A Hedge Funder's Advice for Students; Larry Summers on Grade Inflation

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Today in academia: learning from hedge funds, choosier for-profits, Larry Summers latest zinger, a school with less student debt, and a call for an election day vacation.

  • Larry Summers thinks grade inflation is a still a pretty big deal.  The ex-Harvard president is never one to sugar-coat opinions (especially, it seems, towards the ridiculed Winklevii). At a conference, Washington Post blogger Daniel de Vise interviewed Summers on a variety of higher education's "bad ideas" and Summers dutifully delivered yet another zinger on grade inflation at the Ivy back in 2001: "Ninety percent of Harvard graduates graduated with honors when I started," Summers said. "The most unique honor you could graduate with was none." And in small student-to-teacher ratio seminar classes it's worse: "Nobody in a seminar ever gets a C," he said. [The Washington Post]
  • Advice for students from hedge fund managers: technical schools look good. The latest in The Wall Street Journal's aptly-named "Generation Jobless" series offers an overview of advice from investors who are experts in "bonds backed by bundles of student loans." Why should we listen to them? "Their investments depend on accurately predicting young people's ability to pay their loans." Ah, Ok, here's some of their advice: 1) In "the current economy, it may make more sense to enter a technical college than to go to law school." 2) This seems like it takes a lot of foresight but: "Students should pick schools where the payoff from higher salaries upon graduation exceeds the cost of the education by the widest margin." And 3) "Law school, on the other hand, can end up a sucker's bet in periods of high unemployment" (like now). [The Wall Street Journal]
  • You want students to go to the polls more? Just have colleges declare Election Day a vacation.  That's the simple solution offered to get the youth turnout up in 2012 by American University professor Leonard Steinhorn at HuffPost. He seems to have big hopes: "every college and university should institute a fall break wrapped around Election Day, giving students time off not only to vote but also to knock on doors and become a vital part of the democracy whose reins they will soon take." Even though it may be a bit optimistic, there's a good idea in it: since some students presumably fly home on vacations, out-of-state students would be able to vote back at home if, you know, they don't just treat it as a normal vacation day. [Huffington Post]
  • Some for-profit colleges are getting choosier too.  This year, they've been hit with scrutiny for their cutthroat recruiting practices and poor graduation rates (and there's also that one widespread fraud investigation). But, Inside Higher Ed reports that changes are coming: "Kaplan and Phoenix are trimming back their incoming classes to become more selective." Meaning: "Both institutions recently began new programs that make it easier for unprepared students to leave without taking on debt, and for the universities to show them the door."  [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Yale students are dealing much better with debt. Last week we noted a new study from a non-profit that estimated the average student who graduated with loans was about $25,250 in debt. Yale, proudly reported it's student newspaper, is doing much better in that department due to it's "no loan" ("financial aid that is loan-free") policy: "The study placed Yale’s average student loan debt for the class of 2010 at $9,254 — roughly $15,000 below the national average." [Yale Daily News]

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