Tuesday Reading List: Partisan Politics in College Regulation, College for All (Sort Of), and Daily Inspiration

David Whitman of The Atlantic takes a historical look at partisan response to for-profit colleges:

In Congress, on the presidential campaign trail, and in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, Republicans have been unified in the belief that the Obama administration badly overreached in its attempts to regulate for-profit career colleges that leave graduates unable to pay off student debt with income from the jobs for which they were trained ... What’s surprising about this GOP consensus is that it is deeply at odds with conservative practice: Republican administrations, dating back to President Eisenhower, have traditionally pressed for tighter regulation of for-profit colleges, often over the objections of Democratic lawmakers ... The answer is simple. Far from being free-market paragons, accredited for-profit schools typically depend on federal student-aid programs for 75 percent or more of their revenues.

Whitman juggles both policy and history here, and it's fascinating to see how the perspectives of the parties have evolved on this issue over the years. In particular, Democrats seem to have embraced the expansion of access to higher education with the use of public funds, even though that access was provided by the private sector. While I'm sure that folks will bend over backwards to use this history to shame contemporary Democrats who reject K-12 voucher schemes, that comparison is a false one ... we already have universal access in K-12. The problem is quality and equity, neither of which markets alone are capable of solving.

In other news, Laura Faith Kebede of Chalkbeat looks at the fine print for Tennessee charter school management organizations that participated in that state's Achievement School District:

When two charter school operators announced plans to leave Tennessee’s turnaround district this spring, many people were surprised that they could break their 10-year agreements ... But in Memphis and across the nation, there’s nothing to stop charter operators from leaving, even when they promise to be there for a long time. Contracts signed by both Gestalt Community Schools and KIPP contain no penalties for exiting the Achievement School District before agreements run out, according to documents obtained by Chalkbeat.

Kebede talks to lawyers and policymakers to determine whether there ought to be penalties - or at least deterrents - for charter operators who exit in this manner. Legalese aside, It seems pretty lousy to leave in the middle of an organization's commitment to the community. I'd love to hear more from local students and families about this ... are they devastated, happy, blasé, or somewhere in between?

Sarah Garland of The Hechinger Report looks at New York's plan to make college tuition free:

A few months ago, young people rallied around Bernie Sanders in large part because of his proposal to provide free tuition at public colleges and universities. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has taken up the cause, vowing to make college tuition-free at state schools in New York for students whose families earn less than $125,000. If approved by the Legislature, his Excelsior Scholarship plan would cost an estimated $163 million annually by 2019, when it fully phases in, and go further than any other state plan in making college more affordable. But some higher education experts say the proposal misses the point. They argue his plan will mostly help middle-income students who are already likely to attend and then graduate from college, not those least likely to go and most in danger of dropping out once they get there.

Garland points out that the most vulnerable children and families - including the one she profiles in this article - will not be eligible for the program, because they're not already full-time students. There are huge college completion inequities in this country, across lines of both class and race; those disparities will not be solved with financial assistance alone.

Finally, the team at Blavity shares an uplifting story from Boston:

Lovely Hoffman, a teacher at Boston’s Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, noticed comments about their looks were beginning to take a negative toll on the young girls she teaches ... Determined to do all she could to ensure her students weren’t racked by the same self-doubt she had been, Hoffman took her talents and wrote a song called “My Black Is Beautiful” to encourage them. The song features Hoffman’s students, and is full of body positivity, celebrating the full spectrum of black appearance. 

Have a great day!