Education

Does everyone really need a college education?

For more than a century, Wisconsin has held up the basic idea that every student should have the chance to earn a college degree and that a public university system bolsters growth and investment throughout the state.

But now there's a growing debate on whether the cost of a diploma is really worth it.

Students and families are taking on enormous debt with no guarantee of a well-paying job. Some ask whether technical or online learning might be the smarter choice.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

In his speech last night, President Trump asked Congress to pass a broad school choice initiative.

"I am calling upon members of both parties to pass an education bill that funds school choice for disadvantaged youth, including millions of African-American and Latino children. ...

"These families should be free to choose the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school that is right for them."

We're all familiar with the term "hidden in plain sight." Well, there may be no better way to describe the nation's 6,900 charter schools.

These publicly-funded, privately-run schools have been around since the first one opened in St. Paul, Minn., in 1992. Today, they enroll about 3.1 million students in 43 states, so you'd think Americans should know quite a bit about them by now. But you'd be wrong.

At a congressional luncheon in their honor Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos told leaders from historically black colleges and universities that the Department of Education "will continue working closely with you to help identify evolving needs, increase capacity, and attract research dollars. We will also work closely with you to launch new initiatives that meet the needs of today's students."

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This afternoon, President Trump signed a number of executive orders including one recognizing the importance of historically black colleges and universities. He called those schools a grand and enduring symbol of America at its best.

Rachel Morello

Imagine someone hands you a bonus -- a few hundred extra dollars. How would you spend the money? That’s a question facing Wisconsin school districts.

Tressie McMillan Cottom studies for-profit colleges as a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has analyzed large data sets, scrutinized financial filings, interviewed students and staff. But she has also helped enroll students at two different for-profits herself.

They're not named, but known only as "Beauty College" and "Technical College" in her new book, Lower Ed.

NPR Ed has covered both the rise, and some of the travails, of this form of education. We called up Cottom to hear her thoughts. Here's an edited version of our conversation.

We've written a lot about the link between college and the workforce — and the kinds of skills graduates will need in the 21st century to succeed. One of the skills you need is knowing how to present yourself. To put your best foot forward in the workplace, and in life.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The cost of college is high and rising, while a bachelor's degree is practically required to get ahead.

It's hard enough for a family with means to get a student through school these days, let alone a low-income family.

So, are the immediate costs of college, and the loans that can follow, worth it?

Tales of talented black students on majority-white campuses running through a racial gauntlet that has them questioning their brilliance, abilities and place are familiar to parents like me who have a college-bound child at home.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Welcome to our second weekly roundup of notable national education news! (Missed us last week? Find it here.)

The biggest ed headline of the week, of course, had to do with:

Transgender students and Title IX

From humble origins as the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, raised in the Bronx in the depths of the Great Depression, Mildred Dresselhaus scaled to great heights in the scientific community and attained the status of royalty — even if only in nickname.

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