HBCU Students Feel Economic Pinch
Written by Cherie.White
Students across the nation are being negatively affected by the struggling economy but according to the Associated Press, students who attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are feeling it worse.
The Associated Press reports that "unemployment for black people remains nearly double that of white people", which has left many students with the difficult task of paying for their tuition while unemployed and working low-wage jobs.
Also, changes in the federal PLUS loan program have forced many students to discontinue their education because they were not granted the same loans they previously acquired.
Unfortunately, most of the students depend on loans like the PLUS program to afford college and without access, many students who attend HBCUs drop-out.
HBCUs serve a wide variety of students; however, reports say that they also have a huge population of students in attendance who come from low-income backgrounds.
For example, approx. two-thirds of HBCUs students receive Pell Grants, which are funded to students whose families make less than $40,000.
Only 83 schools have 60% of their student body receiving Pell grants and astonishingly 50 of them are HBCUs.
HBCUs promote an environment meant to support the success of all African-Americans despite financial background, however, the combination of the weak economy and the discontinuation of necessary loan services have attributed to the poor HBCU graduation rates.
Studies show that between the years of 2006 and 2011, graduation rates dropped at 57 of the 80 four-year HBCUs.
The overall graduation rate also declined, in 2006 students were graduating at a rate of 37.7% and in 2011 it went down to 33.7% which means that over 15,000 students of the over 47,000 students who entered school in 2006 were unable to complete their degree by 2011.
On the other hand, non-HBCUs are tracking a graduation rate of 58%.
HBCU enrollment is also being affected negatively. According to AP, there has been a 40% decline in enrollment rates.
Michelle Obama Speaks of 'Hunger' for Education at Bowie State Commencement
Written by Cherie.White
COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — First lady Michelle Obama spoke passionately about the importance of education to the African-American community in a commencement address Friday, urging more than 600 graduates of Bowie State University to honor the school's history and to pass their commitment to education on to future generations.
In her 15-minute address, the first lady touched on the university's founding in 1865 to train black teachers; the difficulties confronted by black students after emancipation from slavery and during the civil rights movement; and the sacrifices made by her own parents, who were not college graduates.
"I am thinking about all the mothers and the fathers just like my parents, who dug into pockets for their last dime," Mrs. Obama said. "Their sacrifice is your legacy."
Located in suburban Washington, Bowie State has about 5,400 undergraduate and graduate students. The university invited the first lady to speak and moved its commencement to the University of Maryland's College Park campus to accommodate a crowd of thousands, which greeted the first lady with a standing ovation.
Mrs. Obama typically gives a few commencement addresses each year and has spoken at several other historically black colleges and universities since President Barack Obama became the nation's first black chief executive. She received an honorary doctorate from Bowie State on Friday.
The first lady said education was a lifeline to the first students at the nearly 150-year-old school. Its founding "was in many ways an act of defiance, an elegant rebuttal to the idea that black people couldn't or shouldn't be educated," she said. "Back then, people were hungry to learn."
But Obama said too much of the black community has lost that desire. One in 3 African-Americans are dropping out of high school, she said, and only 1 in 5 between the ages of 25 and 29 has a bachelor's degree. She also cited statistics that show college graduates make more money and live longer than high school dropouts.
Recession Doesn't Change Students' Econ Savvy
Written by PHILIP ELLIOTT,Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the ensuing recession did little to help make high school seniors financially savvy and less than half of them have a solid understanding of economics, according to an Education Department report released Tuesday.
In real terms, that might mean that students might have difficulty understanding the impact of a poor credit rating, the relationship between consumer spending and higher unemployment or how inflation can eat away at pay raises.
Students' scores of economic literacy changed little between 2006 and 2012, suggesting that the national discussion about the millions of jobs that were lost and homes that were foreclosed didn't translate to higher academic achievement. During that period, several states added an economics course to high school offerings and some started requiring it to earn a diploma.
"It is astonishing that high school seniors do not know more about how economics affects their wallets, their country and the world at a pivotal time in their lives, whether they choose to enter the workforce or pursue higher education," said David Driscoll, chair of the National Assessment Governing Board, which runs the federal tests. "We need to do more to educate all students in economics so they can make informed decisions, whether they are negotiating a car loan, voting or reading financial news."
The findings show that more than half of students leave high school without an economic knowledge that federal officials consider proficient. In 2012, 39 percent of students had a basic understanding of economics while 18 were considered below basic.
"This is exactly what I would have expected," said Annamaria Lusardi, a distinguished scholar at George Washington University who on Wednesday testified to a Senate subcommittee about students' economic skills.
"Financial literacy is like every topic; they don't learn by osmosis. Just because you read The Wall Street Journal, you're not going to learn about interest compounding," Lusardi said, noting headlines were no substitute for instruction.
About 10,900 high school seniors at 480 public and private schools took the economics test as part of the 2012 National Assessment of Educational Progress, more commonly called "the nation's report card."
Overall achievement on the tests was flat since 2006, when the economic questions were first asked. For all students, the average performance shifted from 150 to 152 on a 300-point scale.
"The overall scores for the two assessments were not significantly different," said Jack Buckley, commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department's research arm.
But among Hispanic students, performance rose, narrowing the gap between their scores and those of their white classmates.
Buckley suggested Hispanic students' uptick might be due to higher reading skills that are documented in other part of the national exams.
Students from private schools performed better than those at public schools, while males scored higher than females.
Since the 2008 economic crisis, education officials have added economic instruction to their classrooms. In 2004, only 16 states required economics to be offered to high school students. That number rose to 25 in 2011, according to the Council for Economic Education's survey of states.
And in 2004, only 14 states required students to take such a class. That number jumped to 22 in 2011.
During the 2011-12 academic year, all 50 states and the District of Columbia included some form of economics in their curriculum between kindergarten through high school graduation, the same survey from the professional organization found.
Just because the requirement is on paper doesn't mean it's reaching the classrooms, cautioned Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the Council for Economic Education.
"It's not just being taught widely enough and deeply enough," she said.
Morrison said much of the education that followed the 2008 meltdown focused on helping students calculate interest payments and other real-world examples but didn't address the broader theories that move economies.
"With the financial crisis, people have become very focused on mechanics. But it's a bigger story than that about making decisions," she said. "The pendulum swung toward helping people fix a few specific things but not the big picture."
That's been a major focus of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
"Financial education supports not only individual well-being, but also the economic health of our nation," Bernanke told a town hall-style meeting with teachers in 2012. "As the recent financial crisis illustrates, consumers who can make informed decisions about financial products and services not only serve their own best interests, but, collectively, they also help promote broader economic stability."
And earlier this month, he told an audience in Dayton, Ohio: "Among the lessons of the recent financial crisis is the need for virtually everyone — both young and old — to acquire a basic knowledge of finance and economics. Such knowledge is necessary for anyone who will be faced with managing a household budget, making financial investments, finding reliable information about buying a car or house and preparing financially for retirement and other life goals."
30 Years Later, Nation Remains at Educational Risk
Written by PHILIP ELLIOTT,Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Thirty years ago, a report issued by President Ronald Reagan's Education Department warned that U.S. students were falling behind their international rivals and said America's economy would suffer if schools didn't step up their game.
The report, called "A Nation at Risk," spooked the public, urged an overhaul of how and what children are taught and sparked the school reform movement.
But the warnings it issued three decades ago are still reverberating today, with 1 in 4 Americans failing to earn a high school degree on time and the U.S. lagging other countries in the percentage of young people who complete college.
While the report has its place in history, it yielded no significant legislation and many of the problems it identified have not been solved.
Survey: US Teens Doing Better Than Public Realizes
Written by PHILIP ELLIOTT,Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — American teenagers aren't doing as poorly on international science tests as adults think. Despite the misconception, people don't think the subject should get greater emphasis in schools, a survey released Monday found.
More Americans than not wrongly think that U.S. 15-year-olds rank near the bottom on international science tests, according to a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll. U.S. students actually rank in the middle among developed countries.
Even so, Americans are more likely to pick math or language skills over science when they are asked which subject they think deserves greater attention.
Among adults, there is wide variety in what they know about science and technology, the survey also found. For instance, two-thirds of those surveyed correctly said rust is an example of a chemical reaction and 77 percent correctly said the continents have been moving for millions of years and will continue to shift.
Yet only 47 percent correctly said electrons are smaller than atoms. Protons, neutrons and electrons are parts of atoms.
Education advocates have long warned that U.S. students need more science education if they are to keep pace with international peers. That perhaps has yielded the impression that the nation's students don't stack up to other nations on international tests.
About 35 percent of those surveyed by Pew correctly said U.S. 15-year-olds are about in the middle and 7 percent incorrectly said Americans ranked among the top nations. Yet the plurality — 44 percent — wrongly said American teens were ranked at the bottom of other developed nations.
International tests find U.S. scores aren't measurably different from the average of all other nations. Among the 33 countries measured in the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment, 12 had higher scores and nine had lower scores. Another 12 had scores that weren't that much different than Americans' scores.
The survey also asked participants an open-ended question about which single subject they thought deserved greater emphasis in elementary and secondary schools. Some 30 percent suggested math and arithmetic. Another 19 percent said English, grammar, writing and reading.
Science was the top choice for just 11 percent of participants. Among those who picked science, though, there was a partisan divide. Some 17 percent of Democrats said science should receive more attention, while 7 percent of Republicans agreed.
Republicans, however, were more likely to favor math and arithmetic than Democrats. Some 35 percent of Republicans picked math skills as the subject they thought deserved more attention while 24 percent of Democrats agreed.
Americans with college degrees were more likely than others to underestimate the students' international rankings. Those college graduates were also more likely to answer their own questions about science and technology correctly.
For instance, 76 percent of college graduates correctly identified carbon dioxide as the gas that most scientists blame for climate change. Just 55 percent of those with some college courses got the answer right, and that number reached 49 percent among adults who did not attend college.
Pew's poll was conducted March 7-10 and used landline and cellular telephone interviews with 1,006 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. It is larger for subgroups.
The survey was conducted with Smithsonian Magazine for an upcoming edition focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
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