Ambition matters

Ambition matters,writes Bryan Caplan on EconLog. It explains why students who apply to selective colleges earn more than those who set modest goals.

In Ambition Revisited, he looks at James Rosenbaum’s College-For-All: Do Students Understand What College Demands? It shows degree completion as a function of high school students’ grades and goals.

Exhibit A: Percentage of high school seniors who plan to get a BA who successfully do so.


Exhibit B: Percentage of high school seniors who plan to get an AA who successfully do so.


More than two-thirds of A-students who plan to get a BA succeed, compared to less than half of A-students who plan to get an AA, Caplan observes. “This pattern extends all the way down to the weakest students.” In fact, B students who aim for a bachelor’s are as likely to succeed as A students who aim for an associate degree.

It’s likely seniors who want a BA are more ambitious than classmates willing to settle for an AA, Caplan writes. “As a result, they are — holding grades fixed — markedly more likely to achieve their goal despite its intrinsic difficulty. Seniors who say they only want an AA, in contrast, simultaneously aim low and fall short.”

Ninth graders should be shown Exhibit A: Less than half of B students and one fifth of C students earn a bachelor’s degree. Ambition isn’t enough: You need to do the work in high school.

Pew: Not going to college is costly

The cost of not going to college is rising, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. “On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education,” the report finds. The gap is widening between four-year college graduates and high school graduates.
Rising Earnings Disparity Between Young Adults with And Without a College Degree
Millennial college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn about $45,500, while high school-only young adults average $28,000. The $17,500 gap is a record. College-educated Millennials also are more likely to be employed full time (89% vs. 82%) and significantly less likely to be unemployed (3.8% vs. 12.2%).

Median earnings for college graduates haven’t increased much in since 1986, but less-educated workers are doing much worse than in the past.

Young people today are far more likely to be living in poverty, Pew reports. Among those ages 25 to 32, 22% with only a high school diploma are living in poverty, compared with 6% of college-educated young adults.

In contrast, only 7% of Baby Boomers who had only a high school diploma were in poverty in 1979 when they were in their late 20s and early 30s.

College Days, Reconsidered

Despite rising college costs, 72% of four-year graduates said college has paid off; 17% believe it will pay off in the future. Even among the two-thirds of college-educated Millennials with student loans, 86% say their degrees have been worth it or expect that they will be in the future.

Graduates had some regrets: Many said they wished they’d gained work experience and studied more in college.

Unfortunately, Pew combines Millennials with associate degrees, certificates or “some college” but no credential in one category. There’s a huge gap between people with a few community college courses, those who’ve earned a vocational certificate and those who’ve earned an associate degree in a vocational field. (Associate degrees in general education typically don’t raise earnings significantly unless the student transfers and completes a bachelor’s degree.)

Florida’s low-cost degrees pay off

Florida’s low-cost bachelor’s degrees are paying off for students, writes Sophie Quinton in The Atlantic

Graduates from the Florida College System’s workforce-oriented bachelor’s degree programs earn about $8,000 more the year after graduation than university graduates, according to research mandated by the state legislature. Tuition for four-year degrees from FCS institutions typically cost $13,000—less than half the cost of four years at a state university.

Alberto Partida, 43, will spend less than $10,000 to earn a four-year degree in supply-chain management from Broward College, a former community college in South Florida. A high school graduate and former restaurant owner, Partida  hopes to enter a growing field. The college estimates there will be 3,555 new supply-chain management jobs in the county by 2019, driven by the expansion of local ports.

The FCS (formerly the Florida Community College System) offers four-year degrees in high-demand fields, such as nursing and computer engineering technology, that lead directly to jobs. FCS colleges don’t offer liberal arts degrees, and can’t offer programs that compete with nearby universities.

But in programs roughly equivalent to university majors, FCS graduates do just fine. Business administration and elementary education majors at state universities earn about the same their first year out of school as FCS graduates, the report found. Registered nurses who graduate from FCS institutions actually earn about $10,000 more their first year out than their university-educated peers.

Florida Prepaid, a state program that lets parents pay for college in advance, charges $53,729 for a four-year university plan, almost three times as much as a four-year FCS degree plan. ”Each year that goes by we’re starting to see more families purchasing the four-year Florida College plan and the 2+2 plan,” says Kevin Thompson, executive director of Florida Prepaid. The 2+2 plan combines an associate’s degree with two years at a state university.

Colleges join ‘honors’ transfer network

Quad Learning‘s American Honors is creating a national transfer network to help high-achieving community college students earn bachelor’s degrees at selective colleges and universities, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Twenty-seven colleges and universities, including Amherst, Swarthmore Colleges, Purdue and UCLA, have agreed to recruit and enroll honors college transfers. Last week, New Jersey’s Mercer County Community College and Union County College joined Community Colleges of Spokane and Indiana’s Ivy Tech Community College in starting American Honors programs.

The American Honors vision is to wrap a rigorous academic honors program developed and delivered by the host community colleges themselves within a bundle of American Honors-provided advising and other services that exceed what financially strapped two-year institutions usually manage themselves. (For instance, the programs have one academic adviser for every 100 or so students, compared to a ratio of about 1,000-to-1 normally.)

Quad Learning, a for-profit company, doesn’t develop the curriculum and has no plans to seek accreditation for American Honors, said president Chris Romer.

The curriculum is delivered in a blended format, with both on-ground and synchronously delivered online courses; academic and other advising is delivered both online and in person, and mandatory “transfer coaching” is done face-to-face.

Spokane’s first graduates have been accepted at institutions such as the University of Washington, Cornell, Stanford and Vanderbilt.  The program, which has tripled its enrollment, is drawing students who wouldn’t have considered community college without an honors option, said Lisa Avery, vice provost for strategic partnerships at Spokane.

Ivy Tech also is expanding American Honors to more campuses.

“From what we’ve seen, these American Honors students are going to be really good students who are well prepared and can persist and graduate,” said Kasey Urquidez, associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the University of Arizona, which is joining the program.

State universities often have agreements with community colleges in their own states to automatically admit transfer students who meet certain academic standards, and to accept certain credits. But those deals generally do not cross state lines or apply to private colleges, which organizers say makes the new alliance the first of its kind.

A handful of universities in the group will offer automatic admission to some American Honors graduates, though the criteria for that, like grade point average, will vary by institution. None have pledged to accept all of the students’ community college credits, but administrators say they have committed to accepting as many as possible.

Some community colleges already have honors programs. Miami Dade College‘s program was a model for American Honors.

American Honors students pay more than the normal community college tuition but considerably less than they’d pay at a four-year institution.

CC nursing programs fight ‘degree creep’

Community college nursing programs are resisting “degree creep,” the push to make a bachelor’s degree the entry level for registered nurses, reports Community College Times.

Community colleges educate more than 40 percent of the nation’s nurses, said Thomas Snyder, president of Indiana’s Ivy Tech, who chairs the National Council of State Directors of Community Colleges’ Nursing and Allied Health Professions Workgroup.

Nurses with ADNs pass licensure exams at the same or better rate than nurses with BSNs, said Stacey Ocander, dean of health and public services at Metropolitan Community College (MCC) in Nebraska and president of the National Network of Health Career Programs in Two-Year Colleges.

However, it’s harder for ADN nurses to train and find jobs.

Some hospitals have already started to only hire nurses with BSNs, and hospitals all over the country—including two in Omaha where MCC is based—are refusing to open their doors to clinical experiences for community college students, Ocander said.

. . . “Ethically, how can hospitals say they won’t educate them? It is part of hospitals’ mission to provide service to the community,” she said. “They are discriminating against a whole class of people who have chosen a community college education.”

Eliminating the ADN would eliminate a step in the career ladder that makes it possible for disadvantaged students to become registered nurses, said Barbara Jones, president of South Arkansas Community College (SouthArk) and a former president of NN2.

“Starting with an 18-month LPN or CNA [certified nursing assistant] program is a wonderful opportunity for someone who never thought they could go to college,” said . . . Jones. An LPN can get a good job with benefits, and from there, it’s less daunting to pursue an associate degree, RN license and then a BSN.

. . . “Many of our students are first-generation college students, so it could take six or seven years to finish a degree if they are working and raising a family,” Jones said. “Sometimes the only way they can do it is with the stackable certificates—the learn-and-earn concept.”

At Ivy Tech, which graduates 1,300 nurses a year, many students are working adults or single parents, said Snyder. Requiring them to earn four-year degrees would cost an extra $20 million to $50 million a year with no improvement in patient care.

Community College Dean has more on “degree creep” for nursing.

72% of credentialed transfers earn 4-year degree

More than 61 percent of community college transfers earn a bachelor’s degree in six years and another 8 percent are still trying, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Seventy-two percent of transfers with a two-year degree complete a four-year degree within six years, according to the Signature Report, compared to 56 percent of community college transfers with no previous credential.

Most community college transfers have not earned a credential.

“Stopping out” of college can be costly, the report found.

The gap in the six-year completion rate was large (26 percentage points) between students who transferred to a four-year institution within one year of their most recent enrollment at a two-year institution and students who transferred after stopping-out for more than one year.

Not surprisingly, full-time students are much more likely to earn a degree.

Senators: Don’t push 4-year degrees for all

Too many Americans believe a young person who doesn’t earn a bachelor’s degree is a “second-class citizen,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, at Politico‘s Jobs of the Future event.

“We’ve actually made college less accessible because we’ve made it so unaffordable and we’ve plunged our children into debt,” Johnson said. “Let’s give our children and their parents the full range of options. Let’s quit preaching to them that their only path to success is a four-year degree.”

Young people are running up student loan debt to earn degrees employers don’t value, Johnson said.

Federal student loan debt has topped $1 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, agreed young people should consider the value of two-year degrees and community college education before running up student loan debts they’ll have difficulty repaying. “How can you start a business, how can you build a family, how can you buy a home, how can you be a consumer, which is vital to economic progress and job creation, if you’re paying off a $90,000 loan?”

Associate degree pays off for transfers

Most entering community college students say they plan to earn a bachelor’s degree, but few reach that goal. Earning an associate degree before transferring significantly boosts the odds of success, concludes a Community College Research Center study in North Carolina.  ”Relatively few students who transfer early ever complete a bachelor’s degree and thus leave college with no credential.”

. . . almost two thirds of students who start out in community college have no recognized credential up to nine years later; many transfer to another institution—either in the public, private, or for-profit sector—with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree but ultimately terminate their postsecondary education without earning any degree.

Community college students who complete an associate degree will earn more than those who never completed a credential, the study found.

44% of grads are underemployed — and that’s OK

44% of Young College Grads Are Underemployed (and That’s Good News), writes Jordan Weissmann in The Atlantic.  In a weak economy, many new graduates have to take jobs that don’t require a college degree, argues Weissmann. It’s worse now “because the economy got fed through a wood chipper during the recession and we still haven’t picked up all the pieces,” not because a bachelor’s degree has lost value.

The unemployment rate among recent college graduates tends to move “in step with unemployment among all working age adults,” he writes. New graduates are having problems because everybody is.

College graduates during the 80s and early 90s were as likely to be overqualified for their jobs as young graduates today, according to New York Fed President William Dudley. Most graduates then eventually found professional jobs.

The obvious difference between higher education today and in 1990 is the cost of a degree, and the amount of debt students take on to finance it. So while failing to land a college-level job straight out of school might have been tolerable in the past, today it might mean severe financial hardship, especially if students aren’t savvy about how to handle their student debt (three words: Income. Based. Repayment).

There’s evidence that young people who graduate into a recession and start lower on the job ladder never recover completely.

I’d like to see a good survey asking whether collegebound students understand their likely future earnings and loan payments. Do they know the risks? If they did, second- and third-tier private colleges would have to slash tuition or go out of business.

Be deeply suspicious of promises that a bachelor’s degree will raise earnings significantly, warns Tim Donovan on Salon. If the “higher interest rate convinces even a few 18-year-olds not to take on huge debt for that Musical Theater degree, maybe it’s not so bad,” he writes.

Study: No ‘penalty’ for transfers

Community college transfers are just as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree as similar students who started at a four-year university,  according to The Community College and Bachelor’s Degree Completion: Fact or Fiction? by the Illinois Education Research Council (IERC).

Eighty-four percent of Illinois high school graduates who transferred after completing two, full-time years at a community college earned a bachelor’s degree within five additional years, compared to 90 percent of rising juniors who’d enrolled in a four-year college directly after high school.

However, community college transfers had lower grades, ACT scores and family incomes, notes Community College Times.  When researchers matched pre-college demographic and environmental factors, they found “community college transfer students were just as likely to complete a bachelor’s as four-year rising juniors.”

The authors then used a “post-treatment adjustment” to account for institutional differences that could affect students’ completion of a bachelor’s degree. Community college transfer students were matched to a four-year rising junior from the same high school with a similar likelihood of being a community college transfer student and who attended a similarly selective four-year college.

When the two groups were matched for “institutional selectivity,” there was just a 1 percentage-point difference favoring the rising four-year juniors, which lacked statistical significance.

“No community college penalty was evident,” the report said.

The IERC study used rigorous methods to create an “apples-to-apples comparison,” said Christopher Mullin, program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).  In Transfer: An Indispensable Part of the Community College Mission, published by AACC in October, Mullin concluded that whether a transfer student earns a bachelor’s degree has a lot to do with the extent to which the four-year institution accepts community college credits.