting-edge continuing education or assisting with brand building for institutions or faculty, MOOCs are seen as an efficient tool.

3. MOOCs have a role to play even for small and lesser-known institutions.

Experience shows MOOCs are effective as marketing tools as well as for some forms of instructional delivery. The Berklee College of Music, for instance, has offered a MOOC to acquaint interested individuals with its guitar program (with more than 100,000 enrollees). Participants receive one unit of credit for free. Those seeking to go further have the opportunity to do so, but at regular tuition rates. Even with the usual low levels of persistence and completion, Berklee expects several thousand enrollments in its fall program.

4. MOOC participants are largely drawn from outside the United States.

Analysis of participant profiles shows 70 percent of MOOC enrollees are from outside the United States.

5. MOOCs, with refinement, offer the prospect of access to higher education for the half of the world’s population under the age of 25.

In 2011, the global population stood at about 7 billion. According to Population Action International, 3.5 billion of those are under 25, with the greatest number from less developed nations. Only a tiny percentage of these will be able to access higher education as we know it. By removing cost and access barriers, something MOOCs can transcend, larger populations may benefit from this model of instructional delivery.


1. Earning college credit for MOOC participation is widely accepted.

While a few institutions have extended credit for MOOC completion, this is seen as more of a recruiting strategy than a validation of learning. In fact, no MOOC provider has administered psychometrically valid assessments of learning. The lack of attention to learning outcomes has led to institutional unwillingness to accept even those credit recommendations made by the American Council on Education (ACE). In addition, there appears to be much less demand for credit than was envisioned. One recent MOOC, with an enrollment of more than 100,000, had but seven participants actually take the homegrown end-of-course test. Additionally, it has been reported Colorado State University’s Global Campus, which offered to award credit after an assessment, has had no takers.

2. MOOCs feature the latest in instructional design.

In fact, the absence of instructional design is often cited as a reason for the huge attrition rate that has been observed. While varying by offering, faculty are presented much as they appear in a classroom, with no interactivity or visuals. This is thought to contribute to attrition rates of over 90 percent.

3. The MOOC is an American example of creativity and technical innovation.

Institutions in England and Ireland, and the University of Manitoba in Canada, all offered MOOCs prior to their emergence in the United States. While U.S. universities experimented with the technology, it wasn’t until the 2011 offerings of Stanford faculty that “MOOC mania” was launched here.

4. A MOOC offered by an academic institution can be expected to receive credit toward its degree requirements.

Many colleges and universities offer instruction that carries no academic credit and that can’t be used toward degree requirements. This is true not only for MOOCs but also for many forms of continuing education.

5. MOOCs are the answer to America’s call for a high-quality, inexpensive degree.

MOOC instruction may come from outstanding faculty with distinguished records, but this alone does not guarantee a positive learning experience. In fact, the degree to which the MOOC format engenders actual learning remains unproven. This is a significant shortcoming at a time when accreditors are demanding evidence of satisfactory learning outcomes. For younger students, the lack of faculty interaction and the forced dependence on peers for interaction and clarification are significant concerns.

Ebersole’s conclusion:

“The MOOC has great potential, but the creation of quality learning outcomes must be shown. Only with further experimentation will we see whether MOOCs can be as effective in creating learning as they are in creating media attention.”




For-Profit Colleges Closing in the Northeast!

Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education  (  subscription required) is reporting that a number of for-profit colleges have been closing specifically those operated by American Career Institute and Academic Enterprises Inc. All of the colleges closed operated in the Northeast and together enrolled several  thousand students.  As reported in The Chronicle, the abrupt closures affected 2,200 students at American Career Institute(ACI), a for-profit institution that offered certificate programs in medical and dental fields, information technology, and digital media.  This  came just over a week after Academic Enterprises Inc., the parent company of Sawyer Schools and Butler Business School, announced that it was shutting down campuses in Connecticut and Rhode Island that served more than 650 students.

“In both cases, regulators and accreditors were as surprised as the students. They said they hadn’t received any complaints from students about the colleges, and saw no red flags in their annual audits.

“This just dropped on us like a bomb,” said Michael F. Trainor, special assistant to the commissioner for Rhode Island’s Office of Higher Education, who learned of the Sawyer and Butler closings when a television reporter called him at home.

Maryland regulators said that ACI, which blamed its closure on a loss of credit, had just upgraded the equipment on one of its Maryland campuses and was operating at a profit.”

Enrollments at for-profit colleges have dropped precipitously in the past two years since the U.S. Department of Education tightened up financial aid regulations.  The for-profit sector has also been hurt by well-publicized scandals involving aggressive marketing and falsifying financial disclosure forms.



AFT President Randi Weingarten Launches Effort to ‘Reclaim the Promise of Public Education’!

Dear Commons Community,

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has launched a new initiative, Reclaiming the Promise of Public Education.  Its basic themes are:

“…about fighting for neighborhood public schools that are safe, welcoming places for teaching and learning. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that teachers are well-prepared, are supported and have time to collaborate. Reclaiming the promise is about enabling them to teach an engaging curriculum that includes art, music and the sciences. Reclaiming the promise is about ensuring that kids have access to wraparound services to meet their emotional, social and health needs.”

This “promise” is in response to:

“…the pressure not only from out-of-touch legislators, but from economic and societal factors outside school that make it much more difficult to achieve success within the classroom. Nearly 1 out of every 2 students in public schools lives in poverty, and educators have become the first responders to their stress, hunger and hardships. But these factors don’t keep us from teaching, they keep us up at night.

Public education is also under assault by people whose brand of “reform” consists of austerity, polarization, privatization and deprofessionalization–and who then argue that public education is failing. Maybe they never learned the difference between cause and effect…

But people are beginning to see that the emperors of reform have no clothes. Years of top-down edicts, mass school closures and test fixation with sanctions instead of support haven’t moved the needle — not in the right direction, at least.”

In launching this initiative, Ms. Weingarten is presenting the teachers’ perspective but there are kernels of truth in what she says. The current school “reform” movement is centered on developing a corporate culture based on standardized testing and privatization and is not meant to improve public education but to undermine it.


Bishop Desmond Tutu: “I would not worship a God who is homophobic..”

Desmond Tutu

Dear Commons Community,

Bishop Desmond Tutu, the South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop, in advance of the launch of the United Nations gay rights program in South Africa yesterday, told a French newspaper that he would rather go to hell than to a homophobic heaven. Speaking to Agence France-Presse Tutu stated, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this”.

He went on to say, “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place”.

Tutu, who has a long and distinguished history of fighting for civil rights, including battling apartheid, even went to so far as to compare the current fight for LGBT rights to his past battles in South Africa. “I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level,” he concluded.


The Charitable-Industrial Complex: Warren Buffett’s Son Peter Calls Out the Foundation Industry (i.e., Gates, Broad, Walton) for their Hypocrisy!

Peter Buffett Image

Dear Commons Community,

Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffet, takes a major shot at the philanthropies that seek to help others while essentially maintaining the status quo of the rich.  In a New York Times op-ed piece that might be the most important commentary on the state of today’s corporate-affiliated philanthropies, Buffett slams the billionaire colleagues of his father who are going to save humanity.  For example:

“Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms…

Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.

As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.

But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.

And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?”

His conclusion:

“Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.

My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change.

It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.

What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.

There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff).

Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.

I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.”

Amen!  And I hope Gates, Broad, Walton, Lumina, and the others take note that this was written by a billionaire insider!!!



College Enrollment Declining!

College Enrollment 2012 2013Click to Enlarge

Dear Commons Community,

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, college enrollment fell 2 percent in 2012-13, the first significant decline since the 1990s.  Most of the decline is due to the fact that the number of Americans turning 18 hit its recent peak in 2009, and will continue to decline through 2016. In addition, with the improvement in the economy, job prospects are better, making college a less attractive option.  The New York Times reports that:

“…nearly all of that drop hit for-profit and community colleges; now, signs point to 2013-14 being the year when traditional four-year, nonprofit colleges begin a contraction that will last for several years. The college-age population is dropping after more than a decade of sharp growth, and many adults who opted out of a forbidding job market and went back to school during the recession have been drawn back to work by the economic recovery.

Hardest hit are likely to be colleges that do not rank among the wealthiest or most prestigious, and are heavily dependent on tuition revenue, raising questions about their financial health — even their survival.

“There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” said David A. Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, which has more than 1,000 member colleges.

The most competitive colleges remain unaffected, but gaining admission to middle-tier institutions will most likely get easier.

Colleges fear that their high prices and the concern over rising student debt are turning people away, and on Wednesday, President Obama again challenged them to rein in tuition increases. Colleges have resorted to deeper discounts and accelerated degree programs. In all, the four-year residential college experience as a presumed rite of passage for middle-class students is coming under scrutiny.”

Here at CUNY, we have begun to see enrollment declines particularly in graduate programs.



College Students and Their Families Subsidizing the Federal Government!

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this year on May 16th, I posted on this blog that the U.S Department of Education through its policies has managed to turn the student financial loan program into a magnificent profit center for the federal government, more lucrative than the most successful American businesses.   “The Obama administration is forecast to turn a record $51 billion profit this year from student loan borrowers, a sum greater than the earnings of the nation’s most profitable companies and roughly equal to the combined net income of the four largest U.S. banks by assets.”

Yesterday, after months of discussion, under the new federal student loan program endorsed by President Obama and approved by the Senate, the U.S. government is forecast to generate $185 billion in profit over the next decade from students and their families. The profit figure, if annually averaged through 2023, would place the U.S. student loan program among the 20 most profitable public companies in the world, according to Fortune magazine’s annual list of the world’s 500 biggest companies. The bipartisan Senate bill would increase the government’s profit off student borrowers by more than $700 million compared with existing law, the Congressional Budget Office said.

As reported in The Huffington Post:  “Students, in essence, are subsidizing the government,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that the profit estimate was “unjustifiable” and that the Senate measure “exacerbates the problem.”

“Why are we piling on another $715 million of debt onto the backs of our students?” Boxer asked.

As I commented in May, “this is an incredible turn of events for an administration that has supposedly sought to help students go to college and to ease their financial burdens.”  Again there is a contradiction here if not hypocrisy.



New York Times Slams Anthony Weiner and Calls for His Withdrawal!

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times editorial board declared today that amid more sex scandal accusations, former congressman Anthony Weiner should withdraw from the race for New York mayor.   The editorial commented that  “the serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”

Accusations against Weiner surfaced Tuesday from nightlife website “The Dirty.” The site claims Weiner sexted with a young woman both before and after his resignation from Congress in 2011; screenshots of their alleged online conversations were also posted.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Weiner acknowledged that some of the reports were accurate, and though his problem continued into 2012, “the behavior is behind me.” He plans to continue with his campaign.

The editorial declared Weiner’s statement “ridiculous.”

The full text of the editorial appears below.



New York Times Editorial

Mr. Weiner and the Elusive Truth!

July 24, 2013


At some point, the full story of Anthony Weiner and his sexual relationships and texting habits will finally be told. In the meantime, the serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.

Mr. Weiner, who resigned from Congress two years ago after sending lewd messages and photos of his crotch to women he had not met, was forced to revisit the issue on Tuesday, and so were we all. A Web site called The Dirty had another woman’s story, another round of sex texts, and another picture of Mr. Weiner’s penis. The startling news was that this new episode apparently took place last summer, only a few months before Mr. Weiner was to begin another run at public office. The marital trauma that Mr. Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, had said was behind them was not as far behind as we thought.

When the first texts were revealed two years ago, Mr. Weiner lied about it, saying he had been the victim of hackers. Then he owned up, tearfully abandoned his office and retreated into private life. Then he was back, telling the world that therapy and his wife’s forgiveness had turned him around and that he was ready to begin a new chapter. That turned out to be the mayor’s race, which he entered in May. What he did not say then, and what voters did not realize until Tuesday, was that his resignation had not been the end of his sexual misconduct.

The timing here matters, as it would for any politician who violates the public’s trust and then asks to have it back. Things are different now, he insists. “This behavior is behind me,” he said again on Tuesday. He suggested that people should have known that his sexting was an unresolved problem well into 2012.

That’s ridiculous and speaks to a familiar but repellent pattern of misleading and evasion. It’s up to Mr. Weiner if he wants to keep running, to count on voters to forgive and forget and hand him the keys to City Hall. But he has already disqualified himself.

It’s difficult not to feel for Ms. Abedin. The couple deserved privacy as they worked through their problems — and they had it, until they re-emerged in public life and Mr. Weiner decided he was a good fit to run New York City. Mr. Weiner and Ms. Abedin have been saying that his sexual behavior is not the public’s business. Well, it isn’t, until they make it our business by plunging into a political campaign.

Mr. Weiner says he is staying in the mayoral race. To those who know his arrogance and have grown tired of the tawdry saga he has dragged the city into, this is not surprising.

Geography Matters in Determining Upward Mobility!

Geography PovertyClick to enlarge


Dear Commons Community,

Geography appears to play a major role in determining upward mobility according to a new study  of metropolitan areas in the United States.

The study, based on millions of anonymous earnings records, is the first with enough data to compare upward mobility across metropolitan areas. These comparisons provide some of the most powerful evidence so far about the factors that seem to drive people’s chances of rising beyond the station of their birth, including education, family structure and the economic layout of metropolitan areas. As reported in the New York Times:

“Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data show, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

…the researchers identified four broad factors that appeared to affect income mobility, including the size and dispersion of the local middle class. All else being equal, upward mobility tended to be higher in metropolitan areas where poor families were more dispersed among mixed-income neighborhoods.

Income mobility was also higher in areas with more two-parent households, better elementary schools and high schools, and more civic engagement, including membership in religious and community groups.

Regions with larger black populations had lower upward-mobility rates. But the researchers’ analysis suggested that this was not primarily because of their race. Both white and black residents of Atlanta have low upward mobility, for instance.”

The authors emphasized that their data allowed them to identify only correlation, not causation. Other economists said that future studies will be important for sorting through the patterns in this new data.