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Latchem, C. (2018) Open and Distance Non-formal Education in Developing Countries Springer: SingaporeThe author
I was about to review this book when I was informed of the death of Colin Latchem, its author.
Colin was an Australian consultant, researcher and writer in the field of open and distance learning. In the 1970s, he was a pioneer in the UK in the development of educational television and learning resources for universities.
He emigrated to Australia in 1982 to become head of the Teaching Learning Group at Curtin University, Perth, a centre responsible for academic staff development, educational technology and open and distance learning. Over the years he became the ‘go-to’ person about open and distance education in South East Asia. He received the Charles A Wedemeyer award in 2002 for best book of the year on open and distance education. He was also co-editor of the SpringerBriefs series on Open and Distance Education. He was formerly the Asia-Pacific Corresponding Editor of The British Journal of Educational Technology.
Colin was a good friend and colleague whom I have known for over 40 years. I cannot think of a more appropriate way to celebrate a true scholar and gentleman than to review his final work.
Latchem does not provide a precise definition of non-formal education, but distinguishes non-formal learning from informal learning (the spontaneous, incidental acquisition of knowledge) and formal learning provided by schools, colleges and universities. Non-formal learning sits somewhere in between, concerned with providing lifelong learning in support of social equality, employment and development for those denied formal education. It may be provided through NGOs, international or government agencies, employers or social organisations such as community groups.
In open and distance education most of the teaching is conducted by some provider removed in time and space from the learner, using content and approaches that are openly accessible, enabling learners to learn individually or collaboratively at the time and place of their choosing.The importance of open and distance education for non-formal education
Some of the figures Latchem provides about the need for non-formal education are staggering:
- 263 million children and youth did not have access to schools in 2014
- 130 million girls are denied the right to formal education, and are four times more likely to be denied education than boys of the same socio-economic group
- 758 million adults aged 15 years and older remain illiterate, of which two-thirds are women
- there are 60 million refugees or displaced persons without access to formal education
- it would take an extra US$40 billion to provide 12 years of education for all in the developing world, but international aid today is 4% lower than it was in 2010.
Other groups outside the formal education system in developing countries include people with disabilities and people imprisoned. It is of course still the poorest socio-economic groups who have the least access to formal education in developing countries, despite often heroic efforts by national governments.
Latchem argues that conventional face-to-face methods can never meet the scale and extent of the knowledge and skills building and social and behavioural change needed to meet the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals. Open and distance education non-formal education (ODL NFE) is the only way to meet these needs until formal educational provision becomes globally available to all, and even then ODL NFE will still be needed on a large scale.
However, Latchem claims that there has been little prior research into the effectiveness of ODL NFE in developing countries. What little prior research that has been done indicates that previous attempts to use open and distance learning for non-formal education in developing countries were piecemeal and ineffective, mainly consisting of short-term pilots lacking sustainable funding.
Latchem concluded that a review of current practice and progress in this field was long overdue and hence the central concern of the book is about identifying ways in which open and flexible forms of lifelong learning have increased social equality, employment and development for those denied formal education.The structure of the book
There are four parts to the book:
- Background to the study, which examines the Global Development Agenda, and introduces the reader to prior research, and the main elements of ODL NFE.
- A fairly brief description of the main technologies and media currently in use in ODL NFE, including radio, television, mobile learning, OERs and MOOCs, telecentres, and traditional and performing arts.
- A more extensive review of areas in which ODL NFE has been mostly successfully used. These include:
- out-of-school children and youth
- adult literacy, ESL
- gender equity
- disabled, refugees, prisoners
- health care, safe water, sanitation and hygiene
- agriculture and agribusiness
- small and medium-sized enterprises
- education for sustainable development
- A conclusion, including actions needed
Firstly, the size of the challenge in providing education for all. I agree with Latchem that although the long-term goal should be formal education for all, in the short-term this will be impossible for many years in many developing countries, and that non-formal education will continue to be critically important in helping to fill the gap, and that open and distance learning is a valuable, cost-effective means to provide this. (It is also cost-effective means to provide formal education, as well, but that is another book).
Second, though, I was blown away by the many cases Latchem provides of successful ODL NFE projects. The book is filled with over 180 cases and urls to video links which demonstrate the applications. I was particularly impressed by the extent and value of telecentres, and the criteria needed for them to succeed. There are lessons here for developed as well as developing countries.
Third, while cost and access remain a major barrier, I was impressed by the extent to which the Internet and ICTs (particularly mobile learning) are being successfully used in many developing countries. I was also impressed with the use of more traditional media, such as puppets, theatre, song and dance, highlighting the importance of cultural adaptation to local needs. Again I believe there are lessons here for developed as well as developing countries.
Nevertheless, while these success stories are encouraging, there are often systemic difficulties that hinder the implementation of ODL NFE. Latchem identifies the following:
- over-dependence on international aid agencies/NGOs
- lack of sustainability due to overuse of short-term, small scale pilots and insufficient funding
- lack of learning pathways from informal to non-formal to formal education
- the need for a systematic approach/a national strategy for non-formal education
- lack of reliable broadband connection in rural areas where NFE is most needed
- lack of content in local languages
- lack of research and evaluation of projects in terms of outcomes.
Latchem then ends with a set of nine action steps that are needed to advance the ODL NFE agenda.In summary
This book benefits enormously from being written by a single author, rather than a series of articles by different writers. This provides the book with a coherent and consistent message.
I cannot say how thrilled I was to see so many wonderful projects attempting under great difficulty to make the world a better place. Most of these were firmly community-based, and locally designed and maintained, if often with some international assistance. It is one of the most optimistic books I have read for a long while.
It also highlights the naïvity and wrong-headedness of many Western approaches to the use of technology in developing countries, such as believing the importation of American MOOCs (or whatever is the latest technology) is a sustainable solution to education for all. There is a role for MOOCs, but are best developed locally in local languages, for instance, and more importantly, embedded in a local organisation and infrastructure that makes the material likely to be used effectively.
Some of the early content will be familiar to most readers of this blog, but the real target for this book are policy-makers in developing countries trying to tackle the challenge of education for all. This book provides powerful evidence of the role that open and distance education non-formal education can play in making education for all a reality. This is a fitting end to a wonderful career – thank you, Colin.
The culture wars have returned to academe with a vengeance -- if they ever left. Medieval studies, an interdisciplinary field rooted in European history but whose boundaries continue to expand, has seen its share of battles and this week again became the center of conflict.
This most recent dispute involves a proposed boycott of what is considered one of the historically white, male field’s most democratic gatherings. Critics are demanding that the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted by Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute, approve more inclusive, self-critical sessions for the 2019 meeting. They also want the Congress Committee to become more transparent about how it selects the annual program.
“Now is an urgent, contested time in medieval studies and in the world at large,” reads an open letter of concern published Wednesday by the BABEL Working Group, a scholarly collective that supports the congress. “Responding to the field's evolution would mean acknowledging its heightened interest in the perspectives of scholars of color and creating space for these underrepresented voices."
BABEL’s letter echoes a similar personal statement from Seeta Chaganti, an associate professor of English at the University of California, Davis, which was shared by the Medievalists of Color group earlier this week. (Medievalists of Color also signed BABEL’s letter.)
“I can no longer participate in nor support the International Congress on Medieval Studies, [at] Kalamazoo,” Chaganti wrote. “While performing a seemingly virtuous commitment to academic freedom, the actions of this organization’s leadership not only silence marginalized voices but also enable racially-based harassment.”
Prompting such complaints is the recently released program for the next congress, set for spring in Kalamazoo, Mich. Chaganti wrote that while the Medievalists of Color’s proposed workshop on whiteness was approved, all four of the other sessions it sought to co-sponsor were rejected.
BABEL says that while it historically has been granted two sessions at the congress, one of its two 2019 proposals -- on the accessibility of public medieval studies -- was rejected.
Listing a series of other rejected sessions on globalism, anti-racism and anticolonialism, BABEL’s letter says that such topics’ “pervasiveness among proposals implies the urgency with which they currently occupy scholars in the field, and the voices addressing these topics should reflect a commitment to genuine inclusivity and even productive dissensus.”
The treatment of Medievalists of Color, in particular, “minimizes the intellectual guidance that scholars of color would provide at the conference, when these scholars are already severely underrepresented in the field,” the letter also says.
BABEL noted that some other scholarly groups had a much higher rate of accepted sessions.
‘Heart and Soul’ of Medieval Studies
Eileen Joy, a founder of BABEL and founding director of punctum books, an independent, open-access publisher, said in an interview that medieval studies is seeing a fight for its “heart and soul,” harkened by the election of President Trump.
“That’s made some of us sensitive to these issues, more sensitive and more angry than we usually are,” she said.
To the uninitiated, Trump and medieval studies probably seem worlds apart. And in many ways, of course, they are. But Joy and others in her field point out that white supremacists, many of whom support Trump, have misappropriated medieval symbols for their cause. Some of the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., last year carried shields recalling the Knights Templar and symbols of the Holy Roman Empire, for example.
The link between medievalism and white supremacy predates Trump and is not exclusive to the U.S. But Joy and other critics of the congress’s 2019 program say that more attention to these links -- and a more inclusive approach to medieval studies -- is needed now, in the current political environment.
Some of the disputes within medieval studies come down to personalities, as well. Last year Dorothy Kim, an assistant professor of medieval studies at Vassar College, called on her fellow medievalists to condemn white supremacy and thereby break cultural links between the period and white supremacy. In so doing, she found herself entangled with Rachel Fulton Brown, a professor of medieval studies at the University of Chicago.
Fulton Brown, a self-declared political conservative who blogs about her experiences navigating academe, criticized Kim’s call as unnecessary, saying that any real study of the Middle Ages dispels its mythical links to white supremacy. Her many followers agreed, and some targeted Kim online.
Chaganti’s statement says that she asked the congress to block someone involved in the Kim debate -- presumably Fulton Brown -- from a session she and Kim hosted on whiteness at the most recent meeting, in May. But the congress allegedly refused to exclude anyone, citing academic and intellectual freedom.
Fulton Brown, who has defended ex-Breitbart personality Milo Yiannopoulos, and who has written for Breitbart herself, is now accused of insinuating on her Facebook page that Joy is a pedophile. In fact, Joy posted what she called a “rant” about the congress on Facebook, sharing a meme of a feminist Japanese anime character.
In a discussion about Joy's comments on Fulton Brown’s page, one of Fulton Brown's friends suggested that the anime character looked like Pedobear, a internet symbol for pedophiles. Joy, who says that the bear is an example of how Fulton Brown uses tactics of far-right trolls, asked her to remove the reference, and she refused.
Fulton Brown reiterated Wednesday that she did not mention the bear herself, and said that no serious accusation was ever made against Joy. The discussion remains on her page.
Asked about why medieval studies is so prone to controversy, and where she stood on whether it should be defined by time alone or also by geography, Fulton Brown said she’s always been interested in non-European aspects of the field. One of the first courses she ever taught as an assistant professor was on medieval travel, for instance, she said.
Yet Fulton Brown, who studies Christianity, described her corner of medieval studies as primarily European. Attempting to approach it in some other way “is like taking the Renaissance and saying we’re going to study the Renaissance everywhere in the world.”
There are also issues of skill, she said. So scholars studying India in the medieval period would have to learn Sanskrit, or those studying the pre-Columbian Americas would presumably be engaged in fieldwork here.
Joy disagreed, saying that scholars have for decades been working to broaden the concept of medieval studies. "The Middle Ages were never just Christian, European and white," she said. "The only reason people were convinced of that is the way it was defined in the scholarship."
Western Michigan’s Medieval Institute referred requests for comment to the university.
Paula M. Davis, university spokesperson, said the institute is aware of the letters online but that it will not respond until it formally receives them (BABEL plans to deliver the letters, with more signatures of support, next week).
In in the interim, Davis said that the institute “encourages an inclusive and intellectually safe environment that welcomes diverse perspectives.” As a scholarly gathering, it has criteria for considering session proposals, she said, including the intellectual justifications offered, the balance of topics addressed, session format and apparent redundancies.
Davis also said that the institute has an anonymous review panel for the congress, to “provide a candid and forthright review while also ensuring collegiality among all scholars involved.”
Joy and others say that kind of review process has to change, to allow program participants to appeal to the committee directly when problems arise. BABEL's letter doesn't propose a full boycott of the congress, and notes that individual members may still attend. But it says that the group as a whole cannot continue to support the congress if things stay the same. In addition to committee transparency, it specifically requests that Medievalists of Color be afforded the opportunity to present two of the four co-sponsored sessions it proposed for 2019.
Chaganti, who said she will not return to the congress within its current structure either way, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.DiversityEditorial Tags: DisciplinesHumanitiesFacultyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of California-DavisUniversity of ChicagoVassar CollegeWestern Michigan University
West Virginia’s public colleges and universities are reeling this week after the state’s Higher Education Policy Commission named a top West Virginia University administrator as its new chancellor, sparking fears that the flagship university and its president, E. Gordon Gee, are seizing influence.
The commission made Carolyn Long, the president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, its interim chancellor Tuesday. It also suspended a previously announced search for a new chancellor. After commissioners voted on the move, the commission’s longtime lawyer resigned and walked out of the boardroom.
Long has been president at West Virginia Tech -- which is a divisional campus under West Virginia University -- since December 2011. Before that, she was a member of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, where she served as chair from 2008 to 2011. Her rise to commission chancellor sparked fear that she will act as a loyalist to the flagship university and not West Virginia’s other public institutions, which include Marshall University and a number of smaller regional institutions facing financial challenges.
West Virginia officials said concerns about it seizing power are assumptions without merit. Long described the idea of a power grab as silly and said she was disheartened by the idea that she should be denied work at the Higher Education Policy Commission because she worked for another institution of higher education. She called that idea scary.
Nonetheless, the commission does have legal requirements that it select chancellors who are free from institutional or regional biases. And criticism was fierce after Long’s appointment.
“We are witnessing -- much to our disbelief -- an unprecedented hostile takeover of the higher education governing body in West Virginia,” wrote the president of the regional Shepherd University, Mary J. C. Hendrix, in a letter circulated Wednesday. “On July 10, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission installed an interim chancellor who is a West Virginia University partisan and employee, hand-selected by the president of West Virginia University.”
Disagreements flare in many states over the management of public higher education, on issues including state funding decisions and state agencies holding power over higher education. Such situations can turn particularly contentious when a flagship university is viewed as having much more clout than other institutions. But even so, the letter Hendrix circulated stands out as remarkably sharp criticism.
Hendrix wrote that the Higher Education Policy Commission chancellorship was awarded to Long because the commission proposed funding formula changes earlier this year that the flagship West Virginia University did not like. The proposal would have given most regional institutions more money at the expense of West Virginia University, West Virginia Tech and Glenville State College.
“Shepherd University, the lowest funded state institution for over two decades, was to receive a much [needed] $3.4 million added to its budget through the new funding formula,” Hendrix wrote. “The big losers in the new funding model were WVU and WVU Tech, institutions that would lose $9.2 million and $3.2 million, respectively.”
Critics say the Tuesday appointment makes those funding changes far less likely to survive. They also say a recent decision by West Virginia governor Jim Justice to create a blue-ribbon commission to examine higher education gives the flagship WVU power, because the university is heavily represented on the commission.
A Denial From WVU
West Virginia University issued a statement denying that it is attempting to seize power.
“We have significant respect for our colleagues and institutions of higher education across the State,” the statement said. “We are disappointed and disagree with President Hendrix’s allegations and the sequence of events stated. Her assumptions do not have merit; and the university is not engaging in a hostile takeover of our education system.”
The university’s statement went on to say Hendrix declined to co-chair the governor’s blue-ribbon commission and pointed out that any changes to higher education in the state will have to be put in place by the legislators. President Gee of WVU is one of the co-chairs of the blue-ribbon commission, along with the presidents of Marshall and Concord Universities.
West Virginia University’s statement continued by acknowledging the flagship took issue with the proposed funding formula.
“We support additional appropriations for other institutions,” it said. “However, we do not believe that it should come from a decrease in the appropriations to WVU -- the flagship, land-grant, R1 institution in the state with the highest graduation rates and a presence in every county. We are not trying to prevent Shepherd University or any other institution from seeing an increase in appropriations nor are we trying to take over Shepherd or any other institution. We hope in the future to work with Shepherd and all of our colleagues across the state to increase funding for higher education and to increase graduation rates and improve the workforce for West Virginia.”
Gee did not respond to an emailed request for interview Wednesday afternoon.
Fears About Bias
Many of those expressing concern about the Higher Education Policy Commission chancellorship say they hold the new interim chancellor, Long, in high regard. But they also say they worry about whether she can act impartially, or they object to the process through which she was selected for the job.
“I certainly share some of the concerns that have been expressed by our regional presidents that the appointment of WVU Tech president Carolyn Long -- who I happen to have a great deal of personal regard for -- that her employment does raise questions about the ability for the HEPC to continue to act in an impartial manner on the higher education funding formula that the Legislature has directed the HEPC to prepare,” said Paul Espinosa, a Republican who chairs the state House of Delegates Education Committee.
The Legislature directed the Higher Education Policy Commission last year to propose a new higher education funding formula. Espinosa hoped it would create a more transparent and equitable funding formula than the one that exists today, which has “no rhyme nor reason,” he said.
Espinosa was pleased to find the commission approaching that task in a manner he considered impartial. He acknowledged that three institutions stood to lose funding if the commission’s initial proposal were to be implemented but said lawmakers would ultimately need to approve any new model.
Jenny Allen, a nonprofit executive who has headed a fund-raising campaign for Shepherd University, was the only Higher Education Policy Commission member to vote against Long’s appointment to commissioner. She did so after asking that her fellow commissioners be advised on legal requirements for choosing a new commissioner that include the candidate being free of institutional biases and holding no other higher education administrative position.
Some believe those requirements do not apply to interim chancellors like Long. That reasoning doesn’t necessarily reassure Allen.
“There was some debate about whether an interim candidate would necessarily need to have all of those qualities, but because there is an undetermined length of this interim period -- we don’t know how long it will last -- I felt it was important to look to the code for direction,” Allen said. “I also felt that the process lacked transparency, and I wish that we’d had more opportunity to learn more about her and to interview her and to discuss other candidates.”
Rumors About the Future
Rumors are flying fast about what’s next for public higher education in West Virginia. It’s not clear what the governor’s blue-ribbon commission will determine or what action the Legislature might take.
People can support the idea of reform and still believe the recent situation was not handled properly, Allen said. She also worries for the future of the Higher Education Policy Commission, which manages financial aid, seeks grant money and provides oversight.
“Every school wants more money and less oversight,” Allen said. “You can’t fault them for that, but the policy commission is in place partly to provide oversight of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.”
Asked whether the blue-ribbon commission and changes at the Higher Education Policy Commission are a consolidation of power by West Virginia University, Allen replied that “it does look like that.” Asked whether the flagship was seizing power, the lawmaker, Espinosa, said he supports an examination of the state’s higher education structure.
“I’ve certainly heard many of the same concerns that you’ve kind of highlighted, that the blue-ribbon commission does seem to have, based on backgrounds and so forth of some of the appointees so far, does seem to tilt fairly heavily toward West Virginia and some of the larger institutions,” Espinosa said. If recommendations from the groups are not considered fair and impartial, he would weigh them accordingly, he said.
Perception vs. Reality
Long, on the other hand, dismissed the idea that West Virginia University is working to consolidate power.
“I think that’s silly,” she said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s so blown out of proportion. That’s not happening. But again, perception is usually a problem more than reality.”
Long has resigned as president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology, effective Sunday, she said. The idea that she could not be impartial is “certainly not correct,” she continued.
“I’ve been in education for almost 40 years,” she said. “I’ve been a teacher, a principal and a superintendent of schools, all in the same county. No one ever accused me of being prejudiced, even for the same schools where I was a principal.”
Long wants to do her best for the entity where she is currently employed, not her past employers, she said.
“I just think the premise is kind of scary, because the premise is if you work for a college, you can’t go work for somebody else,” she said. “That bothers me.”
West Virginia University’s president, Gee, did not ask Long to take the chancellorship, but he supported her for the job if she wanted to do it, she said. Asked whether the chair of the Higher Education Policy Commission asked her to become chancellor, Long said she was not going to talk about which commissioners approached her. She did say she had previously been approached by a search firm seeking to fill the chancellorship on a permanent basis.
The Higher Education Policy Commission named a new interim chancellor instead of continuing its search for a full-time chancellor amid fears that the governor’s blue-ribbon commission had thrown the state’s higher education ecosystem into question, making it hard to recruit a new candidate for the permanent job. The Higher Education Policy Commission had been searching for a new chancellor because its current chancellor, Paul Hill, was retiring. But Hill was said to be willing to stay on because of the creation of the blue-ribbon panel. He has now been moved to a paid consultant role for six months.
The idea of Hill staying on as chancellor had won support from the leader of West Virginia’s Council of Presidents, which includes presidents of all of the state’s four-year institutions. That leader, Kendra Boggess, who is also president of the regional Concord University, wrote commissioners earlier this month asking that Hill be allowed to remain chancellor and raising concern about conflicts of interest should Long become chancellor.
Boggess still has concerns, she said in a telephone interview Wednesday. They include the proposed funding formula and the future of the Higher Education Policy Commission.
“In a lot of states when you have a commission that’s kind of a governing body, you’ve got really unhappy relationships between schools and the commission, and we’ve never had that,” Boggess said. “They’ve gone out of their way, I think, to help us and provide and develop the resources we need, particularly the regional schools. I know it’s different if you’re a flagship and you have 50 attorneys on staff, but they provide us with a lot of efficiencies. I worry about that not being available in the future.”
The skeptic may wonder why the outcry has been so strong about the Higher Education Policy Commission when a governor-appointed blue-ribbon commission was already created that could make the some of the commission’s work moot. But Hendrix, the Shepherd president who called Tuesday’s actions a “hostile takeover,” said she was worried about the way things came together.
“The concern is directed at the process -- or lack thereof,” she said in an email. “The regional presidents and legislators were simply informed about the appointment of the interim Chancellor, whose credentials in higher education are considered by many to be modest compared with Chancellor Hill. Certainly, the courtesy should have been extended to HEPC staff and the regional presidents to at least interview the interim candidate and/or suggest additional candidates. The last time I checked, we live in a democracy!”
She also expressed concerns about the blue-ribbon commission co-chaired by West Virginia University’s president, Gee. More than a third of members already appointed, 36 percent, are connected to West Virginia University.
Four of the state’s regional institutions each have 9 percent representation on the panel, Hendrix said. That equals West Virginia University’s 36 percent.
“But it is hard to imagine that their voices will be equal weighted,” Hendrix said in her email.
Others are trying to find a way to focus on policy in the midst of the palace intrigue. Jerome Gilbert, the president of Marshall University, is also co-chairing the blue-ribbon commission. He’s proposing taking about $10 million of a surplus the state is running and using it to provide additional funding to regional institutions. Doing so would address funding issues those institutions face without having to take money from other universities.
“You’ve got to throw some ideas out there,” Gilbert said. “That’s going to be one of the challenges. Which direction are we going to go if we’re going to solve the funding issue?”
Yet Gilbert acknowledged that the last few weeks have been tumultuous.
“I think all of our heads are kind of spinning, still,” he said.Image Caption: Shepherd U (left) and West Virginia UIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Marshall UniversityShepherd UniversityWest Virginia University
Actor Michael Torpey, known for his role as corrections officer Thomas Humphrey in Orange Is the New Black, kicked off his brand-new game show with a personal story: “My wife and I struggled with student debt and could only pay it off because, true story, I booked an underpants commercial,” he said.
But for the remaining 45 million Americans with student debt? “Sadly,” he said, “there just aren’t that many underpants commercials.”
That's where Paid Off comes in. The TruTV game show invites three college graduates, all saddled with debt, to compete for the chance to have it wiped out. Torpey, the show's host and creator, leads the contestants through rounds of questions about things they should have learned in and outside the classroom. Each right answer earns cash toward their loans, and even when the last-place player is eliminated, he or she gets to keep what's earned.
Tuesday's premiere episode featured categories like "Ology-ology," which required the players to guess a field of study based on its description, and a segment in which contestants had to guess the names of planets after insult comic Alan Jones dissed each one. Unlike on Jeopardy! or Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, the questions were easy, which emphasized that the show's primary goal is not to stump players but to draw attention to the issue of student debt.
Its straightforward political message: Congress needs to do something about educational debt.
After Nico, an education major from William Peace College with $17,350 of debt, was eliminated, Torpey ushered him to the symbolic "direct to Congress" telephone. On the way to a commercial break, Nico dialed and said, "Hello, Congress? Your boy Nico here."
Jay, a graduate of St. John's River State College with $20,462 of debt, was eliminated after failing to distinguish which character names were from the movie Goodfellas or the children's television series Thomas and Friends. Before Jay left the stage, Torpey presented him with a card for Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, thanking her for her work on the student debt issue.
Madeleine, an anthropology major from Davidson College with $41,222 of debt, made it to the final round, telling Torpey, "Right now I live a tiny little loft apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, and I would love to marry my boyfriend and move into a home with a yard for that dog."
The host responded, "That's the real-life stuff debt can be holding people back from."
In order to have her debt paid off, Madeleine had to correctly answer eight trivia questions in 60 seconds, ranging from "What mile-high city legalized the purchase of marijuana?" to "An atom is composed of particles called protons, electrons and what?" She just missed the cut with seven correct answers and walked away with $24,462 -- more than half of her debt.
Throughout the show, Torpey worked in many calls to action -- at the end, he signed off by saying, "It doesn't have to be this way. Call your representatives right now and tell them we need a better solution than this game show."
But Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, doesn't think constituent calls will make anyone budge on student debt.
“I don’t think it’s going to change any hearts and minds in Congress,” he said. “If your representative is a Democrat, they’d probably already like to do something about student debt, and if they’re a Republican … they’ll talk about how much money the government already spends on higher education.”
While student debt can be burdensome, said Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow at the Urban Institute, it's not the primary reason people like Madeleine aren't buying homes.
"The evidence that we have about the relationship between student debt and home purchases is really weak," she said.
Income is the biggest factor in later-in-life purchases, Baum said. "It’s really clear that if your income is not high enough, you’re not going to buy a house." For most people, wages are "significantly higher" when they go to college.
"We need for wages to go up, we need for the labor market to be strong, we need enough opportunities for people to make money,” she said.
As far as debt goes, Madeleine, Jay and Nico are all about average -- the typical graduating senior who takes out loans carries about $30,000 to $35,000 of student debt, according to Kelchen -- but it's not people like these three contestants who are hit hardest.
"Dropouts are the ones who default," he said. "Graduates by and large don’t default on their loans."
Baum was also wary about dramatizing the issue too much, since, for many, loans are necessary to pursue a degree.
"If we in any way communicate that student debt is always a bad thing, then that’s a problem, because many people who could benefit tremendously by going to college will only be able to go if they borrow some money," she said.
She'd also like to see a greater diversity of contestants in future episodes. "If they’re single mothers who went to for-profit institutions and got ripped off, that would be great."
Tuesday's 30-minute premiere caused a lot of buzz among 20- and 30-somethings hoping to be cast on the show.
"Trying to figure how to get on #PaidOff on @truTV with @TorpeyMichael," one user tweeted. "I've got some murdersome student debt I'd love to get rid of. Anyone have any tips?"
"Current pediatric nurse. Student loans suck! How can I get the opportunity to be on your show?" another asked.
Others, like Massachusetts state senator Eric Lesser, weighed in on the political message: "Sign of the times. We NEED debt free college, universal community college, and actual solutions to the student debt crisis. Not game shows," Lesser wrote.
Torpey broke the news on Twitter that season one was already a wrap.
"Unfortunately we are all done shooting the first season," he wrote. "If you enjoy the show, tell @truTV to order more episodes. Then we'll be able to help more folks with their student loans."
Thanks to everyone asking to be part of #PaidOff Unfortunately we are all done shooting the first season. If you enjoy the show, tell @truTV to order more episodes. Then we'll be able to help more folks with their student loans. I hope you enjoy tonight's premiere! - Michael— Michael Torpey (@TorpeyMichael) July 10, 2018 Image Source: TruTVImage Caption: Jay, Madeleine and Nico compete to have their student debt wiped out on TruTV's new game show "Paid Off."Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Davidson College
While institutions have focused on enrolling more high school graduates and seeing them through to commencement, new federal data suggest that students from lower socioeconomic classes still have trouble with access to higher education.
According to a report released Thursday by the Center for American Progress, major gaps still exist in enrollment between students from wealthy, well-educated families and their more impoverished peers.
“I think it’s an important reminder that we still have a lot of work to do on college access,” said Ben Miller, the report’s author. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on getting students to complete college and that’s totally warranted, but who even gets in the door of a school is an important thing, too.”
Miller, a former Education Department official in the Obama administration, is CAP's senior director of postsecondary education.
The center looked at data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics -- it pulled from one of the department’s longitudinal studies that followed 23,000 students starting in 2009, when they were in ninth grade.
Students were divided into three groups that the department developed, a composite measure that includes income, as well as parental education and occupations.
About 70 percent of the students in the study had enrolled in some sort of college, either two- or four-year, by February 2016. But the differences among the socioeconomic classes were stark -- 90 percent of the students in the highest group had gone to college, compared to just 56 percent in the lowest.
The highest achievers in the lowest group weren’t enrolling in college at the same rate that their counterparts in the top group were.
Low-income students with the highest scores on math assessments enrolled in college at a rate 18 percentage points lower than those from the top group who earned similar scores.
And it was easier for the students in highest group who scored poorly on those same math tests to enroll in college. About 73 percent of students in the highest group who had earned low scores still went to college, compared to 41 percent of the bottom group who had earned low scores.
“There tends to be a lot of focus on high-achieving students from lesser means and how it’s unfair that they don’t go to college at higher rates,” Miller said. “And that’s undeniably true -- but what’s really striking in the data, where the higher education system is even more unfair, is how it extends to all kinds of students, and excludes opportunities for students from lesser means with middling academic results. I think that matters if you think about hitting broad national goals for college attainment.”
The students in the lowest group were disadvantaged in other ways, too. Only 36 percent of them attended a four-year institution, either public or private, compared to 80 percent of students in the highest group.
Black and Hispanic students, too, were far less likely to attend the more selective colleges and universities compared to their white peers.
About 19 percent of the white students in the study attended a highly selective college, versus 9 percent of Hispanic students and 7 percent of black students.
“These schools have greater sources on which to draw than do most other types of institutions, and they can put students on the path to particularly prestigious job opportunities that may not be as available to those who attend less selective institutions,” Miller wrote. “And these benefits are particularly important for underrepresented students.”
The disadvantages for minority students have been documented in other federal data.
Last year, the National Center for Education Statistics published a report on groups of students who took out loans and enrolled in college in 1995-96 and 2003-04. Almost half of the black borrowers in the 2004 group defaulted on at least one loan. That default rate was more than double that of white students' 20 percent; Asian students defaulted at a rate of 11 percent.
About 75 percent of black borrowers who failed to finish at a for-profit institution also ended up defaulting.Editorial Tags: EnrollmentDiversityFederal policyIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: