Posts published in January, 2013

College Rankings Should Emulate National Football League

The report released today by USC scholars, entitled “Lessons from the NFL for Managing College Enrollment,” examines the conflicts and tradeoffs in college enrollment management and presents a case for how the goals and strategies pursued can be recalibrated to address the national priorities or educational access and completion. Specifically, the paper suggests that American higher education would be more inclusive and results driven if colleges and universities formed a league to establish rules of competition and progress in the public interest. The goals of this “Higher Education League” would be broader participation, increased rates of success, and reduced costs. League rules would ensure better and more relevant public information about college characteristics and college choice, clear and consistent recruitment and application guidelines, full disclosure and uniform methods in determination and delivery of student financial assistance, educational quality measured by student learning and student readiness to realize personal and societal goals, and the nurturance of the talent in the K-12 pipeline.

Simpler And Fairer Comprehensive Student Aid Plan

The New America Foundation’s Education Policy Program today released a comprehensive package of policy proposals that would provide an overhaul of federal financial aid. The report,Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid, calls for specific changes to grants, loans, tax benefits, college outreach programs and federal regulations to provide more direct aid to the lowest-income students while strengthening accountability for institutions of higher education to ensure that more students are able to earn affordable, high-quality credentials.

Rebalancing Resources and Incentives in Federal Student Aid argues the current federal financial aid system is no longer up to today’s demands. Built in a different era, its haphazard evolution over the decades has made it inefficient and overly complicated. The existing system wastes taxpayer dollars and fails to provide institutions and students with the resources and incentives they need to access high-quality credentials and succeed in higher education and the workforce.

With the need for higher education never greater and college growing increasingly unaffordable, the report argues the time has come to put everything on the table. Students and taxpayers need a streamlined aid system that is more understandable, effective and fair. With this new report, New America’s Education Policy Program offers more than 30 specific policy recommendations that are designed to create such a system. Taken together, these recommendations can all be financed with the existing resources that policymakers have already committed to federal student aid. The proposals include:

* Pell Grants: Permanently eliminating the Pell Grant funding cliff and putting the program on a firm financial footing by making it into an entitlement program.  Increasing the maximum Pell Grant and providing Pell bonuses to public and private non-profit colleges that serve a substantial share of low-income students. Requiring schools that enroll a small share of low-income students but charge them high net prices to match a portion of the Pell Grant funds they receive.

* Federal Loans: Significantly simplifying the federal student loan system and reducing the dangers of default by requiring all borrowers to repay their debt based on a percentage of their earnings. Encouraging colleges to hold down their costs by eliminating both the Parent PLUS and Grad PLUS programs that currently allow for unlimited borrowing.

* Tax Expenditures: Eliminating poorly targeted higher education tax benefits, such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, in favor of direct aid for students.

* Accountability, Transparency, and Reform: Holding institutions accountable for providing high-quality, affordable educations by extending broad accountability metrics to all colleges. Creating a federal student unit record system to provide a clearer picture of how students fare as they proceed through the educational system and into the workforce.

“Our policies ask more of students and institutions, and provide more in return,” said Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program. “We have designed a simpler, fairer system that will reorganize and leverage existing federal dollars toward the nation’s college completion goals imperative to our economic success.”

To read the full report, please click here.

Community College Procedures Can Improve College Success

The US has made a serious commitment to “college for all,” and community colleges are a primary vehicle for expanding college access. Yet as community colleges have succeeded in opening access to broad populations, their degree completion rates are low. Community colleges have retained many traditional procedures that are counter-productive for disadvantaged students and inappropriate for new labor market demands. Some colleges, however, have devised alternative procedures that are better adapted to real student needs. This brief describes common organizational failures and examines alternative procedures that enable student success. This policy brief is from the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford.

Source: Carnegie Foundation

Federal Financial Aid: A Student Guide For Successful Applications

Guest Blogger: Susan McCrackin , College Board

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is how millions of students apply for federal, state and most college-based financial aid. And because government grants compose 74 percent of this $185 billion pool, it’s understandable for families to feel anxious when filling out the FAFSA.

1.   Gather Your Documents

It is much easier to fill out the FAFSA if you have all the needed forms in hand before you start. Here’s a list of documents to get you going. You should also get a U.S. Department of Education personal identification number (PIN.) Here’s the PIN application link 

2.   Think About Taxes

Parents’ taxes are an important part in the FAFSA process. Getting taxes done by February 1st may be unrealistic, so last year’s taxes and this year’s paystubs can help create estimates. After February 3rd, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool becomes available, allowing students and parents to access the IRS tax return information needed to complete the FAFSA and transfer the data directly into their FAFSA from the IRS website. And if you owe the government money, take note: you can complete your taxes without actually filing and cutting a check to Uncle Sam.

3.   Find Quiet Time  

The FAFSA has a lot of sections. Breaking them into smaller pieces makes the FAFSA easier to navigate. Consider these do’s and don’ts.

1.     Don’t sprint. Take questions one at a time and give yourself time to properly answer each question.

2.     Do read each question carefully and out loud. It will help you understand the question better.

3.     Don’t multi-task. Put your mobile phone away, and turn off the television.

4.     Do find a quiet place where the FAFSA will have your full attention.

4.   Stay Student Focused

Parents often forget that the student always provides information. Parents are required to provide their information if the student is dependent.

So if see a question that refers to “I,” remember that “I” is the student. “You” is also the student. When questions address parents, they will see questions that refer to “your parents.”  This is where parental information goes.

5.   Avoid Parent Traps

As families evolve, so do questions about who needs to provide information for the FAFSA. When you see “parents,” FAFSA is referring to the student’s biological or adoptive parents. When the parents are married, then the student and both parents complete the FAFSA.

If the parents are not together, things can get confusing.  BigFuture by the College Board created the corresponding infographic to help address some commonly asked questions.

6.   Keep Track of Deadlines

Every college has a different set of deadlines based on priority, merit, early decisions etc. BigFuture by the College Board helps families sort through these deadlines with detailed college profiles and a free, customized action plan. And, should you have specific questions about specific colleges or universities, don’t be afraid to call the college’s financial aid office and ask questions.

7.   Profile CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®

The FAFSA opens the doors to federal aid. There’s also almost $50 billion in non-federal aid available – from colleges, states and private institutions. Some colleges and programs use the College Board’s CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to help award these monies.

CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE is an online application that collects information used by almost 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award financial aid outside sources from the federal government. Families must complete the application and the College Board sends it to the colleges and scholarship programs they have chosen.

Here’s a list of colleges that use CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® and where you go to complete the  CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE®.  Sending your CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE® report to one college or scholarship program costs $25. Additional reports are $16 each. There are fee waivers available for low-income families.

8.   Gain Experience

The more you experience something, the better you do. This free FAFSA webinar walks you section by section through an actual application with the College Board’s Senior Director for Financial Aid Methodology, Susan McCrackin. Families can access the free FAFSA webinar 24/7.

It’s time. Go after your piece of the more than $185 billion in financial aid to help make college possible. Use BigFuture for advice and to help create a customized plan. Then follow the map. Chances are it will lead to an investment that provides returns for the rest of your life.



Financial Aid: A 50 Year Review Of Effectiveness

Two well-regarded researchers have scanned 50 years of financial aid practice and research to “review what is known and what is not known about how well various student aid programs work,” they write. After outlining the history of financial aid and explaining the difficulty of evaluating which policies are effective and which aren’t, their paper offers four major lessons,


Understanding Gender Inequalities In College Transition

Gender Inequalities in the Transition to College
by Claudia Buchmann  for Teachers College Record Online
This article provides an overview of gender inequalities in the transition to college and in college experiences by examining the ways that women are advantaged in higher education and the arenas where they still trail men. It also discusses theoretical perspectives useful in assessing the causes of gender inequality and then suggests how future research could advance our understanding of the complex nature of gender inequality in higher education.

More Transfers From 4 year to 2 Year Colleges

Large numbers of students at four-year institutions are transferring to community colleges, according to a new study from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Most of them don’t come back, but that isn’t always a bad thing. Roughly 14 percent of first-time students who enrolled at a four-year institution in the fall of 2005 had transferred to a community college by 2011, the study found — excluding students who merely took summer classes at a community college.

Federal Financial Aid Information: A Review Of Its Effectiveness For Students And Parents

Higher Ed Watch

The process for learning about and applying for financial aid can be intimidating and overwhelming. A new resource,, provides students and families with clearer information about federal financial aid and the financial aid application process.

Read More

Colleges Spend Three To Six Times More On Athletes

The athletic departments of most public colleges and universities competing in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I sports typically spend three to six times as much per athlete as their institutions spend to educate their students, according to a new report by the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research (AIR).

The report, titled Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins?, also shows that athletic costs increased at least twice as fast as academic spending, on a per capita basis, across each of the three Division I subdivisions between 2005 and 2010 and that most athletic departments receive subsidies from their colleges and universities because they do not generate enough revenue to cover all of their costs.

Download the full report on the Delta Cost Project website or read the AIR news release

New Report Projects High School Classes Will Be Smaller And Diverse

Boulder, Colorado – The 8th edition of Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, released today by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), indicates that the population of U.S. high school graduates is entering a period of modest decline after nearly two decades of sustained growth. In addition, the pool of future college students is rapidly growing more racially and ethnically diverse, putting pressure on policymakers and practitioners to address educational attainment gaps among many traditionally underrepresented populations.

“These two trends will define the ‘new normal’ for our colleges and universities-and will require those of us working in higher education to change the way we do business,” says David Longanecker, president of WICHE, which published Knocking at the College Door, with support from ACT and the College Board. “Institutions will no longer be able to rely on growth in the number of traditional-aged students to boost funding. At the same time, the changing demographics of our high school graduating classes will mean greater demand for a college education from students we traditionally have not served well. Higher education must commit to finding innovative, cost-effective ways to prepare those students to succeed in our 21st century global economy.”

Increasing the share of young people who enroll in and complete a postsecondary degree is critical for the United States, if our workforce is to remain competitive. For the higher education community that recruits, enrolls, and graduates those young people, understanding high school graduation trends is more important than ever. Here are some of Knocking’s highlights.

High School Graduates: Past the Peak

According to Knocking’s projections, national high school graduate numbers peaked at 3.4 million in 2010-11 after 15 years of growth, then began a decline that will stabilize in 2013-14 at 3.2-3.3 million graduates. The next period of significant growth is projected to begin in 2020-21.

Changes in the number of high school graduates will vary considerably across the United States from 2008-09 through 2019-20. Many states in the South and West are projected to experience at least some growth, while numerous states across the Midwest and Northeast can expect declines. While growth states may struggle to find the resources and capacity to serve their students, states with dwindling numbers may face a very different problem: sustaining the infrastructure they’ve built up over many years. Our projections find that states can expect the following.

Dwindling production (losses of 15 percent or more): The District of Columbia, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Slowing production (losses of between 5 and 15 percent): Alaska, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Manageable decline (losses of less than 5 percent): Arizona, Delaware, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oregon, and West Virginia.

Manageable growth (increases of less than 5 percent): Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

Accelerated expansion (increases of between 5 and 15 percent): Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Wyoming.

Swift expansion (increases greater than 15 percent): Colorado, Texas, and Utah.

Race/Ethnicity: Diversity Ramps Up

Our high school graduating classes are rapidly becoming more diverse. By 2019-20 45 percent of the nation’s public high school graduates are projected to be non-White, up by more than 7 percent over the class of 2009. This trend is driven by the rapid increase in the number of Hispanics completing high school, corresponding to a nearly equivalent decline in the number of White non-Hispanics: between 2008-09 and 2019-20, the number of White public high school grads will drop by 228,000, while Hispanic graduates will increase by 197,000. At the same time, the number of Asians/Pacific Islanders graduating from high school is projected to rise rapidly (by 49,000), offsetting Black non-Hispanic numbers, which are expected to drop (by 41,000).

These national trends are reflected in almost every state, though the pace at which minority populations are gaining (or losing) shares varies. In most states the number of high school graduates of Hispanic descent is projected to increase, as is the number of Asian/Pacific Islander grads. Only a handful of states can expect to see growth in the number of White non-Hispanic graduates. And about half the states will see decreases among Black non-Hispanic graduates. Also by 2019-20, high school graduating classes in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Nevada are projected to reach “majority-minority” status (graduating more minorities than Whites), joining California, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas.