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


Tough talking articles about USA Higher Education's 1200+ percent tuition fees increase over past 30 years and Student Debt Trap



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Tough talking articles about USA Higher Education's 1200+ percent tuition fees increase over past 30 years and Student Debt Trap


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/06/tough-talking-articles-about-usa-higher.html



a) "Colleges are full of it: Behind the three-decade scheme to raise tuition, bankrupt generations, and hypnotize the media", June 8th 2014, http://www.salon.com/2014/06/08/colleges_are_full_of_it_behind_the_three_decade_scheme_to_raise_tuition_bankrupt_generations_and_hypnotize_the_media/

The article refers to USA higher education. Some notes on it:


* 1200+ percent increase in price of college tuition over last three decades, rising twice as fast as medical care costs
* Over the decades, universities (administrators) have given the reasons for steep rise in tuition fees as utility bills, libraries, professor salaries (top professors costing top money), students demanding luxuries (carpeting, furniture, gymnasiums ...) etc.
* Actually teaching duties in universities were/(are?) handled by graduate students and adjunct professors! [Ravi: This clearly has some exaggeration. For effect perhaps. The reality may be that a significant part of the "teaching load" is handled by adjuncts and grad-students freeing up professors for research.]
* In 1986, a spokesman of a higher-ed accreditation group told the New York Times, “A grant conveys the message, ‘We value you and will invest in your future,’ ” ... “The message of a loan is, ‘Go forward if you want, but on your own nickel.’ Loans reinforce privatist, instrumental values, a sense that you’re in college for yourself and that college studies have as an end only what comes later—a job and paying off the loan.” [Ravi: Now, it seems to be almost all loans and preciously few grants for students in US higher-ed.]
* The tuition fee big upward spiral started in 1981 with deregulation and free market principles sweeping higher education field.
* Purpose of college education has become a pathway to a high paying job (one million dollars more, supposedly, over working lifetime with a college degree) and not serving the nation (being of benefit to the nation).

---- end notes ---

Ravi: India seems to be going down the same road in the case of private professional (higher) education! Can India learn from the mistakes of USA higher education and chart a different path?

b) College costs expose the false meritocracy of the American dream, June 18th 2014 http://www.theguardian.com/money/2014/jun/18/college-cost-false-meritocracy-jobs-wealth-education

Notes: PhD qualified Wall Street Banker who graduated from a Florida public college in 1987 paying $2,500 a year, discusses how steep rises in college cost are making it an exclusive path for the generation of his children, limited to the rich and those willing to get into big debt. And the top white collar jobs, including Wall Street jobs, have become the exclusive domain of Ivy league or similar schools. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


Two Hindu articles on Radically reforming higher education, Student loan procedures and concerns; Aspiring Minds employment linkage to edX MOOC courses


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/06/two-hindu-articles-on-radically.html



Last updated on June 7th 2014

Yesterday The Hindu carried two articles of great interest to me.

First, Radically reforming higher education, http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/radically-reforming-higher-education/article6072426.ece by Prof. PULAPRE BALAKRISHNAN of the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram). Some notes and comments:

* The author writes that Indian higher education system 'cries out for reform' - hear, hear! But he omits the real big issues for most students and parents - better learning outcomes and better employability, both issues dealing with dissemination of knowledge (teaching) as against creation of knowledge (research).

* The writer mentions the UGC regulations requiring college lecturers to teach for around 16 hours a week. Very clearly that will leave little time for research and/or quality of teaching will suffer. But reducing the time to say half would mean many higher ed. institutions would need to hire more faculty. And so that may not work. Here's a suggestion - Have two types of universities: a teaching intensive one where faculty has higher teaching load and so is less expensive to run and a research intensive one with low teaching load and so more expensive to run.

* Appreciate the point about instituting student evaluation of courses in the context of faculty accountability especially after high salaries paid to faculty in those higher ed. institutions that have implemented sixth pay commission. It would help in improving teaching quality though students should not misuse it to penalize faculty for reasons like strict evaluation.

* The author writes, "The purpose of a university is the creation of knowledge." The professor has missed out on teaching i.e. dissemination of knowledge, in the purpose of a university. University has to do both - teaching and research. From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University, "A university (Latin: "universitas", "a whole") is an institution of higher education and research which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects and provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education." From http://www.staffs.ac.uk/idr/thepurposeofauniversity.html, "The Oxford and Cambridge Act, 1877 defined the purpose of a university in terms of its duty to foster 'religion, education, learning and research', and these objectives ( though the mention of religion has quietly been dropped) are still to be found in Cambridge's statutes as part of the job-description of University Teaching Officers and in Cambridge's latest publications about the evolution of its governance arrangements".

---- end first article notes and comments ---

[The following comment of mine appears on The Hindu article web page under the name Ravi Iyer and is the latest comment as of June 7th 2014 afternoon:

Appreciate the point about instituting student evaluation of courses. It would help in improving teaching quality though students should not misuse it to penalize faculty for reasons like strict evaluation. Author wrote, "The purpose of a university is the creation of knowledge." The professor has missed out on teaching i.e. dissemination of knowledge, in the purpose of a university. University has to do both - teaching and research...About the 16 hours a week teaching load for Asst. Professors (lecturers) in UGC regulations: Very clearly that leaves little time for research. But reducing the time to say half would mean many higher ed. institutions would need to hire more faculty. And so that may not work. Here's a suggestion - Have two types of universities: a teaching intensive one where faculty has higher teaching load and so is less expensive to run and a research intensive one with low teaching load and so more expensive to run.]

Here's the second article, Interest matters, http://www.thehindu.com/features/education/college-and-university/interest-matters/article6069957.ece. Some notes and comments:

* "As the cost of higher education touches new highs, education loans are nearly unavoidable today. How smooth is the process of getting one?" That's the lead paragraph. I am so disappointed by the powerlessness of society to control the costs of higher education. I think India is going down the USA route in professional higher education costs with the danger of student debt traps becoming a major social and so, political issue.

* The author writes that the student loan ranges from Rs. 4 lakh to Rs. 40 lakh. What can I say? I feel very sympathetic towards poor and lower middle class Indian parents and students trapped under the crushing burden of (professional) higher education costs.

* The student loan interest rates are higher than housing and vehicle loans! That is quite shocking news for me.

* The author gives EMI calc. for a Rs. 10 Lakh student loan as Rs. 19,000 per month for seven years, and writes that therefore the student would target a job that pays (minimum) about Rs. 40,000 per month. If anybody still thinks that education in general must not be job-oriented but prepare students for the noble life etc., etc., they should have a rethink as the above sentences are the reality on the ground. Yes, if there are special higher education institutions that provide free or low-cost education, their case is different. But, in the vast majority of especially professional higher education institutions, enrolling for a degree entails significant investment. It has become a business decision. The students and parents have no option but to think about return on investment for the money spent on the degree!

* The article mentions some relief for economically weaker sections where govt. repays interest during students' study period + some time till he gets a job (six months perhaps). But it is not as if the loan is waived for these students. They still have to pay back the loan after finishing their studies. For that they need to get a job that pays real well.

* The article states that if a student fails then the loan may be discontinued! What a Damocles' sword to keep over the neck of the poor indebted student! If you fail, no money! Scary, real scary!

* The article ends with the sentence, "Can this vicious cycle of overpriced education and overburdened young employees be broken?" The only way to break this cycle, it seems to me, is by bringing in low-cost decent quality (it is OK if it is not top quality) higher education which will act as a competitive force to bring down higher ed. costs. And the only such competitive force that I can see on the horizon is online education that awards government recognized degrees (like Georgia Tech, USA & Udacity's Online Master of Science in Computer Science - OMS-CS.)]

---- end second article notes and comments ---

[The following comment of mine appears twice on The Hindu article web page under the names Ravi Iyer and Ravi Ravi, and are the only comments on the article web page as of June 7th 2014 afternoon:

Very informative article about student debt trap in India...I am so disappointed by the powerlessness of society, so far, to control the costs of higher education. I think India is going down the USA route in professional higher education costs with the danger of student debt traps becoming a major social and political issue. Enrolling for a degree in such higher ed. institutions has become a business decision. The students and parents have no option but to think about return on investment for the money spent on the degree!..The only way to break the vicious cycle of high cost education and indebted passed out students, it seems to me, is by bringing in low-cost decent quality (it is OK if it is not top quality) higher education which will act as a competitive force to bring down higher ed. costs. And the only such competitive force that I can see on the horizon is online education that teaches employable skills for free or at very low cost.]

Around the time I sent out a mail with content similar to the above, I received an email newsletter from Aspiring Minds with this article in it, Bridging the Gap between Education and Employment with Aspiring Minds, http://www.aspiringminds.in/researchcell/articles/bridging_the_gap_between_education_and_employment_with_aspiring_minds.html.

Some notes and comments:

* Aspiring Minds has taken the initiative to connect edX MOOC-takers with jobs. Ravi: That's a terrific initiative. I am so happy to know of this.

* Aspiring Minds offered Indian edX learners (second largest group for edX) to register with them for job opportunities, and that offer was taken up by many.

* The article reports that the first student in this group, a final year computer engg. student with a Rajasthan engg. college that does not have a great placement record, and who took a few edX MOOC courses, including "Introduction to Computer Science and Programming", got offered a software trainee job by a software firm (with USA & Rajasthan offices). The article concludes, "This first example is encouraging, and it demonstrates how committed MOOC learners, even those with limited job opportunities, can be connected to employers. This is a first step in achieving the vision of an ideal education-employment ecosystem through MOOCs and we look forward to learning a lot more from this experiment in the next 3-6 months."

This is utterly fascinating to me! So a CS student from a not-so-great (at least from placements point of view) engg. college took the extra initiative of doing CS MOOC course(s) from edX and also registered with AspiringMinds. That led to a seemingly decent job offer. This can be replicated on a larger scale thereby giving CS students and degree holders from not-so-great (and not-so-expensive perhaps) engg. colleges of India to pick up employable skills from edX (and other) MOOC courses (free, as of now), and then land jobs via organizations like AspiringMinds. In fact, even students doing significantly less expensive degrees like B.Sc. in Physics, Chemisty, Maths etc. can do Computer Science/Information Technology MOOC courses and then shoot for a software job. Great work by AspiringMinds. BTW Varun Aggarwal of AspiringMinds, a joint author of this article, is an MIT alumnus, http://www.aspiringminds.in/leadership.html.

Sunday, May 11, 2014




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