Sunday, April 10, 2011

UW Admissions and the Budget Cuts

After the Seattle Times published a front page article: Why Straight-A Students Won't Get into the UW this Year there has been a firestorm of comments in the media and blogosphere--and I have gotten quite a few emails about it.

Let me give you my take on this article and on a variety of related topics ( budget cuts, the quality of the UW student body, and the quality of out-of-state students) from the viewpoint of someone in the system and the undergraduate adviser for my department.

First, it is a fact that the UW has been hit by large budget cuts over the past few years and that the impacts have been profound. On top of the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of State support over the past two years, the proposed state budget cuts UW funding by roughly a third--190 million. Tuition increases (13% authorized) only make up a small proportion of this. A few more years of such State cut-backs and tuition increases and the UW will be essentially be a private school.


The impact of past cuts have been substantial and to give you a feeling for this let me tell you what has happened in my department. First, we have lost teaching assistants (TAs). I teach 101 and we used to have 3 for 240 students. Now I have only two (and there is a possibility it might be one next fall). Let me assure you that this TA reduction has a significant impact for students--less help, less interactions from the TAs. In addition,we have lost roughly half of our state-supported staff. In the "old" days there were funds for curriculum improvements and equipment for undergrad labs. No more.

To keep the doors open, we have increasingly used research funds to fill gaps when appropriate (and sometimes when it is not), but this action has taken away funds that should have been applied for long-term improvement of our research efforts. And while our competitors in other states have gotten new buildings, ours has major problems, from inferior labs to lack of power/cooling for our computers. And deductions for medical insurance, parking, and other fees are going up rapidly for all staff and faculty. Most departments are not replacing faculty that retire or are hired away by other schools--the UW teaching staff is shrinking.

The state budget cuts are so large that the UW administration has turned to a desperation measure: increasing the number of out-of-state students. This is clearly a hot-button topic--one inflamed by the irresponsible article in the Seattle TImes headlining the rejection of "straight-A" students...more on this later. Out-of-state students pay three-times more tuition than in-state undergrads--and supply net financial surpluses. Importantly, by accepting more out-of-staters the UW can secure enough funds to SUSTAIN THE NUMBER OF IN-STATE STUDENTS. This is such an important point that it bears repeating. The State is cutting funding so substantially that economizing (getting rid of TA, bigger classes, less profs) is not enough to maintain the current in-state student body. So by increasing the number of out-of-state students in-state student support can be partially stabilized.

At first, the UW was simply going to increase the number of out-of-state students, with the same number of in-staters, but things got so bad they were forced to a small (150 slots) drop of in-state students (replaced by out of state) to make things balance. Now lets us take up some major myths.

Myth 1: Out-of-state-students generally have inferior grades/SATs than in-state students.

Not true. In general out-of-staters have superior records--this is based on my direct experience and from UW statistics. Consider the students accepted this fall that indicated an interested in atmospheric sciences. The GPAs for in and out of staters were essentially identical (3.80), but the out-of-state students had math SAT scores that were 76 points higher. This is a huge increment.

Myth 2: The UW is rejecting straight-A students with excellent qualifications in lieu of weaker out-of-state students.

The Seattle Times made a big deal about this. The truth is that UW admission is based on more than just grades...and it has to be so. There has been huge grade inflation, particularly in our state. An "A" grade does not mean what an "A" signified 20-30 years ago. Many students have 3.8 GPAs and beyond. That is why the UW has wisely turned to a more holistic evaluation. Are the courses taken challenging? ("A"s in less challenging courses don't mean so much). Does the student has strong SATs? What about extracurricular activities than demonstration interest and motivation? So it is theoretically quite possible for an A student not to get in if other factors are not strong. And top schools like Stanford follow the same approach. Even with all that said I suspect the very few 4.0 GPA students with reasonable course loads and board scores are rejected by the UW.

My next point will probably get me into huge trouble. So be it--it needs to be said.

Not all UW students belong in the UW.

Ok, I got it out. My feeling (one shared by many UW faculty that I have talked to) is that the UW student body can be divided into roughly three parts:

The Golden Quarter: About 1/4 of our students are simply stellar--bright, motivated, prepared...as good as you get in ANY school. They do well in college and generally go on to highly successful careers. They take advantage of the huge opportunities of the UW (e.g,. participation in research). Just a pleasure to teach and interact with.

The Middle 50%: These are students with the ability to do well, but their motivation and interest varies. They are happy with B grades and even the occasional C. Some of these students can really be turned around, while others are happy to float through.

The Bottom 25%: These students basically aren't interested in learning. For them, the idea is simply to pass with minimal grades. The UW is high-school continued and they are here because they didn't know what else to do or were pressured by family and friends. Most of the them came to the UW with very weak backgrounds (far weaker than any serious freshman should have). For example, many of these folks are not comfortable with basic high school math--like fractions and solving simple algebraic equations. They shouldn't be wasting the classroom space.

Now some of the problems above are due to our state's poor K-12 educational system and you know I have discussed the math part many times. A large percentage of our high school students are coming to college unprepared: they can't do basic math, they can't write well (or spell well), or work creatively. And the problem is just not their skills but their attitudes towards learning.

When I teach 101 I am really shocked by these attitudes--many expect that the exams will just be the homework with different numbers and that they can do a make-up if their grade is poor (you should see the look when I disabuse them of this notion!) Many have the attitude that their poor grades are the INSTRUCTOR's problem. Each class I am stunned by how many students are playing with their cell phones and smartphones during class--or spending most of the class on their laptops. And I don't think this is an issue of class quality...my ratings are uniformly high.

So lets get back to the UW admitting more out-of-state students. From my perspective, this is a good thing. Yes, it helps partially make up for the legislature's draconian cuts. But more importantly, the UW is a nationally, if not internationally, leading university and we SHOULD be drawing students from far afield, with the assurance that a large proportion of the students (say at least 50%) come from our state. The UW is more than just about educating students...it is a vital research enterprise that provides intellectual vitality to the state. We supply individuals that will help ensure the economic future of Washington..and quite frankly the origin of the the students doesn't matter as much as where they end up (here). To put it another way, the UW is an effective tool to effect a brain drain of the nation's best into Washington State--something necessary by our poor attempts to educate our own students.

By drawing more nationally, the UW student body will progressively get stronger and as these students graduate the reputation of the University will strengthen (as has happened for Michigan). And replacing the bottom 25% with highly motivated, successful students is really a good thing for everyone...including the students that don't really belong here. Many of them never graduate anyway.

I think the above direction is inevitable, since the State Legislature looks at the colleges and universities as a big piggy bank to be raided....and we are all to blame for this situation...at least everyone who has voted for the Eyman initiatives or supported candidates who don't understand the importance of investing in our schools and our future. And for those--including many in our education schools---who have allowed the quality of state instruction to decline to such a low level.

Perhaps strangely, I am very optimistic about UW's future. We will go through some wrenching years as we transition to being essentially an essentially private school--and the UW administration will have to be careful to maintain the core strengths of the institution as we adapt (they are doing a good job at this so far). But after roughly five years we will be on our own...no longer dependent on the vagaries of the State legislature and state coffers..and no longer worried about the next ill-advised initiative. Tuition will rise to perhaps 12,000-15,000 a year...a bargain for such a excellent education (thankfully we starting with very low tuition compared to comparable schools). And some of the tuition increase will go into scholarship aid, insuring that those of lesser means are not prevented from getting a UW education. The UW funding will be stable again and the student body will be stronger. A better time.

61 comments:

Rene Peterson said...

I agree 100%. I am a 15 year veteran middle school teacher and have lived in Washington state for over 18 years. I am originally from Connecticut and remember the shock when I realized that curriculum in this state (in general) is one and a half to two years behind what we were taught in my school district in Connecticut.

We get what we pay for. People should look up what people in other states pay for quality education.

Never supported an Eyman initiative, and never will. His politics are selfish and short-sighted.

Allen Moore said...

Thank you for providing an insider's insight into what otherwise would be a very one-sided story.

jd said...

Leaving the comments open on this post is brave.

suzie said...

How about this for cost savings? Get rid of the people who sold our student's seats to outsiders. Hire smarter leaders who will work for a lot less.

Emm said...

Great post, Cliff. I don't always agree with you, but this is spot-on. Your optimism about UW's long-term future is very heartening.

Anne said...

I think it's imperative for universities to maintain a level of educational quality for students to get in. If the state standards don't create enough students to meet some quote, tough caca.

My kid want in to Western in the fall of 2012. I hope he gets there. Though I must say Missoula seems to be courting him strongly. I'm getting emails from admissions (I guess) that sound like they're written by a 9th grader.

"Dear Parent,

I've been trying to stay in touch with Nolan, and I'm pleased to say it's been a great conversation so far! You have raised a very talented individual, and I'm impressed with the achievements I've seen so far. I'm also impressed by the initiative Nolan has shown during the college search process. It shows me that your student is ready for a terrific college career.

Speaking of college search, I want to let you know that I'm very excited to help Nolan find and get into the right college. I want to let you know that I'm pleased to be a resource to you as well!

In fact, all of our staff is thrilled to offer any support we can. That's why we developed the First Year Initiative. It serves as many things, It's a free support center, it's a guide through various situations Nolan may encounter during the freshman year, and it's a real person with a friendly face waiting to help. It's also a resource for you as a parent. Check it out here. You'll notice that you can chat online with an advisor or look up upcoming events."

My child has had no "conversation" with this school, but did mention it as a possibility in his PSAT info. I feel like we're getting emails from a middle school student!!!!

Robt Reed said...

Cliff - You are preaching to the converted.
If only 51% of us were the converted!
cuz' right now, we all live in Tim Eyman Land.

lhsouthern said...

well my A student will not even be considering the UW at all. She has a much better chance of getting in @ WSU after taking a year of community college ( if there any left in 2012-13)!

Shane said...

i'm very fortunate to be graduating this year. my program at uwt gets such low support it's totally amazing how well the staff manages the work load.

typingtalker said...

Readers may find this paper of interest.

In-State versus Out-of-State Students:
The Divergence of Interest between Public Universities and State Governments

"States have an interest in using their public universities as tools to encourage economic development ...

"However, universities’ interests are different from those of their states ...

" ... attending college in a particular state raises graduates’ probability of locating in that state as adults, but the increase is greater for students from in-state than those from out-of-state. States therefore have an interest in universities favoring in-state over out-of-state students as applicants for admission ...

"Public universities in particular often have a financial incentive to favor out-of-state over in-state students, because ou-of-state students pay higher tuition and public universities may be able to keep the additional revenue for their own purposes.

http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/cheri/conferences/upload/2001/chericonf2001_01.pdf

Jennifer said...

Great perspective. Thank you! I agree we (UW, the state's intellectual capital) are going to be better off in the long run.

Meekohi said...

"Does the student has strong SATs? What about extracurricular activities than demonstration interest and motivation?"

Glenn said...

Cliff,

You're right. And it's scary. When UW becomes what you describe as a "private school" where to the smart, but poor kids go? As the economy gets worse, scholarships become scarcer too, and our friendly federal legislature seems to be putting Pell Grants on the block. It seems like a total loss of human potential to me.

Glenn,
Marrowstone.

Peter Willing said...

Totally agree, as a '88 Husky and child of a renowed UW professor.

LeeAnn Balbirona said...

The idea of UW becoming the state's public "private school" is interesting. Do you think some departments at UW will benefit more than others from this change? I am wondering if there are departments that benefitted from the previous (lower? looser?) admissions standards? I don't think it's a bad thing to raise up UW to a new level. WSU, WWU and CWU maybe need to push themselves up to where UW was. I don't know that EWU and Evergreen serve big enough markets to push themselves further.

don said...

As a UW grad who hopes to get my kid accepted, I needed this perspective.
(ensure, just sayin')

Marcus said...

Thanks for your honest comments. As a UW graduate and UW employee of 20 years, I have grown to appreciate the education I received here and agree this institution has great merit. That said, I agree that the UW could do a better job weeding out the students that don't really belong in college so that those slots could be used for more deserving students. I've come in contact with a number of students over the years and I wonder how they even got in college in the first place because they really didn't seem to have the aptitude for it.

Leslie the Librarian said...

I think you nailed it. The times are a-changing. We've got to nurture this change.

Bob said...

The problem in Washington begins and ends with NCLB and the WASL/HSPE, schools are no longer about teaching and learning, they about getting kids ready to pass a test then met the all mighty AYP.

Until parents revolt, nothing will change or it will get even worse. Schools are failing our kids because it is cheaper to pass on a student then make them accountable for their own success.

Gordon Watts said...

You say that we should keep instate at about 50%. I'd like to see the state move to a model where it funds some number of in-state slots. Those go to the most needy or the best (or some criteria), and then after those slots are full everyone else pays full load. Then the state is contracting with the university to educate the students. That will give the U the flexability, and it also makes the state directly accountable for the # of slots it funds...

tom said...

Spot on, Cliff. I just returned from a week long tour of college campuses with my daughter. We visited and toured public and private institutions from W. Montana to W. Washington. Although my wife and I are die hard huskies, we have a new found respect for WSU and Gonzaga. Both of those schools exhibit a sincere interest in the individual and a commitment to the institutions' mission. Finally, I believe that UW tuition is a deal twice the price, but only for those students that "belong." If that means more out of staters, so be it.

J said...

It could happen. Tulane University was formerly the University of Louisiana. All it takes is the will to make the UW a private university and a few more years of the legislature desperately searching for a quick buck and it will be sold off just like the liquor business will be. I am a UW grad (80/82) and I would have never been able to afford the new UW so it is sad to see it go.

Stefan said...

Thanks for the perspective....and optimism!!!

Raven said...

I totally agree with most of this -- except the assumption that making UW more selective will eliminate the "bottom 25%" of students who come to UW and slack off or are underprepared. UW freshman admissions is already quite competitive, and most admitted students look excellent on paper. I would argue that it's simply impossible to know for sure who will be in that "bottom 25%" -- we could admit only perfect-looking students (close to the current reality), and some would transition to the UW and perform poorly. It's wishful thinking to imaging UW (or any school) will discover an admissions process that eliminates all the students you don't want to deal with. :)

David said...

I think there is one important thing being left out here. The UW is in a very bad position because it has the disadvantage of a private school that the only source of funds for education are tuition and donations, but it doesn't have the advantage of being able to set its own tuition levels. So legislators can cut the UW budget, but then look like they care about tuition by not allowing the UW to raise it to the level needed to provide an adequate education. Until the legislature let's go of its tuition-setting authority I think it is going to be very hard for the UW to continue to be a top-notch university.

codetalker said...

Cliff,

I don't agree. It's a state, public, university. Not private. I feel the education of Washington state students is the first priority of a Washington state university and we should make it the highest priority to educate Washington state students, first, all the time.

I was also shocked to hear you put down students. I'm one of the bottom 25% you hate. My mother was raised in a log cabin, my father grew up on farm. Neither got out of high school. Heck my dad never made it past grade 8 and I think I felt some pressure to attend. So I did. I went to college even though I wasn't ready. Even with pressure and knowledge I wasn't ready I wanted to go. So I did.

I attended a college at the Udub ranked consistently in the top 5 and I was lucky to get in with guaranteed admission from a community college. But my grades fell as I became uninterested in my major and lost in the Costco style system and then I was forced to take my credits and graduate or lose them, with a degree in a field I have no interest in. I wasn't ready to graduate, didn't want to, but I was told I had to go so a new student would get a slot.

I was tossed out of the University like a undercooked piece of chicken at a cheap chain restaurant that doesn't give a rip what they serve. They didn't give a rip about me and because they didn't I make them look bad. Yeah, I have a bone to pick with the Udub. They took my money and spit me out with a degree I don't use. I was seduced and violated. I floundered in program that saw me not as a student but as a number to be processed. I was weighed, measured, found lacking and discarded.

Perhaps what we really need is better teachers. Perhaps those 25% are evidence you and your friends can't teach? Don't know how. Don't care only look good when the work is easy. Cliff, how does the Bellevue High School football program do it every year? Is it all those out of state players? Hmm? You sound a bit like a med student who wants to pick his own assignment just so he can look good. You only want to teach the best and brightest. Yeah, smart people are fun. Those other 25% like me? You should watch the movie “The Blind Side” if you haven't seen it and read what you said about those 25%. because you and your friends sound like those teachers in the movie who don't give a rip.

Radical idea: Improve the Udub not by hiring better students but by teaching better and how do we solve the money problem? We have enough to build and expand so how come we have money problem?

Emily said...

I wholeheartedly agree with all of this. Good luck with the future crops of students.

Bradley said...

I found this to be a remarkably arrogant piece.

My daughter has a 3.8 GPA from a strong local high school. She scored just over 2,000 on her SATs. Her extracurriculars were strong, as was her essay. She found out a few weeks ago that there is no place for her at the UW. She’ll be fine – every other institution to which she applied, including several very strong private schools, admitted her. But the UW was her first choice by far. That she cannot attend, and that others like her cannot attend, is something of which the UW ought to be ashamed.

Yes, I understand the fiscal dilemma. And I understand that our state’s approach to educational funding is deeply broken. But I’m unpersuaded that the UW and its administration had to respond to the problem by moving toward an out-of-state student-based “privatization” – a thing that smacks more of professional aspiration (if only, if only we could be like Michigan) than it does a genuine effort to respond to the responsibilities and obligations that underlie this institution’s very existence. The UW isn’t Yale. It owes a number of duties to the taxpaying public which Yale does not. The UW’s duties run, not to its faculty’s dreams of upward mobility and national prestige, but to the hardworking, tax-paying families of this state. This may not be cool, but public responsibilities rarely are. I’ve been astonished at how little regard the UW’s apologists, including, now, Mr. Mass, seem to have for this proposition.

I was particularly struck by this argument – that it’s all ultimately to the good, because (in addition to helping the UW be more like Michigan) this process of privatization will help keep all those dumb local kids out of the UW’s hallowed halls. Please. Apart from the fact that there will always be a bottom quarter of any class you admit (I went to an Ivy League school, and I can assure you that there were plenty of morons around), the notion that a professor at the UW – a fellow whose salary is paid in large part by my and my neighbor’s taxes – is tickled at the prospect of having to deal with fewer local students, whether motivated or not, puts me in a pretty irked state of mind.

Are my views influenced by frustration at the UW’s absurd rejection of my eminently-qualified daugher? Undoubtedly. But this is legitimate – that the UW would reject a candidate like her, and would reject so many other Washington residents like her, as part of a movement toward privatization (while I have no choice but to continue to support, for instance, the salaries of Mr. Mass and the UW football coaching staff) exemplifies how misguided the UW’s thinking seems to have become. I am angry over this, and I think I’m entitled to be.

Scott said...

An excellent meteorologist but not the best advocate for education. Student worth is not the same as SAT math scores and the quality of an education is not measured exclusively by opportunities to "do research."

Want a country run like Boeing? Follow this advice.

Thomas said...

As our country’s standard of living declines (no more cheap oil for example), everyone and every institution borrows money to keep up. We need to guard against the ill conceived notion that privatization is a solution. History teaches us that privatization leads to great disparities rarely to public good and long term societal strength. Many things, public education included, should never be run like a business if we are to prosper in a world where other countries no longer willingly provide us the standard of living at the price we had become used to. Cliff thank you for your comments.

Don said...

When I compare the support for higher education in this state, at the time I attended WSU, to what is happening now I am utterly dismayed. In the late 1970's the residents of Washington, as represented by the legislature, recognized the value of the state's institutions as an economic driver and a huge multiplier for the middle class. My freshman year (1977-78) the total cost of attendance was about $3500 (my Dad kept scrupulous notes). Adjusted for inflation that is equivalent to $12,781 2011 dollars. The 2011-12 COA for in-state WSU students will be $24,522. That represents a 192% increase in real dollars.

The hit to upward mobility for the middle class cannot be exaggerated. My Dad was a union carpenter, and was able to pay for my undergraduate education out of his weekly paychecks. No financial aid, no college savings. This was made possible by the level of State support for higher education. And let’s remember, this was three short years after the famous Boeing Bust “Lights Out” billboard was erected on Hwy 99 in 1974, so times were probably tougher in Washington then than they are now. The fact is we as a society have chosen not to do the things that allowed lower and middle class families in Washington to provide a higher education to their children. What this will mean to the long-term economic vitality of this state, and the possibility of upward social and economic mobility of lower and middle class families is all too predictable.

david said...

Seriously? $15,000 per year? I graduated not that many years ago from the UW and paid (well, my parents did) much less than that for tuition and all other living expenses. There is no way they (or I) could have afforded even temporally adjusted dollars.

One should not have to go into decades of debt to be a Husky. I can't believe you think such a figure is reasonable for the middle class (even if it's unavoidable with today's fiscal trajectory). And, to say it's becoming a pseudo private institution, and not be outraged by this possibility, well, makes me outraged.

Going to a public university should be a super-over-the-top subsidized affair based on rigorously assessed academic qualifications, not financial ones. I agree with your take on academic standards, but your other points make me mad as heck.

Nobody said...

Thanks Cliff for articulating similar views to my own here, something I've not heard anybody do on this matter so far.

Frankly I think some folks need to get over the idea that in-state is always better in all cases. Where I grew up we had people moving in from all over the world, and we considered that an asset, not a liability.

mainstreeter said...

The UW has always had the attitude of a private school. Glad people finally figured it out

CORALIE said...

Bob is 100% correct. We reap what we sow. K-12 kids now focus on how to pass a test, not what they might be learning. If I had a nickle for every kid who asked me, "Are we going to be tested on this?" I could retire tomorrow. And as long as this country puts so much value on how kids do on a single yearly test--from getting federal funding, to assessing the "quality" of teachers-- you will continue to see the same kind of unmotivated student sitting in Weather 101. Allow for some creativity and the opportunity to spark some interest in our chosen subjects, instead of aiming to be on a certain page on a specified date, and you would see a renewed interest in learning from our young people. Most of us went into this profession because we want to help kids, all kids, not just those who are fun to teach.

Ron said...

Cliff, you are right on the target. As a retired professor and academic administrator at one of the "directional" institutions in this state, I can vouch for the veracity of your analysis and the possible long term outcomes. The problems that we are seeing in ongoinag cuts are and will be devastating over the next several years. They are caused by: voters' anti-intellectualism - anti - science, and inability to understand what drives our state's engine. Equally to blame are the legislators who are either ideologically against knowledge as it corrupts young minds, or they are afraid of not getting re-elected. There is only one answer to the continuing issue in this state: a reorganized, predictible, and equitable tax structure such as that voted down in the recent election. Higher education should not be financed on the backs of those least able to pay and who themselves probably can't afford to send their own children to college, especially now.

Ron K.

Ron said...

Cliff, you are right on the target. As a retired professor and academic administrator at one of the "directional" institutions in this state, I can vouch for the veracity of your analysis and the possible long term outcomes. The problems that we are seeing in ongoing cuts are, and will be devastating over the next several years. They are caused by: voters' anti-intellectualism - anti - science, and inability to understand what drives our state's engine. Equally to blame are the legislators who are either ideologically against knowledge as it corrupts young minds, or they are afraid of not getting re-elected. There is only one answer to the continuing issue in this state: a reorganized, predictible, and equitable tax structure such as that voted down in the recent election. Higher education should not be financed on the backs of those least able to pay and who themselves probably can't afford to send their own children to college, especially now.

Ron K.

stuartjenner said...

To respond to a few points above:

--the money that used to go to higher ed is going to health care for state workers, or for low income. This is how the delta can be so big between "regular" inflation and higher ed inflation.

--it is just plain odd that the GPAs and scores are up, but that the undergrads taking Dr Mass' test of math basics do so poorly.

Doug said...

Follow the Pied Piper of Eyman, "save" enough money for a 32" TV for the powder room, punish your children.

What's so hard to figure out about this?

Steven said...

I somewhat agree with your stance, but I thought this was a weather blog. I come to this blog to read about weather and weather events. Maybe stick to what you do best?? There are plenty of blogs and news articles about education so enough already.

Benjamin said...

I think some of you folks are missing the point. The UW has to do what it can with the resources it has available. Since WE the taxpayers insist on uderfunding a world-renowned research institution, they have no choice but to adjust their enrollment.
If we want it to be a public instituion, than we should fund it accordingly.

And attacking the teachers, especially someone as valuable as Cliff, is just more proof of our broken education system.

And as a former T.A, I can attest to students poor basic math skills. Having come from the upper midwest, where Algebra is tought in elementary school, it was quite an eye-openeing experience.

Steve said...

Cliff, I agree with you, but not a lot has changed with regard to the bottom 25%. Forty years ago we called them the "soppers" because they "sopped up" the low grades. By the time you get to upper division, they are gone.

Euphoria Gibbons said...

Cliff,
I appreciate you reaching out of weather and addressing other topics related to your profession. I am shocked that a class of 240 has 2, or even 3, TA's. When I was at UW in the '90s we had about 8 TAs for the large chem classes. It was still a lot of work, and the UW did not prepare us, the TAs, very well for the job. In fact, I had some poor marks to dish out on the teaching front, and care-for-individuals front as well. But I sincerely appreciate your take on this issue.
You often mention the need for math skills-- I have excellent math skills, and three higher degrees from UW, yet have not been able to find work in my field, so I wonder if that is continuing the myth that we need scientists and engineers. Perhaps all we really need is a basic competency in math and science for everyone, including artists and English majors.
But back to the point-- what about community colleges? That "lower 25%" would find their way through the CC system, and either get the personalized help they need, or move onto what they do need. I went directly to a University, with B-/C+ in my (500 person, non-English-speaking TA) major classes the first year, but I continued onto a phd. Students who are unmotivated may need some time to figure out how to engage, but those who don't are not helped by a good teacher. There is only so much you can do for a person, and providing opportunity for some of those lowest 25% to find their calling is valuable for some. We need to fund, and value, the CC system for those students who have challenges, such as not coming from families who can afford UW tuition plus the pricey meals on campus.
What do you think are benefits of going directly to UW versus taking classes at CC for two years, and then transferring?
Finally, if we need to locate funding for Universities, we might look a the prison budget. There is an inverse relationship between prison funding and University funding from the state.

John Marshall said...

For the person complaining that this is a weather blog and not a forum for educational issues, I refer you to many other posts regarding Cliff's strong interest in improving education, both secondary and university. That's one of the things I like about this blog, given it touches not only on weather but the education of those who will forecast it in the future.

Our future as a country is strongly tied to the quality of our schools, and after living in Asia for a decade and watching how hard students (and their parents!) work at education, I was quite shocked to come back to the US to see how weak our schools are, and how little the taxpayers (and often parents of students) care for funding education.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who actively drives the discussion on how to improve education gets my support. Kudos to Cliff for honestly sharing his views on UW, past, present and future.

Michael said...

Actually the transformation of UW, of which I am an alumnus ('95), to a private or semi-private is needed. The PNW lacks a strong, private research class university. I envision UW becoming the Northwestern or even the Stanford of the PNW. The state legislature, over a period of decades, has reneged on its commitment to true education, at all levels, in this state.

Set UW free and focus the moneys elsewhere within the system

km said...

You mention "candidates who don't understand the importance of investing in our schools and our future" and then say that privatization will bring stability and other benefits.

Funding for universities won't be any more stable than the economy and the employment rate are, but rich kids will always be able to go.

With public universities privatized, they'll be free of public scrutiny and standards. Given that something like 40% of the population does not recognize the reality of biological evolution, that will be a disaster.

Fred Hanson said...

Thank you.

Alex said...

Boohoo. Everyone is suffering. You can't continue living high on the hog in these times. Where is the shared sense of sacrifice?

Deb said...

Wonderful to read this post and the many comments! As a UW grad and after teaching 15+ years in the Washington state community college system, I agree with much of what Cliff Mass, meteorologist/educator, shares.

Painful as it may be, we can’t just cry, “Poor me.” A product of public schools and universities, I remain an advocate for public education, yet K-20 standards must change. I began teaching in New England and know the disparity in standards, in both K-12 and then at the CC. We need to raise our expectations before college, the number of math courses required, for example, and treat students with respect—supporting them to use those high school years to actually GAIN knowledge, skills, and useful experiences. Though the best students can land at university and then fail due to all sorts of reasons, we need to create a more serious school system—one that challenges all students beyond their comfort zone.

Some students aren’t ready for the UW: if they really want to go to college, they can start somewhere else. We have excellent choices including the many CCs in Washington. Some students aren’t ready for any college, and this is the next question we will likely need to address.

Eyman’s power, his success in swaying the sorts of legislation that too many Washington voters applauded, is sad: Short-sighted, this “me-only” approach leads to more crumbling community. We each need to look at the way we live, how we make choices and stop blaming.

Tina said...

I agree that there should always be a path for kids who otherwise would never go to college to somehow get there. (The commenter w/the dad w/the 8th-grade education comes to mind.) That's why we have community colleges with a very lenient transfer policy to our universities like UW. However, that does not mean that we should lower the standards of UW. As others have noted, we need to beef up our K-12 education, as well as our community college system. As a math instructor myself, I have seen too many kids in need of remediation with reasonably high GPAs (3.5 or higher) coming out of high school. All that means is that high school is a joke and that many of these kids are very underprepared for college. In fact, I agree w/Cliff that many of them shouldn't go to university at all. I would like to see our state invest heavily in trade schools and apprenticeship programs. After all, a good electrician or tailor or plumber can really make a great living (judging from my last electrician's/seamstress's/plumber's bills!), and those are jobs that can't be shipped overseas!

wildbill said...

I graduated from Sammamish and UoW and know Cliff's oft mentioned lamentations about math are true. If a full prof taught 3 five credit courses instead of only 2, there would be an unfair and uncompensated doubling of the workload. Eyman will eventually die and then we will thankfully be able to restore the salaries, benefits and pensions of government employees back to where they should have been all along before he passed away. We happily paid Emmert a million a year because he fabulously jacked up the endowment, which, unfortunately, can't be used to build a decent general headquarters for atmospheric sciences. I don't understand why Eyman did that to Cliff and Company. Years ago I stopped reacting during pledge week after I learned Bernie was being paid $450k/yr at KCTS. Just as will happen to Eyman, Bernie is gone but they haven't told me how much Bernie's replacement is paid. But at the end of the day, given Seattle Liberals have absolute totalitarian control of the Legislature, it's really confounding that they, of all people, would do the things they have actually done to the UoW, as Cliff has explained. Really now, wasn't it Bush who actually did these things?

Khamis said...

Wow, the whole private school thing being good for UW and Washington is a wrong and dangerous notion for our society. I'm disappointed in your championship of that.

Luca said...

Wonderful to read this post and the many comments! As a UW grad and after teaching 15+ years in the Washington state community college system, I agree with much of what Cliff Mass, meteorologist/educator, shares.

Painful as it may be, we can’t just cry, “Poor me.” A product of public schools and universities, I remain an advocate for public education, yet K-20 standards must change. I began teaching in New England and know the disparity in standards, in both K-12 and then at the CC. We need to raise our expectations before college, the number of math courses required, for example, and treat students with respect—supporting them to use those high school years to actually GAIN knowledge, skills, and useful experiences. Though the best students can land at university and then fail due to all sorts of reasons, we need to create a more serious school system—one that challenges all students beyond their comfort zone.

Some students aren’t ready for the UW: if they really want to go to college, they can start somewhere else. We have excellent choices including the many CCs in Washington. Some students aren’t ready for any college, and this is the next question we will likely need to address.

Eyman’s power, his success in swaying the sorts of legislation that too many Washington voters applauded, is sad: Short-sighted, this “me-only” approach leads to more crumbling community. We each need to look at the way we live, how we make choices and stop blaming.

ShinMiRyeo said...

thank you. a ray of sunshine amid some very stormy days.

E. said...

The US is currently the wealthiest country in the history of humanity.

But we can't afford to educate children?

Something rotten is going on.

Michigan may have built a good university, but that has not helped build the economy there.


Calls to reduce government spending are not well thought out. I have lived all over the US and observe that all local economies depend upon government spending.

Consider Western Washington:
Commercial aviation would not exist without public subsidy, that, and defense contracts keep Boeing going.
The government allows Microsoft to have a monopoly on operating systems.
The Army, Air Force and Navy bases throw lots of money into the local economy.

Eric said...

I graduated from high school in Washington in 1996. I then attended college and discovered that I was in way over my head. I had no study skills, didn't know how to take notes, talk to teachers, etc. I was a honor roll student from K-12, but was barely managing a C average in college. I finally took a break from school and spent 8 years in the military. My reading, writing, studying, and communication skills improved greatly as a result of those 8 years. I returned to college in 2006 and graduated three years later with an A- GPA. Sadly, I found most of my fellow students, especially those right out of high school, to be even less prepared than I was 15 years ago. I worked one on one tutoring other students, from almost every state and many countries. The only students who had refined college level skills were those from other countries. While this is a big problem for Washington, it is a huge problem nationwide.

Just a guy said...

Sorry... but I disagree... and I went there (ROTC '81) as did my son (English '05).

If you put the institution ahead of the people of this state, then fine. But this school belongs to the people of THIS state. And educating OUR children comes before anything else.

The school you're describing is private. The University must be responsive to the needs of the children here... because the folks out of state are not the ones sacrificing to keep you people in operation.

Throwing money at the problem as some here have advocated ("You get what you pay for" might provide some small measure of comfort to those actually get paid, but that fact is that if this was true, we would be a great deal more willing to fork over OUR money for YOUR wages) is not the way to go.

As an example, Seattle Public Schools showed a $12,355 per student cost... and that place is a train wreck.

So, no. There is no excuse for recruiting out of state. No plausible explanation. No acceptable reason... because grade inflation is just as much an issue out of state as it is in state.

THIS state must come first.

I used to be proud to by a Husky.

Now?

Not so much.

Mary said...

Thanks for your honest assessment. I really like the point that - qualified students from out of state are likely to stay here and benefit us all.

Michael Munsey said...

Saying we're in "exciting times," Gov. Christine Gregoire on Tuesday proposed dramatically increasing state spending by more than $4 billion over the next two years. [2007]
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003486428_budget20m0.html

I guess we are not in such exciting times now. Not quite sure it is Tim Eyman's fault though.

Justin said...

Cliff, I have been following the saga of math education in Washington state since I moved here in 2007. I was very hopeful the light bulb would come on, but I can't see that happening. I will definitely be sticking to my original plan of moving back to the east coast to put my kids in school when that time comes.

bloggit said...

Cliff is attacking the wrong target in Eyman; he should be attacking the Democrats who siphoned the funds to other "social" projects. After all, our tax burder (as a percentage of our income) has, thanks to Eyman, stayed pretty constant at about 9.5% over the last 30 years. It's gone up a bit (to around 10.5%) and then back down when pro-citizen (aka "tax payer") intiatives won, but it's still about the same constant level. Total receipts are up by a huge amount.

Unfortunately, educators don't get much experience with business or applied economics; hence the view that we should be raising taxes rather than going back to the distributions that worked 30 years ago - which would mean cutting some arts, some social programs, etc., but restoring UW funding.