Monday, May 22, 2017

Competition Inside Schools

I am creating a list of education policy proposals for the 2020 campaign.   This proposal on competition between course providers inside public schools is the second one on the list.

Competition Inside Public Schools:

I very much hope to work on a 2020 campaign.

Proposal Two:   Provide competition inside schools between school faculty and private firms that teach specific subject areas.

The use of private firms would be encouraged and funded when the traditional public option was not achieving desired results.  For example, it might be useful to employ private firms to replace publicly hired math teachers at schools with low scores on standardized math exams.  Private firms might also be employed when there was a shortage of teachers in certain subjects or when the private firm could realize economies of scale and scope compared to school employees. Three examples where this might happen include instruction of some foreign languages, computer programming and coding courses and camps, and instruction of Advanced Placement courses.

Comment One:  Most of the political debate over education reform centers around issues like whether poorly performing public schools should be closed and/or whether charter schools should be created to compete with public schools. Policy makers have learned that is very difficult and expensive to close and replace schools.   In rural and suburban districts, there is often room for only one high school or middle school.  Charter schools have a role but charter schools often select the best students, leaving many other students behind.

Often the largest problem in a school district involves a single subject.   It is less disruptive and expensive to bring in private educators to teach one subject than to close or replace an entire school.    The economic argument for facilitating competition between course providers is laid out in the following essay.

Competition in the Education Industry:

Comment Two:   One reason for the emphasis on mathematics is that there is a shortage of people graduating from American schools who are capable of filling STEM positions.   Recent statistics indicate that schools are not placing a high priority on teaching computer schools.  Around 1.4 percent of students take AP computer science compared to around 40 percent who take AP English.

Schools aren’t teaching kids to code; Here is who is filling the gap?

One of the biggest impediments to teach computer science and coding in schools is that schools have trouble recruiting and keeping qualified computer teachers. A firm that specializes in teaching several computer courses and programming languages would be more effective at recruiting and keeping teachers.   Moreover, one firm with a staff of teachers and some on-line material could cost effectively service several schools and districts. 

Comment Three:   Students in the United States are significantly falling behind students in Europe in learning foreign languages.   Twenty European countries mandate that students learn at least one foreign language.  The United States does not have any nationwide foreign language standards.   Only 25 percent of Americans report that they speak a second language and only 7 percent of this group report they learned the language in school.

Many schools cannot find qualified language instructors in basic European languages.  These articles document the existence of a shortage of foreign language teachers in Maine and Connecticut.

Very few high schools can offer courses in important languages including Hindi, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, and Russian.   Knowledge of these languages is vital to national security and our economy and could for some students lead directly to a job.   It is economically impractical for small schools to offer courses in these languages even though these languages can provide a valuable skill to some students. However, one firm with several language teachers and on-line resources could teach language courses in several school districts.

Comment Four:   A successful Advanced Placement Program can help prepare students for college, provide college credit, and lead to earlier graduation.   This is large dispersion among high schools in AP exam participation and pass rates.  This is illustrated by the data below on exam pass rates at 22 high schools in the Denver Metropolitan area where more than 10 students took the AP English Exam

Performance on AP English Exam at
22 Denver High Schools with More Than 10 Test Takers

The quality of the AP teacher in a course may impact AP exam performance.   A school with low AP exam performance in some courses might be able to improve course performance by using on-line AP exam vendors instead of the in-school AP exam teacher.  (Several programs offer on-line AP exam courses including the Johns Hopkins gifted and talented program.)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Debt reduction for first-year college students


I hope to create economic proposals for a 2020 candidate and get involved with a campaign.   This is the first of several education proposals. A link to a list of my education policy proposals is below.

Education Policy List:

I very much want to work on someone's 2020 campaign.

Proposal One: Debt reduction for first-year college students:  This proposal would provide federal funds for tuition assistance at universities for first-year students.   Both public and private colleges would be eligible for the federal funds.  Schools that wish to participate in this program would be required to match 25 percent of federal contributions.   This program makes it unnecessary for students entering a moderately priced institution to borrow during their first year of college and will reduce debt incurred during the first-year for all universities.     

Comment One:   The program emphasizes financial assistance to first-year students just entering college because many of these students might not otherwise ever try college.  Income of working-class people has declined overtime and careers in the future require more training.  However, a recent poll has found most white working-class voters believe that student loans are a risky investment for the future.

A program targeting financial aid for students entering their freshman year is the most effective way to encourage additional study and training for people who might otherwise be deterred because of financial risk.

Comment Two:  Many first-year students do not complete their degree in a timely manner.   Students who drop out of college after their first year are highly likely to have problems repaying their loans.   A program that reduces debt incurred during the freshman year should improve rates of return on student loans to the Department of Education, reduce potential losses from bad loans to taxpayers, and reduce financial hardships on debtors who have trouble repaying.

Comment Three:   Some older people are less supportive of programs to expand financial aid to college students.   (I have had some people tell me that I borrowed for college and paid off my student loans, why can’t the current generation?) The answer to this question is that college costs and the amount of debt needed to complete college has risen dramatically.   Below are some statistics on the recent growth and the trend growth rate of student loans.

Trend Growth of Undergraduate Student Debt:

The post below reveals substantial growth in the use of PLUS loans for parents, especially for low-income borrowers.  

PLUS loans for Parents

The growth of student debt appears to have delayed purchase of housing and delayed marriage and family formation.  This paper provides a list of papers examining how student loans impact financial and economic behavior.

This paper looks at the impact of student loans on marriage and family formation.

Do Student Loans Delay Marriage?   Debt Repayment and Family Formation in Young Adulthood

Comment Four:  Previous student debt relief programs offered by Bernie Sanders and Hilary Clinton targeted all public university students for their entire undergraduate career.  There was substantial concern that free tuition at public colleges could substantially reduce enrollment at private colleges. One study produced by Georgetown found that Clinton’s college debt proposal could increase enrollment at public universities by 15 percent and decrease enrollment in private universities by 11 percent.

Georgetown University Study on Enrollment Effects of Clinton’s Free College Proposal

Private colleges will also receive funds from this first-year debt reduction proposal.   Hence, this impact should have little impact on enrollment at private universities.   This proposal might expand the number of students transferring from public to private schools If college students can complete their first year of college at a public university without taking on any debt

Comment Five:  This program is far less costly than the free-college or debt-free college programs offered by Sanders and Clinton.   The program only undergraduates enrolled in the first year for financial aid purposes.   People who take more than one year to complete the first year do not get additional assistance.   This program does include some additional costs to cover assistance to private schools but these additional costs are low compared to costs associated with all undergraduates. I will soon generate cost estimates of the different proposals.   (Hard to believe that health care reform passed the House without any cost estimates.) 

Comment Six:  Schools that participate in this program will be required to publish the percent of their first-year students who take out a student loan.   This information may encourage some students to finish their first year at a public university and then transfer.   Perhaps some public and private schools will form partnerships and encourage transfers to minimize costs.  

Concluding Thoughts:  The Debt-Reduction-for-First-Year Students is initiative is less ambitious than the free-college or debt-free college proposals offer by the 2016 Democratic candidates.   However, this narrower program has several advantages.  It is far less expensive.  It targets students who are less likely to even try college because they view college as a risky investment.  It will not result in large enrollment decreases for private colleges.  

Critics on the left will it claim that it does too little.   It does reduce debt for future generations of students.   It is one of several policies under development.  I am listing policy proposals at the following page.

Additional proposals will be added to the policy list shortly.