Thursday Reading List: Higher Education, Civic Engagement, and Chance the Rapper

Kevin Carey is in The New York Times this week, looking at a potential radical shift in higher education pricing:

The master’s degree business is booming. College graduates looking for a leg up in the job market are flocking to one- and two-year programs that promise entry to lucrative careers. Top colleges are more than willing to provide them — for a price. Tuition for a 30-credit master’s in computer science from the University of Southern California runs $57,000. Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Carnegie Mellon charge over $43,000 for the same degree. But one highly ranked program, at Georgia Tech, has taken a very different approach. Its master’s in computer science costs less than one-eighth as much as its most expensive rival — if you learn online.

There is evidence that this approach to pricing is opening up the door to many more masters students, and there are compelling anecdotes suggesting that the online participants may be even more engaged than average in-person students. As the quality of these programs continues to improve, my own take on this is moving from skeptical to curious.

Elsewhere in higher education, Emily Deruy is in The Atlantic examining the ramifications of Longwood University deciding to host a vice-presidential debate:

Fast forward to the fall of 2015, when the school was awarded the debate: [college president] Reveley asked his new provost, Joan Neff—who had been at Richmond for the ‘92 debate—and a couple of other faculty members to move on some of the ideas they’d been exploring at the planning level and get them ready for implementation for this fall. Neff, Reveley said, was a good choice for the job because she had “a natural knack and understanding of how catalytic these events can be,” and she’d lamented that Richmond hadn’t incorporated the excitement around the ‘92 debate into the curriculum in a structured way, and was eager for the opportunity to do that at Longwood. Long story short, more than 30 courses were either created or reworked to focus on the debate and, more broadly, the idea of students as citizens-in-the-making. 

This story is a great example of a university reasserting its role as a center of civic life, and it's fascinating to see how a single event was catalytic in that awakening.

Speaking of events that can spur civic engagement, Andre Grant at Blavity looks at a special approach to voter registration:

Chance the Rapper [is] partnering with the NAACP to make sure that the good folks that come out to see the show will be voting in November ... The NAACP's Youth and College Division will be at the tour stops to help voters register. NAACP president Cornell Brooks gave kudos to Chance for this action, stating, "Chance the Rapper is an artist whose music praises and lifts up our common humanity, and whose call for action speaks to the yearning of this moment. This year, more than it has in a generation, we must use the power of our voices and our votes and exercise our sacred right to vote.” Chance says that he's doing this because it is important for young people to turn out for this election.

When it comes to voter registration, I'm in the "by any means necessary" camp. In a perfect world, it would be much easier to both register and vote. But our country relies on thousands of borderline incompetent - and often racist or corrupt - municipal governments to run elections.

Finally, Tim Kane, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, takes to the pages of Commonwealth Magazine to dispel a lot of myths about the Massachusetts charter schools cap:

More than two decades ago, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized a series of small-scale experiments called “charter schools.” We now know that many of those experiments worked beyond expectation. In fact, charter schools in Boston and Lynn are generating gains in achievement that are large enough to close achievement gaps by race and income in a few school years. It is an historic achievement, and it’s no wonder that thousands of families in Boston and other cities are now wanting to move to charter schools. Question 2 in November is not a referendum on local public school districts, of which voters in many communities in Massachusetts are understandably proud. Because the referendum involves the cap on charter school enrollment, it only impacts parents and students in communities that are at or near the current cap.

As more and more evidence comes out, the case against public charter expansion in Massachusetts looks flimsier and flimsier. Have a great day!