Posts published in August, 2011

What Students Can Do To Complete College

Academic Momentum to Complete Degrees by Clifford Adelman, USA Education Department, 2006. This is not a new study, but all recent research has confirmed his findings. I have prepared this summary below.  Higher Education Data – analysis is for  four-year colleges only; 8.5 years longitudinal data that follows same students through transcript analysis of their college careers.

  • 90% of students who leave their first college turn up at another institution after their first year (suggests first year dropout rates false).
  • Much data and reporting mixes 19 year olds with 31 year old college students.
  • See students as more active rather than passive in a pipeline from k-12 to college.  What should students do to persist?
  • “Pipelines” are unidirectional closed spaces with students passively swept along or leaking at joints, this is a bad metaphor for how system works.
  • Student path is not like a pipeline—starts, stops, moves sideways, pursues several paths.
  • 60% of undergraduates go to more than one institution, 20% go out of state, 7% area based in four-year institutions, but also attend community college, 8% “swirl” back and forth between four-year and two-year.


Advice for students on how to improve chances of college completion

  • Do not delay college entry after high school. Stay continuously enrolled, do not stop out.
  • Attainment during second academic college year is crucial –can recapture academic momentum and complete “gate-way core courses.”
  • Earning four or more credits in summer—positive contributor to degree completion, so enroll all year around for some credits
  • Part-time attendance hurts a lot in terms of completion probability
  • Remediation seems to help completion in four-year, less so in two-year.
  • Withdrawal or repeating courses without penalty is big negative in terms of completion

Students Struggle To Pay For Textbooks


As the cost of textbooks continues to rise, many college students are choosing to skimp on textbooks to save money. Seven out of 10 undergraduates surveyed at 13 college campuses said they had not purchased one or more textbooks because the cost was too high, according to a new survey released Thursday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group. The Government Accountability Office has estimated that textbooks cost a quarter the average tuition for state universities and three-fourths the average tuition at community colleges. The article is in The Huffington Post via the Carnegie Foundation.

Achieve Makes Statement On Math For College Readiness.

 Achieve of Washington, DC is an organization of political and business leaders that provides policies and tools fo k-12 standards that provide all students with college prpeparation.

Math and Civil Rights

Is access to high-level mathematics a civil rights issue?

Numerous studies demonstrate that successful completion of rigorous mathematics, such as Algebra II, in high school is an important gateway to success in college and the work place. Yet data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights in June shows that nearly half a million students—at least—attend public schools that don’t even offer Algebra II or equivalent courses.

If a student doesn’t take high-level mathematics, it can dramatically limit his or her chance of succeeding in the work place of today—and the future.

In July, another federal report from the U.S. Department of Commerce demonstrated that over the past ten years, jobs in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics—or STEM—grew at a rate three times faster than non-STEM jobs. That trend is expected to continue over the next 10 years, and likely beyond given the role innovation plays in U.S. economic growth. And STEM jobs are not only growing faster, but they pay better, too. PayScale, a company that tracks compensation data, recently released its 2011-2012 College Salary Report, which tracks the college majors that lead to the best salaries. Every degree in the top 10 was in a STEM area from computer science to aerospace engineering.

Simply put, students who do not have access to high-level mathematics are going to be less prepared for STEM work in college and careers, meaning their prospects for a bright financial future are also limited. This makes educational access a major civil rights issue.

The good news is that something is being done about it. Nearly every state has made a firm commitment to college and career readiness for all students.

There are now 46 states that have committed to implementing the Common Core State Standards in English language arts and mathematics. The standards are aligned to the expectations of higher education and the work place—and that includes advanced mathematics.

Also, nearly every state in the nation is involved in building new assessments that are aligned to the Common Core and will make sure all students are getting access to the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. (Achieve is the project manager for one of those consortia—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. The other is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium).

Momentum continues to build for the college- and career-ready agenda and, as a nation, we are making major strides toward providing all students access to a meaningful education. But as the U.S. Department of Education Civil Rights data make very clear, there is much work left to be done.

For more, see Achieve’s Math Works, a set of materials that make the case that all students need high-level mathematics for success, including success on-the-job in high-growth careers.


Texas Requires Detailed Completion Plan For College Students

In June, the Texas legislature passed H.B. 3025 “to facilitate the timely completion of degrees.” The law requires students to submit a plan detailing how they will achieve their degrees – and then obtain permission any time they choose to deviate from the plan. (, 08/10/11).  When you read the article, note the student concerns about being locked into a plan early in their college career. Student interests may change over time.

Is The Next Financial Bust In Student Loans?


Record borrowing by college students who are graduating without jobs may lead to the next financial crisis, according to a recent report by Moody’s Analytics. “The long-run outlook for student lending and borrowers remains worrisome,” concluded the report, which came out in July. The article is in the Huffington Post.

Community College Learning Communities Do Not Have Much Impact

Breaking New Ground: An Impact Study of Career-Focused Learning Communities at Kingsborough

By: Mary G. Visher and Jedediah Teres, with Phoebe Richman, Columbia University/Teachers College

This report presents findings from an evaluation of Kingsborough’s unique Career-Focused

Learning Communities program, the latest iteration in a series of learning community

models designed and implemented by the college. It consisted of two courses required

for a specific major and a third course called the “integrative seminar” that was

designed to reinforce the learning in the two other courses and to expose students

to information about careers in their selected major. No meaningful impacts on educational

outcomes were found for the full sample, but recent transfer students saw a modest

positive impact on credits earned during the program semester.

Learn more and download the report at:

College Student Debt Varies Greatly Per Degree Awarded

Debt, Dropouts and Degrees
A new study takes student debt loads and dropout rates into account to determine the amount of debt taken on for each degree issued. The Education Sector report is intended to give a more complete picture of higher education by dividing the total amount of money undergraduates borrow at a college by the number of degrees it awards. Source: ECS

Big Tuition Increases Coming For New College Year

Coming this Fall: Big Tuition Hikes
At least half the states cut funding for higher education in their recently concluded legislative sessions. In most cases, higher tuition will be the inevitable result. Some of the most dramatic increases will come in the biggest states. The most dramatic example of collegiate sticker shock will likely come in Washington where the budget imposes a 24% cut in state funding. Tuition will go up 20% as a result. (, 07/13/11)

Virginia Moves From Courses To Modules For Remedial Education


Va. Community colleges dive headfirst into remedial-math redesign
By Jennifer Gonzalez, The Chronicle of Higher Education
What if a college system could drastically shorten the amount of time it took students to complete remedial courses and finally give them a fighting chance to progress to college-level work and even graduate? The Virginia Community College system is poised to find out.

Overview Of Policies And Programs For College Transition From K-12

In the most recent edition of Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research, edited by John C. Smart and Michael B. Paulsen, University of illinois Professor Debra Bragg contributes a chapter on youth and adult transition titled, Examining Pathways to and through the Community College for Youth and Adults. Bragg uses a student-centered P-16 accountability model to analyze policies and programs intended to facilitate youth and adult transition to and through community colleges in preparation for higher education and employment.