Do we over-invest in non-traditional students?

Do We Over-Invest in Non-Traditional Students? asks Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, on Minding the Campus. Older and part-time students are the “new majority” on college campuses, but their completion rates are low, reports the National Student Clearinghouse.

Two-thirds of full-time traditional-age students who started in 2007 — but only half of those 25 and older — earned a degree by 2013. Overall, 86 percent of full-time four-year students graduate within six years compared to 20 percent of part-time students. More than two-thirds of part-time students entering in 2007 not only had no degree by 2013, but were not in school.

. . . perhaps we should reduce subsidies for part-time or older students. Younger students have more than a 40-year work lifetime expectancy after graduation; older students often have 20 years or less. The economic and noneconomic benefits of a degree are far smaller for older students because they enjoy them for fewer years —and there is a far greater risk they won’t graduate. Encouraging older students to attend school part-time strikes me as questionable, something pushed by colleges facing enrollment shortfalls desperate for more bodies in the classroom.

At community colleges, the low costs are “considerably offset” by the greater non-completion risk, Vedder writes. Starting at a community college and transferring “works for many and saves lots of money.” But the reality is that many community college students never graduate.

Vets’ college success remains unknown

More than half of veterans using the GI Bill complete a certificate or degree in 10 years, according to the Million Records Project by Student Veterans of America. The report has a number of blind spots, writes Clare McCann on Ed Central.

The Million Records report isn’t comparable to other Education Department data because it gives students more time to complete a credential and includes job certificates.

Recent veterans, who are more likely to have served in combat, aren’t distinguished from older veterans, writes McCann. “It’s not clear from the SVA report how the added obstacles that more recent veterans may face are affecting student veterans’ academic progress.”

The data on for-profit colleges may be misleading, because National Student Clearinghouse, which provided much of the information, doesn’t include all for-profit colleges. The clearinghouse “will not publish data at the institutional level, especially if that information might make particular schools look bad – like veterans’ graduation rates by institution.”

A national student unit record system as proposed in College Blackout could make better use of the data scattered across institutions and the government” and help veterans succeed in higher education, McCann concludes.

‘What Excellent Community Colleges Do’

In What Excellent Community Colleges Do, Josh Wyner describes what he’s learned running the Aspen Institute’s awards for community college excellence.

The best colleges have improved graduation rates, learning, workforce success and equity, even as they struggle with inadequate funding, Wyner writes.

Valencia College in Florida, an Aspen winner, eliminated late registration — few latecomers will pass the class — but provided late-start sections of popular classes.

The best colleges don’t blame students for not knowing the “unwritten rules of how to navigate higher education,” adds Matt Reed, the Community College Dean.  

Colleges develop “guided pathways, targeted advising, mandatory counseling, student success courses” and the like to make clear the rules of the game, writes Reed. 

“Wyner is quite good on outlining some of the policy-based dilemmas that community colleges face,” he writes. “Most of the colleges he examines face many of the same fiscal and policy constraints as everyone else, but they’ve managed to find ways to move forward anyway.”

25 states pass graduation incentives

Performance based funding for higher education institutions
Performance based funding for higher education institutions

Twenty-five states now link college funding — typically 5 percent of higher ed dollars — to performance requirements, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

States are trying to raise graduation rates, reports the Washington Post. Some aim performance funding incentives at community colleges and others at state universities,while 16 states measure both two- and four-year institutions.

In addition to measuring graduation rates, some states give performance points for higher numbers of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math fields. Florida judges four-year universities, in part, by their graduates’ earnings.

Louisiana is linking funding to improvements in student retention at two- and four-year institutions.

Massachusetts community colleges will have to pay more attention to performance metrics than most schools in other states. The Bay State will award half of all base funding to schools that issue the highest percentage of certificates, and where students complete the highest number of entry-level math and English courses.

Five more states — Montana, Colorado, South Dakota, Georgia and Virginia — are planning performance-based funding mechanisms.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has proposed expanding outcomes-based funding” to community colleges writes Jamie Merisotis, president of the Lumina Foundation, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Community colleges will be rewarded not just for enrolling students but for helping them earn “meaningful credentials.”

The plan will use “benchmarks such as how many of their students complete their courses; how many succeed in remedial math and English; how many complete associate degrees and certificates; and how many successfully transfer to four-year institutions. writes Merisotis. “Colleges will be rewarded for success with adult, low-income and minority students, and a plan is under way to include students that arrive on campus academically underprepared.”

College heads resist federal ratings

College presidents “agree that their institutions should be reporting much more information about the career and other outcomes of their graduates,” but they’re wary of federal involvement,  according to Inside Higher Ed‘s new survey of college presidents.

Three-quarters of presidents say their institutions should be reporting the debt levels, job placement rates and graduate school enrollment rates of recent graduates, for instance (though fewer say they are doing so now). But just half of campus leaders agree that it is “appropriate for the federal government to collect and publish data on career and other outcomes of college graduates” (with public and for-profit college leaders much more likely to say so than their private nonprofit peers), and just 13 percent believe the government has a “good chance” of collecting such data accurately.

Higher education leaders aren’t happy about President Obama’s plans to create a federal ratings system of “college value,” notes Inside Higher Ed.

In  a poll of college presidents late last year, only 2 percent plan believed the ratings plan would be “very effective” at making higher education affordable.

Only a third of private non-profit college leaders.think it’s appropriate for the government to collect and publish outcomes data. By contrast, more than 60 percent of community college, public university and for-profit college leaders accept a federal role.

Few in any sector believed the federal government will do a good job of tracking higher ed outcomes.

Asked if the government has a “good chance” of collecting and reporting accurately on higher education outcomes, 9 percent of private nonprofit presidents (on the low end) and 16 percent of public university leaders (on the high end) answered positively.

We need college ratings aimed at the 85 percent of students who go to unselective or less-selective institutions, writes Carrie Warick of National College Access Network.

. . . prospective college students need to know not just about accessibility/selectivity (average GPA, SAT/ACT scores), but also about affordability (net price by income tier, average student loan debt, ability to repay loans) and accountability (graduation rates by race and by income). The information should be sortable by location (to aid place-bound students) and by institution type (two-year, four-year, public, private) for students to compare side by side.

. . . we must change the federal calculation of graduation rates as soon as possible to account for part-time and transfer students, and we must collect and report institutional Pell Grant recipient graduation rates as part of the federal data system (IPEDS). Over the long term, we should also find a valid way to assess workforce outcomes for students.

Get the system up and running quickly, writes Warick. Then “we can turn to the more complex and politically difficult question of how to use federal financial aid dollars to incentivize better institutional outcomes.”

Obama budget funds Pell graduation bonuses

President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget includes $7 billion over 10 years to reward colleges that do a good job of graduating Pell Grant recipients, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. The maximum Pell Grant would increase by $100 to $5,830.

The spending plan seeks $4-billion over four years to encourage states to maintain their higher-education spending and adopt performance-based funding models and $6-billion for job-training programs at community colleges. Community colleges would compete for grants to offer training programs and apprenticeships.

The plan partially restores eligibility for Pell Grants to high school dropouts who pass an “ability to benefit” test.

All borrowers would be eligible for Pay as You Earn, which caps monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income and forgives borrowers’ remaining debt after 10 to 20 years. Currently, only recent borrowers with no older debt qualify.

Community colleges are concerned about the call to “strengthen academic progress requirements in the Pell Grant program to encourage students to complete their studies on time,” reports Inside Higher Ed. The Education Department can do this at any time without congressional approval.

“This is absolutely something that causes us great concern,” said David Baime, vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.

Under the current rules, Baime said, students effectively have to pass two of every three classes they take in order to satisfy the requirement. “Since the standards were tightened a couple of years ago, we’ve heard concerns from our campuses,” he said, “So anything that would go further in the direction of tightening them is something that we would be looking at carefully.”

The budget request also seeks funds to develop a national college ratings system to “encourage colleges to improve and help students compare the value of colleges.”

Clare McCann has more on EdCentral.

Report: California is losing higher ed edge

California is losing its higher education edge, warns a new report.  State universities and community colleges must be redesigned to produce the educated workers the economy needs, said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who commissioned the report.

The percentage of young adults earning associate and bachelor’s degrees in California already is below the U.S. average, warns the Committee for Economic Development, which wrote the report.  The higher education system must be redesigned to serve an increasingly diverse and low-income population, CED advised.

Along with boosting graduation rates at Cal State and community college campuses, which enroll the vast majority of the state’s college students, the study calls for greater collaboration with for-profit private colleges, employers and K-12 schools.

Lead author Patrick Callan, president of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that if the state is serious about meeting its “productivity challenge,” it will need to create “new kinds of institutions that take advantage of innovative instructional technologies and business plans to develop nontraditional ways of providing high-quality postsecondary education programs.”

“Modest injections of funding” and “tweaks in current educational policy and practice” won’t be enough to fix California’s underperforming higher education system, said Newsom.

College is worth the cost — usually

worthIs college worth it?  Two new reports provide different perspectives, writes Scott Carlson in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The “overeducated American” is a “myth,” states a new College Summit report. Workplace demand for college graduates is rising, according to Smart Shoppers: The End of the ‘College for All’ Debate?  College graduates earn 80 percent more than high school graduates, the report estimates. Even in jobs that don’t require a degree, more-educated workers earn significantly more.

However,  returns on the college investment have been exaggerated, concludes another new report, which focuses on higher education in California. The Economics of B.A. Ambivalence notes that most students take more than four years to complete a bachelor’s degree. In addition, some earn much less than others.

When the California Master Plan for Higher Education was enacted, in 1960, only 10 percent of Californians had a college degree, and the earnings gap between degree holders and non-degree holders was 35 percent. In 2010, they say, that earnings premium was 43 percent—higher than in the past, but still half the figure cited in the College Summit report. But, the researchers point out, the wage gap is higher now not because wages for college-degree holders have gone up, but because wages for people with only a high-school degree have gone down.

Graduating with burdensome debt is a higher risk, the researchers write.

College remains a good investment for the average California student and for American society. Nevertheless, it is true that more graduates now run the risk of not earning enough to make their investment in college worthwhile. This reality explains why many families of ordinary means are increasingly skeptical about paying for college.

“College is a ‘steppingstone’ to the middle class—not a ticket,” the authors warn. “It deserves the scrutiny an individual would give to any risky investment.”

They recommend better advising  and more loan-repayment options.

Adults who’ve left school without a degree ask: Is College Worth It for Me? But few look at graduation and default rates when they choose a postsecondary option, reports Public Agenda. And many don’t understand that for-profit higher education will be more expensive.

Linked learning expands in Oakland

Linked learning academies are expanding in the troubled Oakland school district, reports Kathryn Baron on EdSource. Forty-two percent of students in grades 10, 11 and 12 are in programs that link schoolwork with internships and job shadowing. Gary Yee, acting superintendent, wants to raise that to 80 percent.

At Life Academy of Health and Bioscience, students intern in hospitals, medical offices, retirement homes and elementary school programs for at-risk children.

Oakland high school students in career academies score better on standardized tests and have higher graduation rates than students not enrolled in an academy. (Graphic: Oakland Unified)

Oakland high school students in career academies score better on standardized tests and have higher graduation rates than students not enrolled in an academy. (Graphic: Oakland Unified)

 

Linked learning students have more access to college-prep courses required by California universities, concluded Education Trust-West after a two-year study at four high schools. In addition, linked learning students were more likely to graduate than similar students at high schools that don’t offer the program. African American, Latino and low-income students in linked learning programs had graduation rates 9 to 29 percentage points higher than the statewide average.

Oakland Unified’s analysis found fewer absences, lower suspension rates and higher test scores for students in linked learning academies.

The district, the city of Oakland and Peralta Community College District plan to collaborate on creating pathways from high school to college to career.

Most Oakland Unified graduates enroll in community college. However, high school and community college systems aren’t aligned, said Laurie Scolari, who oversees the California Community College Linked Learning Initiative at Career Ladders Project, a nonprofit in Oakland.

The new collaboration will make it possible to follow high school graduates who enroll in community college, writes Baron. “That will give a clear picture of whether high schools are doing a good job of preparing students for college-level work and where the gaps are between academy and community college programs.”

More states link funding to outcomes

Sixteen states now link higher education funding to student outcomes, such as graduation rates. That will rise to 25 states soon, reports Complete College America and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS).

outcomesSource: Complete College America and NCHEMS

“It’s sweeping across the country,” said Stan Jones, president of Complete College America, reports Inside Higher Ed.

Less than 1 percent of state support in Illinois comes with performance strings, while virtually all of Tennessee’s support does. But the report said even those on the low end are headed toward 25 percent performance-based.

Tennessee scored the highest in the report. The state uses 15 of 16 recommended strategies to improve outcomes while rewarding colleges for serving low-income and adult students.

Most states consider student characteristics when designing performance measures, the report said.

“One of the major concerns voiced about outcomes-based funding, especially when the goal is to produce more graduates,” the report said, “is that institutions will seek to enroll only those students most likely to succeed and ignore students who are at risk academically, economically or otherwise.”

Faculty groups and the Association of American Colleges & Universities ”have expressed concerns about the completion agenda and its focus on performance funding,” reports Inside Higher Ed.

Gary Rhoades said the NCHEMS report confirms worries that the completion agenda is incomplete and even counterproductive. Rhoades, a professor of higher education at the University of Arizona, also directs a virtual think tank, the Center for the Future of Higher Education.

He said the report places “thoughput” – the production of graduates and degrees – over academic quality.

“The concern about quality is real and should be addressed head-on,” the report concedes. Missouri and Tennessee have included measures of student learning in funding formulas. Nevada and other states are working on ways to track learning.