PBS NewsHour: Rethinking College

PBS NewsHour About the Show

PBS NewsHour's annual “Rethinking College” series takes a critical look at how higher education is evolving to address the challenge of  providing better post-secondary quality learning experiences with practical civic and workforce applications to more students, especially those in underserved communities with underrepresented populations. | Official Website


Gone Missing: Latino Males on College Campuses

The largest and fastest growing minority group in the nation—have the lowest educational attainment level of any group. In 2014, 75 percent of Hispanics graduated high school but just 15 percent graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree. The Latino population, grew 43 percent between 2000 and 2010, and by 2020, one in four college-age adults will be Latino. These projections, couple with economist predictions that 63 percent of jobs will require a postsecondary degree by 2018, have educators scrambling to figure out why Latino's - in particular males - are so woefully underrepresented on college campuses today. To look at the cultural and financial obstacles preventing hispanic males from earning college degrees, we will profile Project MALES (Mentoring to Achieve Latino Educational Success) in Austin Texas. Project MALES is headed by Victor Saenz, author of recent book, Ensuring the Success of Latino Males in Higher Education. Saenz staff took the NewsHour team to middle and high schools in Austin where undergraduate mentors were counseling latino boys most likely to forgo post-secondary credentials.

The New Urban College Model: A profile of HBCU president Michael Sorrell

Paul Quinn College, an Historically Black College in Dallas Texas, was struggling when President Michael Sorrell took it over.  Sorrell immediately restructured the college into what he calls, “The New Urban Model.” According to Sorrell, this new model delivers both a “rigorous liberal arts education and real world work experience” One of the first things Sorrell did in the restructure is cancel the football team, which he says was costing $600,000 annually. He turned the football field into a farm which has become a symbol of the remade college and it caters to the surrounding community that has long been considered  a federally recognized food desert. Paul Quinn students work the first two years on campus, then are placed at businesses around Dallas for the next two years. Sorrel says work exposure and experience is key to launching his students on the path to self sufficiency, “83 percent of our students are Pell Grant-eligible,” explained Sorrell, “which means by and large that their families have a dysfunctional relationship with wealth and with work.”

Second Chance Pell Grants

The Second Chance Pell Pilot program restores Pell Grant money to prisoners - after it was taken away by Congress in 1994. Since that time, prison populations have soared and recidivism is cited as the number one reason. Supporters point to a 2013 Rand study that found incarcerated people who took part in prison education programs were 43 percent less likely to return to prison. For every dollar invested in correctional education programs, Rand estimates that four to five dollars are saved on three year re-incarceration costs. Many Republicans were quick to criticize the program, saying it rewards people who break the law at the expense of hard-working Americans and that the administration doesn’t have authority to act without Congress. Hari interviewed inmates accessing college classes now, congressional critics of the experiment, and Education Secretary King for this report.

Digital credentialing: can higher education offer the workforce more than just a degree?

In the past few years, multiple surveys have shown a disconnect between the knowledge and skills that employers say they want in a potential hire, and what the skills and knowledge students leaving four years of college can show they’ve learned. As a result, students, parents, and employers are asking what is value and return on investment of a bachelor's degree? Georgetown University is trying to bridge that gap. The college  created experimental courses that award digital badges to students who complete competencies that prove they have what it takes to be a “Catalyst.” Taking the concept even farther are those in the education space who think the shift to a skills economy means universities should unbundle the degree. The NewsHour features Georgetown’s experiment and education and workforce on the topic. We spoke to Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, Job recruiters, and GU students and professors involved in GU’s pilot program.

The Coding Alternative

Attendance in coding bootcamps has exploded. According to Course Report, the bootcamp market will grow by 2.4x this year, rising from 6,740 in 2014 to over 16,000 in 2015 with job placements at 90% and & starting salaries as much as $70,000. But until recently the cost of coding bootcamps has been a deterrent for many non-traditional students who have neither the time to forgo current jobs or the money it pay the coding class tuition costs. Recently, a few innovative ideas to expand the reach of coding skill courses have taken root. Skills Fund, a private equity firm, now offers low interest loans similar to the cost of federally funded student loans. Also this summer, the federal government announced experimental sites where traditional college campuses will partner with coding bootcamps companies to offer financial aid for bootcamps. The move has worried some education analysts who point to the failure of some for-profit colleges, who practiced predatory lending with title IV money only to see students fail and default on their government loans. At the same time, Silicon Valley has been derided for lack of diversity in their hiring, and has asked mobile coding trainers, CodePath, to create a pipeline of ethnically diverse coders and are offering free coding training to student groups throughout the country. The NewsHour team followed three non-traditional students, who graduated from high school and been in the workforce for years, but decided to take advantage of these new post-secondary opportunities to launch their coding careers.

Funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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