Gradefund’s Blog

Just another weblog

Archive for the ‘Education Incentives’ Category

Students Covering Bigger Share of Costs of College

Posted by gradefund on January 22, 2009

Students Covering Bigger Share of Costs of College


Published: January 15, 2009

College students are covering more of what it costs to educate them, even as most colleges are spending less on students, according to a new study.

The study, based on data that colleges and universities report to the federal government, also found that the share of higher education budgets that goes to instruction has declined, while the portion spent on administrative costs has increased.

It describes a system that is increasingly stratified: the smallest number of students — about 1 million out of a total 18 million students — attend the private research universities that spend the most per student. The largest number of students — 6 million — attend community colleges, which spend the least per student, and have cut spending most sharply as government aid has declined.

“Students are paying more, and a greater share of the costs, but are arguably getting less,” said Jane Wellman, the executive director of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability, which drafted the study.

The Delta Project, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, seeks to increase college affordability by controlling costs, a goal it says can be accomplished without sacrificing quality. The study is a rare effort to look inside what researchers call the black box of higher education: the question of why it costs so much and where the money goes.

Colleges have justified rising tuition, in part, by saying that it does not cover anywhere near the full cost of educating a student. That is still true, but less so; the study found that students are contributing a greater share of the cost of their education at all kinds of institutions, even after accounting for scholarships and other tuition discounts.

In 2006, the last year for which data is available, students at public colleges and research universities paid about half the cost of their education — defined as the cost of instruction, student services and a portion of spending on operations, support and maintenance. That is up about 10 percentage points since 2002. At community colleges, students covered about 30 percent of their education, up from 24 percent.

At private institutions, the increases were less steep, but students cover a greater share: at private colleges that offer bachelors degrees — essentially, liberal arts colleges — the student share went to 63.5 percent in 2006 from 61.1 percent in 2002. At those that offer masters’ degrees, it went to 83.6 percent in 2006 from 80.4 percent in 2002.

At public institutions, spending on instruction declined from 2002 to 2005, and increased in 2006, but the increases did not make up for earlier reductions.

Spending on instruction decreased at private institutions, as well, except for private research universities, where it rose slightly.

“The institutions whose primary mission is teaching — the masters and community colleges and bachelors colleges, are slowly disinvesting in the teaching function,” Ms. Wellman said.

And the percentage of the budget going to instruction declined everywhere between 1995 and 2006 — to 63 percent from 64.4 percent at public research institutions, to 50.2 percent from 52.8 percent at public community colleges, and to 38.9 percent from 40.7 percent at private bachelors colleges.

The biggest decline occurred at private research universities, where the percentage of the budget devoted to instruction went to 57.9 percent in 2006 from 62.3 percent in 1996.

Meanwhile, the share spent on administration and support increased everywhere. At public research universities, those costs consumed 28.3 percent of the budget in 2006, up from 27.7 percent in 1995. At private research institutions, they accounted for 32.9 percent of the budget, up from 30.1 percent, and at public community colleges, 37.7, up from 35.9 percent.

Tuition increased faster than spending on education, with students at public institutions taking on the biggest increases, as states contributed less per student.

Had tuition increased only to match spending, the report’s authors calculate, it would have increased only 2.5 percent at public research universities, where it went up 29.8 percent. At private colleges, it would have increased 1.9 percent, rather than 12.5 percent. And at state and community colleges, tuition would have declined, by 2.1 percent and 5.8 percent. Instead, it rose 29 percent and 18.1 percent.

As state revenues decline, Ms. Wellman predicted, the problem will only get worse. “We see the picture ahead being more of the same, but dramatically more of the same,” she said.


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 19, 2009
An article on Friday about a study that found that college students are paying a higher proportion of the cost of their education included incorrect preliminary data provided by the authors of the study, the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability. At private colleges that offer master’s degrees, the portion of education costs paid by students rose between 2002 and 2006 to 83.6 percent from 80.4 percent, not from 75.5 percent. At private institutions that offer bachelor’s degrees, the percentage rose to 63.5 percent from 61.1 percent, not from 57.7 percent. At private research universities, the percentage declined to 55.8 percent from 57.6 percent; it did not rise from 55.3 percent.


Posted in Education Incentives, Rising Tuition, Student Loans | Leave a Comment »

Should Students Be Paid for Good Grades?

Posted by gradefund on January 15, 2009

Should Students Be Paid for Good Grades?

By Laura Fitzpatrick Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009,8599,1871528,00.html


Back in the day, a good report card earned you a parental pat on the back, but now it could be money in your pocket. Experiments with cash incentives for students have been catching on in public-school districts across the country, and so has the debate over whether they are a brilliant tool for hard-to-motivate students or bribery that will destroy any chance of fostering a love of learning. Either way, a rigorous new study — one of relatively few on such pay-for-performance programs — found that the programs get results: cash incentives help low-income students stay in school and get better grades. (See TIME’s special report on paying for college.)

According to a study released today by the social-policy research group MDRC, a nonpartisan organization perhaps best known for evaluating state welfare-to-work programs, cash incentives combined with counseling offered “real hope” to low-income and nontraditional students at two Louisiana community colleges. The program for low-income parents, funded by the Louisiana Department of Social Services and the Louisiana Workforce Commission, was simple: enroll in college at least half-time, maintain at least a C average and earn $1,000 a semester for up to two terms. Participants, who were randomly selected, were 30% more likely to register for a second semester than were students who were not offered the supplemental financial aid. And the participants who were first offered cash incentives in spring 2004 — and thus whose progress was tracked for longer than that of subsequent groups before Hurricane Katrina abruptly forced researchers to suspend the survey for several months in August 2005 — were also more likely than their peers to be enrolled in college a year after they had finished the two-term program. (Read “Putting College Tuition on Plastic.”)

Students offered cash incentives in the Louisiana program didn’t just enroll in more classes; they earned more credits and were more likely to attain a C average than were nonparticipants. And they showed psychological benefits too, reporting more positive feelings about themselves and their abilities to accomplish their goals for the future. “It’s not very often that you see effects of this magnitude for anything that we test,” notes Thomas Brock, MDRC’s director for young adults and postsecondary-education policy.

Although U.S. college enrollment has climbed, college completion rates have not. Only a third of students who enroll in community colleges — which educate nearly half the undergraduates in the U.S. — get a degree within six years. Hence the interest in this study among such philanthropic powerhouses as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which helped fund the MDRC study. (MDRC, by the way, was created in 1974 by the Ford Foundation and a group of federal agencies; originally named the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, it now goes only by the abbreviation.)

Given that the follow-up study of the program was disrupted as the schools struggled to rebuild enrollment and facilities in the wake of Katrina, it’s difficult to draw any long-term conclusions about the effects that cash incentives will have on community-college students. However, there could soon be more data to parse: with a grant from the Gates Foundation, MDRC plans to test cash incentives at community and state colleges in California, New Mexico, New York and Ohio.

Despite the study’s impressive, albeit short-term results, some critics in higher education are concerned that cash incentives will encourage students to start taking easier courses to ensure they’ll do well enough to pocket the money. “Everyone knows what the gut classes are when you’re in college,” notes Kirabo Jackson, an assistant professor of labor economics at Cornell who has studied cash incentives for high school students. “By rewarding people for a GPA, you’re actually giving them an impetus to take an easier route through college.” Other critics note that students’ internal drive to learn may be sapped as they focus on getting an external reward.

But those involved with the study note that particularly in this economy, cash incentives could help part-time students devote more hours to their studies. Faced with soaring bills for tuition, books and housing, many college students need a job just to get by. In the Louisiana program, all the participants were low-income parents, three-quarters of whom were unmarried or living without a partner. “We’re talking about adults who have quite a number of other responsibilities,” says Brock. “When you’re talking about minors who are required by law to be in school, that’s a different situation.”

Arnel Cosey, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and provost for the City Park Campus at New Orleans’ Delgado Community College, one of two schools in the study, says she understands why some people are concerned that cash incentives are nothing more than bribery. “But on the other hand, I think because I am involved with these students daily, I’m not sure that I’m opposed to bribing,” she says. “If that’s what we need to do for these people to reach these goals, which ultimately will lead to them having a better life, I wish I had more money to give.”

Besides, as Cosey adds, if all goes well, students will be getting cash incentives for their work soon after graduating — in the form of a paycheck. “Most of us wouldn’t turn up at work every day if we weren’t getting a check,” she says. “What’s wrong with starting the payment a little early?”

Posted in Alternative Payment, Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »

Getting the most bang for your college buck

Posted by gradefund on January 9, 2009

Getting the most bang for your college buck

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

As college admission deadlines wind down and families submit financial aid applications for next fall, freshmen in 2009 will be the first to start college clearly in the throes of the recession.

What this will mean for students and colleges is just beginning to be understood. But one thing is clear — now, more than ever, students and parents need to make every education dollar count.



The Princeton Review’s list of 100 “Best Value” Colleges for 2009, released today by The Princeton Review and USA TODAY, aims to help them do just that.

The education services and test-prep company’s annual list ranks the top 10 public and private colleges and universities; the rest are listed alphabetically. Deemed No. 1 Best Value for a public university is the University of Virginia in Charlottesville; No. 1 among private campuses is Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa.

Value is about more than just cost, says Robert Franek, Princeton Review’s vice president for publishing. “We didn’t want to put schools in the project that just had low sticker prices because that didn’t necessarily mean value.”

And questions of value take on added significance in this economic downturn.

“In the past, when recessions have been reasonably mild and short, people planning to send kids to four-year colleges continued to send them to four-year colleges and worked it out. But in the past, we haven’t had college-educated parents laid off from jobs,” says Tom Mortenson of Oskaloosa, Iowa, who publishes a higher-education public-policy newsletter. “This recession looks to be different.”

From 2004 to 2007, The Princeton Review’s results were published in a book, America’s Best Value Colleges, and data appeared on the company’s website. This year, through a partnership with USA TODAY, the full list and analysis are in an interactive database on The Princeton Review, based in New York, is not affiliated with Princeton University.

College costs have skyrocketed in the past 10 years. At public campuses, for example, in-state costs are up 37%, according to data from the College Board, a non-profit group that tracks annual tuition increases. This year, it says, average total charges for tuition, fees, room and board are $14,333 for in-state students, $25,200 out of state. The average total at private campuses is $34,132. Institutions themselves provide the largest source of grant aid — representing 42% of all grant aid, the College Board says.

Out of the USA’s 643 public four-year institutions and 1,533 private four-year campuses, The Princeton Review regularly analyzes data from approximately 650 campuses that it considers the best, although Franek says the schools in the mix do change from year to year. Of the 650, about 100 didn’t provide enough information to be considered as Best Values, says Ben Zelevansky, who directs Princeton Review’s data analysis.

The selection criteria looked at academics, costs and financial aid, using the most recently reported data from each institution for its 2008-09 academic year. Additionally, 160,000 to 175,000 student surveys provided input for the academic ratings.

The Princeton Review’s aim was to determine the average annual cost that a freshman paid for the 2008-09 school year, Zelevansky says; for public institutions, the determinations were based on calculations using a combination of in-state and out-of-state tuitions.

At the University of Virginia, the No. 1 Best Value for public schools, this year’s tuition, fees, room and board totaled $18,499 for in-state students and $37,749 out of state. The average grant UVA offered (including scholarships) totaled $9,531. The average 2008 graduate’s debt was $16,847.

UVA president John Casteen says AccessUVA, a financial aid program, is an effort to meet student need and has been funded since 2004. The current undergraduate enrollment is 13,726.

But today’s economic climate means cutbacks are expected, Casteen says. “We are in the middle of squeezing a great deal money out of the university’s administrative processes.”

At top-rated private college Swarthmore, with 1,480 undergraduates for the 2008-09 year, the total cost is $47,804, with the bulk — $36,154 — for tuition. But the average grant is $30,073. The school did not report the amount of student debt.

Alfred Bloom, Swarthmore’s president, says he expects increased financial aid will be needed. “We’ve had a long tradition of assuring that students can accept Swarthmore offers without regard to financial circumstances.”

At each of the top two campuses, about 70% of students graduated debt-free in 2008. But aid is not the only criterion for inclusion, says Zelevansky.

“This is not a list of America’s Best Financial Aid Packages,” he says. “This is a list of schools that provide the best balance of a strong education and a reasonable cost of attendance. The bottom-line cost for families is our concern here.”

Not listed are public schools including University of Wisconsin-Madison or University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; missing among private schools are New York University and George Washington University, the USA’s most expensive four-year campus.

“You can still get a solid education at a good value from a school that didn’t make our list, but the schools on our list really go above and beyond,” Zelevansky says.

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Education Incentives | Leave a Comment »

Obama, McCain Spar Over GI Bill’s Education Incentives

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Obama, McCain Spar Over GI Bill’s Education Incentives

Thursday, May 22, 2008

John McCain hit back against Barack Obama on Thursday, after the Illinois Democratic senator accused the presumptive Republican nominee of neglecting U.S. soldiers by opposing a Democratic-sponsored GI bill that would increase education funding for U.S. troops.The bill, proposed by Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, a frequently named potential vice presidential running mate for Obama, was approved by the Senate Thursday on a 75-22 vote. However, its fate is uncertain as it is part of a larger emergency Iraq war spending bill that President Bush has threatened to veto over additional spending in it.During debate on the GI bill, Obama said McCain, who is a Vietnam War veteran and comes from a long military family history, is parroting Bush for partisan purposes that only injure the troops. “Senator Webb and the leaders of both parties have introduced a 21st century GI bill that would give this generation of returning heroes the same chance at an affordable college education that we gave the greatest generation,” Obama said.  “I respect Senator John McCain’s service to our country. … but I can’t understand why he would line up behind the president in opposition to this GI bill. I can’t believe he believes it is too generous to our veterans. I could not disagree with him and the president more on this issue. There are many issues that lend themselves to partisan posturing but giving our veterans the chance to go to college should not be one of them,” he continued.  McCain, who was not in town for the vote, took issue with Obama’s assertions about his commitment to the troops.  “I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did,” McCain said in a written statement.  The Arizona senator has never said that he does not support the bill because it is “too generous.” He has stated concerns that offering education benefits as early as the Webb bill allows would discourage people from re-enlisting. That contention was supported in a Congressional Budget Office report released a couple weeks ago that stated Webb’s bill could cut retention rates by 16 percent.  “It would be easier politically for me to have joined Senator Webb in offering his legislation. More importantly, I feel just as he does, that we owe veterans the respect and generosity of a great nation because no matter how generously we show our gratitude it will never compensate them fully for all the sacrifices they have borne on our behalf,” McCain said in his statement.  “Perhaps, if Senator Obama would take the time and trouble to understand this issue he would learn to debate an honest disagreement respectfully. But, as he always does, he prefers impugning the motives of his opponent, and exploiting a thoughtful difference of opinion to advance his own ambitions. If that is how he would behave as president, the country would regret his election,” he said.  Webb’s bill costs an estimated $52 billion, a number that can grow in out years as more take advantage of the benefits. It would provide to service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan up to 36 months of benefits — equivalent to four academic years — to pay for tuition, books and fees as well as a $1,000 per month living stipend for qualified veterans.  Twenty-five Republicans voted for the bill, including every member up for re-election and a few fiscal conservatives.  McCain’s version of the GI bill, co-sponsored with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Richard Burr, offers a “sliding scale” of payment for educational benefits that increases in relationship to length of service. McCain’s bill would increase monthly education benefits to $1,500, eliminate $1,200 enrollment fees and offer $1,000 annually for books and supplies.  After the vote, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean accused McCain of preferring to keep the troops in Iraq for 100 years over taking care of them when they come home.  “While Senator McCain talks about supporting our troops and veterans on the campaign trail, his real record tells a much different story. While we honor his service to our country, Senator McCain’s double talk on veterans’ benefits is one more reason he is the wrong choice for America’s future,” Dean said.  Obama added that he does not believe the Webb bill will have an impact on retention rates and argued that “in the long term this will strengthen our military and improve the number of people who are interested in volunteering to serve.”  Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said that even if the president vetoes the Iraq war emergency supplemental, the GI bill will be re-introduced in any future supplemental.  And despite McCain’s opposition to the Webb legislation, retiring Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia told FOX News: “This GI bill, one way or another, will be the law of the land.”

FOX News’ Trish Turner and Mosheh Oinounou contributed to this report.

Posted in Education Incentives, EducationalSpending, Financial Aid, Rising Tuition | Leave a Comment »

State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

State higher education incentives should be based on market principles, says Michigan Sen. Wayne Kuipers

by Wayne Kuipers | Flint Journal guest writer

Monday August 04, 2008, 4:29 AM

Wayne Kuipers

Editor’s note: This is a guest column by State Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland. Under the name “If You Ask Me,” each week The Flint Journal runs a guest column on a topic of interest. Read more by guest columnists.

The Kalamazoo Promise launched a nationwide discussion of private funding for public higher education. And while the program helps many students pursue degrees, efforts to adopt a statewide program still don’t address larger problems.

The legislation in the state Senate to create “Promise Zones” would provide both state and local dollars for many disadvantaged students.

The problem is funds don’t go directly to students, but to the state higher education system.

This limits students’ opportunities to use funds as they see fit. The “Promise Zone” legislation also provides no incentive for students to stay in school beyond their freshmen year.

Given the condition of Michigan’s economy, we need a bold plan making higher education affordable and rewarding students who attain degrees.

Funds should go directly to students. This lets them use our tax dollars to attend the university that best meets their needs. Each school would be compensated based on how many students it attracts and graduates. This puts the onus on universities to provide programs that help students find careers matching today’s marketplace. Ultimately, schools meeting the needs of more students will get higher funding.

The Plan also addresses “brain drain” — students leaving the state upon graduation. Employers often complain of too few qualified employees in Michigan to fill positions.

Under the proposed plan, students who work in Michigan after graduation could get low or interest-free loans to help with college costs. The plan’s primary goal, obviously, is to encourage more Michigan students to go to college by making it more affordable.

I recently presented this plan to Lou Glazier, President of Michigan Future, and members of his board of directors. They, too, share my belief that getting more kids in our universities is tantamount to the state’s economic recovery.

“The most prosperous places in the country are those with the highest proportion of adults with a four-year degree or more. Unfortunately, Michigan ranks 34th in college attainment. So finding better ways of encouraging far more of our kids to graduate from college and stay here after college is economic growth priority No. 1,” said Glazier, whose nonprofit focuses on generating ideas to help the state succeed in the Internet Age.

Of course there are many details left to hash out; including the possibility of providing tax incentives for Michigan companies to hire Michigan graduates. But embarking now on a market-based system that gives high school graduates more options in higher education is good for our educational system and the Michigan economy.

Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, is a state senator.

Posted in Cheaper Tuition, Education Incentives, EducationalSpending | Leave a Comment »

Our opinion on education incentives: Cash for grades? An odd idea whose time may have come.

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Our opinion on education incentives: Cash for grades? An odd idea whose time may have come.

Rewards for low-income students could level the playing field.

Prepare yourself to express moral outrage: When some students go back to school this year, they will get paid for improving their attendance, grades or test scores.

At first glance, even second glance, this seems like a terrible idea. Motives to learn should be pure and intrinsic. And if learning for the sake of learning doesn’t click, the correlation between education and income ought to be sufficient motivation. Won’t paying for grades inevitably lead to kids demanding money for, say, taking out the garbage?

Perhaps. But a careful look at the new pay plans suggests that in the right circumstances, they’re not so crazy after all.

For one thing, the experiments are financed with private — not taxpayer — money. For another, the schools where these programs are about to unfold are located in minority neighborhoods where 90% of the kids live in poverty and test scores lag far behind, such as New York’s South Bronx.

Lots of middle- and upper-income parents reward their kids for getting good grades with cash or a trip to a favorite restaurant. Those same kids also can find around them ample evidence that education pays. Their older siblings, cousins or neighbors head off to college and land good jobs.

In the poorest neighborhoods, kids see more destructive role models, and their parents lack the financial means to reward effort in school. Seen that way, offering cash for improved test scores is an attempt to replicate incentives proven to work in wealthier areas.

For the students, the cash rewards represent something more than just money. At Amphitheater High School in Tucson, where most of the students are poor and Hispanic, some students shed tears when they learned they had been selected to be part of a cash-for-grades experiment, says superintendent Vicki Balentine. It was the first time they had received a message that the outside world actually cared how they did.

At the moment, only a handful of places are trying cash-for-performance. The largest experiment, involving 70 schools in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods, starts next month. Fourth-graders who score perfectly on state exams will get $25; lower scores earn less. The cash rewards double for seventh-graders.

How the programs are structured will be as important as the monetary rewards.

For one thing, they should focus on more than just showing up. The Tucson experiment requires perfect attendance to win $25 a week, but it also requires C-averages or better and no discipline referrals. Students making the honor roll at the end of the semester can earn $100 bonuses.

Both the New York and Tucson programs have control groups of students not receiving cash rewards. Tracking both groups will show whether the experiments have short-term and long-term benefits.

And in neighborhoods where students can get rolled for lunch money, it’s important to try to ensure that the rewards stay safely with those who are earning them. New York and Tucson school officials have lined up banks willing to place direct deposits into accounts for the students. Bank officials will visit the schools to teach financial literacy.

Yes, it’s sad that education has come to this. But with the right controls and safeguards, paying for grades, crazy as it may seem, is an idea that’s worth trying.

Posted in Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »

Getting Paid For Grades?

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Posted: Thursday, 16 October 2008 5:03PM

Getting Paid For Grades?

CHICAGO (WBBM)  — Ten students at Manley High School Thursday became the first in the city to receive cash rewards for posting good grades.
Freshman Jasmine Cole said the controversial program is a “great incentive.”

“It feels good to know that you’re getting money to get good grades,” she said.  “I’m going to buy my momma something my daddy something and the rest, I’m going to buy me an outfit.”

Manley placed highest among the schools participating in the program for the system’s first marking period.  In all, the system is distributing $260,000 for good grades earned during the first of its eight marking periods.

Nearly 150 Manley students attended the ceremony, and heard words of encouragement from the creator of the “Paper Project” program, Roland Fryer, who transformed himself from dropout drug dealer to Harvard educator.

He urged the students to “take more money from me.”

Freshmen and sophomores at all Chicago public high schools are eligible for the program, which pays $50 for each “A” grade, $35 for each “B” and $20 for each “C.”  Half is paid every five weeks; the rest is put into a college fund that will be given to them at graduation.

Schools CEO Arne Duncan said there should be an incentive beyond the cash they can earn, which could amount to $4,000 if students get straight A grades their freshmen and sophomore years.

He said the younger brothers, sisters and friends of high school freshmen and sophomores are watching them as examples to follow.

Contents of this site are Copyright 2008 by WBBM.

Posted in Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »

Chicago Offers Students Cash for Good Grades

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Chicago Offers Students Cash for Good Grades

Pilot Program in 20 of the City’s Public Schools

At Chicago’s Manley High School, good grades equal green, which has studious pupils like Cierra Banks cashing in on their marks.

“They paying me over $100 to get As,” said Banks, 15, who was happy to collect on her five As and one B.

It’s part of the “Green for Grades” program, which is a component of the school’s graduation incentive plan. The pilot program began in September and applies to 20 of Chicago’s 125 public high schools.

Administrators and participating schools hope the money motivator will increase students’ chances of succeeding in school and combat Chicago’s high dropout rate.

“We have to do everything we can to get our dropout rate down to zero and to do it as fast as we can,” Chicago public schools CEO Arne Duncan said.

Half the city’s freshmen entering public schools wind up leaving without a diploma. It’s a staggering statistic for the nation’s third-largest school system, which includes more than 650 schools and about 405,000 students.

How Much Is an ‘A’ Worth?

Although it’s too soon to draw official conclusions, students said they’ve seen a marked difference in their performances since “Green for Grades” was enacted.

“I’m happy because I’m getting paid for my grades,” student Tatierra Strong, 14, said. “And so, I want to work harder.”

The students can earn $50 for As, $35 for Bs and $20 for a C in their freshman and sophomore years. So, in theory, a straight-A pupil could earn as much as $4,000.

Teachers evaluate the students every five weeks, and that’s when they receive their pay, according to Chicago Public Schools spokeswoman Ana Vargas.

Vargas said the estimated cost per student is between $1,000 and $2,000 annually, none of which comes from taxpayers. Donors and a foundation foot the bills for the good grades.

After sophomore year, students are no longer paid for their marks, the idea being that the grades themselves should be incentive enough, Vargas said. Juniors and seniors also get more secondary training, college planning and aid with standardized university entrance exams, like the SAT and ACT.

“We’re convinced, if students have a great freshman year, a great sophomore year, our graduation rates would go up exponentially,” Duncan said.


Chicago’s “Green for Grades” program offers high school freshmen and sophomores money for good marks.

For the students hoping to bank good grades and cash, there is one catch; pupils only get half their money up front. The rest comes after graduation.


How Effective Is It?

While students may give the program good grades — 178 cashed in for a total of $45,000 on the year’s first progress reports — critics contend that offering money for academic achievement is a hindrance.

“The idea that poor kids can only be bribed with money rather than authentically engaged with meaningful learning tasks is insulting and in some cases borders on racist,” said Alfie Kohn, author of “Punished by Rewards.”

Posted in Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »

Chicago kids to be paid for grades

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Chicago kids to be paid for grades

Hand of a teacher writing on a blackboardWould you have studied harder if you knew there was cold hard cash on the line? That’s the hope of adminstrators in Chicago where they are implementing a plan designed at Harvard wherein kids will get fifty dollars for an A, thirty-five for a B, and twenty bucks for a C. They get half up front and half when they graduate. Students can earn as much as four thousand dollars over the course of the first two years of high school.

Rewarding good grades is nothing new, of course. Usually, however, those rewards come from the parents. “The majority of our students don’t come from families with a lot of economic wealth. I’m always trying to level the playing field,” said schools chief executive Arne Duncan. “This is the kind of incentive that middle-class families have had for decades.”

Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea, though. “It’s a terrible idea, because you’re getting people to do things for the wrong reasons,” said Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz. “They’ll do well in school, maybe, but they won’t take any of it out with them. Instead of trying to cultivate an interest in learning, curiosity . . . you are just turning this into another job.”

I too think learning is its own reward, but I also know that wasn’t necessarily the attitude I had when I was in school. If this program can get kids to study and stay in school when they would otherwise do poorly and possibly drop out, then perhaps it’s worth a try.

Posted in Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »

Good grades pay off literally

Posted by gradefund on December 12, 2008

Good grades pay off literally

Teachers have long said that success is its own reward. But these days, some students are finding that good grades can bring them cash and luxury gifts.
Alexis Yarger, 16, is all smiles after officials from her school district in Georgia announced the new "learn and earn" program, in which students will get paid for attending tutoring sessions.
By John Amis, AP
Alexis Yarger, 16, is all smiles after officials from her school district in Georgia announced the new “learn and earn” program, in which students will get paid for attending tutoring sessions.

In at least a dozen states this school year, students who bring home top marks can expect more than just gratitude. Examples:

•Baltimore schools chief Andres Alonso last week promised to spend more than $935,000 to give high school students as much as $110 each to improve their scores on state graduation exams.

•In New York City, about 9,000 fourth- and seventh-graders in 60 schools are eligible to win as much as $500 for improving their scores on the city’s English and math tests, given throughout the school year.

•In suburban Atlanta, a pair of schools last week kicked off a program that will pay 8th- and 11th-grade students $8 an hour for a 15-week “Learn & Earn” after-school study program (the federal minimum wage is currently $5.85).

In most cases, the efforts are funded privately through corporate or philanthropic donors.

The most ambitious experiment began in September, when seven states — Arkansas, Alabama, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington — won spots in an Exxon/Mobil-funded program that, in most cases, pays students $100 for each passing grade on advanced placement (AP) college-prep exams.

It’s an effort to get low-income and minority students interested in the courses, says Tommie Sue Anthony, president of the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science. “We still have students who are not sure of the value, who are not willing to take the courses,” she says. “Probably the incentives will make a difference with those students.”

Gregg Fleisher of the National Math and Science Initiative, which runs the seven-state program, says the effort is modeled on a program adopted by Dallas in the 1995-96 school year that saw AP course-taking jump substantially. That program is now statewide.

While many educators would blanch at offering kids cash for good grades, Fleisher and others say the idea is simple: “It’s an incentive to get them to basically make the right decision and choose a more rigorous class,” he says. “This teaches them that if they work at something very hard and have a lot of support, they can do something they didn’t think they could do.”

An analysis of the Texas program last month by Cornell economist C. Kirabo Jackson found that it linked to a 30% rise in the number of students with high SAT and ACT scores and an 8% rise in college-going students.

But a few critics say the payouts amount to little more than bribes, undermining kids’ motivation to do high-quality work when they’re not being paid.

“It’s a strategy that helps only around the edges,” says Thomas Toch of the Education Sector, a Washington think tank. Most students in AP classes “are already internally motivated, and the opportunity to earn college credits for passing AP tests is a bigger motivator than small cash awards.”

Bob Schaeffer of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, a watchdog group, is more blunt: “Bribing kids for higher test scores — or paying teachers bounties for their students’ work — is similar to giving them steroids,” he says. “Short-term performance might improve but the long-term effects can be very damaging.”

At Northeast Health Science Magnet High School in Macon, Ga., principal Sam Scavella says he’s trying lots of different incentives for doing the right thing. If students attend Saturday study sessions, they qualify for an iPod, movie tickets or a dinner for two, among other prizes.

Jessie Humphrey, a sophomore at Northeast, is one of 25 students who made the school’s All-A Honor Roll. That entitled her to a slot in a special drawing Thursday. When it was over, she walked away with a 26-inch, flat-screen television set, which now sits in her room.

An honor roll student most years, Jessie, 15, says she usually pulls As and Bs, but this semester, “I got lucky and got all As.”

Scavella says the incentives seem to be making a difference — only 10 students made the All-A Honor Roll this time last year.

“We have to reward the behavior we expect,” he says. “I don’t see it as a way of paying students to do well — it’s a reward. If you do well in school, then life will pay you well. If you do well in school , you can afford a lifestyle that will pay you well.”

The two-year New York City experiment, begun last September, essentially pays students monthly to do their best on skills tests. If it seems like an economist’s dream, that’s because it’s the brainchild of wunderkind Harvard economist Roland Fryer, who also serves as the schools’ chief equality officer. He came up with the idea while trying to figure out how to make school “tangible” for disadvantaged kids with few successful role models. “I just thought that giving them some short-term incentives to do what’s in their long-term best interests would be a good way to go.”

While teachers talk about success, he says, it’s not enough to tell a kid that, in the long term, hard work will pay off. “We’re asking them to look down a path that they have probably never seen anyone go down … and then to have the wisdom and the fortitude to wait for their reward.”

Posted in Education Incentives, Paid for Grades | Leave a Comment »