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Staff Editorial: New Price For College Tuition: $0

Tennessee Gov. understands education is a right. Why don’t we?

The stress of college begins for many students and their families long before the first semester. College prices (room, board, and tuition)  have risen 42% for public, and 31% for private universities from 2000-2011, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. With the unbelievably high price of college tuition, students are expected to delve deep  into their own (or their parent’s) bank accounts for a good education.  For most, this means loans taken out and massive debts accrued, or the alternative — foregoing higher education completely. We at the Foghorn do not believe these are good options; thankfully, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam recently proposed a simple solution: make college free.

Education is a human right that should not be limited by a student’s financial situation. In order to make for a more progressive society, we must ensure free and easy access to a higher degree. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ (UDHR) Article 26: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” Haslam’s Tennessee Promise serves to fulfill this basic human right outlined by the UDHR, a right that has largely been ignored in this country.

The “Tennessee Promise” was proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam during his State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 3 2014. The promise was a big one — two free years of either community college or or technical school for high school graduates in the state of Tennessee.  If Gov. Haslam’s promise is fulfilled, Tennessee would be the only state in the country with free college. The initiative is important for Tennessee especially, one of the least-educated states in the country where less than one third of residents have a two-year degree, according to NPR.

At first Haslam’s plan seems a grandiose dream, one that raises more questions than it answers. The biggest question of all — if the students are not paying for college then who is? The answer, according to Haslam, is the state’s lottery where an excess amount of cash is generated to the tune of $300 million. “Net cost to the state, zero. Net impact on our future? Priceless,” Haslam said at the address.  Haslam’s plan is a breath of clean air in a polluted education environment — an environment that caters to the wealthy while indebting, or excluding, the less fortunate. Haslam has a feasible plan to offer free education in this country.

However  it is shocking that we are so behind other countries in terms of free education. Countries like Germany, Sweden, and Ireland (just to name a few) all have free education for their people. Does our Government place lesser value on higher education? During his first joint address to Congress in 2009, Obama stated that the United States “should once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” How will this goal be achieved if many in this country can not afford it?

Attending college might not be right for every person, but having access to it should be a right for every person. The Foghorn hopes Gov. Haslam’s enthusiasm for free education proves contagious, and it spreads across the rest of our country.

HaleyWise

USF Student Volunteers Teaching English in the Galapagos

The idea sounds nice when we mull it over in our heads, but it takes a special level of commitment to seek out and participate in volunteer opportunities. It’s hard enough to balance school, work and a social life — don’t we have better things to do with our time than give it away for free? Senior media studies major Haley Wise spent two months of her summer break teaching English in the Galapagos Islands. Even though she wasn’t paid for her work, Haley returned to San Francisco a richer person than before she left. I had a chance to sit down with her and learn about her experience.

Last year, Haley was studying abroad in London and struggling to find summer internship opportunities back in San Francisco. KC Steblay, a business administration senior at USF, had kept in touch with a friend he made on a previous trip to the Galapagos, a province of Ecuador. Through this friend, Haley, who is dating KC, found a chance better than she had ever hoped: two volunteers were needed to teach English in Puerto Ayora for two months, spending the first month aboard an ecology-focused cruise ship, educating the crew, and the second working with the staff of a green resort. Despite a limited grasp of Spanish, Haley and KC soon found themselves amidst the pristine beauty of the islands over 600 miles west of the South American continent — and teaching.

Haley didn’t have much time to get settled before her volunteer work began. “I barely know Spanish, have never taught anything before in my life, and I’m expected to lead a class! I had to write my own lesson plans, and basically start from square one with native Galapagans that had little to no English experience.” With limited resources, Haley had to do whatever she could to keep her students engaged. Her students, however, were as excited to learn as Hayley was daunted by her task. KC believes that eagerness came from appreciation: “One weekend, I worked at an after-school program with little kids, and you could just see that they didn’t really want to be there. But the people on that boat, they knew it was important for them and they wanted to learn. They’d come up to me out of class just to learn a new word.”

Aboard the ship, the M/V Santa Cruz, Haley describes her classroom setting as “hectic.” “I assumed there would be some sort of curriculum set out for us, or some guidelines to follow,” she recalls. “But no. I was instructed to ‘just teach them English.’” Though Haley and KC were able to teach joint classes the first two weeks, Haley soon found herself in charge of four hour-long classes each day, ranging in skill from beginners with no English training whatsoever to a fluent group that needed help fine-tuning pronunciation. With up to 10 students in every class, Haley had to ensure that the pace and content of her classes matched the student’s skill level, and spent hours each day outside of the classroom preparing for the next day’s lessons. Sometimes her lesson plan included songs, competitions, and even a game that involved nothing more than a beach ball, napkin, and box to help her students learn.

It wasn’t all hard work though: while on board the M/V Santa Cruz, Haley got to make an almost daily routine of exploring the abundant reefs of the archipelago with a snorkel.

Back on land for the second month of her trip, Haley lived and volunteered at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel, just outside the beach town of Puerto Ayora. There she worked with the resort’s restaurant and bar staff, teaching two two-hour class sessions per day. She still had to create her own lesson plans, but fortunately some good did come from all her extra work: “I got a lot of great experience, and now I could see myself teaching or tutoring English to another new learner.”

Like any traveler in a new place, Haley had to adjust to some aspects of culture on the remote islands.  “I guess I didn’t really realize that coming from London I was actually going to a third-world country,” Haley said. “We get to our hotel and the guy who opened the door of our cab has a huge shotgun strapped to his chest!” Warm welcomes like this weren’t all she had to get used to. The country is much more religious and conservative than any environment she had lived in before. Haley told me many 18 to 22-year-olds there already have children of their own, and some of the locals had trouble understanding that Haley and KC were traveling together and not already married. “It’s a much more traditional society,” she said. “Even the way I could dress was very different. I brought bathing suits and shorts, which I’d pack for any vacation to a tropical island. But with having to jump right in to work…” She paused with a smile. “I had to buy a bunch of pants.”

Haley also was able to see past cultural differences. “If you want to travel the world, you can’t expect everyone to agree with you. You have to accept people for who they are and realize why their views might be different than yours. They’re still good people, and they still have a lot to offer.” Despite language barriers and limited classroom resources, Haley feels that her students learned a lot from her English classes. Sometimes they would surprise her with a special dessert after dinner, and some even spent their own pocket money on souvenirs and mementos for Haley to bring home from her adventure. Her students nicknamed Haley “la mejor professora:” the best teacher.

Haley found her experience enriching and rewarding. “It was a lot of time to give up, but you get so much out of an experience when you see how appreciative the people you’re helping are of the work you do. I felt lucky to just be in this beautiful place, and my students were so grateful.” Even though at first she felt overwhelmed by her task, Haley found a lot of satisfaction in her work. “It’s amazing to see how incredibly thankful people can be when you just help them even the smallest bit,” she said. The feeling that Haley returned with will inspire her to continue volunteering. Our chat certainly inspired me to see where in the world volunteering can take me, and Haley knows that anyone who pursues an opportunity to help others will find the same feeling of enrichment and satisfaction.

The Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus

An Added Hurdle for College Students to Cross

College students may be pleased — or infuriated — to know that their schools may offer the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus (CLA+) during their senior year. What is this and why does it exist? It is essentially a standardized test for college students–similar to our high school SATs– and if it gains increasing popularity over the next few years, it will most likely be what future employers require of college graduates.This test aims to cover the areas of analysis, problem solving, writing, quantitative reasoning and reading, according to the Council for Aid to Education.

According to the Chicago Tribune, “about 200 colleges and universities, including small liberal arts colleges Ursuline College of Pepper Pike, Ohio, and Stonehill College of Easton, Massachusetts as well as some of the California and Texas state university systems” will offer the CLA+ to their seniors this year.

If you enjoy taking tests (or, at least, tend to perform well on them), this could be your saving grace if you did not earn the best grades in college. This might be a result of the fact that more and more employers are starting to realize that GPA is not the best indicator of a student’s readiness for a full-time, post-graduate job.

Why the shift towards holding unreliable, dubious feelings about GPA? Two words: grade inflation. And employers are starting to catch onto this trend.

Even Michael Poliakoff, vice president of policy at the nonprofit American Council of Trustees and Alumni, believes that “the tests could help address the problem of grade inflation, with schools awarding higher grades over the years in an effort to attract and retain students.”

So, let us consider this: you pay thousands — or, in the case of USF, hundreds of thousands–of dollars by the end of your (hopefully) four years in and then, right when you think you’re done with the stress, you’re not.

If your school did not adequately prepare you for the “real world” with the tools and necessary knowledge — even if you got decent grades — it will definitely be reflected on your CLA+ test score.

The CLA+ could highlight the differences between mediocre educations and top-notch educations. It will illustrate what students really did learn during their undergraduate years.

Hopefully, because we USF students are able to engage with our professors and connect with our classmates on levels unknown to students of insanely huge schools, this will be picked up by the CLA+.

One thing’s for sure: universities that are lacking in the education department will definitely not be able to hide behind their easygoing professors after employers start asking for CLA+ test scores.

For this reason, the CLA+ will produce results that will most likely even out the playing field made up of post-graduates scouring for jobs. And because it aims to even out, it holds good intentions.

Want Justice? Equality? Get the Low-Income into Good Colleges

An article entitled “Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Poor,” published in the New York Times found that America’s “talented,” high-achieving poor are failing to make it into our country’s better colleges and universities.

Of the roughly top 4% of graduating high school seniors from the lowest fourth of the income range, only 34% attended selective colleges. Compare this against a selective college attendance of 78% for high-achieving students in the top income quartile, and we find that academically talented, poorer students are half as likely to go to a good college as their richer counterparts.

These are not just numbers; these findings point to a key source of socio-economic disparity in America. After all, if access to the best colleges and universities in the United States is largely out of the reach of even the most qualified low-income students, what other ways are there of breaking cycles of poverty, racial inequality, and disenfranchisement?

The causes of this situation are complex and not easily understood — even the study’s authors recognize this. However, institutions of higher education need to recognize that keeping a quality college education within the comfortable reach of the many, not just the privileged few,  must come to be their top priority. Ultimately, education is the most effective way to combat cancerous, persistent prejudices and to close gaps of many kinds, including wage, gender, and racial.

For colleges, specific steps to increase the representation of low-income students might include intensifying efforts to recruit students among the rural and suburban poor (in addition to searching for students living in select urban areas, like New York and Los Angeles), simplifying and standardizing the process of obtaining financial aid (rather than having students navigate the jungle of disparate deadlines and forms to even be considered for aid at a school), and employing other ways to recognize promising high-school students outside the traditional and increasingly costly commercial avenue of the College Board, which administers the SAT and Advanced Placement programs on which college admissions offices too heavily rely.

It goes without saying that these measures can only supplement the meat of any effort seeking to bring the “talented poor” onto a campus: a vigorous financial assistance program that is, ideally, a combination of private backing and robust public funding. No amount of aggressive recruiting will do much good if the price is too high.

Skyrocketing tuition, high costs of living and rent, and challenging job prospects discourage a sobering majority of low-income high-achievers who look at selective colleges — traditionally, the sure path to personal and community success — and see something unattainable. This needs to change, or the dream of a just, equitable society succumbs to the threat of a world divided into the educated wealthy and an underclass structurally shut out of a world-class post-secondary education.

Deconstructing the Achievement Gap

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The School of Education at USF hosted a forum on the challenges in access to education within the urban education system last week. Four panelists offered solutions towards bettering the system, but not many deconstructed what the achievement gap actually refers to.

Their analyses of the symptoms suggest the achievement gap is comprised of socioeconomic, psychological, and historic barriers that create disparities in access to education.

Co-Founder of the Omega Boys Club, Dr. Joseph Marshall, moderated the discussion. He helped establish the Omega Boys Club in 1987 to provide youth with leadership skills and opportunities to higher education to deter them from violence.

Regarding the achievement gap Marshall said, “Closing this gap between under-resourced students and their peers is one of the most pressing issues facing urban school districts around the country.” He added, “Progress is slow and we need to recognize when the status quo is not working.”

Deborah Estell, coodinator at the Omega Boys Club, said part of the problem in defying the achievement gap rests on “old school instructors.”

Responsible for directing the Omega Boys Club Leadership Academy, a weekly program that offers academic and college prep classes, Estell emphasized the importance of a disciplinary structure in the classroom. At Omega teachers ensure electronics are out of sight and make participation mandatory. “At Omega, we create and maintain a safe environment where everything said is held sacred,” she said.
Panelist Patrick Camangian, a USF Professor in the Teacher Education department, said the solution is to look at the untold histories of minority groups. A former high school English teacher, Camanangian said, “When we don’t allow young people to see the world through their perspective then we don’t develop a knowledge of self,” he said.

Emphasizing the need for cultural relevancy for students in the classroom Camanangian added, “Since young people have the resiliency to make it through the thick social toxins of their everyday life.” As a result students can think critically to make informed decisions for their communities.

Gisel Martin, an education graduate student, said Camangian’s method is reflective of education philosopher Paulo Freire. Martin, an aspiring ethnic studies professor said, “Talking about racism and oppression in education is something that I’m interested in.”

Katrina Traylor, co-director of the June Jordan School of Equity and panelist at the event focused on three standards she applies with her own students: great teachers, meaningful curriculum, and high standards.

Yet she said there may also be a psychological situation that needs to be addressed when discussing the achievement gap. Educators need to “deal with our own psychological gap.” She said, “You can’t really convince students that they’re capable of these really daunting tasks if you don’t actually believe it yourself.”

Whether or not they pursue higher education, Traylor focuses on ensuring her students are eligible for college by their senior year.

In dealing with the psychological issues students may face, Traylor said June Jordan tries to retain teachers of color and bring alumni as role models for current students.

“We know our students have struggles and we never let that exist as an excuse for what they need to accomplish,” she said.

Noah Borrero, USF professor in multicultural education, spoke about how teacher education training can prepare graduates for the challenges they may face in future classrooms. He said that when he was a graduate student at Stanford University, Borrero developed the Young Interpreters program where bilingual students became empowered by sharing their interpretations and experiences among peers. An increase in their test scores was seen after their involvement in the program.

At the university teaching level Borrero said, “As we think about ourselves as scholars and producing research, we need to think about co-creating, applying and communicating knowledge.”

Although the event did not state a clear definition of what the achievement gap is, students who attended the event seemed to reach their own conclusions through the information panelists provided.
Marcus Dennis, a tenth grade student of the Upward Bound program, which assists low income high school students seek higher education, said, “I think a good majority of the achievement gap is race and then the other majority is just how much you put into it.”

USF Senior Natalie Kamajian said, “The achievement gap is just kind of a loose term more or less. It’s socially constructed to kind of divide not in school but in all society there are things that divide us. It just kind of puts people into these pockets of their limits.”

Students Cannot Waste Time or Attention in Class

As a kid, whenever I came home from school, I would be asked  questions like: What did you do? What did you learn in school?” And I would typically respond with an unenergetic “nothing,” or “whatever.”

Sometimes, I really did learn nothing of scholastic value because all day I just daydreamt about hanging out with Tony Hawk for a day or playing Pokemon on the infamous Nintendo 64. As I found my way into the locker lined hallways of high school, I suppose I paid attention most of the time, but I still had a “they’re forcing me to go to school” mentality. Now, at a highly regarded university, I think my mentality towards school has changed a bit, but I’m not sure if everybody understands just what they’re in for.

Almost every single class day, I see somebody doing something like browsing Facebook and going through a friend’s album of fifty inane headshot pictures which all look the same. We all text message (even most professors do), but I see many people text message during class sessions when something important is going on. Several times, I’ve heard undergraduate students who attend USF brag about how they’re too lazy to go to class or how they just don’t feel like going.

Sometimes I wonder if modern day college students really understand the reason for their attendance. We’re not required by law to attend college; we freely choose to attend. Tuition at USF for the 2010-2011 school year was $36,000 without room and board. This means that after four years of study, many of us will have paid over $120,000. Why, in one’s right mind, would anyone browse Facebook all day long considering they’re doing it to the tune of $120,000? It is simply a waste of time and money if you pay for class and don’t show up or pay attention out of laziness.

Nobody forced me to go to college. I could have easily gone on to work a mundane 9-5 job. Instead, I chose to attend a four year university to obtain a degree so I could a work an interesting and satisfying job with a comfortable salary. I’m no 4.0 valedictorian, I’m sometimes late for class, I definitely space out and daydream during class at times, and there are many days when I don’t feel like going to class for whatever reason, but I have missed only half a handful of classes during my time at USF and you won’t find me texting away during class.

Presumably, one attends USF to prepare for a career in the real world. By not going to class and wasting your class sessions, you’re just hurting your future. If boredom is such and issue, I would advise a change of classes or just simply do something other than attend college. If you don’t care about yourself enough to go to a class you paid for, how are you supposed to care about your job and offer a service to others in the real world?

Thomas Munka is a sophomore undeclared major.

Editor-in-Chief: Heather Spellacy

Chief Copy-Editor: Natalie Cappetta

Opinion Editor: Vincent Patino