Archive for May, 2011

Report Blasts California College Basic Skills Programs

May 13th, 2011

Basic skills programs in California serve about 1.5 million students and until recently cost taxpayers more than $1 billion annually – but a new study  criticizes the network for a lack of clear priorities and academic goals.

Students enrolled in basic skills programs rarely make significant progress and few enter postsecondary education, and of those who do, only a small number succeed in achieving a credential or degree, or transferring to a four-year college or university, according to the study from the California Budget Project.

Basic skills education has three core content areas: reading and writing, mathematics as well as English as a second language. The programs are of increasing focus because of the state’s growing numbers of high school dropouts and low-skilled working adults who lack the fundamental skills for postsecondary education as well as many workforce needs.

The California Budget Project, which evaluates the impact of state spending on low- and middle-income families, issued the four-part series on basic skills titled At a Crossroads study – of which, the final report was released

Does Enrollment Management Hinder College Academic Quality

May 13th, 2011


Schools’ focus on enrollment may imperil academic outcomes
Critics worry that universities spend too much on non-faculty positions and efforts to boost enrollment while academic quality, and in turn post-graduation outcomes for students, suffer.

Will The Tuition Bubble Burst?

May 10th, 2011


Reminiscent of the recent stock market and real estate bubbles, escalating college prices are continuing to reach new heights. According to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, average tuition in the past two and a half decades has risen by 440 percent, which is more than four times the rate of inflation. While higher ed costs remain untethered to economic realities, students with college loans to pay off continue to graduate into abysmal job markets. Under the circumstances, it’s easy to make the case that something has to give. The commentary is in U.S. News and World Report and Gay Clyburn of Carnegie Foundation.

State Costs For College Remediation

May 9th, 2011

Remedial college courses cost Pennsylvania $153 million a year, according to 50-state analysis by Alliance for Excellent Education. That figure includes $94 million in remedial course tuition and $58 million in lost lifetime wages, because remedial students are more likely to drop out of college. The report found that remedial education costs the United States $5.6 billion a year. See ECS’ Getting Past Go remedial education project for mopre information.

Bringing Student Services Together To Enhance Retention

May 9th, 2011

Advancing Student Success by Attending to the Whole Student at Mercy College
William Martinov Jr., executive director of institutional advancement at Mercy College, notes a reality that nearly everyone in higher education acknowledges: students’ experiences in college can be very fragmented. “Higher education is ‘siloed.’ There are passionate people in student life, in the financial aid office, in academic advising. But they’re not seeing the whole student,” he says. And for a first-time, first-generation college freshman, such fragmentation might mean the difference between persisting to the second year and dropping out. ….MORE


Texas Links College Readiness To Financial Aid

May 8th, 2011

The House tentatively passed S.B. 28 to provide students who have demonstrated college readiness with priority access to TEXAS Grants, a need-based financial aid program. Students must meet two of four standards: enroll in the distinguished academic program or take 12 hours of college credit; pass tests in the Texas Success Initiative Act, the SAT or ACT; rank in the top third of their class; and be successful in math beyond algebra II. (Texas Tribune, 04/20/11)

Columbia Study Raises Serious Issues About Community College Placement Tests

May 5th, 2011

– A new working paper by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Teachers College, Columbia University, explores the role of assessments in effectively placing students in America’s community colleges. The paper, titled “Assessing Developmental Assessment in Community Colleges,” reviews findings from more than 50 research reports, surveys and other sources.

More than 90 percent of community colleges use assessments, or placement tests, to sort students into courses of varying difficulty. Doing so is crucial because two-year public colleges are open-access institutions that accept nearly all students who apply, regardless of their level of academic preparation. Many who enroll are low-income students, and they often arrive poorly prepared for college-level coursework.  Indeed more than half are assigned to one or more not-for-college-credit “developmental,” or remedial, courses, which are aimed at teaching the basic academic skills that are needed to thrive in regular college credit courses.

The costs of remediation are not trivial. Each year more than $1 billion is spent on such programs. Yet the benefits remain unclear. The evidence is mixed at best regarding whether remediation positively affects student outcomes, particularly for students who may be almost college-ready. This raises a number of important questions, both about remediation itself as well as the means by which students are assigned to these programs.

“In recent years there has been a movement by many states to standardize assessment-based placement at their community colleges, with the belief that the practice is beneficial for all students,” said Dr. Katherine Hughes, assistant director for work and education reform research at CCRC and a co-author of the paper. “With so many resources dedicated to this practice, CCRC undertook this research to ‘assess assessments.’”

Some of the conclusions from the review include:

  • Assessments appear to be more successful in placing academically prepared students than in placing academically underprepared students.


  • Students who narrowly miss an assessment “cutoff” score and who complete remedial courses are no more likely to complete credit coursework than students with similar scores who continue straight to credit coursework without taking remedial classes first.


  • Multiple measures for placement, such as high school transcripts and written essays in addition to assessments, may improve placement accuracy, as might the use of more diagnostic and affective assessments.


“What we found is that assessment does not appear to be an effective means of placement for all students,” said Dr. Hughes. “States may want to do more research in this area before relying too much on one measure, an assessment score in this instance, for placing community college students.”

The CCRC working paper “Assessing Developmental Assessment in Community Colleges” was made possible through the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The paper is available at the CCRC website

New Report Examines Linkage Between K-12 Reforms And Colleges

May 4th, 2011

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is pleased to present the latest installment from its Policy Matters series.

K-12 Education Reform: Implications and Opportunities for
Public Colleges and Universities

A confluence of major K-12 education reform efforts has significant implications and offers tremendous opportunities for the nation’s public colleges and universities to boost high school graduates’ success in higher education and beyond. Potential congressional reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), states’ implementation of the Common Core State Standards and the federally incentivized Race to the Top program allow state colleges and universities to play a critical role in supporting secondary and postsecondary student achievement, improving the quality of teacher and school leader preparation and further demonstrating public accountability.

This policy brief explores this historic window of opportunity for major reform and innovation in K-12 education and discusses how public institutions of higher education can serve as essential partners in implementing sound education policy at the national, state and local level.
Authored by Blakely Elizabeth Whilden, Assistant Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis

Views on Race Impact Who Can Attend College

May 2nd, 2011

From Gay Cliburn: Carnegie Foundation

Race appears to play a central role in shaping Americans’ views on higher-education access, and many see minority students as advantaged and middle-class students as disadvantaged when it comes to opportunity to attend college, according to study results scheduled to be presented next week at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association. “What we see from our data is that there are several different groups of Americans who have very different views about who is able to attend college and who is not,” said Brian Powell a professor of sociology at Indiana University at Bloomington who is one of the coauthors of a paper on the study’s findings. The article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

AEI Provides Balanced View Of For Profit Colleges: Neither Good Or Evil

May 1st, 2011

Frederick M. Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), announced today the launch of a new AEI research project to examine the role of for-profit companies in public education. The goal of Private Enterprise in American Education is to research, study, and determine what role for-profits can play in meeting America’s twenty-first-century educational challenges.

The role of for-profit companies in public education has attracted increased scrutiny over the past few years. In the world of charter schooling, for-profit providers are lambasted and sometimes prohibited. In higher education, for-profit institutions have grown rapidly, enrolling millions of nontraditional students and earning enmity, suspicion, and now investigative and regulatory actions in Washington. When it comes to student lending, teacher quality, and school turnarounds, policymakers routinely favor nonprofit or public alternatives.

As this controversy heats up, a discussion of how to harness the potential of such providers, while erecting the incentives and accountability measures needed to ensure a level, dynamic, and performance-oriented playing field, is sorely lacking. Through a series of reports, AEI’s new Private Enterprise in American Education project will contribute needed clarity to this discussion.

“It’s time to pivot away from the tendency to reflexively demonize or celebrate for-profits. This series aims to understand what it takes for for-profits to provide quality and cost-effective education solutions to as many students as possible,” explains Hess. “At the same time, we need to be thoughtful about how we guard against the incentives for-profits may have to cut corners in the name of increased profits.”

In the first report in the series, “Beyond Good and Evil,” Michael Horn of the Innosight Institute explores the controversy surrounding for-profit companies in US public education. He notes that:

  • For-profits companies are not inherently good or evil; they are motivated by incentives, and do what they are asked to do by their customers—not more or less.
  • There are far fewer inherent and predetermined differences between for-profit companies and their nonprofit counterparts than many assume.
  • The biggest differences between for-profits and nonprofits stem from their fundamental corporate structures, which determine what they do with their profits and which opportunities look attractive. This affects their ability to attract capital and the scale of their projects.

“Michael Horn’s paper is a terrific contribution to this new series,” continues Hess. “He explains why policymakers and reformers who castigate for-profits or nonprofits as inherently bad or good are mistaken. He warns that it is not about whether for-profits are “bad” or “good,” but about how they are structured, what incentives they are given regarding consumer satisfaction, and what regulatory structures and shareholder demands they have to face.”