Category Archives: Universities Review

Nobel Prize goes to behavioral economics pioneer Richard Thaler

Thanks;Barbara Kollmeyer

Published: Oct 9, 2017 6:09 am ET

Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for 2017. “In total, Richard Thaler’s contributions have built a bridge between the economic and psychological analyses of individual decision-making,” said the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, in handing out the prize, according to a press release on Monday. See also Richard Thaler: Here’s the best investing strategy. Thaler is considered one of the founding fathers of behavioral economics. See six books recommended by Thaler.

 

***Behavioral economics, along with the related sub-field behavioral finance, studies the effects of psychological, social, cognitive, and emotional factors on theeconomic decisions of individuals and institutions and the consequences for market prices, returns, and resource allocation, although not always that narrowly, …

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These 6 books can make you a better college student

Thanks;Drew Housman

Published;Aug 27, 2017 8:18 a.m. ET

Understand statistics, gain financial literacy and get out of your comfort zone

I did very little reading the summer before I started college. I was focused on figuring out which roommate was going to bring the mini-fridge to the dorm, what posters to hang and what classes to take.

I wish I would have realized how many engaging, well-written, informative books there are that could have helped me get more out of my college experience. While none of them would teach me the finer points of suppressing the need to burp while chugging beer out of a funnel, they certainly would have helped me avoid some of the typical college pitfalls.

If had a time machine, I’d go back and have 18-year-old Drew put down the PlayStation controller and read the following six books.

“How to Lie with Statistics” by Darrell Huff”

This book is a fun romp through what I found, in high school, to be an interminably boring subject — statistics. I can feel my eyes glazing over just thinking about Mrs. Camacho, my junior year teacher, saying the words “standard deviation.”

Yet once I was in college, I was kicking myself for not having a better grasp of statistics. In almost all of my classes, I was faced with a dizzying array of studies to interpret, and I had no rules of thumb for figuring out what was good science and what wasn’t. Reading Huff’s book would have made me feel much more comfortable reading through all kinds of studies.

Huff excels at using real-world anecdotes to explain how stats can be manipulated, twisted and spun in order to influence or even trick the average person. A great example is when he takes on something as seemingly obvious as the word “average.” He details how, with a loose enough interpretation of that word, you can do some nefarious things.

For instance, a Realtor might sell you on the benefits of a particular neighborhood by proclaiming that the average income of the residents is $100,000 per year. But, unless you know whether she’s talking about the mean, median, or mode, you don’t know what to make of that seemingly impressive statement. As Huff puts it, using the word average to mean any number of things is “a trick commonly used, sometimes in innocence but often in guilt, by fellows wishing to influence public opinion or sell advertising space.”

Even though it’s over 60 years old, the book feels as relevant as ever. In a world where “fake news” is the phrase du jour, it’s critical to have an understanding of statistics. People from all sides of the political spectrum are going to try to spin jobs reports in their favor. Food companies are going to present nutrition studies so as to make their product look like the best choice. Your future boss might even try to skew your performance history so as to deny you a promotion. If you aren’t confident enough to form your own opinions that are rooted in a basic understanding of statistics, you’re going to be buffeted about by the winds of those who might see you as a sucker.

Furthermore, I think there’s a great benefit in reading books that make complex topics accessible by showing how your budding knowledge can be applied in the real world. When you have a broader understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing, it’s easier to get through the boring parts.

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport”

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport

Cal Newport is a tenured professor and a best-selling author who churns out books at an impressive pace. How does he do it? By making room, every day, for what he terms “deep work.” These are chunks of time where he is singularly focused on one aspect of one project. He sits in a quiet room, sets a timer, and zeroes in on the task at hand.

The book is part an exploration of famous folks throughout history who embodied the “deep work” lifestyle, and part helpful tips on how to organize your life to make deep work more accessible.

It sounds simple, and it is. But that’s what’s so great about it. We are surrounded by tools, tech and apps that are all built to supposedly make life more efficient. Newport looks at things holistically, and understands that more important than any new app is developing the ability to sit down in a quiet room and just work.

Back when I started college, I was plenty distracted by my school email, my personal email, Facebook and my PlayStation 2. Now, that looks quaint. College freshmen have smartphones, Instagram, Snapchat, and a bevy of other time killers that are just a click away. If you can’t learn to harness the impulse to go down a YouTube rabbit hole, you’ll never be able to keep up with a full college workload.

My first semester of college was a whirlwind. It felt like every class was assigning an unsustainable amount of homework. And when faced with the siren call of emails and texts, it never seemed like I was making consistent headway on my tasks. Had I been better versed in the idea of deep work, I would have made it a priority to set aside a certain amount of time every day to do distraction-free work.

Cal Newport would have made me a firm proponent of living a life that minimizes the distractions that come from modern “conveniences.” I would be more likely to purposely limit my cellphone usage, eschew Flappy Bird for internal reflection while riding the bus to class, and to check my email only once per day. In a world where we check our phones upward of 46 times per day, staying on task while limiting access to technology is as important as ever.

Related: Deep Work and Deep Learning for Your Career and Your Life

“Early Retirement Extreme” by Jacob Lund Fisker”

My 18 year-old-self would have scoffed at reading a book with such a gimmicky title. But, I now know that this book is not espousing a lifestyle of Top Ramen noodles and living with roommates your whole life. It’s a philosophical treatise on the hows and whys of living a happy, sustainable life.

The author is a former physicist who left academia and retired in his early 30s. His book details how he was able to retire early even though he never earned more money than the average tollbooth worker, and he never inherited a windfall. This aspect of the book is particularly inspiring. Many luminaries in the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) world just happen to have tech jobs that pay them six-figure salaries, plus bonuses. It’s intimidating to try to follow in their footsteps. When someone shows you a path to financial freedom while earning $40,000 a year, it feels more accessible.

The book makes a point of convincing the reader that, with a little effort, they can become a “renaissance man” — the type of person who can insource a lot of tasks that we now reflexively pay others to do for us. We can save a lot of money by cleaning our own homes, doing our own taxes, cooking our own food and properly maintaining our clothing. Such tasks must be undertaken with the understanding that it’s inherently rewarding to be self-sufficient. Frugality does not have to mean sacrificing your happiness.

The book also serves as a way to gain basic financial literacy, an area where our K-12 educational system consistently lets us down. I entered college with no idea how to build credit, how to invest or how to balance a budget. “Early Retirement Extreme” covers all of that without dumbing anything down, and it also goes over everything from calculating the true cost of home ownership to the importance of using your savings rate as a way to monitor your financial health.

The book really shines in the way it addresses things through the lens of building robust systems and encouraging the reader to think outside the box. Had I read this before college, I may have been more inclined to try to start side hustles and think about ways I could build a wide range of skills so I’d never be jobless in a recession.

At my college, it often felt like success was defined by the number of zeros in your bank account, or whether you had lined up a prestigious job after graduation. It doesn’t have to be like that. It’s up to you to decide what path you want to take. Just because your parents and grandparents worked a 9-5 job until they were 65 doesn’t mean you have to. “Early Retirement Extreme” can help young people think about their career trajectories, and their lives, in a whole new way.

“Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand”

Eighteen-year-olds, my younger self included, can be a bit dramatic. A bad grade, or a fight with your roommate, can feel like the end of the world. But, obstacles like that will inevitably arise, and how you deal with them will be a major determinant in how much you get out of the college experience.

Reading a book like “Unbroken” can help you keep your problems in perspective. It tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a World War II veteran who faced being stranded at sea for a record period of time, only to be “rescued” and put into a Japanese prisoner of war camp. He faced conditions that would have made me think twice before complaining about how unfair it was that I got put in a dorm without central air conditioning.

Hillenbrand tells the story masterfully, with rich details and perfect pacing. You feel like you’re right alongside Zamperini as he battles through one hardship after another. I have always been a sucker for underdogs and come-from-behind stories, and this book is near the pinnacle of that genre.

Zamperini’s resilience, determination, and stoicism are constant reminders that I need to appreciate the simple things in life that are so easy to take for granted. Sure, your dorm food might not be great. But once you’ve seen the world through the eyes of someone like Zamperini, you eat it with a smile, happy to live in a world full of freedom and opportunity.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie”

Again, my younger self would have been turned off from this book by the title alone. It sounds like a get-rich-quick manual for con artists. Plus, I had tons of friends — what use would I have with this weird book by a circus promoter?

But, had I taken the time to read it, I would have learned that it’s the ultimate guide to networking. I didn’t think I needed help with networking at the time, but I did.

I had a great crew of friends in high school, but I was never able to replicate that in college. This was partly because I was scared of the unknown. The unfamiliar people, the foreign landscape, the intimidating “career fairs” — I quickly found that I was much more comfortable staying away from all that. The world outside my dorm could be full of rejection and awkwardness.

Yet, once you read “How to Win,” you are better able to see those potentially scary events as opportunities. The book provides simple, easy-to-implement advice that can improve your confidence in social situations. The mere fact that it’s still being widely read, so many years later, should speak to its effectiveness.

If you can get out of your comfort zone and effectively network while in college, you’ll set yourself up to have better relationships and more lucrative career opportunities. It doesn’t have to be smarmy, and you don’t need to print business cards. You just have to realize the simple power of things like being a good listener, remembering people’s names, and avoiding arguments. If you develop a wide array of rich relationships while in school, you’re taking a tremendous step toward improving the quality of the rest of your life.

Related: How to Be More Likable, and Why That’s Financially Valuable

“Reading with purpose”

Not only do I wish I’d read all of the above before college, but I wish I’d digested them. I tend to read very fast. It’s a skill that serves me well, but also hindered me in ways. I was great at technically completing my college reading assignments, not so great at actually absorbing anything. I was much more focused on getting reading done just to say I did it. After all, there were videogames to be played!

So, that’s why I also wish I’d read “How to Read a Book” by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. It’s a bit pedantic, but on the whole it offers good tips on how to get more out of the texts you read. It extols the virtues of slowing down, taking notes, and rereading passages to make sure you understand them.

If you’re an avid speed reader, using the methods from this book will be laborious at first, like trying to run underwater. But, with time, you’ll realize that reading in a more focused, deliberate manner will improve your ability to get concepts to stick in your brain. As with Aesop’s famous tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race.

“Summing up”

If I had taken the time to slowly and methodically read the above books, I’m confident I would have had a better college experience. I could have made this list a hundred books long, but I think these six provide a nice base for those college students who want to be inspired while broadening their understanding of both themselves and the world.

There’s a new way to mine for lithium and it’s right here in the U.S.

Thanks;Claudia Assis

Published: Aug 19, 2017 4:14 p.m. ET

Crater Lake in Oregon, a caldera lake formed after a volcano collapse.

Using trace elements as proxy, Stanford says it is easier to detect lithium in supervolcano lake deposits

Scientists at Stanford University say they have found a new way to detect large deposits of lithium, an essential component of rechargeable batteries powering everything from common household electronics and smartphones to electric vehicles.

Stanford researchers say that lake sediments within supervolcanoes can host lithium-rich clay deposits, which would be an important step toward diversifying the supply of the metal—most lithium found in today’s electronics come from deposits in rock formations in Australia and salt flats in Chile. Moreover, trace elements in such deposits can be used as a proxy for lithium, they say in a study.

“Supervolcanoes” produce massive eruptions and their calderas, formed after the volcano literally blows its roof off, are their most recognizable feature. The huge hole post-eruption often fills with water to form a lake, and Oregon’s Crater Lake is an example.

Over tens of thousands of years, rainfall and hot springs leach out lithium from the volcanic deposits, and the lithium accumulates, along with sediments, in the caldera lake where it becomes concentrated in clay, Stanford said.

The scientists analyzed samples from several calderas, and found a previously unknown correlation between trace elements, such as zirconium and rubidium, and lithium concentrations.

Lithium is a volatile element shifting easily from solid to liquid to vapor, and thus it is hard to measure its concentration. Detecting the trace elements as lithium stand-ins, however, geologists will be able to identify candidate supervolcanoes for lithium deposits “in a much easier way than measuring lithium directly,” Stanford said.

“The trace elements can be used as a proxy for original lithium concentration. For example, greater abundance of easily analyzed rubidium in the bulk deposits indicates more lithium, whereas high concentrations of zirconium indicate less lithium,” it said.

The Stanford study was scheduled to be published Wednesday in the journal Nature Communications and was in part supported by a Defense Department fellowship.

Last week, energy news site Oilprice.com wrote about potential lithium constraints, singling out five stock plays for betting on the alkali metal: Albermarle Corp. ALB, +0.43% Canada’s Southern Lithium Corp. SNL, +2.63% Chile’s Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SQM, -0.16% ; the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF LIT, +0.53% and Tesla Inc. TSLA, -1.27%  

The Global X ETF has gained more than 31% so far this year, compared with gains of around 10% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.18%

Albemarle earlier this month reported a modest second-quarter earnings beat, saying its lithium sales rose 56% year-on-year and almost all of the gain was in battery-grade lithium.

Analysts at UBS said in a recent note they expect lithium margins at Albemarle to remain above 40% despite an additional $60 million to $70 million in costs from royalty and community payments as well as other expenses.

“Pricing was up 21% in 1Q, 31% in 2Q and the debate continues on how long the industry can maintain that pace,” the UBS analysts said.

The answer, at least as far as electric vehicles are concerned, might be “for a long time.”

Tesla in late July launched its Model 3, an all-electric sedan aimed for the masses, and expects to be able to run its Fremont, Calif., plant at a rate of 500,000 vehicles a year by the end of 2018.

Tesla has talked about adding other commercial and passenger vehicles, including an electric semi truck to be unveiled next month.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY-BLOOMINGTON the best beautiful NO.15 (USA)

THANKS; http://www.thebestcolleges.org

The town of Bloomington, Indiana is the ultimate college town. A campus filed with over 1,200 miles of bike and running trails, this quaint town not only encourages students to embark on a sense of community it nearly demands it. Student can visit “off” campus stores, restaurants and coffee shops just a few steps from the limestone buildings in which they will live and learn. The student building on the IU campus is listed on the National Historical Registrar. The Sample Gates welcome students onto campus. Most of the campus is made of Indiana limestone sourced locally, and was built during the Great Depression by the WPA.

Indiana University- Bloomington is a four-year, public institution in Bloomington, Ind. The university was founded in 1820 as the flagship campus of Indiana University’s eight statewide campuses. U.S. News & World Report ranks Indiana University-Bloomington No. 83 in the National Universities category in its 2013 edition of Best Colleges. Indiana University-Bloomington serves a student population of 42,731 and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 19 to 1. Notable Indiana-Bloomington alumni include composer and songwriter Hoagy Carmichael and Star Trek screenwriter Jeri Taylor.

PROGRAMS OFFERED

Indiana University-Bloomington is composed of eight schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, Kelley School of Business, School of Education, School of Journalism, Jacobs School of Music, School of Nursing, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, School of Social Work. Indiana University-Bloomington offers more than 150 majors and more than 330 degree programs through these eight schools, including programs in African American studies and sociology, animal behavior, cognitive science, drama, ethnomusicology, folklore, accounting, legal studies, education, journalism, music, nursing, public health, urban studies, and social work. Indiana University-Bloomington also offers 190 master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees. Online bachelor’s degree programs are available in business administration, communication studies, criminal justice, English, technical and professional writing, general studies, health information administration, labor studies, mathematics, natural science and mathematics, political science, psychology, and nursing. Online master’s degrees are available in several areas, including in business administration, finance, global supply chain management, instructional systems technology, nursing, recreational therapy, and technology.

ACCREDITATION

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools has accredited Indiana University-Bloomington since 1913.

ADMISSIONS

Admissions to Indiana University-Bloomington requires prospective students to turn in an online application, a $55 application fee, a high school transcript, and SAT and/or ACT scores. Indiana University- Bloomington requires eight credits of high school English, seven credits of high school mathematics, six credits of social sciences, six credits of sciences, four credits of world languages, and three credits of college-preparatory courses for incoming freshman. The deadline for automatic academic scholarship and selective scholarship consideration is Nov. 1. Applications received after April 1 are considered on a space-available, case-by-case basis.

Clooneys to help 3,000 Syrian refugees go to school in Lebanon

Thanks;Riham Alkousaa

Published;AUGUST 1, 2017 / 5:37 AM / 2 DAYS AGO


Cast member George Clooney and his wife Amal leave the Festival Palace after the screening of the film “Money Monster” out of competition at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 12, 2016.

Regis Duvignau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – George and Amal Clooney said on Monday they would help 3,000 Syrian refugee children go to school this year in Lebanon, where the United Nations says 200,000 children are not receiving an education after fleeing the war in neighboring Syria.
The Clooney Foundation for Justice said it has teamed up with Google (GOOGL.O) and HP Inc (HPQ.N) to help the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and the Lebanese Ministry of Education open seven so-called “second shift” schools for Syrian refugee children.
Lebanon has more than 1 million Syrian refugees, including nearly 500,000 children. It is educating Syrian children in public schools through a “second shift” system of additional afternoon classes exclusively for them.
“We don’t want to lose an entire generation because they had the bad luck of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Oscar-winning actor George Clooney and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who gave birth to twins last month.
“Thousands of young Syrian refugees are at risk – the risk of never being a productive part of society,” the couple said in a statement. “Formal education can help change that.”
A $3.25 million donation from the Clooney Foundation for Justice, Google and HP will pay for transportation, school supplies, computers, content, curriculum and teacher training.
A spokesman for the Clooneys’ foundation, Max Gleischman, said the organization had decided to support education for Syrian refugees through the public school system, instead of investing in private schools operated by SABIS, an international company which has prepared students for college and high school exams.
The foundation had announced last year that it would work to enroll thousands of children in SABIS schools.
A crackdown by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on pro-democracy protesters in 2011 led to civil war, and Islamic State militants used the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq. Half of Syria’s 22 million people have been uprooted and more than 400,000 killed.
*Reporting by Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Jonathan Oatis

Canada: Consumer Lifestyles in 2017

THANKS;Jennifer Elster / EURO-MONITOR INTERNATIONAL

CL2017-CACL2017-CACanada-Lifestyles-in-2017.png

In contrast to recent years, consumer confidence has strengthened based on an improving economy, supporting growth, albeit slow growth, in consumer spending. Rising levels of spending have also been reflected in greater comfort in consumer borrowing, but rising household debt has become a concern. High house prices have discouraged younger consumers from jumping on the property ladder and slowed demand for a wide range of household items. Younger consumers are driving growth in online shopping.CL2017-CA

The top 20 richest private universities have 70% of the total wealth in the sector

Thanks;Jillian Berman

Published: June 17, 2017 8:01 a.m. ET

The money in the private college sector is highly concentrated among the nation’s wealthiest schools

Small private colleges are increasingly in financial danger, while larger name brand private schools are doing just fine.
Roughly one-third of the small private schools rated by Moody’s Investor Service generated operating deficits in 2016, an increase from 20% three years ago. On the other hand, the share of large private universities that had an operating deficit last year dropped to 13% from 20% three years ago.

And the money in the private college sector is highly concentrated among the nation’s wealthiest schools. The top 20 richest private universities have 70% of the total wealth in the sector, according to Moody’s.
One big reason for the diverging fortunes: Slow growth in tuition revenue. Over the past few years, private colleges have been offering discounts on their tuition at record levels, a practice that’s financially riskier for small colleges that have fewer sources of revenue to rely on.
Ever since the financial crisis, students and families have become more discerning about the price and value of a college education. That’s made it more difficult for lesser-known private colleges to lure students and, in particular, students who will pay full price. Students and families are “much more sensitive to the return on the investment” of a college, said Pranav Sharma, a Moody’s analyst. “The market has become more competitive.”
That competitive and financial pressure has put a strain on some small schools. St. Joseph’s college, a 900-student school in Indiana, announced in April that it would close this year, amid “dwindling financial resources.” That announcement follows a spate of closures in 2016, including the high profile shut down of Burlington College, which was once headed by Jane Sanders, the wife of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

“We continue to see a rise in small college closures,” said Susan Fitzgerald, an associate managing director at Moody’s. Still, she added, “we’re not expecting wholesale closures across the sector.”

Larger private schools aren’t immune to challenges raising tuition revenue, particularly as the number of students graduating high school continues to shrink. But these schools are able to more easily compensate for any challenges bringing in tuition dollars because they have other sources of income.
And to a certain extent, good fortune begets good fortune. Schools with more resources are able to lure more students who are willing to pay full price, with new buildings and other impressive investments, helping to boost tuition revenue.
Name-brand private colleges are also more likely to have access to resources like investment income and patient care — the money colleges bring in from the hospital systems they operate — both categories that have grown by 33% over the past five years, according to Moody’s.
Larger private colleges are also more likely to receive philanthropic support, Moody’s notes. The top fundraising universities, which raise more than $100 million annually in gifts, typically account for about two-thirds of the money raised by all of the private colleges that Moody’s rates. The result: “The more people give gifts, the more people are inclined to give gifts,” Sharma said.

The 10 best computer science schools in Europe

Thanks;Sam Shead 

Published ;May 22, 2017, 4:23 PM 8,383


Technical University of Munich.

A computer science degree from a top university can help graduates land their dream job at companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook.
But which computer science courses are the best ones to try and to get onto if you want to impress employers?
Using the QS World University Rankings 2017, we took a look at the universities with the top computer science and information systems courses in Europe.
The guide is one of the most reputable sources that students turn to when deciding which universities to apply to, and employers are also likely to refer to it when deciding which candidates to hire.
It is based on academic reputation, employer reputation, and research impact. The full methodology can be read here. We looked at the overall scores, which are out of 100.
View As: One Page Slides

10. Politecnico di Milano — The Politecnico di Milano boasts 74 professors at its computer science and engineering department. The faculty achieved a QS score of 74.6 for its computer science and information systems courses.


9. Lomonosov Moscow State University — Founded in 1755 by Mikhail Lomonosov, this university is home to more than 40,000 students. The university’s computer science and information systems courses scored an impressive 74.7


8. Technical University of Munich — With its giant slides, it’ll barely feel like you’re a university student at Technical University Munich. The school achieved a score of 77.2 for its computer science and information systems courses.


7. UCL (University College London) — With strong links to cool new AI startups like DeepMind, UCL is home to one of the UK’s best computer science departments. The university scored 78.9 for its computer science and information systems courses.


6. Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) — This Swiss university specialises in physical sciences and engineering. Its computer science and information systems courses received a QS score of 80.7


The Rolex Learning Centre at the EPFL campus

5. The University of Edinburgh — Founded in 1582, the university is the 6th oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland’s ancient universities. The institution is close to billion dollar businesses like Skyscanner and FanDuel and its computer science and information systems courses scored 81.1 on the QS ranking system.


4. Imperial College London — Not quite up there with Oxbridge, but not far behind either. Imperial’s computer science and information systems courses were given a score of 83.7.


Imperial’s cyber security tuition is as good as you’d expect

3. ETH Zurich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology — Twenty-one Nobel Prizes have been awarded to students or professors at EHT and the university’s computer science and information systems courses scored an impressive 85.4.

ETH Zurich


2. University of Oxford — Founded in 1096, the ancient university is still at the forefront of technology, with startups like DeepMind (now owned by DeepMind) having strong links to the institution. Oxford received a score of 87.8.


1. University of Cambridge — The city of Cambridge is one of the UK’s biggest technology hubs thanks in large part to its university, which appears at the top of many global university rankings. The university’s computer science and information systems course received a QS ranking of 88.9


BETSY DEVOS IS COMING FOR YOUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Thanks;ALEXANDER NAZARYAN Published; 1/10/17 AT 12:00 PM

Betsy DeVos has worked to undermine Michigan’s public schools, according to her critics. Is she ready to lead the nation’s education department?

Betsy DeVos, a billionaire Republican from Michigan, has been nominated to head the federal Education Department. MIKE SEGAR/REUTERS

 

There was a brief moment in mid-November when education reformers were thrilled about President-elect Donald Trump’s swamp-draining imperative and what it might mean for the nation’s eternally beleaguered public schools. On November 16, Trump met at his Manhattan tower with Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy charter network has achieved impressive results with children of color across New York City. The following weekend, he entertained Michelle Rhee, the former head of Washington, D.C.’s public schools, at his golf club in New Jersey. Despite her uneven results, Rhee remains popular with those who think incompetent teachers and the unions that protect them are holding back America’s kids.

Instead, Trump chose Betsy DeVos to head the Education Department, a federal agency with oversight over all of the nation’s educational institutions, from prekindergarten programs to graduate schools of business. The choice mystified all those who’d figured Trump was looking for a capable, forward-looking technocrat focused on student testing and teacher accountability. The choice horrified teachers unions, as DeVos is a billionaire Republican who has worked assiduously to weaken the public schools in Michigan.
Comedian Rob Delaney tweeted, “Trump’s pick of DeVos as Sec. of Education is more hateful than pouring a vat of shit out of a helicopter onto a group of 1st graders.” Crude as that sentiment may be, it reflects the prevalent perception—unfair, perhaps—that DeVos is unsuited to her post, having never worked in a school or a school district. Her nomination is in keeping with Trump’s apparent conviction that nothing fuels government work better than antipathy to the government.

DeVos would not be the first ideologue to head the Education Department: William Bennett, appointed by Ronald Reagan, was a conservative culture warrior of the first order. George H.W. Bush’s appointments, Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, were also no liberals. But ever since the first education secretary—Shirley Hufstedler, appointed by Jimmy Carter to the new post in 1979—nearly every person to hold that office has had direct experience in teaching or educational administration (two were governors who’d enacted large reform measures).

DeVos, by contrast, is a professional lobbyist. She may be qualified, but when it comes to the battlefields of public education, she is plainly inexperienced.

‘Christ’s Agent of Renewal’

Grand Rapids, Michigan, has largely defined the life of the woman born in 1958 as Elisabeth Prince. She grew up in nearby Holland, on the shores of Lake Michigan, where her father, Edgar Prince, ran an auto parts empire that he would eventually sell for $1.35 billion. The family belonged to the Reformed Church in America, which has its roots in a kind of Protestantism known as Calvinism, the predominant faith of the Dutch who settled western Michigan.

Some flee home for college; Betsy Prince traveled just 30 miles to Grand Rapids, where in 1975 she enrolled in Calvin College, from which her mother, Elsa, had graduated. Any attempt to forecast what DeVos might do as the nation’s education secretary must begin here, at this college of 4,000 that bids its students to act as “Christ’s agents of renewal in the world.” The college is affiliated with the Christian Reformed Church and takes its religious mission seriously: Faculty members, for example, are required to send their own children to a Christian secondary school.

The college is named after John Calvin, the 16th-century French thinker from whom Calvinism gets its name. A branch of Protestantism that took root in Northern Europe, Calvinism hews to its founder’s doctrine of predestination, which holds that God has predestined all sinners to Hell, and while he chooses to save some as an act of grace, that salvation cannot be earned. No amount of effort is sufficient to rescue the damned from damnation. It is also among the more intellectual of the various Protestant movements. “Calvinists are usually smart,” says Julie Ingersoll, a scholar at the University of North Florida who has studied conservative Christianity. “The core of worship will be a sermon that is sophisticated and philosophically inclined.”

Kenneth Pomykala attended Calvin College at the same time as Prince and remembers her “vaguely.” Today the head of Calvin’s religion department, Pomykala estimates that back then, perhaps 90 percent of the students belonged to the Christian Reformed tradition. “One of the things Calvinism is known for is that one’s religious values should affect the way you live all of life,” Pomykala says. “It doesn’t make the separation between private religion and public life.”

At Calvin College, Prince studied business economics and served on the student senate; she volunteered on Gerald Ford’s losing presidential bid in 1976 and worked for other Republican campaigns. In 1980, she married Dick DeVos, a native of Grand Rapids and a student at nearby Northwood University who stood to become the heir to the Amway fortune, the massive marketing company co-founded by his father that some have called a pyramid scheme. His family, like hers, was conservative, pious and very rich.

The DeVoses have four children, whom they raised in Ada, a wealthy suburb of Grand Rapids, where the annual median household income today is almost $122,000, more than double Michigan’s average of about $49,000. The town, the seventh wealthiest in Michigan, has unsurprisingly good public schools, but the DeVos children apparently did not attend them. Two daughters were at least partly home-schooled, a fact that has been happily noted by home-schooling advocates, many of whom are religious conservatives elated to finally have a booster in Washington, D.C. Both sons attended the Grand Rapids Christian High School, which has a DeVos Center for Arts and Worship.

Though she has been reticent with the press since her nomination to the Trump Cabinet, DeVos was not shy about expressing her convictions previously. In 2013, she told Philanthropy magazine that her desire to improve education began with a visit to the Potter’s House Christian School in Grand Rapids, a private religious academy. “At the time, we had children who were school-age themselves. Well, that touched home. Dick and I became increasingly committed to helping other parents—parents from low-income families in particular. If we could choose the right school for our kids, it only seemed fair that they could do the same for theirs.”

The DeVoses began their prolonged assault on Michigan’s public education system in earnest in 1990, when Dick DeVos won election to the state’s school board. Three years later, the couple led a successful push for legislation that would welcome charter schools to Michigan (the first charter school in the nation had opened in 1992 in St. Paul, Minnesota). But while charter schools bloomed there, they didn’t thrive. As early as 1997, the state auditor found the state has shown “limited effectiveness and efficiency in monitoring” charters. Two years later, the Michigan Department of Education worried there was “no defined system of quality control in regard to charter schools,” despite there being 138 institutions that enrolled 30,000 students across the state.

The DeVoses persisted in advocating for more choice, disregarding calls for oversight. In 2000, they pushed for Michigan to adapt a voucher system, which proposed to give students about $3,300 to attend a private school of their choice, including a religious one. The Wall Street Journal wrote, “By focusing on the worst-of-the-worst schools, the campaign also has helped recast the image of vouchers from a middle-class pipe dream to a lifeline for inner-city kids. And in the long, heated, name-calling, lawsuit-filing history of school vouchers, that combination eventually may prove tough to beat.”

The voucher measure failed to pass, but DeVos, who’d headed the Michigan Republican Party for the latter half of the 1990s, redoubled her efforts. She began to establish groups like the Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP), founded in 2001. The group’s goal is “supporting quality choices in public education for all Michigan students,” in part by shaming public education. For example, one ad campaign, called Got Literacy?, featured misspelled school signs: Welcome Back, Hope You Hade a Good Break; 15 best things about our pubic schools. The campaign didn’t mention that the first sign was from Arizona, and a student joke besides, while the second was made for an Indiana school by an ad agency.

Supporters of DeVos argue that Michigan’s schools were dismal and that her only mission has been to provide a life raft to those stuck on a sinking ship. Matt Frendewey, communications director at the American Federation for Children (AFC), another group DeVos founded, calls her a “relentless advocate for students,” particularly poor children of color. School choice, he argues, is the first and necessary step to better educational outcomes.

In 2011, GLEP and its conservative allies won a major victory when the Michigan Legislature erased the charter school cap, creating what is effectively an unrestrained market for charter school operators. DeVos scored another victory last summer, when she and her husband spent $1.45 million to stymie a legislative effort to provide more oversight to Michigan’s charter schools.

“If I wanted to start a school next year, all I’d need to do is get the money, draw up a plan and meet a few perfunctory requirements,” wrote a dismayed Stephen Henderson, the editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press. “I’d then be allowed to operate that school, at a profit if I liked, without, practically speaking, any accountability for results. As long as I met the minimal state code and inspection requirements, I could run an awful school, no better than the public alternatives, almost indefinitely.”

It’s unclear how closely DeVos looked at the achievements of the charter schools that sprouted in Michigan because of her efforts. Did she know that many of them were failing? And if she knew, why did she do nothing?

Detroit Flunks

The best argument against Betsy DeVos can be made with a single word: Detroit. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Michigan’s biggest city has the worst math and reading scores of any large city in America. Its fourth-graders score a 36 on math, while their counterparts in Charlotte, North Carolina, score an 87. Its eighth-graders got a 44 on reading, lagging behind Miami by 33 points.

DeVos claimed that her emphasis on school choice was going to help poor, minority children escape from underperforming public schools. So how did that escape route become a quagmire?

Kids may suffer from a lack of choice, but they can also suffer from an excess of competition. Reporting on the state of charter schools in Detroit last summer, education reporter Kate Zernike of The New York Times described a system that was as at least as chaotic and unproductive as what it supplanted. “While the idea was to foster academic competition, the unchecked growth of charters has created a glut of schools competing for some of the nation’s poorest students,” Zernike wrote, “enticing them to enroll with cash bonuses, laptops, raffle tickets for iPads and bicycles. Leaders of charter and traditional schools alike say they are being cannibalized, fighting so hard over students and the limited public dollars that follow them that no one thrives.”

Douglas Harris, a professor of economics at Tulane University, considers himself a proponent of sensible reform, yet the kind of reform enacted by DeVos in Michigan, he has concluded, is a disaster. In a widely circulated op-ed for The New York Times, Harris wrote that DeVos “devised Detroit’s system to run like the Wild West. It’s hardly a surprise that the system, which has almost no oversight, has failed. Schools there can do poorly and still continue to enroll students.”

Harris contrasted Detroit with New Orleans, where the school system is saturated with charters. Those charters are successful because they’re expected to meet the same high standards that educators demand from students. Lax oversight of a school district is unlikely to produce much better results than lax oversight of a classroom.

“The DeVos nomination,” Harris wrote, “is a triumph of ideology over evidence.”

Much of the fault for the panoply of bad choices in Detroit can be placed on for-profit charters, according to Samuel Abrams, a scholar of privatization in education at Teachers College at Columbia University in New York and the author of Education and the Commercial Mindset. Whereas about 10 percent of charters nationwide are for-profit, about 80 percent of charters in Michigan mix profit-making with teaching. “The fundamental problem with for-profit school management is that we don’t have sufficient transparency for proper contract enforcement because the immediate consumer is a child,” Abrams tells me. “He or she is not sufficiently informed to know if a class is being properly taught.

“There is room for cutting corners in the name of profits,” Abrams says. “You don’t have that in public school.”

‘Advancing God’s Kingdom’

A lot of the worries about DeVos come from association—and insinuation. Some are concerned about her stance on gay rights. She and her husband “have spent heavily in opposition to same-sex-marriage laws in several states,” according to Jane Mayer of The New Yorker. Elsa Prince, Betsy’s mother, has frequently given to right-wing groups like Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council.

At the same time, it’s worth noting that, as the head of the Michigan GOP, she forcefully defended a gay Republican politician who’d been harassed for his stance on a gay marriage amendment. In 2014, she lambasted Dave Agema, a Republican, for making denigrating comments about gays and Muslims. “I couldn’t stand by and hold my tongue,” she said. And despite her appointment by Trump, she was among those Republicans who bore no love for the candidate, calling him an “interloper” from whom she predicted Republicans would defect. (The DeVoses supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and, after he dropped out, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.)

“If you look at Betsy’s full record, you won’t be able to fit her in a box that some of those who oppose her nomination are trying to put her into,” says the AFC’s Frendewey. The Windquest Group, an investment group run by the DeVoses, supports clean energy, technological innovation and a well-regarded aviation high school, as well as an arts prize. They were also funders of an arts management institute at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (The institute has since moved to the University of Maryland.)

Despite all that, detractors have plenty of evidence for their fears. They point, for example, to a recording, obtained by Politico, in which DeVos talks about “advancing God’s kingdom” through public education. That only stokes fears that DeVos is a Christian soldier disguised as a public servant.

Ingersoll, the University of North Florida scholar, says that “it’s a long-standing goal of the religious right to dismantle public education” and that religious conservatives like DeVos “don’t see public schools as religiously neutral.” If an education is not Christian, then it is anti-Christian. This is a view, she suggests, DeVos shares with Mike Pence, the religiously conservative vice president-elect, who is expected by some to have Dick Cheney-level influence in the Trump administration.

When I conveyed these concerns to Frendewey, he laughed. “In no way is this some sort of religion-based agenda,” he says. Betsy DeVos, he assured me, wants successful students, not “disciples.”Poor Choice for the Poor

  • Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence with DeVos before their meeting at the main clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 19, 2016.

MIKE SEGAR/REUTER

Nobody accused Trump’s presidential campaign of a wonkish occupation with policy details. Nevertheless, he has been clear about his primary mission in education, which is to inject $20 billion into school choice programs. “As your president, I will be the nation’s biggest cheerleader for school choice,” he said during the campaign.

As with many other aspects of the Trump platform, there are few details to debate. Abrams, the Teachers College scholar, called the education plan “mystifying,” echoing the confusion I encountered whenever I asked, while reporting this story, how Trump and DeVos planned to make school choice a bigger priority.

Tulane University’s Harris says that a Capitol Hill controlled by Republicans could pass a tax credit program that incentivizes private education, including religious and virtual schools. But this would probably benefit middle- and upper-middle class families already disposed (and able) to pay for a private education.

The same goes for vouchers. While $20 billion for school choice programs sounds like a large number, there are 15 million children living in poverty in the United States, and the average private school tuition is $9,500. Giving them all a meaningful voucher would require about $142.5 billion, or seven times the amount proposed by Trump for his school choice plan.

Consider, also, that some states that have vouchers, like Ohio and North Carolina, allocate less than $5,000 per student, meaning that families would still have to pay several thousand dollars to send a child to private school if this were in fact part of the Trump reform package. That shortfall notwithstanding, even a $5,000 voucher for every child living in poverty nationwide would cost $75 billion. Much like the border wall with Mexico, the golden-ticket voucher might be an empty campaign promise.

Yet almost certainly, Trump will use federal dollars to reward states for enacting his preferred reforms. That was what President Barack Obama did with Race to the Top, which incentivized data collection, student assessment and better teaching.

Harris says school choice is first on DeVos’s agenda. “It’s really her only issue.”

An Existential Threat

Teachers unions and their liberal allies are alarmed by the DeVos pick. Most charters and parochials aren’t unionized, meaning that school choice enervates public sector unions, another favorite Republican goal. “She is an existential threat to public education,” says Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers.

When I relayed that quote to Frendewey, he dismissed the worry by noting the many times Weingarten had used tough language about centrist Obama appointees. “They weren’t happy with Duncan, they weren’t happy with King,” Frendewey says, alluding to Arne Duncan and John King, both Democratic education secretaries who met with resistance from teachers unions on matters of student and teacher evaluation. Frendewey and other DeVos associates acknowledge that Detroit schools are a disaster, but it’s a fair question whether the failure of that experiment should disqualify her from a federal position.

Yet for conservatives, DeVos’s antipathy to traditional public schools is in keeping with a broader desire to lessen what they deem bureaucratic bloat. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whose father George was the governor of Michigan, branded DeVos an iconoclast of the sort demanded by our moribund schools. “The decades of applying the same old bromides must come to an end,” he wrote. “The education establishment and its defenders will understandably squeal, but the interests of our children must finally prevail.” Romney’s voice on this issue matters because he was a frequent critic of Trump throughout the presidential campaign. Moreover, as he notes, the state he once governed, Massachusetts, has the nation’s best schools.

The vast gap between the vaunted Massachusetts “education miracle” and the state of Detroit’s schools suggests, at least to skeptics, that Romney’s confidence in DeVos may be grievously misplaced. And while it is true that Weingarten—my onetime union leader in New York City—has frequently been tough on Democrats deemed insufficiently loyal to teachers unions, her mood when we spoke in early December seemed to me closer to visceral fear than intellectual disagreement. Calling DeVos an “ideological zealot for private education,” Weingarten says local unions will fight her by asserting their power, though how they will do that is unclear. A senior aide to a top congressional Democrat told me that DeVos should be ready for a tough confirmation hearing, but he didn’t say anything to suggest there’d be a concerted attempt to oppose her.

Weingarten told me about a letter she got from a teacher in New York’s Suffolk County, on Long Island. That teacher had apparently voted for Trump and was now suffering from buyer’s remorse. “I made a terrible mistake,” the letter said, according to Weingarten. “Please, please fight against this.”

The battle is doubtlessly coming to the American classroom, where the nation’s culture wars are frequently fought. Of course, DeVos will be ready for the counterattack. She has spent decades fighting for children, for Michigan and for God.

 

Some colleges are profiting from banks that gouge their students with bad deals

Thanks;Maria LaMagna

Published: Dec 17, 2016 8:58 a.m. ET

Students could find better bank accounts if they shopped around on their own


Many students have financial trouble in college, making overdrafting more painful.

Many colleges and universities in the U.S. received failing grades this week from a government agency that claims the schools are sponsoring bank accounts and credit cards that are costly to their students.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau published a report Wednesday about the contracts schools enter into with banks, sometimes sponsoring their financial products and allowing them to be marketed with the school’s logo. Not all of those products are ones that students should actually be using, the CFPB found, because they have high or unexpected fees. Students could find better deals if they were just shopping around for those products on their own, the CFPB wrote in its report.
The CFPB found “dozens of deals” that schools have entered into with banks that don’t place any limits on costly account fees — including overdraft fees, out-of-network ATM fees or other common charges. Those deals could be in opposition with regulations the Department of Education announced in 2015 that said colleges must ensure accounts marketed under such agreements are “not inconsistent with the best financial interests of the students opening them.” The schools are required to do “reasonable due diligence reviews” at least every two years to determine whether the fees in those agreements are consistent with or below prevailing market rates. Those rules apply to the schools that participate in the federal financial aid program, which is nearly all schools with agreements.

“Students shouldn’t get stuck with the bill when their school inks a deal for an account that’s not in their best interest,” wrote Seth Frotman, the CFPB’s student loan ombudsman.
The CFPB did not identify which schools have entered into agreements that have unfavorable terms, but said about 10 million students attend colleges or universities that have a deal with a financial institution where the college directly markets financial products. (The Department of Education requires most colleges to publicly disclose their marketing contracts with banks, but schools in contracts that charge high fees aren’t specifically called out. Students can check whether their school has reported a contract with a financial institution by checking the Department of Education’s database.)
This isn’t the first time the government has raised alarm about financial products marketed to young people. U.S. President Barack Obama in 2009 signed into law the Credit CARD Act, which required financial institutions to more clearly explain the terms of their credit cards. It also specifically made getting a credit card more difficult for consumers under age 21.
Consumers can hurt their financial futures for the long term if they fall into credit card debt. And the CFPB has found that credit card companies that are targeting consumers with low credit scores (which may apply to college students, who haven’t had the time to establish credit yet) often send promotional mail to borrowers with lower levels of education. And often, cards marketed to these lower-educated and lower-income consumers have undesirable terms, including high interest rates that can make paying back credit card debt difficult. And on top of that, being unable to pay debt hurts consumers’ credit scores, making it harder for them to take out loans with desirable terms in the future.

Also, because college students are often trying to stretch a small amount of money to pay their expenses, overdraft fees could set them back in trying to purchase groceries, books and other important items, said Whitney Barkley-Denney, the policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit based in Durham, North Carolina. Amounts of money that seem small to many adult consumers could actually prevent them from being able to survive and graduate in some cases, she said.

That said, college students aren’t the only ones paying costly bank fees.
Banks made about $11.2 billion in 2015 just from overdraft and non-sufficient fund fees, according to the CFPB. Just 8% of account holders end up paying about 75% of all overdraft fees, often because they overdraft repeatedly. Many people who make up that 8% are young or low-income consumers, said Thaddeus King, an officer for the consumer banking project at Pew Charitable Trusts, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia.
Overdraft fees can be confusing for people signing up for accounts for the first time, King said, and since many college students may not be knowledgeable about financial products yet, they are at risk for ending up having to pay them.
(For example, banks are required by law to let consumers opt in to giving their account the ability to overdraft. Once consumers enter into that agreement, merchants can charge their cards, and their accounts won’t reject the charge. As a result, they may be charged up to $35 as an overdraft charge, which can happen multiple times, if they don’t realize they have overdrafted and they continue to use their cards. Choosing not to allow an account to overdraft can actually be a better financial choice because a merchant will reject the charge, and the account will not overdraft. The consumer’s credit score also shouldn’t be affected by having a debit card rejected at checkout. Pew has found that more than half of consumers who overdraft don’t remember opting in to an overdraft agreement.)
If consumers switched to low- or no-fee checking accounts, those who use the “average” checking accounts the CFPB has previously analyzed could save about $670 over a decade on ATM fees, maintenance, overdraft and nonsufficient funds fees, Sean McQuay, an expert at the personal finance company NerdWallet, previously told MarketWatch. Particularly for people with low incomes (including many college students), those fees can add up.
NerdWallet offers a list of the best free checking accounts of 2016, which includes online banks. The online options may work well for college students, so they won’t be limited to using banks located near their campuses. Still, consumers should check what fees are associated with the online accounts; some banks and financial institutions reimburse account holders if they use out-of-network ATMs, since the online banks sometimes don’t have their own ATMs.
McQuay also recommended looking at small community banks and credit unions. They don’t always have the best online services, especially compared with online banks, he said, but they are “catching up.”