Another strategy is "prior learning assessment," whereby students get college credit for on-the job and military training, volunteer experience, and hobbies. Credit is usually granted through placement tests, assessments of student portfolios, or according to the American Council on Education's recommendations. Some employers and colleges—like Starbucks and City University of Seattle—have struck up partnerships that allow employees to earn college credit for workplace training.
Career and Technical Education
After years of being pushed aside to free time for academics, career-focused learning is back. High schools, community colleges, and companies are banding together to help increase the opportunities students have to gain technical skills—often spurred by new state laws, like those in Texas and Georgia, that put a bigger emphasis on career and technical education.
Policymakers stress the economic benefits of CTE: Students with specialized training or skills find it easier to get hired in this tough labor market. Educators like that CTE can help get more students excited about math and science. Given that CTE and college preparation no longer have to be divergent paths, college costs are rising, and it remains hard for young people to find work, there's much less political opposition to career training than there used to be. The Next America recently profiled a majority-minority school in Georgia that illustrates this new vision for career and techinical education.
Seventy-one percent of students who graduated from college in 2012 carry student-loan debt, some as much as $49,000 for a four-year degree. A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll found that 42 percent of students blame colleges and universities for rising college prices.
As outrage grows over America's student-debt burden that now exceeds $1 trillion, policymakers will likely continue to focus on making college more efficient and cost-effective, not on drumming up support for a major public reinvestment. While there's much colleges and universities can do to provide a better service—such as ensuring students who enroll don't drop out—the focus on performance ignores the main causes of the student-debt crisis. State and federal funding for higher education and financial aid has dropped radically since the 1980s, and today's college students are less well off than they used to be.
This year saw the beginnings of a backlash over the collection and storage of student data, including grades, contact information, and disciplinary records. Look no further than the furor over data-storage company inBloom. A recent Fordham University study found that most contracts between school districts and Web-based services lack privacy protections.
Schools and colleges have embraced data-driven software to help them track student progress. Proponents of data collection and analysis point out that federal and some state laws limit how children's educational records can be shared. But a whole lot of parents don't trust the government to keep data secure, or don't trust corporations not to abuse access to information about how individual minds work.