The answers are online

Community colleges are using technology to provide information and advice to students, reports Community College Daily. Providing online sites and videos is much cheaper than hiring more counselors.

At Foothill College, in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, students go online to answer most of their questions. That means time with an advisor can focus on critical issues, says Denise Swett, vice president for student services.

Sometimes, prospective students trip on basic things, such as how to apply to Foothill, that it’s open access and there is no charge to apply,  Swett said. Students can easily get answers to those questions — and more than 1,400 others relating to the school calendar, the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid​) deadline, how to make an appointment with a counselor, and much more — on an online database called Ask Foothill, developed by IntelliResponse with input from the college.

Phone and email inquiries dropped by 54 percent after students started using Ask Foothill, Swett said. The system gets 12,800 hits a month, and the busiest time is 11 p.m. to 1:15 a.m. There’s also a Spanish version, as 21 percent of Foothill’s students are Latino.

Student Lingo, a series of videos, covers filling out the FAFSA, avoiding cheating and plagiarism, and financial literacy.

Students are urged to watch a video on setting up an education plan before they come in for a counseling appointment, and if they’re on academic probation, they’re required to watch videos on learning styles and time management.

Financial Aid TV offers short, interactive online videos in English and Spanish that answer basic questions and can be customized for a particular college.

Banners on campus display QR codes for Ask Foothill, Student Lingo and other services. Students can scan the code with a smart phone for instant access.

1/3 of young Americans hold college degrees

One-third of the nation’s 25- to 29-year-olds have completed at least a bachelor’s degree, according to a Pew study. That’s a new high. Sixty-three percent have completed at least “some” college. And 90 percent have a high school diploma or GED.

With fewer job prospects, young adults are staying in school, Pew reports. In addition, many more people believe a college education is necessary to get ahead in life. In a 2010 Gallup poll, 75 percent said a college education is “very important,”up from 36 percent In 1978.

However, the U.S. higher education system is no longer the best in the world, according to a 2011 Pew survey of college presidents.  “College presidents are concerned about the quality, preparedness and study habits of today’s college students,” Pew reports. Fifty-two percent say college students today study less than their predecessors did a decade ago; just 7 percent say they study more.

College presidents: Queasy on quality

High schools aren’t preparing students for college. Students don’t study as much as they used to. Faculty are grading too leniently. College presidents are concerned about academic quality, according to a Pew Research Center survey done in conjunction with The Chronicle of Higher Education

A majority of college presidents (58%) say public high school students arrive at college less well prepared than their counterparts of a decade ago; just 6% say they are better prepared. Also, 52% of presidents say college students today study less than their predecessors did a decade ago; just 7% say they study more.

Just over a quarter (27%) of college presidents say that the faculty at their own institution grades students too leniently. Only 1% says they grade students too stringently. The vast majority (73%) says students are graded about right.

President Obama wants the U.S. to lead the world in college graduates by 2020.  But 64 percent of college presidents say it is unlikely that goal will be reached.

While half of college president say the mission of college is to help students grow intellectually, the other half college’s role is to provide skills, knowledge and training to help graduates succeed in the working world. Not surprisingly, community college and for-profit college presidents stress job preparation, while most presidents of four-year colleges and universities stress intellectual growth.