Posts published in April, 2014

How to Overhaul California Master Plan For Higher Education

From Institute For Higher Education Research, University Of Pennsylvania

As pioneered by the 1960 Master Plan, California’s public system of higher education was the envy of the nation for over 30 years. Its three-part system—consisting of California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and the prestigious University of California (UC)—was designed to ensure college access for all Californians as well as to promote excellence in research.

But California’s public education system has not kept pace with economic changes. Only 38.8% of adults over 25 years of age had an associate’s degree or higher in 2012, placing California 23rd in the nation in degree attainment. Deep cuts in state funding and the lack of a long-term, viable finance policy for higher education, as well as political indifference about higher education policy, have forced California’s public colleges and universities to reduce enrollment, staff, faculty, and student services while increasing tuition and fees.

If current trends continue, the state will experience severe shortfalls in the number of people with the workforce certificates and degrees needed to ensure prosperity and social mobility for the majority of Californians.


 California’s Higher Education System: Too Big To Fail, But Failing Anyway?


  From Master Plan to Mediocrity: Higher Education Performance & Policy in California


MDRC Report On Using Community College Student Performance Data

Lessons from the First Round of Achieving the Dream Community Colleges

Launched in 2004, Achieving the Dream is designed to help community colleges collect and analyze student performance data and apply the results to help students succeed. This report offers lessons from the first 26 colleges to join the national initiative, which now includes more than 200 institutions.

Overview »    |    Summary PDF » |    Full PDF »

First-generation students Benefit From Discussing Class Differences


Talking about class differences can help close the collegiate achievement gap between first- and continuing-generation students, according to Stanford research.

MarYam Hamedani, associate director of Stanford’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, is co-author of a study of factors that lead to success for first-generation college students.

Research has shown that first-generation college students – those who do not have a parent with a college degree – often lag behind other students in grades and graduation rates. They also often struggle socially, finding it hard to fit in and sometimes feeling like they don’t belong in college.

But the study, “Closing the Social-Class Achievement Gap,” offers a new approach to help them advance in college: discuss class differences rather than ignore them.

“The research showed that when incoming first-generation students saw and heard stories from junior and senior students with different social-class backgrounds tell stories about their struggles and successes in college, they gained a framework to understand how their backgrounds shaped their own experiences and how to see this as an asset,” said MarYam Hamedani, a co-author on the paper, psychologist and associate director of Stanford’sCenter for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity.

Continuing-generation students – those with at least one parent with a four-year college degree – don’t experience similar gaps in opportunity and achievement. Coming from families with more experience with the world of higher education helps them navigate college and the norms, rules and expectations that are often implicit or unspoken, Hamedani added.

While many colleges and universities have aggressively recruited more first-generation students, she said, the schools have not yet figured out how to get these students through college successfully. This has created “a paradox” that fuels, rather than mitigates, the growing inequality gap in society.

Talking about differences

In their study, which took place at a private Midwestern university, the researchers invited first-generation and continuing-generation students at the beginning of the school year to attend a one-hour program designed to help them transition to college. Half of the students attended a “difference-education” program while the other half attended a “standard” program. They were not aware of the separate programs or their content.

In both settings, the freshman students listened to a diverse panel of junior and senior students talk about their transition to college, challenges they faced, and how they found success. In the difference-education program, however, panelists’ stories also included a subtle discussion of how their social-class backgrounds mattered in college. The panels included both first-generation and continuing-generation students.

For example, panelists in the difference-education group were asked, “Can you provide an example of an obstacle that you faced when you came to (university name) and how you resolved it?”

One first-generation panelist responded, “Because my parents didn’t go to college, they weren’t able to provide me the advice I needed. So it was sometimes hard to figure out which classes to take … I learned I needed to rely on my adviser more than other students.”

In the standard program, however, the panelists did not reveal their social class. Their stories consisted of a general discussion about college that was not linked to their social-class backgrounds. For instance, one panelist was asked, “What do you do to be successful in your classes?” He answered, “Go to class and pay attention. If you don’t understand something or have a hard time with the material, meet with your teaching assistant or professor during office hours.” 

Personal stories

At the end of the academic year, the researchers found that the first-generation students in the difference-education intervention had higher year-end grades than those in the standard group (3.4 vs. 3.16 average GPAs), and took greater advantage of academic resources like mentoring from professors (1.89 vs. 1.45 times that resources were sought out).

For continuing-generation students in the difference-education group, they posted 3.51 GPAs on average and sought resources 1.8 times over the course of the school year. In the standard model, those numbers were 3.46 and 2.18, respectively.

The researchers wrote, “Using the personal stories of senior college students, a one-hour difference-education intervention at the beginning of college reduced the social-class achievement gap among first-generation and continuing-generation college students by 63 percent at the end of the first year and also improved first-generation students’ college transition on numerous psychosocial outcomes (e.g. psychological adjustment and academic and social engagement).”

An added bonus was that both first- and continuing-generation students who participated in the difference-education program gained a deeper understanding of how students’ diverse backgrounds and perspectives mattered in college than did their peers in the standard program, according to the study. Continuing-generation students in the difference-education program also experienced a smoother transition to college compared with  their peers in the standard program.

“Both first and continuing-generation students experienced a more positive college transition,” Hamedani said. “They were less stressed, felt like they fit in socially, and were more connected to their families, friends and school.” 

Traditional ‘bridge’ programs 

Hamedani said the traditional approach in higher education is to help first-generation students with “bridge” programs that teach academic tips, tools and strategies, such as how to choose a major or study for exams. While providing academic resources can help, they are not sufficient – students also need psychological resources to support them on their path to success.

“In American society,” she said, “we try not to talk about our class differences. We found, however, that college students can learn a lot about themselves and one another when they do so. Engaging students about differences, when done in the right way, can be extremely beneficial and empowering.”

Hamedani noted, “Higher education institutions have a responsibility to support and prepare students for success in our increasingly diverse and multicultural society.”

Co-authors on the research paper included management professor Nicole Stephens and psychology

Father’s Importance In College Success

This month, millions of high school seniors across America are making important decisions about which college they will attend for the next four years of their lives. The practical, emotional, and financial sacrifices parents have made and will make for their children, and for their college education in particular, are enormously important. Young adults who as teens had involved fathers are significantly more likely to graduate from college, and young adults from more privileged backgrounds are especially likely to have had an involved father in their lives when they were teens.

MORE: A key to college success: Involved 


College Completion Rates Keep Rising Incrementally

More Americans are earning a college degree
The proportion of Americans with a two- or four-year college degree is rising and the numbers look better for African-American and Hispanic college-going students, too, according to a new report released by the Lumina Foundation. If the trend continues, America may have a shot at rejoining the world’s most-educated nations by 2025. (NPR, April 22). But the rise is slow, and uneven across many factors and sectors. I wonder what is causing this positive trend.

First Year College Study Resources Online

By Robert Morris

Being a college freshman is a life-changing experience. Everything seems different: you have many new friends; the curriculums are way more challenging; your professors assign an endless number of papers; and you have more studying to do. However, getting your degree won’t be as challenging as you initially anticipated if you rely on proper online study resources.

Whatever trouble you have throughout your studies, you can solve it with the right online resources.

1. PinkMonkey offers over 460 guides that will help you get through all levels of your studies. When you don’t have any time to go to the bookstore and search for the materials you need, you can find exactly what you need at

2. SparkNotes will help you study for the tests and understand the lessons you’re going through. The mission of this project is to bring sense to the confusing schoolwork, and that goal is achieved with the help of experts who create blogs, books, flashcards, and quizzes for college students.

3. Ninja Essays helps you solve one of the biggest problems you face throughout your studies – academic writing. This is an essay writing help site that provides assistance with all types of projects, including essays, research papers, term papers, coursework, and more.

4. eNotes is one of the most versatile tools for students, which offers thousands of practice quizzes and study guides. The active community of teachers and students will help you deal with the confusing lessons and learn more effectively.

5. HippoCampus relies on the power of digital media to help you understand the course materials better. You can get help on different subjects, including humanities, sociology, psychology, economics, biology, physics, calculus, algebra, statistics, and more.

6. Cramberry is an online resource that enables you to achieve what you’ve always wanted: study less and remember more of the material. The concept that helps you improve your learning efficiency is based on flashcards that you can create and share online.

7. Today in Literature is a pretty underestimated website among students, but it’s a resource that can help you understand the works you read for literature class. It provides expert analysis on many classic and contemporary works of literature.

8. Bibliomania is another great resource that will make your reading easier. You can find books to read on the website, as well as study guides that will help you understand them. Bibliomania gives you access to over 2,000 classic texts, but you can also use it to read author bios and notes.

9. PurpleMath is the best website to turn to when you need assistance with algebra. You can access algebra lessons that emphasize the practical side of algebra, rather than its technical aspects. Besides lessons, you can also find worksheets and algebra quizzes.

10. The Math Forum is an awesome online study tool for college freshmen. It enables you to improve your understanding of math by accessing a great number of problems and puzzles, as well by getting your questions answered by experts.

11. Thesaurus is an extremely popular website, and there is a good reason behind its reputation: it enables you to get plenty of synonyms and antonyms for a word you type in. That’s exactly what you need when writing papers.

12. The Literary Encyclopedia is your solution when you don’t understand the book you’ve read for class. There are many articles that enable you to explore literature, culture, and history.

13. can literally replace your local library. You can look up any term and search over a great number of dictionaries and encyclopedias to get the information you need.

14. Project Gutenberg is an impressive database that enables you to access books you can read online or get in a Kindle-friendly format.

15. Calculate for Free is a great online calculator that’s easy to use and you can get as an app for mobile devices. This online resource will be of great help for science, math, statistics, and other subjects.

With all these tools and resources, your life as a college freshman will immediately become more enjoyable

Robert Morris has worked in education for over 7 years as a teacher, school newspaper adviser, literacy consultant, curriculum writer. He provides teaching and learning materials


What Is the “Value” Of Higher Education?

By Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D..
Featured in The Huffington Post
April 16, 2014

In nearly all aspects of life, we want our time and money spent well. Same is true for those in pursuit of higher education. Today’s students attend college for a variety of reasons, and whether enrolled in a degree/certificate program or personal enrichment course, everyone wants their money’s worth. But how exactly is “value” assessed? Students get the best bang for their dollar when a quality education is offered at an affordable price. In other words, AFFORDABLE education + QUALITY education = REAL VALUE.

Evoking a term like value in higher education conversations often leads people to think about salary–focusing on the economic and workforce benefits of a college degree. Certainly, that’s a critical and practical part of the equation. But, value should also focus on outcomes that prepare students for lifelong learning and long-term professional success and contributions to the social good.

To better gauge value, students need to ask–and receive answers to–some straightforward questions: How much does college cost and how do students pay? How many–and which–students complete their degrees? And what do graduates experience after college in the workplace and society? These may seem like easy questions to which we should already have the answers, but the truth is this information is not readily available.

In recent years, a growing number of efforts to provide better data have emerged, including institutional initiatives (e.g., Voluntary System of Accountability, Voluntary Framework for Accountability) as well as websites like College Results Online and the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard. While all represent steps in the right direction, many of these tools are limited by the federal data on which they rely that currently excludes far too many of today’s students. Given the importance of these data, federal data sources should (and can) be improved.

Other efforts, such as popular college rankings seek to inform the college decision-making process as well. However, for students who truly desire the “best value,” relying solely on rankings would be a mistake, as they tend to reflect more about institutional reputation and prestige while remaining largely silent on access, affordability, learning, and outcomes. Not to mention that the majority of today’s students–many of whom are geographically- and financially-constrained–attend non-competitive colleges that are often excluded from these rankings.

Last summer, President Obama introduced the idea of a college rating system to provide better data and answer important questions about the value of a college education. We support the federal rating system and have provided recommendations and recently published a report that would aid in its creation by helping to improve federal data.

For optimal impact, this rating system (or, as we recommend, systems) must be developed and applied in such a way to meet dual purposes: Better student information and institutional accountability. Better information can act as a form of “soft accountability,” allowing students to “vote with their feet.” However, given the immense–and growing–student and public investment in higher education, we cannot afford “soft accountability” alone. Taxpayers invest billions of dollars in higher education through student financial aid, research and development, and tax exemptions, so policymakers need better information on institutional costs, tuition prices, and student outcomes to protect and leverage this investment.

Several institutional leaders and associations have expressed strong objections toward the ratings system(s). Yet, many of these same leaders support–either implicitly or explicitly–rankings, such as the U.S. News & World Report, which we know can spur institutional decision-making in unproductive ways and have minimal impact on college-going for the masses of students.

Although the words are similar–rankings and ratings–let’s be clear, the premise and intended outcomes are totally different. And for those seeking to improve opportunity for today’s college students, the focus must be on value. As it stands, too many students spend too much time and too much money at institutions that offer them far too few chances of success.

Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., is the president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Washington. D.C.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit organization celebrating more than 20 years as a “champion of access and success” for all students –with a special focus on underserved populations–by providing timely research to inform public policy decisions

Educational Tools Teachers And Students May Find Useful

 By Melissa Burns

Do you know how much the educational technology market is expected to be worth by 2018? Many people are surprised by the high expectations ($60 billion!), but no one can deny that there is huge potential in this industry, and teachers and students couldn’t be any happier with the improvements.

New educational apps and tools are being constantly promoted, but that doesn’t mean you should start using every single tool that hits the market. Let’s take a look at some innovations that are really worth trying.

1. Skitch

You have surely heard of Evernote, but have you started using its full potential? Skitch is an ingenious tool for visual communication, which increases the potential of “Bring Your Own Device” classrooms. Skitch enables both students and teachers to get their point across easily, without using too many words. Now they can express themselves through sketches, shapes, and annotations.

Skitch makes the communication within the classroom easier, which has an inevitable effect of increasing the level of collaboration between the students.

2. Writinghouse

The assiduous task of proper source referencing can be tiresome and distracting. Writinghouse is a solution to that problem, allowing students to concentrate on their ideas and the writing process while applying all references automatically with the use of this tool.

Writinghouse is extremely simple to use, it’s quite fast, and completely free. It supports MLA, APA, Chicago, and Harvard referencing style, which means that every student and teacher working on academic content can finally stop worrying about bibliography and citation issues.


Visualization can make even the most complex concepts understandable. enables teachers to create simple infographics that will make the lessons memorable for students. There is no need to possess any particular knowledge of designing to start using; the tools and boxes are incredibly easy to implement into the creation of a decent infographic.

Students can also use this tool to visualize the information for the projects they work on.

4. TutorsClass

The tutoring business has been entirely revolutionized with the concept of online tutoring. Students no longer need to search for a tutor in their local area and arrange awkward meetings that fail to deliver the expected results. The entire process is much easier and more effective when conducted in an online environment, and TutorsClass provides all the right tools for students to learn and tutors to teach.

Besides being a great place for students to find perfect tutors for their needs, TutorsClass is also a great website for every educator who wants to start tutoring more students in a convenient online environment. They will have full control over their business and organize a virtual classroom for one-on-one lessons or group classes.

5. Basecamp

This is one of the most effective collaborative tools available at the moment. It is incredibly easy to use for both teachers and students, enabling them to create and manage projects in a fun way. Teachers can control the privacy of the projects and share them with particular students, meaning they can create groups within the class and make them responsible for different projects.

Basecamp also features a calendar tool, which enables teachers to track the project deadlines and be aware of all meetings, holidays, and other important dates.

Conclusion: There is a right educational tool for everyone!

There are many wonderful edu tools available today, but that doesn’t mean that every tool is perfect for every teacher and students. It takes some experimenting to come up with the right combination of tools that will enhance the classroom’s productivity, but the choice of particular tools listed above will make the trial process easier.

There is no need to delay the implementation of tech tools in the educational process; you can start increasing your productivity today if you make the right choice!

Melissa is a graduate student of the faculty of journalism. She is a passionate blogger and writer. Now she dreams od publishing her owm novel.


5 Major Challenges For Post secondary Education

From: Boston Consulting Group

U.S. universities and colleges face an array of pressing challenges that require education leaders to act with unprecedented strategic clarity and vision in order to seize the opportunities that lie ahead, according to a new report being released today by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).BCG has identified five forces that are transforming U.S. higher-education institutions:

•     Key sources of revenue are continuing to fall, putting many institutions at severe financial risk.

•     Demands are rising for a greater return on an investment in higher education.

•     Greater transparency about student outcomes is becoming the norm.

•     New business and delivery models are gaining traction.

•     The globalization of education is accelerating.

But experiments around the country point the way forward, argue the authors of the report, titled Five Trends to Watch in Higher Education. Many institutions are reviewing their portfolio of programs to improve productivity and reduce costs. They are also using data to improve outcomes and ensure success for the changing mix of students. Some universities are broadening their research offerings to better attract funding, while a number of colleges are expanding their share of the online education market. Such creative efforts signal the diversity of ways to change the game.

“The higher-education sector is undergoing unprecedented change, challenging every board and leadership team to rethink their strategy and operating model,” says J. Puckett, a senior partner and coauthor of the report. “The institutions that will thrive in this environment will be willing to adapt and embrace new pathways to success.

A copy of the report can be downloaded at


Why Take This Course? What Will I Learn In College?

AAC&U is pleased to offer two publications and a brochure designed for students. These items explain to high school and college students what really matters in college and how to achieve the outcomes of a good liberal education.

Why Do I Have to Take This Course?, written for college students, has been purchased by more than 700 colleges and universities across the country for use in first-year programs and orientations. A practical guide, it is intended to take some of the mystery out of curricular requirements and educate students about the importance of broad learning outcomes developed over the entire course of their undergraduate years.

What Will I Learn in College? was written with both high school and college students in mind. It is a short guide to college learning that presents, in a concise and compelling way, a picture of the curriculum and nature of college teaching and learning methods that will help students understand what will be expected of them, and guides them to seek out enriching high school experiences that will prepare them to succeed. The guide also features Advice from Campus—candid recommendations from college students about how to get ready for college success.

What Is a Liberal Education? And Why Is It Important to My Future? is a brochure that serves as an introduction to what a liberal education is—and why it is important to all college students. Based on research findings from the LEAP initiative, it provides a contemporary definition of the term “liberal education,” discusses the most important outcomes of college, and features the perspectives of recent graduates and employers. Ideal for use in first-year and transfer student orientation, first-year seminars, academic advising, admissions, and career counseling