Posts published in January, 2011

Community Colleges Release Progress On Voluntary Indicators Of Student Success

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability, a project that aims to create national metrics gauging how well two-year institutions serve their students and fulfill their assorted missions, unveiled stage one of its proposed measures for pilot testing. The project also announced 40 pilot institutions that will test its custom metric. A big question is whether a voluntary approach will do much, but if it does not state governments seem ready to step into this policy arena.

Early Assessment Program For College Readiness Gets Mixed Review

In a profile of California’s Early Assessment Program, Catherine Gewertz in Education Week writes that the program has brought together K-12 and higher education to create a test that sends an early signal to high school seniors about their college readiness, allowing those who meet the mark to go right into credit-bearing coursework as college freshmen, skipping remedial classes. The program has a suite of courses to bring lagging 12th graders up to college-level, as well as training for pre-service and in-service teachers. Though the program has been widely praised since the test was first given in 2004, the program has generated a confounding mix of results. There are early signs that it reduces the need for college remediation: one study found that students at one California State University campus who had taken the EAP — regardless of their scores — were 4 percentage points to 6 percentage points less likely to require remediation than those who hadn’t. Yet remediation rates at CSU remain largely unchanged in the past six years. It may be that by the time students get the news that they are not college-ready — when they’re seniors — it’s often too late to rearrange their class schedules. Many students, also, are too far short of the mark to catch up in just one year.
Read more:

Source: PEN Newsblast

Community Colleges Give Lower Priority To Students Who Repeat Courses

A proposal would cut off access to California community college students who linger too long. A state legislative report recommended giving first-time students a higher priority for class registration, capping the number of taxpayer-subsidized units that students can take and limiting the number of times students can repeat certain courses on the state’s dime – moves that could save an estimated $235 m

Does A College Degree Count Towards Employment?

Guest Blogger: April Davis

It seems like an asinine question at first glance; everyone knows that the first step to gainful and lucrative employment is a college degree, unless of course, you’re extremely talented and eccentric enough to start your own business, like the likes of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. But then, such enterprising entrepreneurs are one in a million, and those that taste stupendous success even rarer than that, so let’s say it’s wiser to go to college first before wanting to strike it rich in the real world.

However, a book that’s just out, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses, written by Richard Arum, professor of sociology and education at the New York University, and Josipa Roska, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, says that students show minimal academic gains during their time in college. They reached this conclusion after analyzing the results of around 3,000 students from 29 colleges who took the Collegiate Learning Assessment, a test that measures gain in critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and other high level skills that are supposed to be acquired during college. The researchers found that 45 percent of students did not show any significant improvement in learning during the first two years of college, and that 36 percent did not show any improvement over four years.

These dismal results are blamed on both the students and the professors – the former are more inclined to social activities than academic pursuit in college, while the latter are more focused on research options than in teaching students. While this analysis cannot be taken as an blanket statement that all college students fail to improve over the course of their degree, it does show that priorities are changing and that academics does not really command the attention that it deserves.

So we come back to the question at hand – is a college degree really the best way to rate potential employees and induct them into the professional world? If college does not teach them critical skills and provide them with analytical reasoning capabilities, then how do employers recruit people suited to their organization? Is this the reason why many people are unable to find work and why the US has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world?

Perhaps we could blame the unemployment on the recent recession that we’re just coming out of; but then, shouldn’t this sorry state of affairs also serve to remind students that unless they pull up their socks and burn the midnight oil, they’re going to be adrift in a sea of debt and joblessness when they graduate? While the entire student fraternity cannot be judged on the merits or demerits of a mere 3,000, this book should become a wakeup call to all collegians and force them to rethink their priorities – they either put their college tuition to work and keep their noses to the grindstone or they just forget about college altogether.


This guest post is contributed by April Davis, she writes on the topic of Accredited Degree Online . She welcomes your questions and comments at her email id: april.davis83(@)gmail(.)com.

Improving Policy For College Access And Success

Which Students to Serve?: Universal or Targeted Eligibility for Postsecondary Opportunity Programs

Elizabeth Vaade

Policy Analyst


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Bo McCready

Project Assistant


University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dramatic changes in the higher education landscape and the recent recession have intensified the challenges students face in postsecondary enrollment and completion. In response, some states, communities, and institutions have developed postsecondary opportunity programs (POPs)—comprehensive college access and success programs offering a combination of funding and support services.

POPs have the potential to transform students’ educational careers as well as enhance their future success; therefore, the decision of who will be eligible to access these programs is extremely important and often highly contentious. The debate over eligibility has influenced education policies and programs for pre-K, school choice, financial aid, and college admissions. But while public policy literature has much to say about the theoretical implications of universal and targeted eligibility, less research exists on how these classic debates play out in policymaking and practice.

This brief examines how the designers of POPs determine eligibility for their programs, focusing on their decision either to employ universal eligibility or target students who are underrepresented in postsecondary education. The authors explore the factors that influence the eligibility decision for 10 programs, including how closely the identified aspects align with those cited in the existing literature. To conclude, the brief offers lessons for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers and recommendations for POPs stakeholders moving forward.

Download the brief

How To Get Student Financial Aid#2

Cracking the Student Aid Code, from the College Board, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is based on research conducted with 1,000 parents and 1,250 students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds, and with 250 nontraditional students. The research explores their attitudes, expectations and experiences with the financial aid process, as well as their reactions to the recommendations to reform the federal student aid system.

    Download and read Cracking the Student Aid Code.

Study Claims College Students Do Not Learn Much In Four Years

Here is the link provided by ECS to the study that is getting so much media attention.

A new study  found that many students are not learning much in college and has inflamed a debate about the value of an American higher education. The research found that 45% of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years. One problem is that students aren’t asked to do much

How To Get College Financial Aid

Source: News Tribune

It’s crunch time for families counting on loans and grants to pay for college.

Deadlines to fill out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, are around the corner and likely generating anxiety in households across the country.

The FAFSA is used to determine how much an applicant or his or her family should contribute toward education costs. Schools then use that figure – known as the expected family contribution – to determine how much financial aid should be awarded to bridge the cost of attendance.

Students who apply online at[] can get an estimate of their expected family contribution immediately. With a mail-in application, it may take two weeks or more.

Remember that it’s worth applying even if you don’t expect to qualify for need-based grants.

Before filing, here are five things you should know about the process:

1. Timing Matters

Deadlines for filing the FAFSA vary depending on the state and school. Some are as early as February or March, but filing promptly could pay off.That’s because many have first-come-first-serve policies for their limited pools of aid, said Jennifer Douglas of the U.S. Department of Education.

Deadlines for state aid can be found at[] .

2. Student Assets Count More

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, it’s important to understand how the FAFSA calculates your expected family contribution. The formula is complicated, but one of the more important rules to remember is that student assets and income are weighted far more heavily than those of a parent.

It’s too late now to strategize for a fatter aid package for the upcoming school year. But in the year ahead, consider using a student’s income and assets on education expenses before dipping into a parent’s funds. That will maximize the aid package offered for the following year.

3. Gifts Can Be Optimized

Financial gifts from friends and relatives are counted as student income in determining aid packages.

If you’re looking to maximize aid, ask friends and relatives to save financial contributions for the student’s senior year. Aid for each year is based on the student’s financial information from the previous year.

Another way to maximize outside help is to transfer the money to a parent’s checking account. This minimizes the impact of the gift on the aid package, because a parent’s assets aren’t weighted as heavily.

The same goes for 529 college savings plans; grandparents can transfer them to either a parent or student’s name.

4. There Are Financial Blind Spots

The FAFSA doesn’t factor in consumer debt so don’t expect any extra aid even if you’re swimming in credit card bills or auto loans. Paying down debt as soon as possible will only benefit you.

Another FAFSA blind spot? Retirement funds and pensions. They’re not counted as assets, so it makes sense to sock away money into them. In a sense, you could say the FAFSA rewards two tenets of smart personal finance – paying off debt and saving for retirement.

5. Whining Doesn’t Help

The expected family contribution can’t be negotiated with the Education Department.

That said, families can appeal to a school’s financial aid office for what’s called a professional judgment, or an adjustment of their aid eligibility. This is only an option if there are extenuating financial circumstance 

College Graduation Rate Knowledge Affects Student Choice of College.

Over the past two years, the Obama administration and prominent foundations have promoted a “college completion agenda” designed to dramatically increase the percentage of Americans with a college degree. One barrier to making progress on this goal is simple: colleges that admit similar students often have widely different graduation rates with far too many colleges failing to get a majority of their students across the finish line.

Scholars of all stripes agree that an important step to a better outcome is improving the information available to prospective students and their families. Providing consumers with better information about college quality and costs should help students choose high-performing schools and put pressure on colleges that are not making the grade. But will providing such information really affect college decisions?

In their new research study, Filling in the Blanks, AEI’s Andrew P. Kelly and Mark Schneider used an experimental survey to test whether providing graduation-rate information affects the way parents choose between two public, four-year colleges in their state. The study found that providing graduation-rate information for two similar colleges increased the probability that parents would choose the institution with the higher graduation rate by 15 percentage points.

Perhaps most importantly, the information had a large and significant effect on parents with less education, lower incomes, and less knowledge of the college application process. More advantaged and better-informed parents, meanwhile, did not significantly change their preferences in response to graduation rates.

In some cases, providing graduation rates led lower-income and less-informed parents to make choices that looked more like those made by their more advantaged peers. These findings suggest that giving parents additional information about college quality could help less-advantaged parents make decisions that are similar to those made by the savviest consumers in the market.

Kelly and Schneider propose that federal rules be altered to require colleges to share their six-year graduation rates with parents and prospective students in all admissions and financial correspondence. They further argue that policymakers should work to provide a broad array of college quality measures to allow students and their families to easily distinguish colleges from one another.

Kelly concludes that “providing such information to enhance consumer choice in higher education is a governmental objective that policymakers on the right and the left should agree on.”

Andrew P. Kelly
is a research fellow at AEI. Mark Schneider, a former commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education, is a visiting scholar at AEI. Both authors are available for interviews and can be contacted through Jenna Schuette at (202.862.5809).

Education Week Provides Overview Of Education Reform Progress

Education Week has released its 15th Quality Counts report, evaluating the status of states’ educational performance and policymaking. Subtitled Uncertain Forecast, it gives summative scores and letter grades to each state, as well as providing analysis of its Chance-for-Success Index and K-12 Achievement Index. Its overall findings point to relatively few large-scale education policy changes at the state level that can be attributed to the economic downturn, which officially began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Many states have enacted modest policy modifications to give districts greater flexibility, such as broadening eligible uses of funds previously reserved for particular programs or groups, or loosening regulations on length of the school year, week, or day. Yet by and large, reforms have not been not fundamental and structural. In terms of letter grades, for the third year in a row, Maryland was top-ranked, earning an overall grade of B-plus. Massachusetts and New York each followed with a B. Most states fell somewhere in the middle, with 36 states earning grades between a C-minus and a C-plus. At the bottom end, the District of Columbia, Nebraska, and South Dakota received a D-plus. The nation overall earned a C, same as last year.
Read more and see the report:

Source: PEN newsblast