Entries in Education (13)


Education Department Introduces College Cost ‘Window Stickers’

JupiterImages/Comstock Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Education has released a new tool it says will help consumers understand the costs of higher education before making the choice of whether, and where, to enroll.

Dubbed the “Shopping Sheet,” the Obama administration introduced on Tuesday nationally standardized financial aid award letters they say will lay out all costs associated with a particular school, while tailored to the individual student.  Loan interest rates, scholarship options, housing rent, food, books, and veterans benefits will all be displayed on this single form, serving as a calculator.

The design is aesthetically similar to the costs sheet displayed in new vehicle windows at auto dealerships, and would be distributed by colleges in their financial aid packages.

Colleges and universities already make all of this information available to potential students, but some schools have been criticized for confusing language in awards letters and the difficulty in piecing together the numbers scattered across an abundance of school-related correspondence.


In a conference call with reporters, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the lack of uniformity in how schools provide the information “makes comparison shopping, which we think is important, almost impossible.”

“These letters all look different, contain different information, and often do a poor job of making clear how much a student will receive in aid, in grants, in scholarships, and how much they will have to take out in the form of student loans,” he said.

Participation in the program by colleges and universities is voluntary, but the government hopes schools will view it as a way to bring in students who may otherwise fail to understand what options are within their reach.

This fall, millions of students will begin freshman classes at colleges around the country.  But between rising tuition rates and calculating student loan interests, more Americans are coming to believe those costs aren’t worth the payoff.  The federal government reports the average cost of public education rose 15 percent between 2008 and 2010, with two thirds of students owing more than $26,000 in loans upon graduation.

“Too many students I meet across the country tell me the first time they really understood how much debt they were in was when the first bill arrived,” Duncan said.  “And clearly, that’s far too late and is simply not fair.”

Richard Cordray of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau joined Duncan on the call.

“There are now more than $8.1 billion in defaulted private loans, and even more are in delinquency,” he said.  “The bottom line is that no consumer should take on a large amount of debt without understanding the costs and the risks up front.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Pays Off $114K Student Loan Debt in Cash

Alex Kenjeev(LONDON) -- When Toronto resident Alex Kenjeev realized he was finally in a position to pay off more than $114,000 in student loans, he wanted to make it memorable. He did so by paying his debt all at once—in cash.

His feat went viral when he posted a photo of the receipt for $114,460 (US $111,350) on his Facebook page.

"I thought it would be funny, mind you, not for the world, just for me," he told ABC News. "I didn't expect it to go viral at all."

Kenjeev is the president of O'Leary Ventures, a company that invests in and supports start-ups. The company is owned by Kevin O'Leary, an entrepreneur who appears on ABC's Shark Tank. On the show, business hopefuls pitch their ideas to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, or "sharks," who decide if they will invest in them.

The debt was for Kenjeev's undergraduate degree from McGill University along with debts from law school and an MBA from the University of Toronto.

After finishing school, Kenjeev said he wasn't paying his debt "aggressively." Instead, he was putting most of his money into a software start-up. When he recently sold the "very profitable" start-up, he had enough money to pay the loan in one fell swoop.

He went to his local Royal Bank of Canada and asked to withdraw $114,460. The bank that held the loans was different than where he keeps his money.

"Their initial reaction was they didn't want to do it," he said. "Then they said, 'We can't give you this much.' And I said, 'What do you mean? I deposit my money here with the expectation that I can take it out. Is this not what banks have been doing for hundreds of years?'"

The bank told Kenjeev he would have to pay the transport fees to have the money delivered by armored truck. He asked them to make sure of that and went home.

The next day, he received an email from the bank saying that they could give him the money. He went back and they took him into a small window-less back room where they counted out the money.

"I put it into a grocery bag and walked a couple blocks to the other bank," he said. "I tried to play it cool."

He told the Scotiabank branch that he wanted to make a deposit in the account with a balance of negative $114,460.

When the teller asked how much he wanted to deposit, he said, "'Oh, the same amount that you see there. Here you go.' And I sort of plopped it down on the counter. She didn't want to accept it initially."

After more than an hour, the bank accepted the money and Kenjeev sauntered out debt-free.

"When I walked out of the bank, I was feeling pretty happy," he said. "I spontaneously snapped a photo of the receipt and posted it to my Facebook wall."

People on Facebook began commenting on the image, some congratulating him and others criticizing him for bragging. Someone put the photo on Reddit and it garnered thousands of comments, many of which were critical. Kenjeev said he had no intention of rubbing anything into people's faces.

"I really wasn't thinking about that, to be fair," he said. "It was a milestone moment in your life, when you become debt-free, and not everyone had a receipt, but I did because of the way I did it."

Kenjeev has been keeping busy preparing for O'Leary Ventures to launch their own wine and mortgage companies later this year, but has also been enjoying life as a debt-free man.

"It feels good," he said. "It feels like a weight has been lifted."

In the U.S., some $1 trillion in student loan debt is outstanding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Only Half of Recent College Grads Employed Full Time

Goodshoot/Thinkstock(NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.) -- The great recession has taken a heavy toll on college grads, with only half of those who graduated between 2006 and 2011 reporting they have full-time jobs, according to a new study.

The survey by Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development was based on a random sample of nationwide interviews with 444 people who graduated from college during the period.

“Although many have had a full-time job since graduation, only half the sample was employed full time at the time of the survey,” the report’s authors said. “College graduates are unsure about their ability to move up. Only one-fifth believed that their generation will be more successful than the one that came before them. Well over half said they will be less successful.”

Fifty-one percent of responders had full-time jobs, the survey found, while 20 percent were in graduate school. Part-time workers made up 12 percent, and 11 percent were unemployed.

Read the full report.

The median starting salary for those surveyed was $28,000, some $3,000 less on average than pre-recession grads.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Number of Ph.Ds on Public Aid Triples in US

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The life of an academic who pays hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition and lives off stipends and scholarships is becoming more financially treacherous. A skyrocketing number of Americans with Ph.Ds say they are facing a reality in which they are turning to food stamps to survive.

One in six Americans received food stamps or other public assistance last year, but the number of people with a Ph.D. or Masters degree who receive that aid has tripled in the past two years, according to government data.

In a story published by The Chronicle of Higher Education this week Ph.D. holders and students who are teaching on the non-tenure track in community colleges and universities bemoaned their prospects.

Elliott Stegall, 51, is pursuing a Ph.D in film studies at Florida State University while he teaches two English courses at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla.

To help support their two young children, he and his wife rely, in part, on food stamps, Medicaid and aid from the USDA program, Women, and Infants and Children (WIC). He and his wife also have worked part-time jobs as house painters and cleaners and food caterers.

"As a man, I felt like I was a failure. I had devoted myself to the world of cerebral activity. I had learned a practical skill that was elitist," he said. "Perhaps I should have been learning a skill that the economy supports."

Various factors, mostly related to the down economy and state and local educational budget cuts, have helped drive educational institutions to rely more on part-time or adjunct professors. They are paid much less than regular professors and get few or no benefits.

Overall, 44 million people were on food stamps on a monthly basis in 2011, compared with 17 million in 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The number of people with Ph.Ds who received some kind of public assistance more than tripled to 33,655 in 2010 from 9,776 in 2007, according to Austin Nichols, a senior researcher from the Urban Institute, who used data from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Labor.

"While on average higher learning still results in higher salaries, the promise of that financial payoff isn't materializing for some," Sara Hebel, senior editor with The Chronicle of Higher Education, said. "And for growing numbers of people with advanced degrees, they have not been insulated from financial hardship for a number of reasons."

Of the 22 million Americans with master's degrees or higher in 2010, about 360,000 were receiving some kind of public assistance, according to the latest Current Population Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2011.

The number of people with master's degrees who received some kind of aid grew to 293,029 from 101,682 over the same three-year period.

The average salary for U.S. professors is $82,556, according to an annual report from the American Association of University Professors, released in April.

"People off the tenure track now make up 70 percent of faculties. People in those positions often have working conditions that can be tough, including not knowing from semester to semester how many courses they might teach," Hebel said.

That leads to an inconsistent income for adjunct professors, which is often much lower than a tenured faculty member.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Cracks Down On For-Profit Schools That Prey On Veterans

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In front of thousands of service members, President Obama on Friday signed an executive order aimed at protecting veterans from for-profit educational institutions trying to “swindle” and “hoodwink” them instead of providing the education they deserve.

Speaking to the Army’s Third Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., the president, with his wife at his side, described how some for-profit institutions target veterans, bombarding them with emails and phone calls, promising advanced degrees and future job placement.

“You’re dealing with folks who aren’t interested in helping you.  They’re not interested in helping you find the best program.  They are interested in getting the money.  They don’t care about you; they care about the cash,” he said. “That’s appalling.  That’s disgraceful.  It should never happen in America.”

The order, part of the president’s ongoing “We Can’t Wait” executive action campaign, is intended to crack down on these improper recruiting practices and to strengthen student protections for veterans.

“The executive order I’m about to sign will make life a whole lot more secure for you and your families and our veterans — and a whole lot tougher for those who try to prey on you,” the president said.

The order requires colleges that participate in the G.I. Bill program and the Department of Defense’s tuition program to provide veterans with the “Know Before You Owe” form, a document that outlines the financial aid available to student and how much debt they will likely take on.

The order also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to trademark the term “G.I. Bill” to prevent educational institutions from fraudulently marketing their programs to beneficiaries of the program.

While members of Congress have introduced legislation to address these same issues, Friday’s action was intended to cast Obama as a take-charge president willing to circumvent gridlock on Capitol Hill.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Tackles Rising College Costs

Shahar Azran/WireImage(ANN ARBOR, Mich.) -- At a campaign-style rally Thursday, President Obama told an energetic crowd of students that colleges have a responsibility to control tuition costs because a higher education, “is not a luxury; it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

“We can’t just keep on subsidizing skyrocketing tuition,” the president argued as he announced a proposal to withhold federal aid from colleges and universities that fail to get their tuition costs under control.

“We are putting colleges on notice,” he said. “You can’t assume that you’ll just jack up tuition every single year. If you can’t stop tuition from going up, then the funding you get from taxpayers each year will go down. We should push colleges to do better. We should hold them accountable if they don’t.”

The president assured the 4,000 students packed into the University of Michigan Field House that he understands the financial burden they bear.

“Michelle and I can still remember how long it took us to pay back our student loans,” he said. “I just want all of you to understand, your president and your first lady were in your shoes not that long ago.”

Last year, graduates who took out a loan left college owing an average of $24,000, according to the White House.

Thursday’s event marked the end of the president’s three day State of the Union tour, which included stops in Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado, and was the largest by far.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Bill Gates on Using His Money to Save Lives, Fixing U.S. Schools and Steve Jobs

Scott Olson/Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- For the moment, Bill Gates is no longer the world’s wealthiest man.

But he didn’t lose the title to Mexico’s telecom titan Carlos Slim; he gave it away. And as a result, the businessman-turned-philanthropist can point to a different kind of scoreboard.

“Well, it’s easiest to measure in the health work,” Gates told Yahoo!/ABC News, “where over 5 million lives have been saved.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo! and ABC News, the former head of Microsoft talked about how Steve Jobs’ death affected him, his fix for American schools and his annual letter, which sets the priorities for one of the most generous charitable efforts in history.

With a pledge to give away 95 percent of Gates’ personal wealth, the Gates Foundation claims to have granted more than $26 billion since 1994. While some of that money is devoted to improving U.S. education, roughly 75 percent goes to the poorest countries in the world, and Gates scoffs at the idea that the money would be better spent at home.

“Well, the question is, are human lives of equal value?” Gates said. "For the mother whose child dies in Africa, is that somehow less important, less painful?  If we can save that life -- for very little [money], is that appropriate to do?  And, in fact, we know that if we do save those lives, it can reduce the population growth.  It can let them be on a path to graduate from receiving aid.”

After the Gates Foundation’s vaccination efforts in India, that nation reported only one case of polio last year. And while the foundation promises to fight on against preventable diseases, the top focus of this year’s letter is agriculture and Gates’ belief that without technology, farmers could never feed the world’s exploding population.

He calls for further research into the creation of flood- and drought-resistant crops through genetic engineering.

“It is hard to overstate how valuable it is to have all the incredible tools that are used for human disease to study plants,” he writes. But the idea of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is loaded with controversy. Environmental groups worry that the practice could upset the food chain, leading to the spread of disease, “superweeds” and mutant insects.

To the dismay of GMO opponents, public records reveal that the Gates Foundation recently spent $27 million to buy 500,000 shares of Monsanto, the agribusiness giant with labs devoted to improving on nature to boost crop yields. And while Gates avoids the words “genetically modified” in his letter, he defends the idea when pressed.

“Over time, yes, countries will need to look at specific GMO products like they look at drugs today, where they don’t approve them all.  They look hard at the safety and the testing.  And they make sure that the benefits far outweigh any of the downsides.”

Aside from the environmental concerns, England’s Prince Charles was among those who blamed a rash of farmer suicides in India on the higher cost of GMO seeds. But Gates insisted that his foundation’s partners are not out to exploit developing nations.

“There’s absolutely no payments, no royalties of any kind.  It’s just like in medicines....We go to the big companies who don’t expect to make profits from the poorest billion and say: ‘Will you help us?’ And so they donate it.”

Back in America, Gates is renewing his push toward “peer-reviewed” teaching as the key to reforming education. Since the best — and worst — teachers often operate in a bubble, he suggests training an elite group to roam from class to class to share what works and what doesn’t.

“You take at least two percent of the teachers, train them very well and have them do structured visitations,” he said. “And they tell the teacher, ‘OK, you were good at this, but you didn’t engage these kids very well.  You didn’t create discussion here.  You didn’t explain why a kid would wanna know this thing,’ and help those teachers improve.”

And Gates also reflected on the passing of Steve Jobs. Weeks before the Apple founder died, Gates paid an unannounced visit to the home of his sometime friend and longtime rival.

“He and I always enjoyed talking. He would throw some things out, you know, some stimulating things. We’d talk about the other companies that have come along. We talked about our families and how lucky we’d both been in terms of the women we married. It was great relaxed conversation."

How did Jobs’ death affect him?  "Well, it’s very strange to have somebody who’s so vibrant and made such a huge difference and been...kind of a constant presence, to have him die,” Gates said. “It makes you feel like, ‘Wow, we’re getting old.’  I hope I still have quite a bit of time for the focus I have now, which is the philanthropic work.  And there’s drugs we’re investing in now that won’t be out for 15 years — malaria eradication, I need a couple of decades here to fulfill that opportunity. But, you know, it reminds you that you gotta pick important stuff, because you only have a limited time.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Apple to Remake Textbooks; Project Begun by Steve Jobs

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Even in his last months, Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder who had already masterminded the iPad and iPhone, reimagined digital music and animated films and done so much more in modern technology, said he had new projects on his mind.

On Thursday in New York, Apple is holding what it calls “an education announcement in the Big Apple.” Word on the street -- well, not the street, but all over the digital world -- is that the company has been working on one of Jobs’ pet projects: to reinvent the old-fashioned American school textbook.

Gene Munster, the technology analyst who closely follows Apple for Piper Jaffray, said Apple will offer a series of software tools to make it possible to move education from textbooks to interactive digital lessons -- easily prepared by publishers, teachers or others interested in creating learning materials.

“Instead of a textbook, we call it a ‘native digital learning experience,’” Munster said. “I know that’s a lot of words. People will call it a textbook, but it’s really not just an e-book or digital book.”

Jobs is cited by his biographer, Walter Isaacson, as saying textbooks were just waiting to be transformed. Not only were they dull and sometimes outdated, they were heavy (just ask any seventh-grader with a backpack full of them).

In Steve Jobs, Isaacson wrote, “His idea was to hire great textbook writers to create digital versions, and make them a feature of the iPad. In addition, he held meetings with the major publishers, such as Pearson Education, about partnering with Apple. ‘The process by which states certify textbooks is corrupt,’ he said. ‘But if we can make the textbooks free, and they come with the iPad, then they don’t have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent that whole process and save money.’”

Jobs had apparently been thinking about the educational market for a long time. Munster pointed to an interview Jobs did in 1996 in which “he was very cynical about getting education on board with technology. I think the Isaacson book reflects his later thinking.”

(Walter Isaacson’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, said he was out of the country and could not be reached.)

Munster said Piper Jaffray surveyed 25 computer-system managers from schools teaching kindergarten to 12th grade. “The biggest reason iPads are not in schools is not a lack of content, but that school I.T. departments can’t manage hundreds of iPads,” he said. “They can’t control them the way they control computers.”

It’s not a matter of cost for schools, he said. Instead, they worry about students using school equipment to roam online instead of study. With Apple’s new tools, he said, teachers, publishers and others should be able to create new learning materials even if they’re not tech-savvy.

Who is threatened if Apple succeeds? Publishers who don’t embrace the change, said Munster -- as well as sellers of school backpacks, since students will have less to carry.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio 


Obama Unveils New Student Loan Plan

John Moore/Getty Images(DENVER) -- President Obama formally announced his plan to lower college loan payments Wednesday, telling students in Denver that their education, and their ability to afford it, is essential to the future economic growth of the country.

“College isn't just one of the best investments you can make in your future, it's one of the best investments America can make in our future,” Obama said at the University of Colorado in Denver. “We want you in school.  But we shouldn't saddle you with debt when you're starting off.”

The new initiative would allow student borrowers to cap their loan repayments at 10 percent of their discretionary income starting next year, two years earlier than previously expected. The plan would also help students consolidate their loans at lower interest rates.

According to the president, the changes would help 1.6 million students lower their monthly payments by hundreds of dollars.

The president’s new student loan plan is part of a series of executive actions that he is taking to boost the economy while circumventing Republican lawmakers, who have blocked his $447 billion jobs bill in Congress.

“I intend to do everything in my power right now to act on behalf of the American people with or without Congress. We can't wait for Congress to do its job.  So where they won't act, I will,” Obama said.

The president’s speech Wednesday wrapped up his three-day Western trip, which also included stops in Nevada and California. In addition to promoting his “we won’t wait” campaign and announcing executive actions, the president also raised some serious campaign cash during the trip, delivering remarks at six campaign events.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Forever 21′s ‘Allergic to Algebra’ Shirt Draws Criticism

Robert Marquardt/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- A Forever 21 shirt with the words “Allergic to Algebra” printed on the front is the latest shirt to draw criticism for its seemingly anti-education message for girls and teenagers.

One shopper posted a photo on, a social news website, of the shirt on a mannequin with a neon green note attached to it with the message: “SMART girls are cool. Don’t buy this top.”

Many comments on expressed disdain for the shirt.

“It’s a big deal because there is still this childish perception -- among females AND males -- that girls can’t do math,” wrote a commenter by the handle mikgyver. “I can’t tell you how many times, as a girl who’s good at math, that I’ve been accused of ‘trying to be a guy’ when I get good grades in math.”

Another commenter, called “kadhai” and self-identified as a “student of mathematics,” wrote, “I’m curious as to what the story behind this top is, and who thought it would be a good idea to put something so offensive as this on a shirt.”

“Our merchandise is intended to appeal to all audiences, not to offend them,” Linda Chang, a senior marketing manager for Forever 21, told ABC News in a statement. “We would like to apologize to our customers as our intent was not to discredit education and we are taking the proper actions necessary.”

The company told ABC News that it is pulling the shirt from its website.

The trendy Los Angeles-based retailer is popular among teenagers, and the shirt is being sold for $12.80. There were no shirts that alluded to education in the men’s section of the website.

And the algebra shirt isn’t the only one on the website that seems to be down on school.

One shirt blatantly declares “Skool sucks” and another shirt has a list on the front that reads: “A+=amazing, B=brilliant, C=cool, D=delightful, F=fabulous.” The website’s tagline for selling the shirt is “F doesn’t always mean fail!”

One shirt seemed promising with the message,”I heart school” emblazoned on the front, but a photo of the back reveals the rest of the message: “not…”

The “Allergic to Algebra” Forever 21 shirt follows a controversial and similarly themed shirt from JCPenney.

Less than two weeks ago, JCPenney pulled a shirt from its website that drew sharp criticism from consumers calling it “sexist.” The girls’ shirt read: “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”

After a petition was created to remove the shirt, the company obliged and apologized to its customers. “We want to apologize to our customers,” Ann Marie Bishop, a spokeswoman for JCPenney, told ABC News. “We agreed that the shirt does not deliver an appropriate message.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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