In the State of the Union speech, President Obama promised to control college costs and provide a College Scorecard to help students and parents compare costs, graduation rates and loan repayments for any college or university. Some of the data is old and most has been available from other sources, reports the New York Times.
Further, the information is presented as averages and medians that might have little relevance to individual families. The scorecard does connect to each institution’s net price calculator, which allows individualized cost estimates, but it does not provide side-by-side comparisons of multiple schools, as other government sites do.
Meanwhile the Gates Foundation’s Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project is generating more ideas.
In Aligning the Means and the Ends, The Institute for College Access & Success calls for doubling the maximum Pell Grant and giving students 7 1/2 years to complete a degree. Colleges should be rewarded for serving low-income students, TICAS urges. In addition, the white paper recommends:
• Use IRS data to simplify financial aid applications
• Combine income-based loan repayment programs into one plan that assures borrowers of manageable payments and forgiveness after 20 years.
• Eliminate higher education tax benefits and use the savings for Pell Grants and incentives for states and colleges to educate low-income students.
“For students who are willing to study, work, or serve their communities, the federal and state governments, along with their institutions, should make sure they can afford to go to college without the fear of crushing student loan debt,” argues the Education Trust in Doing Away With Debt. the Education Trust.
By taking the federal resources we already spend on higher education and focusing them like a laser on reducing college costs for families with incomes below $115,000 a year (the bottom 80 percent) — providing debt-free education to those below $50,000 (the bottom 40 percent) and no-interest loans with income-based repayment to the rest — we can do much to solve this critical problem without adding to the overall cost of federal student aid.
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators’ policy brief discusses reforming student loans, improving consumer information, “rethinking entitlement and professional judgment and ensuring that colleges and students have “skin in the game.”
Americans value higher education, but worry about its cost and quality, concludes a Gallup/Lumina Foundation poll.
“Americans want a more accessible and affordable system of higher education, one that does more to recognize and reward the personal skills, knowledge and abilities that are genuinely valued in the workplace and can be linked to future learning opportunities,” said Jamie P. Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation.
Only 26 percent of respondents believe the cost of higher education is affordable to anyone who needs it, reported America’s Call for Higher Education Redesign.
Most want to make it easier for adults to earn credentials. Seventy percent of those surveyed favored awarding credit based on mastery of content rather than time in class and 87 percent said students should receive college credit for knowledge and skills acquired outside of the classroom.
While 76 percent said traditional universities offer high-quality education, that drops to 54 percent for community colleges and 33 percent f0r 0nline colleges and universities.
Nearly everyone — 97 percent — said it is important to have a certificate or degree beyond a high school diploma. Of those who lack a postsecondary credential, 41 percent have considered going back to school in the last year.
Higher education is linked strongly to employment, notes the Chronicle of Higher Education. ”A good job is now what Americans want out of college, not just a degree.”said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education.
Lumina Foundation’s new strategic plan for 2013-2016 describes new ideas for ways to reach the foundation’s goal: 60 percent of Americans with high-quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials by 2025. The plan calls for:
Creating new models of student financial support that make college more affordable, make costs more predictable and transparent, provide incentives to increase completion, and align federal, state and institutional policies and programs.
Creating new higher education business and finance models that significantly expand the nation’s capacity to deliver affordable, high-quality education—supported by public finance and regulatory policies that create incentives for, and remove barriers to, innovation.
Creating new systems of quality credentials and credits defined by learning and competencies rather than time, clear and transparent pathways to students, high-quality learning, and alignment with workforce needs and trends.
Lumina plans to spend $300 million over the next four years.
“There hasn’t been enough progress on the attainment agenda,” Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president, told Inside Higher Ed.
Lumina will also continue to push completion-related efforts at both the state and federal levels. And the foundation’s leadebbrs said federal policy would be crucial in shaping a modern higher education system necessary to encourage the 23 million additional degrees and meaningful credentials needed to hit 60 percent attainment.
They pointed to a desperate need for strong leadership at the federal level on questions about the structure of student aid, quality assurance and accreditation, and the alignment of workforce development and higher education.
Lumina wants to make it easier for students who’ve learned on the job, online or on their own to earn credits for competency. Officials also are keeping an eye on “emerging forms of credentialing, like certificates issued by massive open online course (MOOC) providers,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Lumina will add certificates to its Degree Qualifications Profile, which “attempts to establish what constitutes a valuable college degree.”
The push for a $10,000 bachelor’s degree has come to California, reports the Sacramento Bee.
With the cost of going to college already more than $30,000 a year at many California campuses, is it possible to earn a bachelor’s degree for just $10,000 – total?
Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, hopes so.
Borrowing an idea being promoted by Republican governors in Texas and Florida, the GOP assemblyman has introduced a bill that would create a pilot program in California for what he’s billing as a $10,000 bachelor’s degree.
Assembly Bill 51 calls for high schools, community colleges and California State University campuses to develop a low-cost degree path in STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) majors in Chico, Long Beach and Turlock.
High school students would earn college credit through Advanced Placement classes and dual enrollment in community college courses, Logue envisions. Community college students would be encouraged to enroll full time.
The $10,000 would include textbooks, but not room and board. Currently CSU students spend $5,472 a year on tuition and another $2,000 annually.
On the campaign trail, President Obama touted the expansion of Pell Grants and income-based repayment of student loans. He proposed federal funds to train two million workers at community colleges. But, with increased funding pressures and a still-divided Congress, what’s ahead for higher education in the president’s second term?
Expect more of the same, predicts The Chronicle of Higher Education. President Obama will continue to sidestep Congress to “change education policy through his own executive and regulatory authority,” higher-education advocates said.
The for-profit higher education sector is expecting the return of “gainful employment” regulations, which could cut access to student aid: For-profit college shares fell sharply the day after the election.
Even the nonprofits are concerned about more federal regulation, reports the Chronicle.
The Obama administration over the past four years “sharply expanded the federal government’s role in overseeing colleges and universities, often with no evidence that there was a serious problem that needed regulation,” said Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education. He cited as examples some of the Education Department’s regulations on gainful employment, state authorization of online programs, and academic issues like the definition of a credit hour.
In speeches, President Obama talked of linking federal aid to colleges’ willingness to slow the rate of tuition growth. His goal is to cut the growth rate in half over the next 10 years. However, some think the president’s campaign rhetoric won’t generate a policy proposal. Deciding whether a college provides “good value” isn’t easy: Colleges that have raised tuition sharply will find it easy to cut the rate of growth, compared to those that have raised tuition moderately.
Subsidized student loans could be “on the table” in budget negotiations, predicts Inside Higher Ed.
The Higher Education Act, which includes federal financial aid programs, expires in 2013, but the reauthorization process could drag on.
The Real Trouble With Online Education is that its critics won’t give it a chance, writes Geoff Cain, director of distance education at College of the Redwoods (California), in Brainstorm. He takes down Mark Edmundson’s The Trouble with Online Education in the New York Times, which charges online courses aren’t “education of the very best sort.”
Edmundson describes face-to-face classes as places where there is engagement, dialogue and the inadvertent creation of academic community . . . I have taken face-to-face classes at colleges (U.C. Berkeley, for instance) where the professor had no time for undergrads, directed all questions to the tutors, and did nothing to foster community. Conversely, I took an online course in 2008 from the University of Manitoba (George Siemens and Stephen Downes MOOC “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”) and I am still in touch with students I met there — in fact, we are basically continuing what we learned in online communities.
. . . In the “very best sort” of online classes, this community and engagement is deliberately built into the courses, and the research says that student engagement is the number one factor in the success of online courses.
Online education isn’t “a one-size-fits-all endeavor,” as Edmundson claims, writes Cain. Some courses include Skype sessions with teachers and tutors, others mix classroom and online learning, still others are self-directed. Then there are MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which some see as the “single most important experiment in higher education.”
Edmundson thinks online classes are “a monologue and not a real dialogue.” That’s true only of filmed, canned classes, which are not the norm, responds Cain.
Most online classes include discussion forums and students now are using social media and networks such as Twitter and Facebook to engage with one another, with their instructors and experts in their field of study.
Online learning can work just as well as face-to-face learning, Cain argues, citing WCET’s No Significant Difference, which compiles years of research, and New Study: Online Classes Just as Good.
Michael Horn agrees that what matters is how a course is taught, not whether it’s in-person or online.
In my years of research on online learning, what I’ve found fascinating is that a vast majority of online learning teachers report that they get to know their students better than they did in their traditional face-to-face classes, and they say they can address students’ questions more effectively. Of course, just because a course is online does not mean it will be good, just as not every traditional lecture or classroom experience is good or bad.
Online education delivers “value that in-person instruction simply cannot (and succeeds marvelously and ever better),” writes Steven Spear. For many people, the alternative to online education is no education at all, he adds.
More colleges are looking at competency rather than class time in awarding credits, reports the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.
In some cases, colleges add competency measures to traditional courses. For example, Delaware County Community College (DCCC) in Pennsylvania identifies the learning outcomes expected for each course as well as the competencies expected of degree earners. These range from mastering reading, writing, speech, math and technology to developing a “concept of self” and appreciating diversity.
A few colleges and universities are using a competency model to “disrupt” higher education.
At DePaul University’s School for New Learning (SNL), students can demonstrate they’ve mastered the competencies required for a degree by preparing portfolios showing their prior learning or taking courses.
At Western Governors University (WGU), there are no required courses, just required competencies. Students gain knowledge and skills on their own, with the help of faculty mentors, but they can demonstrate competencies at their own pace and earn a degree based on what they have learned from a variety of sources, including work and other life experiences.
Arizona’s Rio Salado College, which has a huge online enrollment, incorporates competency assessment into each course.
Assessed learning outcomes are critical thinking, writing, information literacy, reading, and, recently adopted, sustainability.
Both DCCC and Rio Salado offer a quality guarantee: If a graduate’s skills or competencies do not meet the expectations of employers or, for DCCC, transfer baccalaureate institutions, the student may enroll for more coursework at no charge.
Last week, the University of Wisconsin announced a flexible degree program:
The unique self-paced, competency-based model will allow students to start classes anytime and earn credit for what they already know. Students will be able to demonstrate college-level competencies based on material they already learned in school, on the job, or on their own, as soon as they can prove that they know it.
The goal is to make a college degree “significantly more affordable and accessible to substantially more people.”
In lauding community colleges’ job training mission, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera is Defining Community Colleges Down, writes Richard Kahlenberg, who’s launched a a Century Foundation Task Force on Preventing Community Colleges from Becoming Separate and Unequal.
Community colleges have two big roles—to provide skills, certificates, and AA degrees that will improve employment prospects for students, and to provide a gateway for low-income and working-class students who wish to transfer and ultimately receive a bachelor’s degree. The downgrading of community colleges to a single function—skills training—would constitute a betrayal for the many working-class students who aspire to more.
Among first-time, full-time community college students, 81.4 percent plan to transfer to earn at least a bachelor’s degree, according to federal data. Yet only 11.6 percent do so within six years. That’s “a national tragedy,” writes Kahlenberg. Rather than encouraging students to pursue certificates and associate degrees, community colleges should “improve and strengthen transfer paths.”
For many talented and diligent low-income students who must work to make ends meet, community college is a more affordable and flexible option than beginning at a four-year institution, even though they understandably prefer to ultimately earn a B.A. rather than a certificate or an AA degree. U.S. Census data show that the mean earnings of workers age 18 and over with a bachelor’s degree has increased relative to that of workers with some college/associate’s degree, from 47 percent more in 1975 to 68 percent more in 2010.
The New York Times sees community colleges as places where low-income students will settle for “middle skills,” Kahlenberg writes. “Community colleges should aim higher.”
Two bills to make college textbooks affordable are advancing in the California legislature, reports the Los Angeles Times.
The state Senate approved a bill that would seek competitive bids to create an Internet site where students could read textbooks from the 50 most popular classes for free and get print copies for $20 each. A separate measure would create a California Open Source Digital Library to house the textbooks.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said his two bills are needed because it costs an average of $1,000 a year for textbooks purchased by students of the California State University, University of California and California Community Colleges systems.
“We can provide students in all three [college] systems with the highest quality textbooks at a fraction of today’s cost,” Steinberg told his colleagues, who voted 32 to 2 to send SB 1502 and SB 1503 to the Assembly for consideration. Publishers, he charged, have a monopoly that allows them to charge “exorbitant” prices for textbooks.
Under the legislation, California would create an Open Education Resources Council, which would seek competitive bids from publishers, technology firms and nonprofit groups to provide Internet access to the textbooks.
What works in online learning? It’s got to be easy to use and easily affordable, writes William Wade, dean of Online Learning at West Kentucky Community & Technical College in Community College Week and the League for Innovation in Community College’s Learning Abstracts, December 2011.
Consistency is key, writes Wade.
Common menu labels, consistent syllabus procedures, and uniform teacher-student communication policies help students move from one course to another.
For example, testing should be labeled “testing” in all courses, not “quizzes” or “assessment” or “evaluation.”
Creative presentation with on-demand content also is important.
Faculty have added games, puzzles, videos, live audio sessions, and animation to their formats. They have introduced themselves with back-porch videos, animated Voki comments, and on-screen fireworks. . . . What does not work is last year’s lecture from last century’s notes. Standing in front of a class physically or virtually and reciting course material from decades ago won’t make it, and neither will adding that material to an online class.
Success online courses engage students by letting them create and share ideas and analyze real-world applications of what they’re learning, Wade writes.
The biology class that tests the water in a local river or creek or the composition class that studies political speeches for logic and significance are the ones that move the student forward.
Money matters, but so does quality, Wade writes.
So many quality tools are available free or for a minimal cost that students no longer need to pay hundreds of dollars for software or textbooks.
Mobile learning using the iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Zune, and 3G and 4G networks is increasingly important. Students want flexibility and multiple ways to access material.