Chance News 71

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"Regression, it seems has a particular ability to reduce otherwise emotionally healthy adults to an infantile state, blubbing hysterically and looking for someone's hand to hold. My guess is that this suits most statisticians just fine--a textbook on regression might look like a bunch of formulas to you; to statisticians like me, it 450 pages of job security."

Andrew Vickers, in What is a p-value anyway?

(Addison-Wesley, 2009), p. 78

"It is an odd feeling when you love what you do and everyone else seems to hate it. I get to peer into lists of numbers and tease out knowledge that can help people live longer, healthier lives. But if I tell friends I get a kick out of statistics, they inch away as if I have a communicable disease."

Vickers, p. ix

Submitted by Paul Alper


When did they start doing factoids?

12%: The percentage higher for searches of the word "guacamole" in Wisconsin than in Pennsylvania.

5%: The percentage higher for "baba ganoush" searches in Pennsylvania than in Wisconsin.

in "The Count," Wall Street Journal, 4 February 2011, p. D3

Submitted by Paul Alper

Getting what you pay for in college

Flurry of Data as Rules Near for Commercial Colleges Tamar Lewin, The New York Times, February 4, 2011.

It costs a lot of money to go to college. If you are able to get a better job as a result, that is money well invested. But that is not always the case, and it may be that commercial colleges have more problems with this.

On Thursday, the department issued new data showing that many commercial colleges leave large numbers of their graduates unable to pay back their loans. The data — covering all institutions of higher education — found that among students whose loans came due in 2008, 25 percent of those who attended commercial colleges defaulted within three years, compared with 10.8 percent at public institutions and 7.6 percent at private nonprofit colleges and universities.

That's not a fair comparison, according to some.

"Our schools are primarily educating working adults and lower income students, which is not true of traditional higher education," said Harris Miller, president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. "My expectation is that if you compared schools with our demographics, they would have similar rates, and I don’t understand why the Department of Education can’t break it down that way."

There will soon be penalties for colleges with poor data on loan repayment performance.

Starting next year, colleges that have default rates greater than 30 percent for three consecutive years will, as of 2014, lose their eligibility for federal student aid.

There are differing opinions on whether this is a good thing.

The commercial colleges say the rule, as proposed, would cut off education opportunities for low-income and minority students with too few educational options. But consumer advocacy groups say that it would eliminate only the programs whose students have the highest loan-default rates, and, in the process, help protect both students and taxpayers from programs that take in millions of dollars of federal aid but leave students mired in debt.


1. Should loan default rates be adjusted for the demographics of the student population?

2. What sort of data, other than loan default rates could be collected to measure how effective colleges are.

Item 2