Will your college major land you a job after graduation?

-by Mark Huffman, 9/3/15, ConsumerAffairs.com

“College freshmen, who are settling in on campus this week, probably arrived at school having already settled on a major. However, they might want to read this before finally making up their minds.

The workplace has its own needs and it turns out that colleges aren’t supplying as many graduates to fill those slots. In some cases, they might be providing too many in other less-in-demand fields.

Researchers at Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI), working in association with employment site Careerbuilder.com, looked at post-recession trends in education and compared them with trends in hiring.

Unique inflection point

“The market is at a unique inflection point, and we need to make sure that we’re educating workers to have 21st century skills for 21st century jobs,” said Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder.

The study uncovered a positive development. After years of promoting science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines, colleges are turning out more students with STEM degrees.

But the survey also showed a slowdown in overall degree completions – especially those tied to developing strong communications and critical-thinking skills – and Ferguson says that’s concerning.

“Nearly half of employers say they currently have job vacancies but can’t find skilled candidates to fill them,” he said. “We need to do a better job informing students and workers about which fields are in-demand and growing, and provide them with access to affordable education and training, so the journey to a high-skill job is an achievable one regardless of their socioeconomic situation.”

Degrees in demand

So which degrees are most in demand? The study found more than half of the top 10 broad programs leading the U.S. in degree completion from 2010 through 2014 were in STEM fields. There was a 49% growth in demand for degrees in science technologies.

There was a 45% increase in demand for degrees in natural resources and conservation. Demand for graduates with a background in parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness was up 44%, exceeding demand for experts in math and statistics, which rose just 35%.

There was also strong hiring demand for graduates with backgrounds in law enforcement and engineering.

The study found most of this growing demand occurred during the most recent year. If you happen to be majoring in one of these areas, you might have multiple job offers after graduation.

Degrees out of favor

If you are majoring in the humanities, job prospects might not be as bright. From 2010 to 2014, the study found only nine broad program categories experienced decline, nearly all of which were in humanities and social sciences.

Demand for applied science degrees were down 30%. There was a 17% drop in demand for library science degrees.

Of course, business needs often change and can do so relatively quickly. What’s hot today may not be in demand tomorrow. The study found that culinary services demand grew from 2010 to 2013, then declined after that. The same is true for law degrees.

And if students are not really suited to an in-demand field, entering it might not be such a good idea. As we reported in April, a study by RTI International found that while nearly a quarter of high performing students who began pursuing a bachelor’s degree between 2003 and 2009 declared a STEM major, nearly a third of these students had transferred out of STEM fields by spring 2009.”

Community colleges continue to shake up education


-by Mark Huffman, 8/31/15, ConsumerAffairs.com

“While policymakers have wrung their hands over the increasing cost of a college education, and students and families have been buried deeper in student loan debt, community colleges have evolved into an efficient, practical, and affordable educational choice.

That’s the conclusion of a study of the nation’s community colleges by WalletHub, a personal finance website, which finds in some cases community colleges are outperforming four-year colleges and universities.

Community colleges have long been associated with students who couldn’t win acceptance to a traditional college or university, and with non-traditional students – those returning for their education while holding down a full-time job.

“Much of their ‘second-rate college’ stigma stems from three factors: price, demographics and graduation times,” the authors write. “Although their relatively cheaper tuition rates are a clear incentive, affordability also signals subpar educational quality to skeptics. And with an average student age of 28, the nontraditional profile of the typical community-college attendee perpetuates a misconception — one that assumes these students flunked out of high school and consequently failed admissions standards at ‘real’ universities.”

The study points out that a vast majority of non-traditional students are balancing their studies with jobs, family, or both — commitments that often limit their enrollment to one or two classes per semester and force them to delay graduation.

Drawing traditional students

But increasingly, as college tuition costs have skyrocketed, many traditional students have chosen to attend a community college for their first two years – at much less cost – then finish at a traditional four-year college, drastically reducing the cost of a bachelor’s degree.

The WalletHub study also notes that in 22 states, community colleges have expanded to include four-year bachelor’s degree programs in high-demand fields.

Besides their low cost, the study finds schedule flexibility, rigorous coursework, and smaller class sizes make community colleges appealing to a wider number of students. Of course, some of these institutions are better than others.


The WalletHub study compared 670 community colleges in the U.S. to find the best, relying on a total of 17 key metrics, ranging from the cost of in-state tuition and fees to student-faculty ratio.

Among the winners is Dine College of Arizona, which scored the lowest cost of in-state tuition and fees.

Guttman Community College in New York spends the most per student. It was also tops in Highest Level of Collaborative Learning and Highest Level of Student-Faculty Interaction.

Renton Technical College took top honors for the Highest Graduation Rate.

Six schools – West Georgia Technical College; Alabama Southern Community College; Dine College; Rich Mountain Community College in Arkansas; Columbia College and Porterville College, both in California, tied in the important category of Lowest Student Loan Default Rate.

Northern Oklahoma College was judged to have the Highest Return on Educational Investment.

According to the College Board, the average in-state tuition at a community college is $3347. That compares to $9,139 for in-state tuition at a public four-year university.”

Career Menopause…”Too Old to Rock’n Roll, Too Young to die!!!”


Coping with “Career Menopause”
-by Bronwyn Fryer
OCTOBER 28, 2009

“Night sweats. Heart palpitations. Crying jags. Mood swings. I’m a 55-year old woman, well and gratefully past that hormonal “change of life.” So what the heck was this thing?

My brilliant (and younger) colleague Julia Kirby took me out for a glass of wine and patted my arm. “Don’t worry,” she told me sympathetically. “It’s career menopause.” Count on Julia to consistently deliver le mot juste.

I’ve always loved my job, but for ages I’ve been feeling something else — call it a longing for greater self-fulfillment — tugging at me. Relatives and friends have had brushes with death, or have died. I, too, have felt the shadow of my own mortality. I’ve been aching to write The Great American Novel, or volunteer for the Peace Corps, or sing in my own band, or do some other as-yet-undefined-thing — before it’s too late.

I’ve spent sleepless nights wondering whether I could possibly afford to make a career change — an especially crazy idea in a down economy.

Those of us in Jethro Tull’s “Too Old to Rock and Roll, Too Young to Die” cohort are caught in a bind. We’re working at full-tilt because we have dependents and financial obligations — we can’t afford to retire early. At the same time, we’re getting tired and thinking of downsizing. We are proud of our well-honed experience and skills, but we’re also yearning to polish long-neglected aptitudes or build new ones. Many of us are frustrated and restless.

I called Marc Freedman, who runs a think tank called Civic Ventures. His organization studies issues affecting boomers who are undergoing psychic, generational, physical and economic transitions.

“An enormous number of people your age are hitting the career wall,” Marc told me. “You’ve been working very hard for a long time. The ‘pause’ in the term ‘career menopause’ catches it exactly. It feels awkward, uncomfortable, personal, and lonely. But you’re not alone at all.” Marc observed that at my stage of life there is no clearly-defined path, as there is for my college-bound daughter. “You are in a do-it-yourself situation.”

According to a survey by Civic Ventures:

  • A majority of Americans in the 40-70 age bracket want work with more meaning (i.e., work that contributes directly to society such as teaching, healthcare, government or nonprofit work).
  • 2/3 of those interested in what Freeman calls “encore careers” want to use their skills and experience to help others.
  • Those most interested in ‘encore careers’ are trailing-edge boomers – ages 44-50.
  • And get this: 84% of those who found jobs in education, healthcare, government and nonprofit work say they get a huge amount of satisfaction in their jobs.

So what are we all make of this? If we want to “retire retirement,” what other options do we have?

I finally hit on a solution that works for me. I’ve changed jobs — I’m no longer a senior HBR editor but a “contributing” editor. I love the title. (Hey — I’m contributing!) In my new role I’m off the payroll but working on freelance projects for my company. I’m also diving into new undertakings — volunteering in a hospice, songwriting, and catching up on the part of me that’s been ignored for a very long while.”

Textbook sticker prices soar, but expanding options keep expenses in check


August 17, 2015 6:00 am • by Pat Schneider

UW-Madison student Kezia Weigel-Sterr was at University Book Store on the State Street Mall Wednesday to pick up the only text for the fall semester she was not able to rent online from a bookseller or publisher.

Her total textbook price tag: $286 — a lot less than the $400 or so she has paid in past semesters.

As a political science major, the books her instructors assign are not typically the big wallet busters used in some classes, particularly the sciences, but some courses require a lot of texts.

“There was one class last semester that had eight different books,” said Weigel-Sterr, who will be a sophomore in September.

She rented all those books and for another class used a reserve copy of the text at a university library instead of purchasing it.

“Nobody else was looking at it, but I could only have it out for two hours at a time,” she said.

For another course, her professor, Donald Downs, gave students a book he had written that was used as the text, Weigel-Sterr said.

Her story illustrates how college students are increasingly staying away from buying textbooks as a way to keep their spending down as the sticker price for books continue to soar, along with other college costs.

Textbook prices have climbed some 1,000 percent over the past four decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with some titles now costing $400 or even $500. But students have been spending less on course materials in each of the past few years, according to a survey of the National Association of College Stores.

Students’ average annual spending on course materials dropped from $701 in 2007-2008 to $563 in 2014-15, according to the association.

The inclusion of non-renewable computer codes needed to access supplementary materials has driven up the price of some texts and obstructed the used-book market, said Patrick McGowan, president of University Book Store.

But student expenditures are nevertheless dropping because fewer books are being required as course materials, he said.

On the UW-Madison campus, instructors are increasingly using open educational material — notes, articles, and databases that either are available free on the internet or for which the university has purchased access, McGowan said. About 40 percent of courses being offered on campus this fall have no required books, he said.

That’s one reason that the most frequent visitors to the lower level of the book store — where the stacks of textbooks are located — were people in search of the public restroom on a recent weekday afternoon.

The other reason is that online registration for classes means that the crush to register and buy texts right before the start of the semester is a thing of the past. Students now have plenty of time to shop for the best price on their books and plenty of websites on which to do it.

For University Book Store it means that revenue from textbook sales is dropping “from the mid to high single digits” every year, said McGowan. But textbook sales and rentals still account for about half the revenue at the store, where the main floor focuses on the sale of Bucky Badger apparel and other items.

For many years, the university libraries did not purchase textbooks, but that has changed in the past decade, said university librarian Edward Van Gemert.

“Our observation is that more and more students are forgoing purchasing print textbooks,“ Van Gemert said. They may find ways to share the cost, and often postpone getting a textbook until it is clear it is actually required for a course, he said.

So the library has stepped in to provide access to some textbooks. For example, in 2013-14, the library spent $25,279 to purchase 538 course-related books and videos. A separate “high-cost textbook” fund of $4,000-$5000 a year buys multiple copies of particularly expensive books used in high-enrollment classes that are held on reserve at multiple libraries for two-hour loan.

Many instructors are helping students reduce course material expenses by seeking out open educational resources, said professor Kristopher Olds, chairman of the department of geography and a senior fellow in educational innovation.

Those materials — texts, podcasts, videos and other visualizations — are designed to be available digitally at low or no cost, Olds said.

UW-Madison is trying to get a handle on the development and use of such resources on campus, and will soon launch a study, he said.

The interest in open resources is spurred by an appreciation of the high cost of curriculum materials, a culture that says knowledge should be shared and technological innovation that facilitates sharing, Olds said.

Research also shows that ready access to curriculum materials, without obstacles of cost, enhances student engagement and outcomes, he said.

Instructors are sensitive to the cost of the materials they assign, said Alex Chase, a UW-Madison senior who works at the book store.

“Working here, I’ve been able to see that it’s a thin line they walk between giving students the best and latest information and the price,” said Chase, who is majoring in legal studies and political science and plans to go to law school.

And students network about how to keep the price of books down, said student Mariel Leering, also a book store employee.

“I belong to a sorority and I ask around for someone who has the book and can tell me if it’s really necessary,” Leering said. “And working here I’ve learned that the earlier you buy books, the likelier you are to find used ones. So I passed that along to my friends.”

She said everyone routinely shops websites like Amazon and Chegg for the best prices.

“It adds up,” she said. “If you save $5 on five textbooks, that’s $25.”

Leering, a junior, is studying genetics, a field where textbook prices can be high. But a friend is lending her a $150 textbook for one class this coming semester, leaving her to purchase only one $120 text and a couple of course packets of materials collected by the instructor.

Leering figures her course material expenses will total $150.

“For once, I’m not spending $400,” she said.

Not that she’d actually be paying that full $400. Her grandfather frequently buys some of her books and she has had a college fund since she was a child, Leering said.

“I was lucky,” she said, “hopefully I won’t be in too much debt when I’m done.”

UW-Marshfield prof says cuts at colleges could slam door to education for many


-by Pat Schneider


“A proposal to merge University of Wisconsin System colleges with the state technical college system — on top of a plan to regionalize the UW colleges — threatens to slam the door to education for Wisconsin students who need it most, said UW-Marshfield/Wood County associate professor Kelly Wilz.

The contraction of the two-year school system through cuts in state funding to the UW System is sparking an exodus among the skilled and dedicated instructors who are her colleagues, Wilz wrote on her blog, Dissent and Cookies, in a post picked up by The Academe Blog of the American Association of University Professors.

“The UW Colleges literally embody the Wisconsin Idea — the idea that everyone should have access to affordable, quality education. And now we’re losing our best,” wrote Wilz, who teaches communications and theatre arts.

The “best” faculty at UW-Marshfield, said Wilz, are those who go the extra mile to help their students — part-time, returning and first-generation — succeed.

“Why? Because that’s what you do … when you believe in students who have never been told they’re worthy. That they matter. That it doesn’t matter if they are the first ones in their families to go to college because we’re here to help them navigate those waters,” Wilz wrote.

She joined the chorus of critics who point to departing colleagues as a sign of the UW’s decline.

Because who wants to work in a system that may not exist a few years, that has been so crippled through defunding and divestment it’s barely able to function?” she wrote.”


UW professors ask Robin Vos for a seat at the table on tech college merger proposal


-by Pat Schneider

“UW-Madison faculty urged Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to open up talks on the possibility of merging the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Their request came in the form of a letter from PROFS, a faculty advocacy organization, delivered Wednesday.

Assembly Republicans were to meet privately Wednesday to devise ways that the two systems could “team up to cut costs, find efficiencies and eliminate redundancies.”

Legislators should instead “create a transparent and inclusive process for any review of public higher education in the state,” faculty said in letter signed by the 18-member steering committee of PROFS.

They pointed to the controversial, abandoned plans to create a public authority for UW-Madison in 2011 and the entire UW System earlier this year as proof that “closed-door negotiations” on plans to restructure higher education in Wisconsin don’t succeed.

A better model is the public debate that preceded the 1971 merger of the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin State University system, they argue.

UW-Madison has a direct stake in the current discussion because of collaboration between UW-Madison’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and UW Extension, with some faculty holding dual appointments, PROFS leaders said.”


Businesses who need trained workers should, well, train workers…

-by Chris Rickert

Employers worry about labor shortages. One man’s shortage is another man’s raise!!!

Besides finding qualified workers, concerns over rising health care costs are also prevalent.

“If more than four years of total Republican control of state government isn’t providing the companies that belong to Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce with the skilled employees they need, then maybe they should try doing more of what they should have been doing already: Hire unskilled people with brains and work ethic and train them themselves.

WMC President and CEO Kurt Bauer is only the latest business representative whose rhetoric suggests workers should be showing up for their first day on the job ready to contribute to the company’s bottom line.

And if workers haven’t shelled out their own money for the training they need, they should be able to rely on legislators to force the taxpayers to shell out.

“Wisconsin business leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated with the lack of qualified workers as well as the lack of action by politicians to address the issue,” Bauer said in a statement detailing the results of the latest WMC survey of business leaders.

The survey and meetings with WMC members show worker shortages run the gamut, Bauer told me, from entry-level to more advanced positions, from machinists to IT professionals.

The group supports funding technical colleges and Wisconsin Fast Forward, a state worker-training grant program, as ways to close the skills gap. It also participates in state efforts to reinvigorate company apprenticeship programs.

WMC’s latest survey didn’t try to ascertain how much WMC members themselves were doing to train workers, but Bauer said that’s something the lobbying group encourages, too.

“The strategy and approach changes depending on the sector of the economy, but apprenticeships, internships, part-time jobs, etc., are all part of the solution,” he said.

“Businesses that ‘grow your own’ will have a major leg up on their competitors.”

That’s good to hear, because it’s not as if Gov. Scott Walker’s administration, its allies in the Legislature and taxpayers have been doing nothing.

Technical colleges have seen cuts, but Wisconsin Fast Forward has approved the award of $12.5 million in grants since its creation in 2013, according to the Department of Workforce Development, and DWD and Walker’s office said more than $100 million went to worker training in the 2013-15 budget.

But neither should elected officials, taxpayers and job seekers have to do everything.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life, none of which I was specifically trained for by anybody but my employers.

Before I was allowed near one of the massive woks at the Chinese restaurant where I worked, for example, I spent hours cutting up vegetables into variously shaped tiny pieces under the tutelage of my boisterous and politically incorrect Asian boss.
Think “The Karate Kid,” but with food and more profanity.

The benefit for my employers is that I was a blank slate upon which they could write their way of doing things. The benefits for me were skill sets I was paid to attain.

Among the benefits to taxpayers was they didn’t have to foot the bill for the schooling I needed in order to make one mean Szechuan beef — that is, until I was actually able to make them one mean Szechuan beef.”

Read more: http://host.madison.com/news/local/columnists/chris-rickert/chris-rickert-businesses-who-need-trained-workers-should-well-train/article_00fa9a1b-fb0b-58f1-8781-0f621c7f1e19.html#ixzz3dFTJ49gd

Most colleges now weigh high school discipline records in admissions process

6/3/15 • By Pat Schneider

A new study reveals that the vast majority of colleges look at student disciplinary records during the admissions process, a practice that college access advocates call a civil rights issue that disproportionately bars students of color and students with disabilities from higher education.

“Education Suspended: The Use of High School Disciplinary Records in College Admissions,” found that three-quarters of colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information, and that 89 percent of those institutions use the information in making admission decisions. The study, conducted by the Center for Community Alternatives, also found that half of all high schools disclose disciplinary information to colleges, even though they are not required to do so.

What’s more, 75 percent of colleges that include disciplinary records in admissions do not have written policies on how to use them and 62 percent of high schools have no written policies on disclosure of the records.

The Center for Community Justice, a New York-based nonprofit organization, advocates on behalf of students involved in the criminal justice system.

Since a 2012 release of federal data showing that African-American students and students with disabilities were disproportionately suspended and expelled, school districts across the country — including the Madison Metropolitan School District — have been revamping discipline policies in an effort to end the disparity.

This study looks at how the disparate impact of school discipline practices may follow students beyond their K-12 years.

“The stark racial disparities in the application of suspension and expulsion make the use of this information a civil rights issue,” the authors write.

Officials from the Center for Community Justice are calling on college admissions officers to stop asking for the disciplinary files of students and for high school officials to stop providing them.

“In the absence of data that show how many students are accepted or rejected once they disclose a disciplinary record, it is not enough for college admissions counselors to offer assurances that a school disciplinary record is not likely to impede admission to college,” the study’s authors conclude. “Moreover, vague assurances will do little to assuage the fears of students who are the most vulnerable to school suspension – poor students of color, whose life experiences have subjected them to exclusion in many social domains.”

As for the high schools’ participation, one argument raised by the study appeals to the to high schools’ self interest.

“High schools do not benefit from disclosing the information because it may limit access to higher education for their students,” Emily NaPier, a senior research associate and spokesperson for the CCA, told Education Week.

Sweeping changes to public education in Wisconsin draw national attention


-By Jessie Opoien | The Capital Times

Changes proposed for public education in Wisconsin are drawing national attention.

While the Legislature’s budget committee prepares to take up proposals to cut $300 million from the University of Wisconsin System and to make expansive changes to the Department of Natural Resources, the rest of the state — and country — is still taking note of sweeping changes to Wisconsin’s education system approved last week.

The Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss published a rundown on Thursday under the headline, “What the heck is going on with Wisconsin public education?” And earlier this week, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers called one provision in the 29-page proposal passed by the Joint Finance Committee “breathtaking in its stupidity.”

While Strauss focused largely on funding for public and private schools, Evers was referring to a provision that would allow DPI to grant teaching licenses to people with a certain amount of work experience and teacher training who wish to teach technical courses. They would not be required to hold a bachelor’s degree.

Also under the bill, teaching licenses for those who wish to teach English, social studies, math or science could be granted to anyone with a bachelor’s degree who demonstrates proficiency and has relevant experience in the subject.

Evers said those changes would give Wisconsin the most relaxed licensing standards for teachers in the nation.

“It essentially says whoever you hire will be licensed, and for me that’s a huge step in the wrong direction,” he told the Wisconsin Radio Network.

Another ‘first’ prompting objections within DPI: “for the first time ever, there is no increase in state imposed revenue limits over the next two school years, while voucher and independent charter school payments are increased in each year.”

The provision also would grant a gradual expansion of the statewide voucher program. Initially, participation would be capped at 1 percent of the students in each district, but in 11 years the limit would be lifted.

The expansion would be modeled after the state’s open enrollment system, with tax money following the student. It would increase the amount of per-pupil aid for taxpayer-funded voucher schools to $7,200 per K-8 student and $7,800 per high school student.

Democratic lawmakers on Thursday decried that provision, citing a legislative memo that says the expansion could send up to $800 million in taxpayer money to private voucher schools over the next decade.

According to the memo, prepared for Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, “Although a long-term estimate of payments for incoming statewide choice program pupils is speculative at this time, total payments from 2015-16 to 2024-25 could range from an estimated $600 million to an estimated $800 million.”

Jim Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, called the memo “speculative,” while Democrats accused Republicans of diverting money from public education to benefit private schools.

Republican lawmakers have said throughout the budgeting process that funding K-12 education is a priority for them.

Under their budget motion, public schools would retain a $127 million cut proposed in the governor’s budget for the 2015-16 school year. The following year, they would receive about $70 million more than Walker proposed. But Democrats say the voucher expansion negates any good done by that measure.