Posts published in March, 2015

Family Wealth,Not Income, Should Matter For College Admission And Financial Aid

Su Jin Jez

Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Administration, California State University at Sacramento
Faculty Associate, EdInsights

When it comes to getting into college, family money matters, but not in the way you might think. This month students across the country are receiving college admissions decisions—an annual occurrence that always prompts discussion and debate about who gets in, and why.

A college admissions officer will talk about crafting a student body based on merit, high school grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities. Student advocates will point out how low-income students are chronically underrepresented in higher education. But few will acknowledge the hidden role that family wealth plays in determining who goes to college, and where.

While we use wealth and income interchangeably in casual conversation, they are not the same thing. Family wealth is the value of everything the family owns minus everything the family owes.  This includes the value of a home, cars, retirement, investments and savings, business(s), and other items, minus how much is owed (mortgages, car loans, credit card debt, student loans, business loans, and so forth). Income is simply the amount of money received over a given period of time – like an annual salary.

When it comes to college opportunity, family wealth matters much more than family income. In fact, wealth’s role is so prominent that it trumps academic achievement as a predictor of who is more likely to attend a four-year college.  Wealthy students with middling achievement (ranking in the 25th to 50th percentile of their class) are more likely to go to a four-year college than low-wealth students with top-ranked achievement. When looking at selective college attendance, disparities are even starker.  For similarly high-achieving students, those in the top 10% of the wealth distribution are up to ten times more likely to attend a selective college than students with less wealth.

Certainly family income does play a role. High income families can hire a math tutor, pay for an elite private high school, and enroll the student in an SAT prep course—all things that will help a student get into college. But income matters much less than wealth.  Wealth can provide income, but as Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro state in Black Wealth/White Wealth: A New Perspective on Racial Inequality, it is also used to “create opportunities, secure desired stature and standard of living, or pass class along to one’s children”

Unfortunately, public policy has yet to wise up to the crucial difference between income and wealth. Financial aid generally relies on family income as a measure of financial resources, but disregards family wealth. For example, the federal student financial aid application asks students to exclude the value of the home they live in, any family business with 100 or fewer fulltime employees, and any family farm.  These exclusions effectively eliminate the consideration of wealth in determining financial aid as most families hold most of their wealth in these forms. Though well-meaning, policies meant to lessen the impact of income can actually end up favoring wealthy students.

Most Americans hate the idea that family money has anything to do with access to college, but at least we feel comforted by the availability of financial aid for needy students. Unfortunately, we can’t rely on that. We won’t really address the wealth gap until we shift our policy emphasis toward supporting lower wealth families rather than lower income families.

What would this look like? First, instead of using family income to determine who needs assistance, we would use family wealth. Low wealth families would receive financial aid, free lunch at school, and be targeted for college outreach programs.  Second, all children would have environments like those of American’s wealthiest children. We would think broadly about the supports wealthy children have that enable them to excel.

We don’t yet understand why wealth plays such a significant role in college opportunity. It’s not just more parental involvement and positive peer influences, or better grades and test scores. Even when low wealth students have all of these advantages, they do not attend college at the same rate as their wealthier peers.  The issue may be a purely financial one or there may be something related to the lack of financial resources that has yet to be revealed.  It is likely both – an issue about money and also about correlates of money.

In the meantime, our policies need to match reality. The underlying illness is bad enough: family money shouldn’t play a role in what college a student attends. But we can at least start treating the illness properly, by diagnosing the problem accurately and getting the policy prescription right.

This analysis was published originally in the Sacramento Bee

Bring the Classroom to Your Mobile: 7 Top Mobile Learning Apps

By Melissa Burns


The mobile world of apps has something to offer for every learning style. What apps do is to take the same subject and apply different learning techniques so that a traditional lesson becomes engaging because the learning style becomes customized to the viewer. Teachers tend to teach in one style though some may offer visual, auditory, or a mixture of both learning styles. Apps allow the user to take the lesson offered by the teacher and expand it. Can you benefit from using an app to allow you to learn more? Maybe. Here are seven top learning apps.

Math—It Is More than Just Apples and Oranges

Math is a subject that people either get or they don’t. In a recent interview with E. O. Wilson, the grandfather of modern biology, he explains why we should not allow math phobias to stop us. His powerful message is positively alive as he tells the story of promising young scientists who turn away from their gift because they fear math. Don’t allow the fear of math to stop you. These math based apps help you conquer math.

IXL Math Practice: Designed for kindergarten through 12th grade, this app offers a deeper view of how math works. The app works by breaking down math problems into recognized skill sets that help expand on the learning process offered in the classroom. Best of all, this app is free.

Algebra Tutor: Created by Trevor Doyle, Algebra Tutor takes the show-don’t-tell method of teaching to heart. It is an app that shows users how to solve the entire basic set of algebra problems in a step-by-step fashion. This app hits all the major points of algebra. The best part of this free app is that users can repeat the problem. Perfect for both Android mobile devices.

Learning Specific Apps That Allow Broad Topic Selection

We all have a specific way in which we learn. Some of us are visual learners while others learn better through the auditory process. Some of us learn by doing and not by listening or watching. However we learn, there are apps available that build upon that process and make it easier to learn.

Khan Academy: This app makes it easy to enroll in online courses that help increase users’ learning power. The powerful courses offered by Khan Academy provide instant access to some of the world’s best tutors. The lessons feature easy-to-follow outlines with visuals, audio, and pictorial lessons that are appropriate for all levels of learning. Plus, the Khan Academy is free to use.

TED Conference: This is lecture-based series that allow users to experience the cutting edge of conversations. This is a powerful platform where top people in their field present information about their research, changes in their field, and the positive aspect of technology. TED conferences inspire and tie together key points from traditional lessons. This app works great and will display with clarity on the new iPhone. The 4.7 inch screen paired with retina HD display will make sure these lectures leave an impression on you. If you have 4G LTE service from a reliable network, you can use this app on-the-go as well.

Edmodo: If users wish to bridge the world of academia to the real world then Edmodo is just the app by which to do that. The process works through a shared environment where teachers share learning skills with all students. It is an empowering process. Best of all, this is a free app for both teachers and students.

Apps that Build Education

There are plenty of apps out there that help students become better at learning. Participation in the classroom is one of the strongest ways to learn. The following apps help students participate by making other classroom functions easier.

Microsoft One Note: This is a powerful collaborator that allows up to five students to participate in the process. It includes a suite of whiteboards that translate directly into notes that share easily.

Evernote: This is a complex, but easy-to-use platform that is made up of a series of apps that enable students to conquer note taking. The power of Evernote is that it allows users to build a method of learning that works well for them. This is an app that works with many different learning styles.

Empower your learning with apps that help you unleash your true learning potential.

Author’s bio:

Melissa Burns  graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact Melissa via e-mail:


New Book On Changes In Management And Governance Of Higher Education

Governance Reconsidered: How Boards, Presidents, Administrators, and Faculty Can Help Their Colleges Thrive

Excerpt of Review  by Andrew Saultz & Tiffany J. Williams — March 23, 2015 in Teachers College record online

coverTitle: Governance Reconsidered: How Boards, Presidents, Administrators, and Faculty Can Help Their Colleges Thrive
Author(s): Susan R. Pierce & Stephen Trachtenberg
Publisher: Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
ISBN: 1118738497, Pages: 256, Year: 2014

Susan Resneck Pierce’s new book, Governance Reconsidered, examines the changes in the management and governance of higher education. She draws heavily on her vast experience as a professor, department chair, dean, and the former president of the University of Puget Sound. Pierce’s central theme is that shared governance in higher education is being challenged due to financial pressures, the growing reliance on non-tenure track faculty, and questions about the value and cost of higher education. She weaves detailed case studies into her historical analyses to provide a rich overview of the changes and obstacles facing higher education.

Pierce argues that communication is key to success. Despite the many changes to the landscape of higher education, faculty, presidents, and boards can thrive if they strategize and communicate effectively. She gives concrete examples for trustees, faculty, and presidents on how to best navigate the many changes within the academy. Her skill for being able to explain how the larger contextual factors influence the historic relationships among various constituencies in higher education is valuable, and she has a keen ability to condense complex ideas into clear, concise lessons.

The author uses specific cases to exemplify and illustrate her larger points about governance and leadership. These examples demonstrate her argument more clearly, and provide valuable evidence for her recommendations. She blends positive and negative exemplars of various relationships among trustees, presidents, and faculty. The case studies, scattered throughout the book, leave the reader with an understanding of how easy it is for university administrators to lose sight of the diverse facets and perceptions of change within the academy. For example, in many of the illustrations where presidents experienced disruptions on campus, the president did not anticipate the faculty skepticism. Pierce uses a historical approach to not only explain the faculty perspective, but to empathize with it. She reiterates that the faculty is the core of the academy.


More Community Colleges Become Minority-Serving Institutions


Role as minority-serving institutions expands for community colleges

Although they often operate at the margins, nearly 22 percent of the nation’s community colleges are minority-serving institutions and are responsible for enrolling about 55 percent of college-going minorities, according to a new report. (Diverse Issues in Higher Education, March 1)

Students Report Applications Stressful And Support the Old SAT

Based upon Princeton Review survey-see survey basis at end

· Applications are stressssssss-ful.

73% of respondents gauged their stress levels as “High” or “Very high” – a 17% increase over the 56% who reported such stress levels in the survey’s initial year, 2003.  Students reported higher stress levels than parents.

 · Toughest factor? Tests.

Asked which aspect of the application process was the toughest, 34% (the plurality) chose the answer, “Taking the SAT, ACT or APs” while 33% said “Completing applications for admission and financial aid.”

 · ACT or current SAT more preferred than forthcoming new SAT.

Asked which college admission test they’d prefer to take (or see their child take) if each of these were current options: the ACT, SAT, or new SAT (which won’t debut until spring 2016), 39% said the ACT, 37% said the SAT, and 24% said the new SAT. 

 · Biggest worry? Debt.

39% (the plurality) said their biggest concern was “Level of debt to pay for the degree.” For 35% their biggest worry was “Will get into first-choice college, but won’t have sufficient funds/aid to attend.” Given the $28,400 average debt of 2013 college grads, these concerns are understandable. In 2009, the answer most selected was “Won’t get into first-choice college.”

College cost estimate? $50,000+

87% estimated their degree to cost “More than $50,000.” Within that cohort, 42% said “More than $100,000.” Parents’ estimates were higher than students’.

· Main benefit of college? Jobs.

45% said the biggest benefit of a degree was a “Potentially better job / income” while 24% said the “Education” and 31% said “Exposure to new ideas.”

· Distance from home of “ideal” college? Near say parents.  Far say students.

52% of parents chose “Less than 250 miles” as distance of ideal college: 63% of students chose answers in ranges from 250 to 1,000 miles.

Other findings report: how many colleges students were applying to, and what will influence their college choice when commitment decisions are due May 1. The Princeton Review also asked respondents their advice for next year’s applicants. The most repeated advice: “Start early.”

A complete survey report is at

The survey upon which these findings are based is Princeton Review “College Hopes & Worries” 15-question survey.  Respondents were users of Best 379 Colleges book and  site, They were all college applicants and parents of college applicants.



5 Things Every Student Should Know before Taking up Web Design

By Melissa Burns

The Internet opens up a lot of possibilities for students themselves while at college. If you have skills and a creative mindset, you may try yourself at web design, and some students manage to pull it off. However, there are a few things you should learn before your make this decision.

1.     Web Design Became a Mass Product

Once upon a time web design was a kind of handicraft. Even a bad web designer had special skills that gave him advantage over laymen. Today, it turned into mass production: industry entry barrier is much lower than it used to be, and even a person who has nothing to do with either web or design can easily create his own site using a do-it-yourself solution like WordPress or Joomla, especially if he wants to cut costs. It means that your potential clients have a lot of alternatives to choose from, and if they don’t have a reason to prefer this particular student freelancer to all the others, they won’t do it.

2.     You Won’t Earn Much on Your Own

Freelancers can make good money, but this scheme grows steadily less viable in web design, especially if you have studies to consider. According to Magicdust, a Sydney web design company, studios and partnerships generate much greater revenues, even though you have to share with other members. It means that in order to support yourself with web design you have to look for partners and to turn your venture into a full-fledged business – and as a student, you may be not ready to invest so much time, effort and money into it.

3.     You’ll Have to Learn How to Sell

You may think very highly of your tech skills, but they alone won’t get you far. Some people believe that word of mouth is enough to get you paying customers, but the truth is, before you get any word of mouth, you need to find mouths that would spread this word – and it means actively seeking out customers. So, you’ll either have to learn how to sell or cooperate with someone who can do it for you – which, again, means a lot of commitment. On the other hand, this knowledge can help you a great deal in future, whatever career you decide to pursue.

4.     People Don’t Care about Your Skills

Potential clients are not interested in how good you are at HTML – after all, these days we have kids learning it at school, so for a lot of people have hard time persuading themselves that they have to pay someone for work they can ask their 12-year-old son to do. People don’t care about skills – they care about results. They want something that will either get money into their pockets or keep it there. So if you cannot prove your work is a difference between earning and losing money, you aren’t needed.

5.     You’ll Have to Keep up with Tech and Trends

Web design changes constantly. What was considered a good website a couple of years ago looks outdated now – and a site designed 5 or 7 years ago feels like something out of the Stone Age. Keeping up with altering trends, technological solutions, coding techniques and so on is a challenge. It is just like a never-ending college course that you’ll have to take simultaneously with the one you are already taking. Do you have time for it?

This article is not  aimed at discouraging you from trying yourself at web design. It just gives some food for thought: do you really want it? Do you have what it takes to succeed in it? If not – do you really need to be yet another mediocre designer?

 Author’s bio:

Melissa Burns  graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she

is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information

technologies and how these ones may be implemented in the sphere of education. You may contact

Melissa via e-mail:

What Works To Increase Graduation From Community College

Raising community college grad rates
The City University of New York increased graduation rates for full-time students at community colleges by offering tuition waivers, free Metro cards and comprehensive advisement. Researchers concluded the Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) initiative was well implemented, improved student outcomes and the cost per degree was less than the control. (MDRC) and ECS

Why So Much More Government Intervention In k-12 Compared to Higher Education

Higher Ed Flies Under the Radar

Why has K-12 undergone waves of reform while higher education remains relatively unscathed?

When the Common Core debate crescendoed back around 2010, the education sector, the reformers, the public, and the policymakers regularly waged pitched battles over student outcomes, teachers’ job security, and the overall quality of public school education. Major national media offered in-depth investigations and passionate op-eds for and against, pushing the issue into the national spotlight and turning the contest into a political flash point.

Common Core struck a nerve in the national discourse—as did President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act; as does the ongoing debate over the merits of charter schools. Today, primary and secondary education is a highly scrutinized industry, beset by ever-shifting public opinion and interventionist policymakers.

This reformist impulse in the K-12 space is not new to the United States: it has been the focus of the last half-century of education policy. But while policymakers and primary and secondary school stakeholders take each other to the mat over how to best allocate resources, measure success, and help students achieve more, most higher education institutions operate in their own largely autonomous ecosystem, without much awareness of or engagement in state and federal policy.

How is it that colleges and universities have escaped the public scrutiny and policymaking zeal that has characterized primary and secondary schooling?

Michael Kirst, co-editor of Remaking College, and William Doyle, contributor to the selfsame volume, argue that policy reform in K-12 is more stringent because of a remarkable difference of opinion about educational quality and who is responsible for educational achievement in a college or university setting, versus who is responsible in a primary or secondary school setting.

On the former point, Kirst contends that top-tier higher education institutions, the likes of the Ivy League, capture an outsized portion of the American imagination when they think of postsecondary schooling. The prestige of this segment of schools gets extrapolated across the entire postsecondary system, despite widely ranging student outcomes from one college or university degree program to the next.


Kirst and Doyle also maintain that what parties are responsible for educational attainment shift from the primary and secondary school context to the college and university setting. Citing a study by John Immerwahr, Kirst and Doyle note that 75% of Americans believe that almost all K-12 students can learn and succeed in school given enough help and attention. Compare that figure to this one: 91% of Americans believe that the benefit of a college education depends on how much effort the student puts into it. The perception of most Americans is that, while it is incumbent upon K-12 schools to offer the best possible resources and the highest possible quality of instruction, the onus for academic success shifts to the student in a postsecondary setting.

This insight may help explain why the public is generally slower to call into question the quality of the higher education system. Though recent Pew research polls reveal the public’s growing skepticism about the value of an education relative to ever-inflating costs, these concerns generally do not include a low evaluation of the education itself, just anxiety over the price tag.

Yet as postsecondary degrees become an increasingly necessary prerequisite for career success and as college and university education becomes steadily more expensive, perhaps an era of greater transparency on the postsecondary stage has come. Perhaps it is time to turn the same rigorous attention we apply to local K-12 public schools to our higher education system as well.





Why Student Loans Are Different


To better understand student loan struggles, New America’s Education Policy Program commissioned a series of focus groups in six American cities. The result of that research is new report, Why Student Loans Are Different

Multiple Measures For College Readiness: A Review

Multiple measures for college readiness

A new ECS Policy Trends report by Lexi Anderson and Mary Fulton reviews the multiple measures to assess a student’s college readiness, provides a deeper look at competency-based assessments and offers policy considerations for state and system leaders.