Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

USA - Student Right to Know Before You Go Act

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USA - Student Right to Know Before You Go Act

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Last updated on September 5th 2014

Update on Sept. 5th 2014: The act (or rather bill) mentioned below seems to have got stuck at the introduction stage. states that it has only "4% chance of being enacted"!
--- end update ---

I was very happy that some senators in the USA have introduced a new act which will empower USA students and parents with more information for making crucial higher education decisions.

Here's a press release dated May 9th 2013 about the act, "Sens. Warner, Rubio, Wyden Introduce Student Right to Know Before You Go Act",

[Note: The Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license does not apply to this post.]

Some important extracts from the press release are given below:

The legislation would streamline existing institutional reporting requirements to give students and their families more tools to easily compare graduation rates, student loan debt, employment prospects and potential future earnings as they make important decisions about higher education.


"Many high school seniors who are heading to college this fall have just paid their tuition deposits, and they likely have real questions about what value they are getting for their money," Sen. Warner said. "This bipartisan legislation will combine relevant information in a rational way so that students and their families can access comparative information on which colleges and which majors will result in a good job.


“A college education is one of the most important investments an American can make in their lifetime, so it’s critical that we equip potential students and their families with as much information as possible,” Sen. Rubio said. “With this legislation we can finally provide meaningful, easily accessible data to make higher education decisions easier for the 21st century student.”


“There’s been a needed focus on access to higher education, but it’s time to bring value into the equation,” Sen. Wyden said. “Instead of forcing students to make blind decisions on such a huge investment, this bill would empower them with a wide range of information about what their choices will mean in working world.”


Rising educational costs and uncertainty in the job market have made the stakes higher than ever for individuals looking to invest in higher education. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2012–2013 school year was $29,056 at private colleges, $8,655 for state residents at public colleges, and $21,706 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Two-thirds of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 per borrower.

--- end extracts ---

This USA Today article, "Column: Learning blind" by Senators Wyden and Rubio, dated 19th September 2012, is about the same topic and very interesting (to me, at least).

Indian students *must* also have access to similar information about Indian institutions of higher education.

I am deeply thankful to USA senators Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) for bringing in this legislation. [I wonder whether it is law now.] Readers may wonder why I should be thankful for this law which has been introduced in the USA and not India. Well, I think this USA law can be a model for other countries in the world like India to emulate. I think it will be far easier for Indian legislators to bring in similar laws in India and convince Indian academic administrators and academics about its need, now that the USA has introduced it.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Judge me by my work - Terrific response by new non-graduate HRD minister, Smriti Irani

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The following comment of mine appears (under the name Ravi Ravi as Vuukle comments system has messed up my name as Ravi Ravi and does not give me an easy way to fix that) in The Hindu article dated May 29th 2014 covering the outcry about non-graduate Smriti Irani being appointed as HRD minister,

"Judge me by my work" - Terrific response by Honourble Minster for HRD, Smt. Smriti Irani. She certainly is an articulate speaker and has achieved great success in her chosen field(s) of work at a young age. Hon'ble PM, Shri Narendra Modi, had said in an April 2013 speech, paraphrased - Today in our education system employability is low... We must work on skill development with a lot of energy. end-paraphrased-part. ... HRD minister has to bring in administrative determination and will to change the Indian academic system (at least those parts that are funded by taxpayer money) to better serve the needs of its students. That needs a strong personality who has self-confidence. A PhD qualification is needed for research and not administration. In fact, many times, PhDs are disconnected from ground realities and are poor administrators. Let us give Smt. Irani a chance to change the Indian academic system to deliver job oriented skills to youth thereby making them employable.

--- end comment ---

Notes on Shri Modi's April 2013 speech referred above are available here and the youtube video of his speech is here. The notes related to Shri Modi's comments on education are as follows:

[@ around 1 hr. 45 min. 00 secs.] Skill development. Today in our education system employability is low. Everybody says ten people came but none were of use (worthy to hire). We must bring a change in this. And we must do this with a lot of focus. We must work on skill development with a lot of energy.

--- end notes on Shri Modi's comments on education ---

Now the above-mentioned comment on The Hindu website has 43 up votes and 32 down votes with one opposing (down) response - Abhinesh responded that it's not a child's play to give her a chance and that (in his view) it is a blunder. He also said some school kids speak fluent English and that does not mean they can be made ministers.

This above response has 74 up votes and 24 down votes.

So, going by the cumulative up and down votes (reversing the up and down for opposing response), it is 67 in support of my comment and 106 against! Interesting :).

My response to the above response as shown on the web page is as follows (slightly edited to fix a typo):

Thanks Abhinesh for your response...In my view, Smt. Irani is a self-taught (beyond 12th std. or F.Y.B.A) and self-made person. She has shown her intellectual ability in debates she engaged in as a spokesperson of the BJP. You cannot prejudge that she will not be able to handle the Minister of HRD responsibility...Mr. Modi has received a clear mandate to be the PM of the country in a quasi-presidential style election. Now we have to give him freedom to appoint his team of ministers and some time for performance. He is reported to have asked for 100 day agendas from ministers. So let us give both Mr. Modi and Ms. Irani 100 days. If during that period her work does not come out to be satisfactory then I think citizens can suggest a change.

--- end response ---

The above response got 7 up votes and 0 down votes.

[I had first submitted a response with this additional paragraph at the bottom, "Very importantly, the constitution does not dictate that ministers have to be graduates or have higher qualifications. We have to abide by the constitution or seek to amend it through constitutional means." As that did not get shown initially I resubmitted the comment without the above paragraph, and that comment got shown. Later my earlier comment was also accepted and is now shown towards the bottom of the comment thread on the article web page.]

Abhinesh made a further comment (in response to another person's comment in the same comment thread) saying, in essence, "we might have missed scope of development which could be accomplished if it was some other knowledgeable person" (instead of Irani). The following two responses of mine are now shown below that comment:

I think I understand how you feel about this qualification issue. But, it seems to me that, some of the HRD ministry main challenges now are political like getting more funding from govt., ensuring more effective utilization of funds, dealing with various pressure groups trying to get their way (and get the taxpayer funds for their groups/states), and dealing with a very messy legal situation about the lack of power in UGC and AICTE to punish poor performance and/or malpractices in universities and colleges…UPA-II tried to bring in a new bill to establish National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) replacing UGC and AICTE, but that bill ran into problems with some pressure groups....My view is that expert advice on higher education policy & implementation is available in plenty to the minister from senior academics like UGC chairman and imp. members, AICTE chairman and imp. members, Planning commission experts on education etc. and the officials of MHRD, UGC & AICTE.


I must also add that my interest in higher education is in UGC and AICTE regulated institutions which serve the vast majority of higher education students in the country and so I have not mentioned anything about the elite IITs or IIMs (besides medical education sector as a whole).

--- end 2 part response ---

The above 2 comments have so far received 1 up vote and 0 down votes.

In addition to the above-mentioned Hindu article, there are a couple more interesting articles related to this matter:
1) This supports Smriti Irani as HRD minister and gives a not-so-positive view (author's view not mine) of three of the four previous HRD ministers who were well qualified,

2) HRD minister Smt. Smriti Irani aiming for education reform! Here's the article,

A small extract from the article, "The aim is to equip students with skills and knowledge to eliminate manpower shortage in science, technology, academics and industry."

Ravi: Fantastic! Way to go, HRD minister madam! I hope the proposed new commission on education will periodically share its findings and plans with the public and invite comments from the public.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

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