Monthly Archives: June 2016
Coinciding with the warm up to Wimbledon that will miss her fighting spirit and femininity this year and perhaps forever, Maria Sharapova tweeted that she’s going to Harvard.
She seems surprised to be going to Harvard, but not in the unpleasant way that she was surprised when she was handed a two-year suspension for taking meldonium, the banned substance that sounds like a by-product of a Russian nuclear submarine.
Maria Sharapova is giddily surprised, as if she sat down and found Dory.
Most people who are about to go to Harvard Business School are thrilled, but it’s not an experience that sneaks up on them. If you ask Google How do I get into Harvard Business School? you’ll discover that…
- In 2016 HBS rejected close to 90% of applicants.
- A 3.67 undergraduate grade point average and 730 score on the Graduate Management Admission Test (95th percentile) are general benchmarks.
- HBS likes people whose life stories would make good TED talks, and loves the three M’s–Mormons, Military and McKinsey.
Could Maria be a 4th M?
Sadly, it’s been confirmed that Maria Sharapova was not admitted into Harvard Business School to use her two-year hiatus to pursue an MBA, but is taking a two-week course for which the only prerequisite is a lot of money. Jezebel pilloried Tyra Banks for playing up her Harvard certificate too much, making it appear as if she has a coveted Harvard MBA, but who can blame her or Maria Sharapova for craving an elite association with HBS?
Maria Sharapova is what is known as a brand immigrant, someone who doesn’t exactly belong to the clique but is happy to sit by the Harvard sign. Brand tourists on the other hand, are people who admire a brand without any pretense of membership. In a Harvard study of luxury brands, Harvard itself was the research topic. Researchers found that Harvard students appeared more welcoming toward brand tourists than brand immigrants. They preferred summer students who maintained a respectful distance between themselves and the Harvard brand.
Harvard students appeared more welcoming toward summer students who maintained a respectful distance between themselves and the Harvard brand.
It’s likely that the full-time Harvard students in the study would have made an exception for brand immigrant Maria Sharapova who comes to summer school with five Grand Slams, star power and her own considerable, albeit somewhat tarnished, brand.
Perhaps Ms Sharapova feels she needs to sharpen her business skills at Harvard this summer because, after holding the title of highest-paid female athlete for eleven consecutive years, she has slipped from #1 to #2 in Forbes’ ranking. Her $21.9 million in earnings is second to arch-rival Serena Williams’ who is in first place with $28.9 million in prize money and endorsements. Perhaps Sharapova’s Harvard placement means that she has mentally shifted to the second phase of her career, that of Sugarpova entrepreneur.
Sugarpova is Sharapova’s gummy-chocolate-clothing company, the brainchild of candyman Jeff Rubin. A few years ago, Maria Sharapova considered temporarily changing her last name to Sugarpova for the 2013 US Open, but thankfully didn’t as the name Maria Sugarpova would have rendered her legion of male fans hyperglycemic.
Speaking of hyperglycemia…
I find sporting celebrity endorsements of unhealthy foods such as sweets and soft drinks reprehensible. ~ Professor Tom Sanders, head of diabetes and nutritional sciences at King’s College London
In an era of ever-expanding obesity, Sharapova has been criticized for her association with a product that has 21 grams of sugar per serving and for her talking point that as a child she always looked forward to candy as a reward after a good tennis practice. Maria Sharapova is known for her mental toughness, her power game and her 110-decibel screech. Cutesy candy lady is a strange choice for Sharapova’s first foray in to entrepreneurism as she doesn’t appear at first glance to be a candy connoisseur, although at six times the price of the market leader, Sharapova has cornered the luxury gummy market that consists of only Sugarpova.
Sugarpova has sold over five million bags of gummy candy, and it’s not hard to figure out how. The branding is clean, colourful and fun.
Have tried for two days, but even though there is video evidence of Maria Sharapova putting a Silly Sour gummy worm in her mouth and appearing to eat it, I can’t imagine dummies wiggling their way into her heart and becoming a passion. Maria Sharapova is the human gummy of industrial sweetness who will assume whatever shape the situation requires. She doesn’t need Harvard’s help with branding and in fact could teach the school a thing or two about navigating a brand through a crisis, but Harvard may be able to help her decide which of her other passions should be the next target of the Sugarpova brand. Athleisure clothing that grunts when you’ve been inactive for too long, ringtones that scare everyone within a 100-yard radius and sports supplements beyond detection would be logical choices, but you never know with Maria Sharapova.
If everyone is wearing black, I want to be wearing red. I’m not the next anything. I’m the first Maria Sharapova.
About the Author: Who cares about the author when you can find out how gummies are made! (skip to 1:57 if you don’t care about red liquorice.)
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503
I come from a family of educators: my mother and my aunt were school and college teachers respectively, and my sister is a faculty at the Ohio State University, and I was blessed to study at one of the sparkling symbols of education in India, the Kendriya Vidyalaya system for a princely sum of three rupees per month (I was given a discount because my sister preceded me by a couple of years.)
Most of the Kendriya Vidyalaya schools were typically housed in ramshackle buildings donated by the Armed Forces or the local Central Government business like the Airport Authority or Railways. But none of that bothered us, because we were immersed in a system of education where the faculty held sway–brilliant people who joined the teaching system with a mission to help children change the world. By the time I graduated high school to join a college, India had discovered the system of “Donations” and “Management Quotas”–euphemisms for selling a place at the college to students who could afford to bribe the education system. In 1985, the Government of India privatized education, and for the next decade and more, the biggest money spinner was building out private colleges and schools. Volume took over, and the results are still apparent: poor quality of faculty, poorer or no facilities for research, and the highest paying students got in. We “sold” education, and sold it far-and-wide.
Today, the largest recruiting houses like TCS and Cognizant put fresh recruits through months of training to make them “just” employable.
India wasn’t (or isn’t) alone.
In a recent post, I was appalled to read about the UW-Madison’s scramble to retain faculty in a state that is struggling to retain education independence from political assault. Student debt in the U.S. is the next wave of unsecured credit, and Wall Street wolves are champing at the bits to make a play of it.
The Republican House passed a budget in 2015 that plans to roll back federal funding for education in order to balance budgets. This obviously opens doors to private funding and control by big business over education. UW Madison is just one example, there are universities across the US struggling to maintain research, retain faculty, and bring in more students into the fold even as grants and funding dry up. Faculty are forced to find million-dollar chairs, or their tenures are at stake.
The two largest democracies are ignoring the perils of messing with basic citizen rights: the access to education.
Education helps in breaking stereotypes. Education helps a human being discover him- or herself. Education unleashes mankind’s only differentiation: intelligence.
We seem to be very unintelligent about how we treat this asset. God help us.
Or perhaps, not.
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503
The Biggest Problem Facing Higher Ed? Treating Colleges Like Car Manufacturers When They’re More Like Health Clubs
To work in higher education is to be constantly frustrated. Whether it’s performance-based funding, Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs), the 3-year bachelor’s degree or any of another dozen innovations in recent years, it’s too easy to find examples of efforts to “fix” our broken higher education system that erupt with great fanfare and invariably fizzle in disappointment.
As the Internet is quick to remind us, the 1960s TV cartoon The Jetsons promised us flying cars when reality gave us a 140 character-limit messaging platform. Still higher education repeatedly drools over promises of free, fast, high-quality education while reality has given us little more than nudges.
Lots of things help explain why policymakers seem to get it so wrong so often. Education is complex. It takes years to complete and even more years to determine whether it was done well. By the time we’re in a position to see if any given policy’s worked, our patience has run thin and we’re already on to the next or even next next great change.
Which makes it kind of surprising that the one thing that’s remained remarkably constant has been economists’ and policymakers’ thinking about how higher education works. Since the late-1960s we’ve treated how colleges train students as basically a manufacturing process similar to how General Motors produces automobiles. Schools obtain inputs like professors, students, classrooms, libraries and computers, run them through some mystical process (the infamous “black box”) and churn out graduates.
It’s a perspective that’s been used to try and explain everything from rising tuition to administrative bloat to why education subsidizes university research. It also is what sits at the basis of justifications for outcome-driven funding and quality assurance. After all, in a factory-style process there’s nobody else to blame for why the goods coming out of a place aren’t up to scratch.
It’s also one of those things that if you look at long enough just doesn’t seem to add up. If colleges could control education then why assign grades? Why wouldn’t they just require students to keep plugging along in a class or a program until they were able successfully demonstrate they’d mastered the material?
Even more puzzling: if schools could control the process why produce a mix that includes unprepared graduates and drop-outs who’ll likely struggle to find work or pay off student loan debt? Actually, flip it the other way around: can we possibly imagine a situation where half the cars coming off of General Motor’s assembly line weren’t finished or were made so badly that they couldn’t be driven?
The worst sin of the manufacturing model is that it totally ignores any role student effort plays in educational outcomes. Just look at faculty expectations of how much time they think students should spend outside of class versus how much time they think students actually spend. In the social sciences alone, 55 percent think students should be spending 4 to 6 hours over the course of a 7-day week yet almost two thirds think students are only spending about 1 or 2 hours a week.
This isn’t an indictment against students. Their time is finite and valuable and in a lot of cases coursework needs to be balanced against greater responsibilities like employment or even child care. It’s purely recognition that the credential is far more valuable than the education behind it.
Why should a business major spend unnecessary time and effort into a getting an “A” in introductory biology when she knows that all some faceless HR officer will eventually care about is being able to check a box verifying that she has a bachelor’s degree?
Rethinking how colleges function
Colleges may not produce education but they definitely help it along by offering students all the tools they need — in the form of instructors, classes, tutoring centers, laboratories, Internet resources and libraries — to educate themselves.
If this model seems familiar, it is as it’s basically how health clubs work. Places like L.A. Fitness don’t produce “health;” they just bundle resources like swimming pools, weights, aerobics classes and personal trainers and sell members rights to use them and make themselves healthier. They charge annual fees and provide quality control by ensuring that the pool remains clean, the exercise machines are safe and instructors have the requisite skills to provide various forms of proper training or eating advice.
It’s a small shift in thinking with big implications. It does a much better job of explaining why different students at the same college and even in the same program enjoy different levels of post-graduate success. Treating tuition as a membership fee also makes it much easier to understand why the sticker price at Harvard is so much higher than at say North Dakota State University even though both offer a fairly similar slate of degree programs. The stock of resources students are buying access to at Harvard is simply deeper and wider.
Rethinking how colleges work has the potential to change how researchers and policymakers think about everything from accreditation to student aid policy. And sure, university behavior is certainly more complex than what I’m describing here; I’m using a hatchet for the sake of space. Still, no health club ever promises its members that they’ll be triathletes and no college promises its students that they’ll leave with a degree. The underlying message from both is the same: we’ll give you the tools but you’re the one who’s going to have to do the work.
None of this absolves colleges of responsibility for facilitating high-quality education. They still should, and need to, be able to sufficiently demonstrate that they’re providing competent instructors and that students who need supplemental resources beyond classroom instruction have them when they need them. They also need to ensure that there are both physical and virtual spaces for students to come together to study.
Where process is concerned, colleges also continue to have an obligation to eliminate many of the frictions that unnecessarily blocks degree completion. That means helping students minimize costly course “grazing” and optimizing scheduling, but it also means maintaining transparent credit transfer processes and cross-institutional articulation agreements that help students finish in the shortest time possible and at the lowest cost.
When all you have is a hammer…
Treating higher education as a traditional manufacturing process appeases our intuition that if someone spends tens of thousands of dollars and doesn’t feel like they received enough in return, there is someone to blame. It also gives policymakers a neat schematic to tinker with.
If history’s any guide, it’s also a blueprint for continued disappointment and the unrealistic hope that the “right” fix is always going to be the next one. Concepts like performance-based funding or MOOCs aren’t bad ideas. They’re just rooted in assumptions about what colleges control and what students care about that don’t fit reality.
We need to, and will, make higher education in the United States better, but not until policymakers can get comfortable with the responsibilities that students play in the process.
Whether we believe it or not, we are losing the work-and-money game. We’ve put so much emphasis on getting things done, on finishing to‑do lists, on growth, and on economic demand, that we’re beginning to lose—big time.
We believed that we could continue to win if we kept our heads down and worked until our eyes fell out. We thought it was okay to feel unfulfilled as long as we kept showing up for work and getting everything done as best as we could. Only now are we realizing that this is actually having a negative effect on productivity in the workplace.
Many companies are beginning to lose lots of money, because when people aren’t happy they aren’t focused, energized, empowered, or efficient. When energy is low, so is effort and effectiveness. That’s why, according to Gallup, the US economy absorbs approximately $550 billion a year in productivity losses because employees feel disengaged, disempowered, and unfulfilled.
We’ve always believed that the rules of the game were work and growth at all costs. And now we’re seeing that there is actually a price we can’t continue to pay: we’re unhappy and we’re losing money because of it. Results flow where energy goes. And if the energy is not there, if we are not emotionally connected and stimulated or finding fulfillment, then we have no firepower. We are not energized, and we have no real happiness or connection to anything that matters to us.
This causes us to lose the game on all levels. It’s bad for us as individuals, because the whole point of work is to provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and to be happy. We’re working more than ever, but we’re less happy than ever. And businesses, nations, and economies are losing money because of it too. The economy is broken. The days add up and people are tired. Somehow we keep showing up, but we aren’t getting the results we could if we felt more fulfilled.
This is not to say that money isn’t important—it is. Money can take you from stress into comfort. It can buy some freedom. It can give you a comfortable place to live and help you support your loved ones. But at a certain point, something else needs to drive us. In fact, a 2010 Princeton University study by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that, at the national level, making more than $75,000 per year won’t significantly improve your day‑to‑day happiness.
But somehow we continue to run through the motions, nearly working ourselves to death. The secrets to winning big time remain secret. That’s because we’ve been operating under the assumption that happiness and fulfillment do not enhance productivity and success. We’ve been playing the game by the wrong rules, falsely believing that we win by sacrificing well-being for work.
We’ve been missing some basic facts, like the Harvard Business Review’s findings that satisfied employees have 31 percent higher productivity, generate 37 percent more sales, and are three times more creative than their disengaged counterparts. Or Gallup’s discoveries that the top 25 percent of engaged workers have 50 percent fewer accidents, as well as significantly lower health costs. The game has reached a tipping point: we’ve begun to realize that we can no longer increase the number of hours and the amount of stress we put on people to raise their levels of productivity. What we’re finding is that if we want to see what people are capable of achieving, we have to create new definitions of happiness and leadership, both in and out of work.
Our work must energize, empower, enliven, and stimulate us. This secret to finding personal fulfillment, success, and productivity has been forgotten, and we have to find it again. If our daily tasks or overall objectives at work aren’t fulfilling, and the money we earn doesn’t give us that feeling, then what will bring us happiness and fulfillment? We need to find the answer to this question so we can win the game. Besides, the happier we are, the better we perform.
So the real question is: what makes us happy? A great book, All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton, shows evidence that happy workers are more productive. However, the authors do not use those exact words. Instead of “happy,” they describe workers as “energized, engaged, and enabled.” They call their version of happiness “the three Es”:
- Energized: you feel a sense of well-being and drive.
- Engaged: you’re attached to your work and willing to put in extra effort.
- Enabled: your work environment supports your productivity and performance. You are empowered.
If we break down what we mean by happiness, we usually find that it involves these feelings of being energized, enabled, empowered, and stimulated. We are happy when we feel seen and heard, when we feel that we are in the proper place at the proper time and feeling good.
My new book focuses on practical ways of obtaining happiness, growing our income through fulfillment, on feeling inspired to go to work, feeling valued and stimulated during the day, and feeling fulfilled in our personal lives when we return home. This is not some crazy, idealized notion. In fact, there is no other alternative for many of us. We deserve to win the game, and it is inevitable that we will continue to play it. A good number of us work most of the years of our lives, and we should feel a sense of fulfillment in our work. We are doing ourselves a disservice by perpetuating a society where the majority of people would like to quit their jobs.
This post has been adapted and excerpted with permission from the introduction to PROFIT FROM HAPPINESS by Jake Ducey from TarcherPerigee, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright 2016, Jake Ducey.
Contact John Assunto for all of your Education Recruiting needs! Johna@worldbridgepartners.com or 860-387-0503
I consider myself fortunate. Like many of my friends, I am about to graduate from a top-tier university, but unlike many of them, I will be graduating this June debt-free. While the results have been rewarding, the journey was (as you’d expect) arduous.
In my senior year of high school, I had been accepted to ten universities. I was ecstatic and prideful, eagerly awaiting financial aid packages to help me narrow my choices. To my dismay, the best offer I received would require I graduate with over $40,000 in student loan debt. Even worse, part of that debt would be in Parent PLUS loans and I simply could not ask my parents to shoulder more debt than they already had.
After an anxious, sleepless night in April of 2012, I pulled out my laptop and submitted my application to my local community college. I knew that it was the only financially viable option, but it weighed heavy on me. My high school was (and still is) an educational powerhouse, churning out students for Ivy Leagues and top universities in the hundreds. When I told my peers and teachers I had elected to go to community college, nearly everyone told me I was throwing my life away and wasting my potential. I was crushed and my parents were heartbroken, feeling they had failed me.
As it turned out, community college was the best decision I could have made and I learned quickly that the school does not make the student, but rather the student makes the school. I made lifelong friends, traveled to Boston and Nicaragua to represent my school, and lived at home where I strengthened frayed family bonds. I interacted with hundreds of non-traditional students and became more humble and appreciative of my educational opportunities.
I also became obsessed with graduating debt free, partly for my own benefit and partly to prove my high school wrong. I worked all four years of college, sometimes two or three jobs at once. I applied to over a hundred scholarships and won eleven of them. When I transferred to UC San Diego, I left behind my car and ate on $20 a week so I could live entirely off my financial aid and scholarship money.
There were opportunities I made sure to take. I backpacked through Central America the summer of 2014 and I studied abroad in Argentina the summer of 2015 (which required another round of scholarship applications). I worked three internships, one at my community college and two at UCSD. I regret nothing that I did, but sometimes I regret turning down countless invitations from friends, either because I was working or studying to maintain the required GPA for my scholarships.
When I speak to high school students worried about the cost of college, I give them three pieces of advice: (1) apply to every scholarship you qualify for, even if the sum seems small (seriously, I could not possibly say this enough); (2) be honest with yourself about the value of your education [i.e. while education is priceless, a university education is not]; and (3) consider alternatives to prestigious “brand name” universities like community colleges, local state schools, gap years, and trade schools.
Many of my friends are bitter about the growing Millennial debt burden, a frustration I cannot begrudge them. Perhaps because I am facing a debt-free post graduation, I’m more ambivalent. The current situation of student borrowing is unsustainable, but electing a certain presidential candidate over another doesn’t seem a sufficient fix either. Since there is little I personally can do about the state of the economy or the state budgets, I’m trying to make the smartest life choices and encouraging others to do the same. At this point, all I can do is take my victories and run with them and have faith that the resilience, persistence, and optimism I have developed will carry me to the finish line.
Photo: Geisel Library, the stunning landmark of my soon-to-be alma mater University of California San Diego.
Want a university education? That’s fine, as long as you don’t mind clocking up a debt totaling tens of thousands of dollars that will follow you around for decades.
Except, of course, it doesn’t have to follow you around for the rest of your life. Not if you pay back your loans quickly, and get yourself a high-paying job as soon as you graduate.
This reality has an interesting knock-on affect. It could reasonably be said that the desire to become debt-free makes courses that offer a direct route to employment considerably more attractive than those that do not.
Why study art history when you can study engineering? Why spend years seeking to understand the nuances of the Franco-Prussian War when you could get yourself a degree in accounting?
When such a huge part of a young person’s choice about whether or not to attend university is about affordability, is it any surprise that the whole process can become a financial decision rather than one based on personal preference?
The rhetoric from those in high office doesn’t help. The UK government has just published its plans for higher education in a White Paper called Success As a Knowledge Based Economy.
As Times Higher Education’s editor, John Gill, points out here, the title of the paper makes one thing very clear: universities are being told that they must embrace their role as drivers of economic progress.
The government is stressing the importance of “high-level graduate skills” and demand for a “more highly skilled workplace”. Demand for graduates is no doubt a plus for universities, but there is a lingering concern, Gill says, that the focus on economic value is too overbearing.
In the U.S., you don’t have to look too far to find similar opinions. You wouldn’t expect anything less from presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, but his adviser, Sam Clovis, has indicated that higher education is valued – provided it is focused on employability.
“If you are going to study 16th-century French art, more power to you. I support the arts,” Clovis said. “But you are not going to get a job.”
He believes that a college should factor that in when deciding on a student’s loan eligibility, and the requirement that colleges share the risk would be a powerful incentive to do so.
“If you get into the esoteric aspects of a particular art field, you have to know that those are the circumstances,” he said.
On the other side of the house, president Barack Obama is still encouraging more states and communities to continue expanding tuition-free community college and Hilary Clinton, favourite to be the Democrats presidential candidate, is running on a ticket of “debt-free” college, with the cost of attending dependent on personal circumstance.
The Democrats too, however, consistently refer to higher education within the context of higher salaries. “On average, people with four-year degrees earn over half a million dollars more over their careers than people with high school degrees,” Clinton said when unveiling her tuition fee proposals.
For this #StudentDebt series, I wanted to use my article to look at what this “crisis” means for education in its purest form: a desire for knowledge, and a love of learning.
It might sound idealistic, but does our focus on the economic impact of attending university mean that we make our school-leavers think too much about what they ought to learn, and not enough about what they actually want to learn?
Education of course has a role to play in ensuring that there are enough capable graduates to fill the skills gaps in our economies. It is vital to plugging skills gaps in our economies and producing the right candidates for the most in-demand jobs.
But by focusing too strongly on these functions of education, are we making “learning for learning’s sake” the preserve of the rich? Are we saying that studying that which interests us – the things that tweak our curiosity and genuinely excite us – is only an option if it happens to be in a lucrative field?
A desire for knowledge is a wonderful thing. It would be a shame if government policy and financial pragmatism prevented some of our brightest and best from enrolling in university to follow their dreams, rather than simply to line their pockets.
I would urge the new president, whoever it is, to keep this in mind when implementing higher education reform.
A recent cover image for “The New Yorker” paints a sobering picture for newly minted college grads. A solitary young man clad in a “Class of 2015” T-shirt rakes graduation caps from trees as 2016 graduates celebrate their commencement in the background. Just one year ago the man likely tossed his own cap high into the air with jubilation, dreaming of his bright future. Did he have any idea he’d struggle to find a job in his field of study and settle for a minimum-wage gig to make ends meet?
The man cleaning up campus is lucky—he got a degree. There are some 36 million Americans who started college but didn’t finish. And if they took out loans, they’re paying for a partial education that likely failed to give them the leg up in the job market that would help them pay off their debt. The massive amount of student debt in the U.S. is a huge problem for our economy, but the college completion crisis makes the situation heartbreaking. If the U.S. wants to reduce the record high $1.3 trillion in outstanding student debt, we need to help more students graduate.
As former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said on multiple occasions, “The most expensive degree is the one you don’t complete.” Today more than 40 percent of student borrowers aren’t making payments on their loans. Coupled with the increasing cost of college, low completion rates drive the vicious student debt cycle.
The College Completion Crisis
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both called for improvements in college access and affordability. But even free college doesn’t help if students drop out.
“It’s not just getting to college, but it’s going to college for what?” says Elisabeth Barnett, senior research associate at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. “So many students arrive at college without a clear idea of where they want to go and they wander around for a while and don’t get themselves onto a pathway.”
Even as the value of a degree is being questioned loud and clear, it still holds weight in our economy today. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree earn an average annual income of $48,500, while those with only a high school diploma or equivalent make $30,000. The logic goes that those who graduate college are in a much better position to pay off their debt.
Nearly half of students who begin studying at four-year colleges and universities fail to complete their degree within six years. At community colleges, the situation is worse: Just over 30 percent of students who begin a two-year degree program complete it within three years. And while 80 percent of community college students say they aim to get a bachelor’s degree, only 14 percent of them reach that goal within six years.
The completion crisis is especially acute for minority students, first-generation students and learners from low-income families. Likelihood of graduation varies significantly with income and racial background. And guess who gets the short end of the stick?
One in five college students from the lowest-income families earns a degree by age 24, compared to 99 percent of students from the top-earning families.
Ted Gonder, co-founder and CEO of Moneythink, a Chicago-based organization focused on spreading financial education to underserved young adults, says that many of the high-school students his nonprofit works with understand how to afford college. They get that they need to fill out FAFSA forms and apply for Pell grants and other scholarships. Where they run into trouble is when they have other cash-flow issues during college. “If low-income students are using money from their scholarships to cover basic day-to-day expenses, then they end up at the end of the semester unable to cut a full check for tuition.”
When organizations like Moneythink help students understand that they can get into and afford college, they also need to have conversations with students about what it will take to stay in school, Gonder says. “Even though you can afford college, even though it is possible, let’s have a realistic and sobering conversation up front about what it’s going to take. How many hours a week are you going to have to work? How’s that going to affect your ability to study for tests and keep your scholarships? How many loans are you going to have to take out on top of that?”
A Smoother Transition
Higher-ed institutions point fingers at high schools for sending them underprepared students who drop out because they can’t keep up with coursework, but colleges and universities aren’t innocent victims. They can be doing more to help students succeed even before matriculation.
Barnett studies transitions between high school and college and leads the Community College Research Center project, “Reshaping the College Transition: A Study of Early Assessment and Curricular Interventions.” She says far too few high school seniors graduate ready for college. Oftentimes they’re placed into remedial classes that don’t count toward a degree and make them spend even more time (and loan money) on their education.
Barnett calls on high schools and higher-ed institutions to co-develop curriculum for remedial education that students can start in high school. She says community colleges, especially, should be reaching out to their feeder high schools to “have conversations about what proportion of the students coming in need some kind of remediation. And then having discussions about what can be done to reduce that number without any casting of blame, understanding that there might be issues of lack of alignment.”
Barnett points out the success Tennessee has seen in college readiness through the state’s Seamless Alignment and Integration of Learning Support program (SAILS). The program brings the state community colleges’ developmental math sequence to high school seniors in a blended-learning format. Students who pass the course can bypass remedial math and enroll directly in college-level math at any of the state’s 13 community colleges.
“There’s real involvement from the college sector,” Barnett says, explaining that each community college sends coordinators to local high schools to help high school faculty run the labs where students complete the course.
Once students are in the door, colleges and universities need to do a better job of supporting their educational journey. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchellrecently told EdSurge about exemplary work that Georgia State University has done in academic advising.
The school has analyzed 10 year’s worth of data in course-taking patterns and grades to create a set of predictive analytics that help professional advising teams keep students on track to graduate. Rather than waiting for students to fail a class or drop out, academic advisors reach out at the first sign that students are having trouble.
Georgia State increased semester-to-semester retention rates by 5 percent and reduced the time it takes for students to earn a degree by half a semester. Its graduating class of 2014 saved $10 million in tuition and fees compared to the graduates a year before. And students of all socioeconomic backgrounds are graduating at the same rate: “They’ve completely erased completion gap between low-income students and higher-income students,” Mitchell says.
When students of all socioecomic backgrounds complete their degrees at similar, higher rates, we can have faith that college will be an opportunity for economic success. If students who need the most support fail to graduate, college becomes a barrier that drives inequality. Those who take out loans and don’t finish are worse off than when they enrolled.
“We have to break that cycle for the individual; we have to break that cycle for our economic prosperity,” Mitchell says. “Most of all we have to break that cycle so that we can remind people—and it be truthful—that America is a place where, if you work hard, there will be a space in college for you and that space will be a place that will lead you to success.”
Just a few months ago, I decided to leave the only job I’ve ever really had.
For almost nine years, I worked at Business Insider, but in February I decided to join CNBC to lead its digital editorial operations.
With LinkedIn releasing its new list of the most attractive employers in the world, I thought I would talk about what attracted me to a new company.
It was a big decision! I was happy at Business Insider. I love the people there. CEO Henry Blodget treated me well.
So, what attracted me to a new job?
CNBC is the preeminent brand in business news. If you’re interested in business journalism (and I am!) it’s hard to say no to the organization that’s first in business worldwide. Every major decision maker in the business world appears on, and watches CNBC. That’s an attractive opportunity for someone in the media business.
I was also attracted to the leadership group at CNBC. Chairman Mark Hoffman impressed me in the interview process, and I thought I would learn a lot from him. Same goes for Editor-in-Chief Nik Deogun, and all the other great people at CNBC.
But, even more importantly, I asked myself one question: Over the next few years, would I learn more at CNBC, or Business Insider?
The answer came back, over and over, that I would learn more at CNBC.
The number one trend in the digital media business is the rise of video. BuzzFeed has heavily emphasized video. Mashable has pivoted to focus on video. Vice, the world’s most valuable media upstart, now runs a cable network. At Business Insider, we were heavily focusing on video projects.
While digital media companies seek to gain video expertise, TV networks have that expertise. Not only that, CNBC is part of a bigger media organization, NBC Universal, which does all sorts of fantastic news, entertainment programming, and films.
The ability work at a media company with deep knowledge of a part of the industry I didn’t know anything about was too great for me to pass up.
For an even better story about moving from place to place check out this interview with an engineer that has worked at Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe.
How do you get off to a great start as a new CEO? There is no shortage of literature on the subject from seasoned executives, management advisors and scholars, but much of it is qualitative and anecdotal. We at McKinsey love our data, so recently my colleagues and I sought to find empirical links between new CEOs’ strategic actions and company performance. We examined major moves that almost 600 CEOs took during their first two years in office, then assessed how those moves influenced the company’s returns and the CEOs’ tenure.
Some of the results surprised us. But, above all, two points came out loud and clear. New CEOs should:
- make big, decisive moves quickly; and
- adopt an outsider’s perspective when they evaluate the business, whether they themselves come from within or outside the company.
Here are the key takeaways from our research. Do they correspond to your experiences?
Don’t follow the herd.
We expected that CEOs taking the helm at poorly performing companies would have a greater propensity to make strategic moves, because they’d feel compelled to try new ways to improve results. Yet we found that new leaders take similar actions, and with similar frequency, regardless of the company context.
Not surprisingly, the effectiveness of these actions differs significantly.
- Undertaking an organisational redesign correlates with 1.9% performance improvement at thriving companies, on average, but not at low performers;
- Strategic reviews correlate with 4.3% performance boost on average for companies that lag competitors but are less helpful for thriving corporations;
- Underperformers enjoyed an improvement on average when they reshuffled their management teams. But when well-performing companies did so, they destroyed value.
The lesson: New CEOs need to assess their starting points carefully before deciding how to act. There isn’t a standard CEO playbook that suits every situation.
When you’re behind, use the whole toolkit.
Last year, I presented some of our research on successful CEO transitions at a leadership retreat for potential CEOs in Napa. One participant asked how aggressively a leader taking the helm of an underperforming organization should act. It’s a tricky balance: do too much, too fast and the organisation might not be able to cope; too little, too slowly and the opportunity goes begging.
The data suggests the path. On average, CEOs taking leadership of underperforming companies do better when they make more big moves. Those who pulled four or more strategic levers during their first two years achieved an average performance boost of 3.6% relative to peers, while their less bold counterparts eked out only a 0.4% increase.
That doesn’t mean you should do everything at once, but it does suggest that – in business, as in classical mythology – fortune favours the bold. These findings are in linewith other research my colleagues and I have done, which showed that companies tend to perform better when they shift more resources between business units to capture new opportunities.
CEOs who took four or more strategic actions during their first two years achieved a performance boost of 3.6%, compared to a mere 0.4% increase eked out by their less bold counterparts
Adopt an outsider’s mindset.
One of the most intriguing findings is that CEOs hired from outside the company deliver better results on average than insiders. Why would that be? The data gives us a strong clue: External CEOs have a greater propensity to act. They are more likely to make six out of the nine strategic moves we examined in their first two years, perhaps because they are typically able to view the situation with greater objectivity and are less encumbered by organisational and personnel history and politics.
That doesn’t mean that companies should necessarily hire outsiders – indeed, more of the CEOs in the top 20% are insiders – but it does highlight the importance of combining dispassionate analysis of the situation with a readiness to act boldly. One internally promoted CEO whom I have observed closely posed this question to the organisation: If a private-equity firm bought the company or an activist investor took a major stake, what would they do and how fast would they act? He then led the management team to match that ambition for change, redesigning the organisation, reviewing the strategy, reshuffling the management, closing businesses, exiting geographies, and then making a transformational acquisition. He took the lens of an active owner – and he and the company have been rewarded with standout shareholder returns relative to industry peers.
Time is not on your side.
Finally, while it’s true that new CEOs have a singular opportunity to shape the companies they lead, the window doesn’t stay open long. On average, an inflection point arrives during the third year of a CEO’s tenure. At that point, the chief executive whose company is underperforming is roughly twice as likely to depart as an outperforming company’s leader — by far the highest level at any time in a chief executive’s tenure.
I encourage you to read a more detailed exploration of our findings in this recently published article.
I would also love to hear your feedback and experiences.
What’s the best way for an insider to take an outsider’s perspective on the company? What lessons have you learned from moving into the CEO role or working with or observing those who have? Are the lessons similar to what our research suggests, and do they differ for transitions into other executive roles?
I live in London and lead the U.K. and Ireland hubs of McKinsey’s Strategy & Corporate Finance Practice as well co-leading our CxO transition capabilitiesglobally. In my work, I regularly counsel top C-suite executives, particularly during their transitions into new roles. Please contact me here on LinkedIn.
Cynthia Roberts thought she’d work in digital marketing when she graduated from college in 2009. But the economic crash and record unemployment rates made it difficult for her to find a stable position. Instead she worked a string of low-wage jobs, from selling merchandise at concert venues to answering phones at a call center.
When she interviewed for entry-level work, she was told that she was overqualified. “I was stuck in this awful limbo,” said the Rochester Institute of Technology graduate.
After working a part-time customer service job at Delta Air Lines and later as a manager in a Boston hair salon, the 29-year-old finally landed a position that would enable her to start making payments on her student loan, which now totals more than $70,000 with accrued interest.
“I can’t afford to have the wedding I want, can’t afford to start a family like I always planned, and I still don’t make enough money to not live paycheck to paycheck despite eating macaroni and cheese out of a box three nights a week,” said Roberts, who currently works as a leasing consultant at a property management company. She eloped late last year mainly to get health insurance, she said.(Read her full story here.)
Robert’s experience is one shared by many millennials affected by crushing student debt, which now totals an eye-popping $1.3 trillion. Student loan defaults have also soared, drawing parallels with subprime mortgage crisis that caused the housing crash.
A LinkedIn survey of current students and recent graduates found that rising tuition costs and student debt are causing millennials to delay the markers of adulthood such as getting married, buying a home and starting a family. Some are also foregoing advanced degrees in order to avoid taking on more debt.
Tuition and fees at public, four-year schools have nearly doubled over the past 15 years, while costs at private, nonprofit schools have jumped 45%, according to college cost tracker College Board. The tuition burden is especially taxing on current college students who attend private colleges, the LinkedIn survey found.
More than 70% of millennials surveyed said they have been affected by the increasing costs of tuition. Some 61% said they have a student loan, with the median debt falling between $20,000 and $25,000. Thirteen percent of millennials mentioned that they have more than $50,000 in student loan debt.
To cover university costs and other living expenses such as books, housing and food, some LinkedIn members who took the survey said they’ve had to take out additional private loans, rely on credit cards, and work multiple jobs, which affects their ability to engage fully with their education.
“By the time I graduate with a bachelor’s, I’ll be $50,000 in debt.”
Cody Dostal is a junior at Capella University, a for-profit, online school in Minneapolis. He spends 70 hours a week working two jobs, on top of going to school full time. “It’s rough,” wrote the 20-year-old information security major. “By the time I graduate with a bachelor’s, I’ll be $50,000 in debt.” (Read his full story here.)
Respondents who were able to escape debt altogether or pay back much smaller loans were fortunate enough to receive financial support from their families or significant other, or they had scholarships that covered the costs. But as the survey found, the burden of student debt can have an unexpected ripple effect: the parents who saved but didn’t save enough, the younger siblings who feel pressured to attend more affordable schools, and the spouses or significant others who inherit that debt.
“You can grow up to be whatever you want to be, but it will take you the rest of your life to pay for it.”
That was the case for Meagan Weaver, who married into more than $55,000 in student loan debt. Weaver says she and her husband barely make enough for living expenses with their full-time jobs. She plans to take on extra work as a waitress and her husband drives for Uber on the side.
“I am now living the new American dream that so many of my generation is experiencing,” wrote Weaver, a 2011 graduate of Ohio State University. “You can grow up to be whatever you want to be, but it will take you the rest of your life to pay for it.”
To make sense of the student debt crisis and the ripple effect it has had on families, we’ve asked students and recent graduates, LinkedIn Influencers, policy makers, financial advisors, companies and more to weigh in and share their stories and perspectives.
Is college worth the debt? How do we make higher education more affordable? What can students and families do to avoid the pitfalls of debt? Is the university model broken?
From a graduate student’s extreme sacrifices to pay off his loans to a company perk that covers the cost of a college degree, here’s a taste of the best #StudentDebt stories that we’re highlighting in the coming weeks.
Jim Rossi lived in his Chevy Blazer to pay off his Rutgers degree faster. He’s nowtaking shelter in a Nissan Xterra to knock off loan debts while earning a second master’s degree from UC Berkeley. He writes,
“I see Xterra living as an innovative business decision.”
Madrid’s IE Business School Dean Santiago Iñiguez details how business schools earn their incomes and how that model affects tuition costs.
The VP of financial aid at Western Governors University Bob Collins writes about the high costs of college and WGU’s innovative approach to keeping tuition costs low.
JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson writes about a company program that helps crewmembers soar above college debt.
Financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz offers some practical advice for students before — and after — they borrow student loans.
LinkedIn Survey Methodology:
The LinkedIn Online survey was conducted April 18-25, 2016 among 355 undergraduates and 330 recent graduates who graduated after 2006. All of them are LinkedIn members. Margins of error: +/- 6%