Posts published in June, 2011

Low Income Students Flock To For Profit Colleges

An Institute for Higher Education Policy brief finds that in the last 10 years, low-income students have increasingly been drawn to proprietary colleges and now attend at four times the rate of other students. Community colleges are the first choice for about half of postsecondary students at all income levels. (Education Week, premium article access compliments of, 06/14/1

Redefining Community College Success

   An Education Department committee further honed its recommendations for how to overhaul the way the government measures the success of community colleges. Though there was general agreement on crafting completion measures, there was strong disagreement about whether the government should require community colleges to report their students’ employment outcomes. (Inside Higher Ed, 06/06/11)

US Colleges Must Teach Marketable Schools

  According to some higher education experts, U.S. institutions of higher learning must start teaching students how to be more desirable to employers, or face being usurped by apprenticeship systems and other forms of job training. While the idea that a college degree can be replaced with other experience remains controversial, the 2010 American Council of Trustees and Alumni report, titled “What Will They Learn?,” confirms that few institutions require students to take courses teaching the skills necessary to be good citizens or employees, such as basic American government, or economics, or mathematics.

Indiana Universities Provide Parents With Cost Calculators

To comply with impending Federal requirements, the Indiana State University system is the latest in the country to provide parents and students with a calculator that gives a better sense of the true cost of college than do tuition figures alone. The new Federally-required calculators will also project monthly student loan payments after graduation. Additionally, Indiana’s estimator provides side-by-side comparisons of the costs of attending various schools within the state.

New High Graduation Data Documents Gender and Minoritiy Gap

The 2011 edition of Education Week’s Diplomas Count finds that the national high school graduation rate stands at 71.7 percent for the class of 2008, the most recent data available. This is the highest rate since the 1980s, and an increase after two consecutive years of decline. However, the report also projects 1.2 million students from this year’s high school class will fail to graduate — 6,400 students lost each day of the year, or one student every 27 seconds. While the graduation-rate recovery occurred across all demographic groups, rates for those historically underserved remain a concern. Among Latinos, 58 percent finished high school with a diploma, while 57 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Native Americans graduated. On average, 68 percent of male students earned a diploma compared with 75 percent of female students, a gender gap virtually unchanged for years. High school-completion rates for minority males consistently fall near or below 50 percent. Suburban students graduate in considerably higher numbers than urban ones, 76 percent versus 64 percent. Regardless of location, graduation rates in districts characterized by poverty or racial or socioeconomic segregation are well below the national average, typically 58 to 63 percent. The 2011 edition also found a 44 percentage-point gap between the highest-performing states — New Jersey, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin — and the lowest: the District of Columbia, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, and South Carolina. Sorce:PEN Newsblast
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Women Continue To Outperform Men In School And College

Education Week has a new high school graduation study that shows women significantly exceed men in finishing high school. But the gender gap grows even larger for 4 year college graduation- 58% femele versus 42% men. This college  grduation gap continues to grow , and for african american and latino males it is much worse. I cannot find any research that has a well designed basis for explaing the reasons for this gap. There are a lot of opinions supported by partial studies , but they are not experimental or include random sampling and statistical controls that are  used in high quality  medical research. There seems to be no organized research program to understand what is going on. Why is the graduation gap larger in college than high school? How can we find out more?

Gadfly Proposes More Transparency For College Success Of Pell Grant Recipients

The author is a professor of economics at Ohio University.

An Open Letter to John Kline and Virginia Foxx

May 2, 2011, 11:41 am

By Richard Vedder

John Kline and Virginia Foxx chair the House of Representatives’ Education and Workforce committee and its higher-education subcommittee, respectively. They have expressed a desire to look at some issues of importance to the higher-education community. Along with some other researchers and heads of higher-education-related organizations, I met with staffers for these members of Congress recently and suggested some ideas for hearings. I have heard no followup, so have decided to take the issue public, by suggesting one modest but specific reform that could provide enormously valuable information affecting how we spend billions of dollars of federal higher-education money.

Here is my idea: Require the U.S. Department of Education to collect and publish, by institution and for the nation as a whole, data on the academic success of Pell Grant recipients. What is the four-year graduation rate? Six-year graduation rate? Freshman to sophomore retention rate?

That the department keeps tabs on all sorts of things of marginal importance relating to universities, but fails to keep good track of the tens of billions of dollars spent annually on Pell Grant investments, is a scandal. And I think I know WHY they fail to keep graduation-rate statistics on Pell recipients: They are almost certainly embarrassingly, appallingly low. Revealing the statistic would hurt political support for the program.

Why do I think a low proportion of Pell Grant recipients ever graduate, or at least within six years? First, whenever I statistically try to explain variations in graduation rates between schools in a multiple regression model, the percentage of students who are Pell recipients is usually a fairly strong, statistically significant negative indicator—the more Pell recipients, the lower graduation rates.

Second, examination of data from schools with very high proportion of Pell Grants but low graduation rates suggests that even under the most extreme assumptions, it would be virtually impossible for as many as one-half of the Pell recipients to graduate within six years. To be sure, the low graduation rates may not be caused by receipt of a Pell Grant, but rather related to other characteristics of Pell recipients, such as their low-income status and, perhaps more importantly, their mediocre secondary-education performance (in part the consequence of low-quality primary and secondary public schools).

Nonetheless, if we spend over $40-billion annually on Pell Grants, wouldn’t it be interesting to know how much of that is associated with academic success, and how much with academic failure? How many college graduates are there that owe their degrees to Pell Grants? Is that number high or low in relation to the cost of the program? Shouldn’t Reps. Kline and/or Foxx, and others, be asking that question at hearings? Should hearings be held to determine whether it would not be unreasonable to require the Department of Education to provide graduation-rate information of Pell Grant recipients?

The hearing could encompass a broader assessment of the Pell program. Should there be more rigid time limits on the number of grants a single person can receive? Should a student who works hard and graduates in three years be rewarded for his/her diligence, which saves taxpayers funds? Should a student with a very low probability for success, based on low high-school grades, test scores, etc., be given probationary Pell Grants, continued receipt of which is contingent on good academic progress? In short, should there not be some performance standards, as there are for most private forms of higher-education student assistance?

Finally, the number of Pell Grant recipients has exploded. Are we not giving grants to middle-income families who probably would find a way to send their child to school without the grant? Are we not making federal aid an entitlement, at a time where we should be reducing entitlement spending given our enormous federal deficit?

Hold the hearing, Rep. Foxx. I would love to testify.

US Education Department Chronicles The Conditions Of Education

  • The National Center for Education Statistics just released The Condition of Education 2011, an annual statistical portrait of education in America. The 2011 report contains 50 indicators on U.S. education, as well as a closer look at postsecondary education by institution level and control. The closer look examines data on differences in current conditions in postsecondary education between public, private not-for-profit, and private for-profit institutions, and on changes in postsecondary enrollment patterns.

Washington State Leads In College Performance Incentives

Performance Incentives to Improve Community College Completion: Learning from Washington State’s Student Achievement Initiative

This policy brief, jointly produced by IHELP and the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University, offers lessons to date about the Student Achievement Initiative (SAI), a policy adopted by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges that draws on intermediate measures of student progress to reward colleges for improvements in student achievement. The policy brief examines policy choices that Washington faced in designing and implementing SAI, the choices that leaders in other states will confront when considering adopting performance incentive policies as a means to improve student outcomes. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the three-year evaluation will include an examination of the impact of SAI on college efforts to improve student outcomes and on student outcomes.  

View the report

Different College Majors Vary In Pay Off

  This study has been attracting a lot of attention, but the rankings have been accurate for many decades.

What’s It Worth: The Economic Value of College Majors
By Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
A report from Georgetown University concludes that money invested in a college education is generally well spent. But it also puts a number on another truism: Majoring in math, science, engineering and computers pays much better after graduation than getting a degree in education, counseling, psychology, art or English.