Author Archives: Phillip Burgoyne-Allen

Should a Pro Football Player Endorse For-Profit Colleges?

If you’ve watched the Arizona Cardinals play during this year’s NFL season, you may have seen a commercial for the University of Phoenix featuring Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who earned his bachelor’s degree from the school earlier this year.

It’s a powerful commercial, both heartwarming and melancholy. However, should Fitzgerald — widely regarded as one of the better role models in sports today — really be supporting a for-profit college?

These types of institutions, which offer flexible course schedules and career-oriented education, are uniquely suited to professional athletes, many of whom opted out of finishing college to pursue their athletic careers.

As a result, Fitzgerald isn’t the only star athlete who’s become a University of Phoenix graduate during his career. For example, Arizona Diamondback’s All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt completed his degree in 2013.

However, for-profit colleges have faced criticism for misleading and defrauding students, leaving them with large amounts of debt and little to show for it. Amid the collapse of industry giants like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has even created a “Student Aid Enforcement Unit.” Continue reading

Rubio and Obama Find Common Ground on the Skills Gap

A statement made by Florida Senator Marco Rubio has received a lot of attention in the days following this week’s GOP primary debate. He said, “For the life of me, I don’t know why we have stigmatized vocational education. Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers.” As multiple fact-checkers have pointed out, the statement on relative income is not true, as both philosophy majors and professors make significantly more than welders. Despite the flawed example, Rubio’s larger point highlights a critical and very real issue for America’s economy – a significant gap between the supply and demand of skilled workers.

For example, a report from Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute released earlier this year predicts that America’s manufacturing industry will need 3.4 million workers over the next decade. But there is an expected shortage of 2 million workers. Why? The demand created by an “impending onslaught” of baby boomer retirements will greatly outpace the supply of skilled STEM workers.

An overwhelming number of employers also have challenges filling open positions due to a lack of qualified candidates – more than half report having open positions that they cannot fill. And they cite gaps in education related to specific skills and new and shifting technologies as two of the primary drivers of the problem.

There has been some recent action at the federal level to address this issue. For example, the Deloitte report notes that the Obama Administration has awarded nearly $1 billion in grants to community colleges that support creation and expansion of manufacturing education programs, and another $100 million is now available to establish apprenticeship programs.

Additionally, the Administration continues to implement its Experimental Sites Initiative, authorized under the Higher Education Act. It allows the Department of Education to waive certain statutory and regulatory requirements for Title IV federal aid, allowing for experimental federal aid eligibility to partnerships between colleges and alternative education providers, such as job skills boot camps, coding academies, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Congress is also turning an eye towards the skills gap issue, as both chambers’ education committees have indicated in recent weeks that they will work on reauthorizing the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The law, which supports secondary and postsecondary programs that train students for specific careers, has not been revamped since 2006. It’s still too early to tell where these efforts will lead, but maximizing the alignment of career training programs with the needs of employers will be critical.

Post-debate poll results from the Wall Street Journal (one of the debate’s sponsors) indicate a strong showing from Rubio, and he is on a good trajectory to compete for the nomination. He is also the only candidate that has made career and technical education a large part of his platform. But regardless of what happens in the 2016 election, it’s imperative that we continuing building momentum to address our growing skills gap. Otherwise, we’ll have unfilled jobs and unemployed workers that aren’t qualified to fill them.

Tupac Shakur’s Thoughts on Education

This week marks the 19th anniversary of the death of rapper and actor Tupac Shakur. After attending a boxing match in Las Vegas, Shakur was murdered in a drive-by shooting, possibly connected to a prior gang-related altercation. Most people are familiar with this violent side of Shakur’s biography. Fewer, however, know of the more artistic parts of his life. He studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet as a child; he famously met Maya Angelou while working on the set of the 1993 film Poetic Justice; and an anthology of his poems was published after his death.

Shakur also had strong views on education. The video below, recorded when he was just 17 years old, reveals some interesting opinions, including support of localized, differentiated curricula, a skepticism regarding foreign language courses, and a focus on practical learning.

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