Posts published in April, 2011

4 Year College Completion Increases In The Last Decade

  Finally, some heartening news on college completion-

From 2000 to 2010, the percentage of people over the age of 25 with at least a bachelor’s degree rose from 26 percent to 30 percent. Women in that age group were slightly more likely than men to have a degree—86.7 percent compared with 86.6 percent.

Those statistics come from a report, “Educational Attainment in the United States: 2010,” that the bureau released on Tuesday. The report was compiled from a series of surveys of more than 100,000 households.

Lack Of Money Is Top Concern In New College Student Poll

By Connie Cass, Southern California Public Radio

No matter how many subjects they’re acing, most college students these days find economics a grind. Tricky financial calculations influence everything from what school they attend and what major they choose to how quickly they finish their degrees – or whether they graduate at all. Money problems, not bad grades, are the reason cited by most college students who have considered dropping out, an Associated Press-Viacom poll finds. Almost 6 in 10 students rely on loans to help with college costs, and nearly half who do say they’re uncomfortable with the debt. A majority of students at four-year colleges say they routinely feel at least a little worried about having enough money to make it through the week, according to the poll, conducted in partnership with Stanford University. Scrimping has long been part of the college experience, of course, but tough times in the real world mean even tighter money on campus. (more…)

Another Article On How Too Much Chioce Of Courses And Programs Hinders College Completion

  The best book on this topic is by James Rosenbaum After Admission, but here is the second article in a week from an additional perspective.

Can Better “Choice Architecture” Improve College Completion Rates?
by Judith Scott-Clayton
Many factors contribute to high college dropout rates, including poor academic preparation and insufficient financial supports. One potentially contributing factor, however, has received far less attention: that students may be overwhelmed by the very flexibility and choice that are the hallmarks of U.S. higher education. This commentary describes how choice overload can lead to mistakes, procrastination, and dissatisfaction as students attempt to navigate their way through college, and discusses potential solutions. Source Teachers College Record

Education Commision Of States Provides Data On Remedial Policies For Each State

Getting Past Go has created profiles of the policies and strategies that each state is employing to improve the success of students in remedial education. In addition to a summary of current policies, GPG has proposed policy questions that each state should consider as they review their state policies. Check out what is happening in your state or other states by clicking on the drop down menu on the right side of the home page of

Fewer Options, More Structure May Improve College Completion


Fewer choices may actually result in improved student outcomes
Complete College America President Stan Jones is an advocate of fewer post-secondary program options, more course structure, and shorter time frames for degree completion. A New York Times article describes his standpoint: “too much choice and flexibility provides little more than the freedom to fail.”

Pell Grants Fuels Increase In Community College Enrollment

The availability of more Pell Grant money has translated into higher enrollment at community colleges. A study found that the number of Pell Grants increased 56% from 2008-09 to 2009-10 and the total dollars increased 76%. Full-time student enrollment increased 14%, while overall enrollment jumped about 9%. The report shows that 70% of full-time community college students received Pell Grants in 2009, up from 51% the year before. But this increase may not continue becasue Congress seems likely to cut Pell grants in the next budget.

Secondary Students Take Harder Courses, But What Is the Impact?


Released on April 13 by the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB), America’s High School Graduates, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) High School Transcript Study, finds that the percentage of high school graduates completing a “rigorous” curriculum, which includes higher-level math and science courses, increased from 5 percent in 1990 to 13 percent in 2009. At the same time, the percentage of students who took less than a standard curriculum of at least four credits of English and three each in social studies, mathematics, and science, declined from 60 percent in 1990 to 25 percent in 2009.

 I am baffled why remediation rates and college completion rates have not improved given this impressive increase in college prep course completion in secondary school.

A Critical Look At Federal Outreach Programs- Trio and Gear Up

  There is very little evaluative work on these billion dollar longstanding programs , but our guest blogger takes a hard look at them.

Watson Scott Swail, CEO, Educational Policy Institute/EPI International

In the mid-1960s, as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the creation of the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Federal TRIO programs were created, originally consisting of Talent Search, Upward Bound, and Student Support Services. Together, these three programs targeted low-income students, many of whom were and are minority students. Talent Search and Upward Bound focus on middle and high school, while Student Support Services operates at the postsecondary level to help students stay in college.

The TRIO programs, since expanded to include offshoots of the original programs (e.g., Veterans Upward Bound Program), provide direct services to students. The typical TRIO program is run through a higher education institution, but Talent Search and Upward Bound services are provided at the local school level and SSS at the host institution. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of TRIO is its inability to change how institutions deal with students, especially at the secondary school level. More on this later.

Fast forward thirty years: Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act and includes a new program called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. Thankfully, we just call it GEAR UP. GEAR UP does many of things that Upward Bound and Talent Search do (e.g., academic preparation; FAFSA completion, etc.), but the intent was for it to do what TRIO does not: push systemic reform in public schools. READ MORE…

3 Year College Idea Gets Impetus In Ohio

Governor John Kasich has ordered Ohio’s four-year universities to prepare pathways to three-year degrees. As part of the governor’s commitment to make college more affordable, his budget proposal requires universities to prepare plans to offer three-year undergraduate degrees for 10% of their programs by 2012 and for 60% by 2014. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 04/03/11)

Wealth Trumps Income In Determining College Access

Guest blogger:  Su Jin Jez

As covered by the Chronicle of Higher Ed, my paper titled “The Differential Impact of Wealth vs. Income in the College-Going Process” finds that wealth and income affect the college choice process differently, with wealth consistently being more significant in predicting who enrolls in college, and the type of college they attend – even after controlling for student differences in academic achievement, habitus, social capital, and cultural capital.

Policy makers looking to level the playing field and make college more accessible to all American’s must address wealth’s impact on the college-going process, instead of merely focusing on issues of income.  Public policy has had an emphasis on promoting college access (e.g., affirmative action, financial aid, federally-funded TRIO programs), and we may be seeing the results of these efforts as high wealth students’ are no more likely to apply to college than low wealth students after we consider things like parents’ and students’ educational expectations and parents’ educational attainment. 

But while these policies may be getting lower wealth students to apply to college, we do not see the same results for college attendance.  Wealthy students are significantly more likely to attend college, attend four-year colleges, and, especially, attend most and highly selective colleges than less wealthy students, even after controlling for a variety of background characteristics.  Policymaking focused on income would miss much of these disparities, as income’s impact on college attendance is largely explained by students’ upbringing.

What might we do to address the persistent wealth disparities in college attendance, especially selective college attendance?  K-12 and higher education institutions must think more critically about how wealth affects the college-going process – and beyond the characteristics I aim to control for in this study, like academic achievement, and parent, student, and peer expectations.  The most effective policies in reducing wealth disparities in college attendance will likely require K-12 and higher education institutions to work together.  Together, they must analyze why lower wealth students expect to attend college, apply to college, but then do not attend – and it is not due the usual factors that are discussed, like lower levels of academic achievement, parental support, or even peer influence.  They must then work to ensure that processes and structures are institutionalized to support a frictionless pathway to higher education and an open system of communication to ensure that this alignment is responsive to changing student needs.

Su Jin Jez is an assistant Professor  at California State University , Sacramento

Chronicle of Higher Education article available at:

Full study available at: