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Jeremy Alder of College Consensus: 5 Things That Should Be Done To Improve The US Educational System

Funding equity, racial equity, teacher retention, college cost reduction, and student debt relief. If we want a just education system, the quality of opportunity we receive can’t be dependent on where we were born or who our parents are. If we want quality schools, we need to attract and retain quality teachers by paying them […]

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Funding equity, racial equity, teacher retention, college cost reduction, and student debt relief. If we want a just education system, the quality of opportunity we receive can’t be dependent on where we were born or who our parents are. If we want quality schools, we need to attract and retain quality teachers by paying them well and making sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs. If we want more kids to go to college, we need to remove the biggest barrier to higher education, which is cost. And finally, if we want to avoid turning kids off from school, we need them to be able to imagine a better future for themselves than crushing debt.

Asa part of my interview series about the things that should be done to improve the US educational system, I had the pleasure to interview Jeremy Alder, founder of College Consensus. Jeremy Alder has developed and managed several websites focused on higher education and career development. A Texas native, Jeremy graduated from The University of Texas at Austin before heading east to Duke University for graduate school. He currently resides in North Carolina with his four kids.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

Iwas homeschooled and the first and only in my family to go to college. Higher education opened worlds and doors for me that I never could’ve imagined. After college, I earned a Master’s in Divinity and went to work as a community organizer, predominantly in low-income areas of my hometown in San Antonio, TX. There I saw firsthand the importance of a college education, as well as the barriers many students face getting into college and paying for it. For these reasons higher education, and helping others make wise decisions regarding it, became very important to me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What lesson did you learn from that?

After putting a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into writing and creating content for a particular higher-ed focused website it was sold overnight for a lot of money. I didn’t get a heads up that a sale was happening, nor did I receive any of the proceeds. The experience taught me two things: 1.) Don’t assume anything will last forever; tomorrow is not promised; and 2.) In so far as you can, seek an ownership stake in whatever enterprise you’re working on.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are working to expand College Consensus to include rankings and information on graduate programs in law, business, and medicine. Our consensus model of rankings will help prospective graduate students gain a clearer, more well-rounded understanding of the best graduate schools in their field.

Can you briefly share with our readers why you are authority in the education field?

I spent almost a decade as an undergraduate and graduate student, attending a community college, public university, and a private university, so I’ve experienced different parts of our higher ed system from the inside. I’ve also spent the last decade researching and writing about higher education, first as a freelancer and now as the Managing Editor for CollegeConsensus.com.

From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

Uneven. The quality of a child’s educational opportunities depends far too much on what zip code they were born in and how much money their parents make. We have a fundamentally unjust system that perpetuates racial and economic segregation.

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

Oof. It’s a tough time for our education system as a whole right now. The Trump administration and Betsy Devos seem to be doing everything they can to dismantle the gains of our public school systems, weaken oversight of predatory for-profit institutions, and make it harder for students to avoid or get out of student loan debt. There are some promising movements at the state level, like California’s decision to cover the first two years of tuition at the state’s community colleges, but overall things are not great. Maybe the most promising thing is the number of teachers and parents who are getting organized and staging protests and going on strike to force public officials to do what’s right and make sure our teachers and students are taken care of, but it’s an uphill battle right now.

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Why are these so critical?

Funding equity, racial equity, teacher retention, college cost reduction, and student debt relief. If we want a just education system, the quality of opportunity we receive can’t be dependent on where we were born or who our parents are. If we want quality schools, we need to attract and retain quality teachers by paying them well and making sure they have the resources they need to do their jobs. If we want more kids to go to college, we need to remove the biggest barrier to higher education, which is cost. And finally, if we want to avoid turning kids off from school, we need them to be able to imagine a better future for themselves than crushing debt.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging young people in STEM? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

I think we’re doing fine. The concern about STEM is overblown, in my opinion.

Can you articulate to our readers why it’s so important to engage girls and women in STEM subjects?

Historically, STEM subjects have been closed off to girls and women. This has led to a serious gender imbalance in the academy and the workplace, which is with us to this day. The only to way to address this is by encouraging girls and women to study STEM and pursue careers in STEM.

How is the US doing with regard to engaging girls and women in STEM subjects? Can you suggest three ways we can increase this engagement?

Things are improving statistically, but still a ways to go to get to gender parity. I think representation in the media continues to be important. You can only imagine being what you can see, and little girls still don’t see many female scientists or engineers in their cartoons, movies, video games, or television shows.

As an education professional, where do you stand in the debate whether there should be a focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) or on STEAM (STEM plus the arts like humanities, language arts, dance, drama, music, visual arts, design and new media)? Please explain why you feel the way you do.

Definitely on the STEAM side. Most of the major problems facing our country are not primarily technological in nature, but moral, political, philosophical, even spiritual. These are problems that can’t be fixed through technology or ingenuity. They require wisdom, which is the sphere of the humanities.

If you had the power to influence or change the entire US educational infrastructure, what five things would you implement to improve and reform our education system? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I’d start school later so kids could get more sleep. I’d make it mandatory for students to spend a certain amount of time outside every week. I’d nationalize the education funding system so how much money a school got wasn’t dependent on what county, state, or zip code it’s in. I’d forgive all student loan debt and make public universities free, like public elementary, middle, and high school. I wish I had examples and stories about these. Hopefully in the future I will!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? How is this quote relevant to you in your life?

“Love, and do what you will.” That’s a quote from St. Augustine, 4th century bishop and philosopher. I have it tattooed on my forearm. It reminds me that life is complicated and we can’t always know what the “right” thing to do is at any given moment, but we can choose to act out of love. That’s all we can control, and ultimately, all that matters.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? They might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’d love to hang out with Rob Delaney. He seems like a fun dude with a good heart.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: @CollegeConsens

Instagram: @college consensus

FB: https://www.facebook.com/collegeconsensus/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/college-consensus/

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