Posts published in May, 2010

Secondary Schools Over Estimate How Much College Will Cost

Many students overestimate college tuition by 3 to 6 times the actual cost. Click on this report for the latest evidence.

Cost Perceptions and College-Going for Low-Income Students
The Pathways to College Network and the National College Access Network have released a joint “Research to Practice” brief describing how many low-income students overestimate the cost of higher education because of inaccurate or incomplete information about financial aid opportunities. The brief finds that many eligible low-income students are not applying for or enrolling in postsecondary education in part because of sporadic, ineffective oconflicting information about financial aid and the affordability of college. The brief recommends offering clear and concise information regarding the financial aid process to students and families and providing this information earlier in the education pipeline to promote college-going aspirations as early as seventh grade. The brief also features strategies employed by the ACCESS College Foundation which successfully works with low-income schools and students.

Four Student Completion Questions Broad Access College Faculty/ Administrators Should Ask

Does the performance of certain groups of students lag that of other groups? Why?

What can we offer to assist these students?

How effective Is this assistance, and how might we approve it?

When a student drops out, where does he or she go?

Lumina Foundation has developed data standards to answer these questions.  Many 4 year colleges graduate less than half there students, and community college completion rates are even lower.

Females Greatly Exceed Males in Hispanic College Completion

  In 2008, Hispanics were about half as likely as African Americans and a third as likely as White students to obtain a four year degree. But similar to all college attainment statistics Hispanic females are moving forward much faster than males . Indeed, in an Amercan Enterprise Institute Study of 433 colleges, Rising To The Challenge, Hispanic women complete college at a rate similar to white males.  Hispanic men fall a full 13-17% points behind white females.

  What accounts for these differences? We do not know! There are many theories but no well designed experimental studies. I know of no large scale research program to obtain any answers, but we need to find out soon. See the study at

College Completion Rate Declines For Younger Ages

Young adults are less likely to have earned a degree than their older counterparts, according to a Brookings Institution report based on Census data. Though the percent of adults with a baccalaureate degree rose from 24 to 28 from 2000 to 2008, a smaller percentage of 25-to-34 year-olds than 35-to-44 year-olds held one in 2008. The reverse was true in 2000. The report focuses primarily on demographic trends in the country’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. It highlights the probable de-skilling of USA as the older generations retire from the workforce, unless there are major changes in policy and institutional incentives for completion. Currently, colleges are paid by the state for enrollment ,but not completion.

Four Questions Students Should Ask Broad Access Colleges

 Most  broad access 2 and 4 year colleges have low completion rates and constraints on enrolling in courses students need. Their student services are often underfunded and ineffective.  Here are 4 crucial questions from the Lumina Foundation before deciding to enroll at such colleges.

 What is the college’s graduation rate for stdents like me?

What  trouble spots am I likely to encounter in this major or course of study?

What sort of help can this college offer if I do encounter trouble?

Are graduates of this college getting good jobs?

End Of Secondary School Course Exams Grow To Improve College Prep

Many states have created end of course exams for Biology, World History, and Algebra 2. These exams align better with what is taught than cross cutting exams like mathematics or science.  For example, ACT uses  generic science and social studies exams that are not aligned with courses in high school.

The newest edition of The Progress of Education Reform defines end-of-course exams, looks at the purposes for which they are used and examines why an increasing number of states are replacing existing assessments with end-of-course exams. These exams are particularly prevalant in the Southeast, but the New York Regents are a good example of college oriented exams used in high schools.

Crucial Steps Students Must Take To Attend Most Four Year Colleges

A  few key steps can make all the difference in determining whether a student enrolls in a four year college. Specifically, there are five crucial steps to getting ready for a four-year college that have been completed by about 95 percent of the students who enroll in such institutions in a timely manner and that have been partly skipped by just 5 percent of those who manage to enroll soon after high school, according to an analysis of federal data presented  at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. The necessity of two of the steps—attaining minimal college qualifications and actually applying to a college—is obvious. But many educators might not be aware that students who fail to take the SAT or ACT test and who lack bachelor’s degree aspirations at two key junctures—in both 10th and 12th grades—will find the odds of attending a four-year college soon after their graduation from high school stacked heavily against them. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education for May 4, 2010.

Federal Government Gets Tough With For Profit Colleges

The Obama administration is preparing to produce tougher regulations that could reduce the amount of federal financial aid flowing to for-profit colleges, cutting the companies’ annual revenue growth by as much as a third. The tougher rules would require for-profits to show that their graduates earn enough money to pay off their student loans. If for-profit colleges can’t meet the standard, they could lose federal financial aid, which typically makes up three-quarters of their revenue.

Is It Less Expensive For A College To Recruit A New Student Or Help A Struggling Current Student ?

  This is an important question because the answer can illuminate college incentives for enhancing student completion. At some private colleges it costs a lot to recruit a new student. So helping academically struggling students can make sense economically. There are costs to the personnel needed such as admissions officers and scholarsip money that is wasted on drop outs.

 But for open access schools with many students who want to get in, there are minimal recruitment costs , but large costs for remediation and counseling. So , it could be much less expensive to obtain a new student than pour resources into an existing student. This leads to student churn that preserves the full time enrollment at a college. Most states pay based on FTE.

 More research is needed on this institutional incentive issue, but I suspect there are many cases where the answer to my headline question is a resounding – YES it is less expensive for the college to recruit a new student who is waiting to get in.

Lumina Foundation Gives 100 million To Create Data Use Culture In Community Colleges

  Lumina has provided funds to 41 community colleges to create and use data to track student progress and completion. The program is called Achieving The Dream.  The grants promote a change in culture to use data for interventions that will improve the current 31% completion rate after 6 years. The completion rate is from a 2002 Department of Education study. Colleges have few institutional research resources, and I wonder if this data push can be sustained after the foundation funds run out during a recession.