Unimpressed edition

U.S. News ranked colleges for study abroad. Readers think they could do better.

Global Study: U.S. Students Pay More

Traveling abroad is said to help you better understand your own culture. Likewise, looking at comparative international data can underscore aspects of your home higher-ed system. So my main takeaway from the latest report by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development on global education trends was: Wow, earning a college degree in the United States is expensive.

Only Luxembourg spends more per college student than does the United States, according to the OECD report on education trends across nearly 50 countries. But 65 percent of all American spending on higher-education institutions comes from the private sector, more than double the OECD average. And of the private-sector funding, two-thirds comes from households, yet another sign of how much American students and their families have come to bear the expense of a college degree.

Per-student spending on higher education

I’ve written, a lot, about the costs of college, but seeing the international comparisons threw the issue into greater relief.

A few other trends caught my eye:

  • More people than ever are going to college. Forty-four percent of 25 to 34 year-olds in OECD countries had some sort of postsecondary degree, up from 35 percent a decade ago. In the U.S., the rate is even higher; half of young adults have a degree.

  • But the gender gap is growing. Globally, one in two women have a degree compared to one in three men. The American gender gap is narrower, with 54 percent of women aged 25 to 34 and 45 percent of men holding degrees.

  • The return on higher education is greater in the United States. Workers with a postsecondary degree or credential here earn 72 percent more than high-school graduates. The average differential for OECD countries is 57 percent. 

There’s lots of data to dig through. What trends stand out to you?

Britain Reinstates Post-study Work

International students will be able to stay and work in the UK for two years after graduation. The move, announced by the government last week, reverses a controversial 2012 decision to scrap the existing post-study work visa as part of an effort to drive down immigration numbers. It will begin with students who graduate in the 2020-21 academic year and will apply to graduates in all majors.

The move was hailed by British universities who said limits on post-graduation work put their institutions at a competitive disadvantage globally. Indeed, since the 2012 change, Britain had lost market share in a key country, India, to other destinations:

For certain groups of international students, gaining work experience, even temporarily, can be worth as much as the foreign degree itself. In the U.S., students can work for one year after graduation, or for three years if their degree is in a STEM field, through optional practical training. But the program has been dogged by authorization backlogs, court challenges, and fears that the Trump administration could roll it back, all or in part.

It will be interesting to see if the UK can make up lost ground by reinstating the ability to work. And could it make British universities more attractive vis-à-vis the U.S.? Time will tell.

New Ranking Highlights Study Abroad

For the first time, U.S. News has ranked the best colleges for study abroad, as part of its annual rating of American colleges and universities. Elon University, in North Carolina, topped the list of best institutions for sending students overseas.

Great, right? A longstanding critique of U.S. News is it that too heavily weights inputs, like SATs, in sizing up institutions. Study abroad was among eight areas that contribute to student success that the magazine now measures. Others include co-ops and internships, undergraduate research, and service learning. 

My chief reservation with the ranking, however, is that it relies wholly on reputation, with the top colleges determined by nominations from college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans. Specifically, U.S. News says, “The rankings are solely based on the number of top-15 nominations they received. Schools had to receive 10 or more nominations to be listed.”

Naturally, I wanted to know what Twitter thought. Many of you echoed my concerns about methodology, questioning how familiar colleges would be with competitors’ programs and whether presidents and provosts are best positioned to do the nominating:

You had some ideas about how improve on the U.S. News ranking, including:

In the end, though, you weren’t necessarily optimistic U.S. News would do better next time:

Let’s keep the conversation going. You can find me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Around the Globe

A student-run political journal at Vanderbilt University deleted an op-ed that criticized the “wholesale import” of Chinese students into American colleges.

State-sponsored hackers in Iran are continuing to target American universities.

International students bailed out (some) colleges in the last recession. Don’t count on them as a safety net in the next downturn. My latest.

A student leader in Hong Kong fled the city after being beaten by a masked man. Davin Wong, president of Hong Kong University's student union, played a prominent role in pro-democracy protests.

British universities are bracing for a wave of anti-Brexit protests.

U.S. prosecutors have charged a visiting professor from China with fraud for allegedly taking technology from a California company.

Amnesty International says the former president of Xinjiang University is in danger of being “imminently” executed.

Oxford tops Times Higher Ed’s list of the world’s best universities. Caltech is #2.

And finally…

Yale-NUS has canceled a program to introduce students to modes of dissent and resistance in Singapore. The project “does not critically engage with the range of perspectives required for a proper academic examination of the political, social, and ethical issues that surround dissent,” Tan Tai Yong, the liberal-arts college’s president said. He added that elements of the weeklong program could run afoul of restrictive Singaporean laws on speech.

Back in New Haven, Yale President Peter Salovey expressed concern that the program’s cancellation could “threaten” the principles of free expression and open inquiry on which the joint liberal-arts campus was founded. He asked Pericles Lewis, Yale-NUS’s inaugural president and now a professor/administrator at Yale, to conduct a fact-finding.

Incidents like this one were what Yale professors who opposed the Sinaporean partnership feared. Can you have a liberal-arts institution in a society that doesn’t safeguard speech and critical thought? I plan to return to this issue next week. In the meantime, email me your thoughts. I’m at latitudesnews@gmail.com.

’Til next week – Karin

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