Posts published in September, 2013

Non Academic Support For Community College Students Is Crucial

Gay Clyburn: Carnegie Foundation

A new publication from the Community College Research Center at Teachers College Columbia University summarizes research on nonacademic student supports, defined as activities and programs that are designed to encourage academic success but that do not deal directly with academic content. Part one, What We Know About Nonacademic Student Supports, describes the mechanisms by which student supports improve student outcomes, reviews research on popular nonacademic student support programs, and lays out an approach to improving student supports termed SSIP: Sustained, Strategic, Intrusive and Integrated, and Personalized. Part two, Designing a System for Strategic Advising, reviews relevant research on advising and e-advising and makes recommendations on how the SSIP approach can be applied to advising at community colleges. Part three, Success Courses for Sustained Impact, reviews quantitative and qualitative research findings on student success courses and make recommendations on how student success courses might be designed and implemented to have a greater impact on long-term student outcomes

How Will Colleges Adapt To New Populations?

By Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D.

Featured in the National Journal

American higher education is grappling with issues that will significantly alter its landscape. And some postsecondary leaders, confounded by these changes, have wondered how they should adapt. While the current era of postsecondary education reflects a significant moment in our nation’s history, it is important to remember that this is not the first–not even the second or the third–time that our colleges and universities have had to adapt to new populations. Throughout the 20th century, seminal legislative efforts–GI Bill of 1944, Civil Rights Act of 1965, and Higher Education Act of 1965–helped to make higher education accessible and affordable for millions more Americans, and in turn, changed the face of the nation’s college campuses.

While it is true that projected population declines will decrease the number of high school students in the college pipeline, we must acknowledge that our current system operates inefficiently now. As it stands, less than two-thirds of high school graduates go directly to college, thereby leaving behind a sizeable pool of students from disadvantaged backgrounds who could benefit from some form of postsecondary education. In 2010, just over half (52 percent) of low-income high school graduates enrolled in college the following fall, compared to four-in-five (82 percent) high-income graduates. If these trends persist, opportunity gaps will continue to grow even absent a shift in student demographics.

Other inadequacies within our system that seek to limit opportunity for students from disadvantaged backgrounds involve issues of affordability and quality. College financing and financial aid policies across all levels–federal government, states, and institutions–have placed an “extraordinary financial burden” on low- and middle-income families. Simultaneous to the growing disparity in college costs is the unearthing of one of higher education’s secrets: The realization that degrees and credentials are not created equal. And regrettably, it is often the neediest students who are enrolling in institutions that offer degrees and credentials of dubious quality in an increasingly competitive labor market.

 Educating today’s college students is a national imperative, as education is one of our nation’s primary economic drivers and great predictors of economic mobility. If there is to be any substantive effort to “adapt to new populations,” those of us in the postsecondary community should not ask “guess who’s coming to campus” (which is the theme of the upcoming Education Writers’ Association conference); instead we must first concentrate collectively on graduating the four-in-10 students who are on campus right now that leave without a degree. Secondly, while specific reform strategies—such as the establishment of common metrics and a move to performance-based funding—show some progress, a more coherent and comprehensive reform agenda that centralizes issues of quality, accountability, outcomes, and affordability is needed. Finally, we must fully examine the role of technology in education today. Not just technology for the sake of word-processing or information-gathering. Instead, we should focus on how technology can transform how instructors teach and reach their students. Although technological enhancements potentially allow a postsecondary institution to open its “doors” to more students, these adaptations must include integrative and supportive strategies that are proven to work on “brick-and-mortar” campuses, and be coupled with realistic outcomes for select student populations.  

Without a doubt, demographic shifts will force the higher education community to think creatively about how to serve today’s diverse student populations. But the first step in doing so is to both maximize the potential of students who are either already there, and level the playing field for students who currently have little chance to go.

Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is the president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Washington. D.C.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization celebrating 20 years as a Champion of Access and Success for all studentswith a special focus on underserved populations.

State mandatory SAT and ACT administration improves college enrollment

For many years, states have used financial aid as a lever to increase college enrollment. While generally effective at increasing college-going rates, these policies can be expensive. Some states have explored non-financial levers to address enrollment challenges. This study evaluates the effect of one of these policies: a statewide requirement for schools to administer college entrance exams to all 11th grade students. The study analyzes college enrollment changes in Colorado, Illinois, and Maine. (New to the ECS Research Studies Database)

Methods To Help Student Make Best College Match

Promoting College Match for Low-Income Students

Lessons for Practitioners

Too many low-income, college-ready students enroll in colleges for which they are academically overqualified or don’t go to college at all. This brief offers five strategies from MDRC’s College Match Program in Chicago for practitioners interested in helping high school students make the best college match possible.

Overview »    |    Full PDF »

Community College Students Want More Course Structure

From Complete College America

While well-intentioned advisors tout the merits of greater flexibility and added choices, today’s college students – 75% of whom juggle work, family or both with their coursework – are asking for something different: block scheduling.

According to a recent report by Public Agenda and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, students, specifically those at two-year institutions and those who failed to complete their degrees, are responding enthusiastically to the added structure of block scheduling and peer relationships in cohorts.

Why wouldn’t they? Predictability makes it easier to chart a course towards success. Structured schedules eliminate complicated negotiations with employers and simplify exhausting school-children-jobs balancing acts.

If we want more college graduates, the answer is straightforward: add structure

Many Colleges Fall Short Of Enrollment Goals.

Kathryn Baron, Edsource

More than half of the nation’s colleges and universities aren’t able to fill their classrooms, according to a Gallup Poll of admissions directors.

The annual Survey of College and University Admissions Directors commissioned by the national online news source Inside Higher Ed found that 77 percent of public colleges and 59 percent of private colleges were not able to meet their enrollment goals for their current freshmen classes by last May. That’s the usual deadline for admitted students to let colleges know if they’ll be enrolling the fall.

California’s public colleges and universities are not facing the same pressures. Nearly 175,000 students applied to the University of California for this year’s freshman class, an all time high. California community colleges have had to turn away half a million students in recent years because budget cuts forced them to reduce their course offerings. Some of the most sought after California State University campuses have been so impacted that they’re application standards are tougher than the rest of the system.

Most of the admissions directors put little stock in national college rankings, like the one developed by U.S. News and World Report, or in college guides as a way to entice students, and said they plan to step up their recruitment activities.

“In a sign of how desperate some institutions may be,” reported Inside Higher Ed, the survey found that more than a quarter of admissions officers admitted to violating a ban by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling and recruited applicants who had already committed to other schools.

In a finding that could resonate with parents who shell out thousands of dollars to hire private college counselors, only 14 percent of admissions directors said they were effective.

On Oct. 10, Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik will present a webinar to provide an analysis of the survey results and answer questions.

Foundation Stresses Major Obstacles to Increasing College Completion

In February 2009, President Obama declared that “ … by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” Around the same time, Lumina Foundation released its first strategic plan in 2009 with the goal that 60% of Americans obtain a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025—a goal Lumina now calls Goal 2025. Expansion of undergraduate enrollments and the need to improve degree-completion rates—essential in both the Obama plan and Goal 2025—call for recasting the role of American colleges and universities and system-level change to improve student access and success in higher education. Lumina President Jamie Merisotis observes in the New England Journal of Higher Education that there are significant obstacles that stand in the way of these attainment efforts.

Nonacademic Community College Student Supports: Best Practices

What We Know About Nonacademic Student Supports Community College Research Center

This practitioner packet summarizes CCRC and other research on nonacademic student supports, defined as activities and programs that are designed to encourage academic success but that do not deal directly with academic content. Part one, What We Know About Nonacademic Student Supports, describes the mechanisms by which student supports improve student outcomes, reviews research on popular nonacademic student support programs, and lays out an approach to improving student supports termed SSIP: Sustained, Strategic, Intrusive and Integrated, and Personalized.

Algebra 2 Completion Questioned For College Readiness

Algebra 2: Not the Same Credential It Used to Be?
A lot more students are completing the course, but a Brooking Institution analysis suggests that line on the transcript means less than in days of yore. “Taking and successfully completing an Algebra II course, which once certified high school students’ mastery of advanced topics in algebra and solid preparation for college-level mathematics, no longer means what it once did,” writes the report’s author Tom Loveless. (Education Week, premium article access compliments of, 09/04/13)

College Completion Book Has Effective Institutional Strategies

Reviewed by
George D. Kuh

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Completing College: Rethinking Institutional Action. Vincent Tinto. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, (2012), pages, $25.81, (hardcover)

The two greatest challenges facing post-secondary education in the United States are making college more affordable and increasing the number of adults with high-quality degrees and certificates. In my darker moments, both seem intractable. But when someone with the length of perspective and depth of understanding as Vincent Tinto shares what he’s learned over the past four decades, the prospect of gaining ground at least on the second of these challenges seems more likely.

In Completing College, Tinto offers a framework for organizing institutional policies and practices that the research on educational attainment and his experience with different types of colleges and universities suggest can positively influence student persistence and degree attainment. As with his own work the past couple of decades, Tinto is especially attentive to the actions that can improve the graduation rates of students from historically underrepresented groups.

The seven chapters in this compact volume are tightly constructed and lucidly crafted. The book opens with a well-researched, albeit familiar brief on why college matters to both individuals and the larger society followed by a succinct overview of the four institutional conditions Tinto asserts lead to completing a program of study. These are expectations, support, assessment and feedback, and involvement. The next four chapters explicate each of these conditions and illustrate what they look like when implemented in diverse postsecondary settings. The section on [End Page 339] innovative developmental education approaches in chapter 3 (Support) is especially strong.

The last two chapters represent the book’s major contribution to organizing for student success. Here, Tinto speaks plainly about who must do what if institutions are to make a difference in student performance. All the chapters but the first conclude with a short, pithy commentary, the substance of which can serve as organizing themes for faculty and staff development activities for promoting student success