Posts published in September, 2015

Economic Diversity At The Most Selective Colleges: Techniques That Work

Learn What Works And Copy It! From CBEE, Sacramento 

The University of California’s nine colleges provide top tier education to the higher performing students of all economic backgrounds. That fact is one of the key points of this year’s College Access Index, a measure of economic diversity at the best colleges in the country put together by the New York Times. In fact, six of the seven highest rankings in the index belong to University of California campuses.  Even more telling, these colleges do not fit any particular model outside of having made economic diversity a strong priority and a strong community college transfer pipeline, which is key. A college education remains the most reliable ticket to a better job with higher wages. We should look this list of universities and do all we can to learn what works.


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80 Colleges Plan Major Reforms in Admissions


September 28, 2015

From Inside Higher Education

80 Colleges Plan Major Reforms in Admissions

Eighty leading colleges and universities are today announcing a plan to reverse a decades-long process by which colleges have — largely through the Common Application — made their applications increasingly similar.

Further, the colleges and universities are creating new online portfolios for high school students, designed to have ninth graders begin thinking more deeply about what they are learning or accomplishing in high school, to create new ways for college admissions officers, community organizations and others to coach them, and to emerge in their senior years with a body of work that could be used to help identify appropriate colleges and apply to them. Organizers of the new effort hope it will minimize some of the disadvantages faced by high school students without access to well-staffed guidance offices or private counselors.

While the goals of the effort are ambitious, so are the resources and clout of the colleges today announcing this campaign. These colleges include every Ivy League university, Stanford University and the University of Chicago; liberal arts colleges such as Amherst, Swarthmore and Williams Colleges; and leading public institutions such as the Universities of Michigan, North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Virginia. The 80 members expect more institutions to join.

While they aim to create a new way for students to apply, they also hope that the portfolio system they create prods changes in high school education that could have an impact beyond those who apply to these institutions.

Read more of this article about the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success by clicking here.

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How to Survive and Succeed in College?


Melissa Burns

There is no doubt that getting a college degree can be quite difficult and challenging. There are so many classes that you need to attend and on top of that you also want to be part of many events and activities. This means that you need to make a good plan in order to keep a balance. The following is a list of tips that can help you manage the problems and stress that may occur once you become a college student.


Getting organized should be one of the priorities when you start your college journey. It is always a good idea to get a planner and stick to it. Use different colors for different tasks, update it regularly and you should be able to manage your time in a proper way. In addition, organizational skills can help you with your living space because if you leave your desk and room in chaos you will feel more stressed than ever. Try to keep your living space clean and remove all the things that you don’t use on a regular basis. You can use boxes for storing. If you don’t have sticky notes, buy some because they can be true life savers.


In most cases college expenses are so high that students don’t have the opportunity to spend extra money. So, when you are shopping in the grocery store or in any place where you can buy things that you need, look for sales. In addition, you can use coupons found in the newspapers or on the Internet. There are many special websites like Coupon Chief where you can find discount coupons that can significantly reduce the price of any type of product that you need. These coupons are very useful, but try to avoid the temptation and buy things that you actually don’t need. If you are interested in buying books, before you buy new ones, you should try few other options. For example, you can check the local library and see if you can get them for free. If we are talking about textbooks you can buy used ones instead of renting them. Keep in mind that when you are renting books you will need to get them back. If you buy the books you can sell them once you pass the exam. Finally, if you are buying food, try to buy food that lasts long. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid fruits and vegetables, but these foods should be bought in smaller quantities so they won’t spoil.

Take care of your health

College students are at their best age. They are able to handle multiple tasks without any problems. They are at the peak of their mental and physical health. This is why many of them forget that they need to take care of their health. It is crucial to stay healthy during college. Don’t forget that drinking water is necessary in order to renew the cells and to allow your organs to function properly. If you don’t take enough nutrients you may experience dehydration, exhaustion and severe headaches. This is something that can slow down your progress at college. Many students practice unhealthy diets which include processed food and consumption of large quantities of alcohol. If this diet is practiced for a long period of time you can expect to witness some health problems like obesity, blood pressure problems etc. in order to avoid that limit the intake of alcohol and include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. In addition, physical activity can also improve your overall health. Almost every college has a gym that is free for students so use this opportunity to work on your health. You will feel much better and you will also look more attractive.


With so many things to do on college, it is not unusual for students to experience difficulties when it comes to studying. It is a good idea to create a list of tasks that you need to finish during the day and make sure to add studying on this list. When you are studying, turn off your Wi-Fi, turn off the computer (if you don’t need it) and find the perfect spot where you can concentrate.

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: – See more at:


Common Core For College Readiness Persists And Changes

From US News And World Report:

After spending millions of dollars adopting and implementing the Common Core State Standards and aligned assessments, states are finally beginning to release preliminary results from the first round of tests administered to students last spring.

But it’s unclear whether the results will have any meaningful impact, as a growing number of states across the country are walking back their commitments to the tests and even to the standards themselves, a set of rigorous academic benchmarks adopted by 42 states and the District of Columbia,

“One of the selling points of Common Core is that when families saw this new data that was more honest, they could do something about it,” says Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, an education policy consulting group. “It’s just not coming to fruition like we would have hoped.”

The 2014-2015 school year was the first in which dozens of states participating with one of the two Common Core testing consortia developing the standards-aligned tests began assessing students on the new measures. Now, as preliminary results come in, it marks a moment that many in the education community have been waiting for since development of the standards began in 2009.

For supporters of the effort, the new, more difficult standards paired with the new, more rigorous tests would usher out an era of pretending students are well-prepared to succeed in college or a career. And they would provide, for the first time, an accurate snapshot of the state of education in schools across the country.

For others, the moment represents some of their worst fears: Without more time for teachers and students to adjust to the new standards and tests, there likely would be a significant drop in scores. And that would be particularly unfair for teachers whose evaluation and pay are tied to those test scores.

As education officials in states using PARCC and Smarter Balanced expected, preliminary results show students’ scores in English/language arts and math plummeted compared with previous years’ assessments, though the results aren’t entirely comparable since they’re aligned to different standards.

But with states flip-flopping on their commitments, the push to create a system that allows parents, teachers and policymakers to compare how students in one state are performing compared to another is in even further jeopardy.

In the last two years, states have passed various pieces of legislation to detach themselves from the two federally funded Common Core testing consortia – the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium – either by defunding the tests, issuing a new request for proposal to testing vendors or repealing the relationships outright.

The latest states where Common Core’s become a casualty include Missouri, Maine and Ohio. The PARCC consortium has suffered the most losses, with its membership cut in half from 24 to 12.

“We’re in the middle of an escalating fight about how much educational assessment is driven from the top down based on partisan and ideological agendas,” says Robert Schaeffer, the public education director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an advocacy organization that opposes high-stakes testing. “There is a rising national movement pushing back against the basic test-and-punish assumption that has driven assessment policy for the last 15 years.”

Schaeffer says Common Core assessments have been a failure largely due to the greater political controversies surrounding the standards themselves. He argues that states have had a good, common metric for decades – the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the nation’s report card, which is statistically balanced for cross-comparisons among states.

But some education policy experts who supported the move to higher standards and aligned assessments say there is still a lot to be gained from the current Common Core landscape.

“You still have over half the states in either Smarter Balanced or PARCC, which is a heck of a lot more commonality than we had last year,” says Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education think tank.

Besides, Petrilli says, ever since the U.S. Department of Education decided there would be two consortia, the commonality was never going to be exact.

“What matters to me,” he says, “is whether the test is well-aligned to the standards and whether they’re set at a tough enough level that we signal to educators, parents and kids whether individual kids are on track for success.”

However, even that notion may be in danger, as many of the 18 states that administered the Smarter Balanced test last school year have been reporting or framing results in their own ways. California, for example, focused on how its scores showed significant achievement gaps between subgroups of students, rather than the test scores themselves.

And last week, when Ohio became the first state to unveil preliminary results from PARCC testing, the state board of education altered the scoring rubric in a way that didn’t align with how the testing company interpreted the results.

For example, students rated as “approaching expectations” by PARCC were rated “proficient” by the state board of education. And students rated as “meeting expectations” by PARCC were rated “accelerated” by the board.

Ohio’s disparate ratings sent the education community into a frenzy. Those who have argued for more accountability at the state level worried the move signaled a return to a system that overstates the proportion of students who are on track for success, calling them proficient when in reality they aren’t being prepared well for college or a career.

“This was always supposed to be a partnership among states, and the fact that they can’t come to an agreement … is a bad signal for this whole undertaking of commonality,” Bellwether’s Aldeman says. “And it shows that even despite all this money, the political problems are just too challenging.”

To be sure, Ohio’s board of education didn’t have a choice. The budget signed into law over the summer by Gov. John Kasich, a Republican presidential hopeful, mandated those ratings. That was also the same piece of legislation that included language to defund PARCC entirely in the state, making Ohio one of the latest states to dump its Common Core test.

Illinois, meanwhile, which also released preliminary PARRC scores last week, used the ratings designed by the testing consortia. Nine additional states and the District of Columbia used PARCC assessments and plan to release scores in the coming weeks.

But states moving away from common assessments is a trend that experts expect to continue to grow, further fracturing what has been hailed by some as an important push to honestly assess student achievement.

Case in point: As the House and Senate work to conference their respective reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – the federal K-12 law also known as No Child Left Behind – both proposals include language that would allow some school districts to opt out of the law’s required state assessments and instead create their own testing systems.

“I will definitely concede that we have lost the commonality of the Common Core, and that is only likely to get worse,” Petrilli says. “But I think the testing ecosystem is going to continue to evolve. Every state will eventually review the Common Core standards, and states will make tweaks and changes. Over time the Common Core will be less common, but I still think there will be a core there that will be recognizable.”

Knowing Your Learning Style Can Help College Success


Do you know your preferred learning style? Or rather, do you know what one is? A learning style is an individual’s approach to learning based on strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. And knowing yourself as a learner is important if you want to achieve to the best of your ability.
When it comes to processing information, your brain is the most important part of your body. It’s where all thinking, learning, and decision-making takes place. If you know your learning style, then you can study smarter, not harder.
What’s Your Learning Style?

Information enters your brain three main ways: sight, hearing, and touch. By examining your learning style, you’ll become aware of how your brain learns best. And if you know how you learn best, you can also communicate more effectively with your instructors.
It’s important to note that everyone has a combination of ways in which they learn; however, most people have ONE predominant learning style. Learning styles are typically broken down into three major categories:
Visual – processing with your eyes

Characteristics of visual learners include:

•Prefers to read and write rather than listen.
•Enjoys reading books for knowledge.
•Can easily follow written directions.
•Has trouble remembering verbal instructions
•Prefers maps to verbal directions when trying to find a place.

Auditory – processing through your ears

Characteristics of auditory learners include:

•Prefers to follow verbal instructions rather than written ones.
•Enjoys group work and discussing information with others.
•Remembers by listening, especially music.
•Reads with whispering lip movements
•Finds it difficult to work quietly for long periods of time.

Kinetic – processing by doing

Characteristics of kinetic learners include:

•Needs to move, tap, swing or bound a leg in order to stay focused
•Benefits from in-class demonstrations, “hands on” student learning experiences, and fieldwork outside the classroom.
•Often needs frequent breaks during studying.
•Learns spelling by “finger spelling” the words.
•Often takes notes or even draws pictures or doodle while listening.

According to research, each learning style uses different parts of the brain. For example, auditory learners use hearing to process information while visual learners rely on seeing to learn. Kinetic learners learn best by doing or processing information in a hands-on approach.

No learning style is either better or worse than another. In fact, each learning style has its own strengths and limitations. But if you know your limitations, you can extend your abilities and reach your highest potential.

Study Tips Based on Learning Style

The introduction of theInternet has changed the way students learn and are taught. And with many students now enrolling , it’s important to recognize and understand your learning style in order to engage successfully with changing teaching methods.
Once you’ve identified your learning style, you can adjust the way you study and possibly improve your grades and overall productivity.

Check out the tips below to you learn and study more efficiently and effectively:

Visual– Draw pictures and diagrams in the margins while reading and write out questions you are working on. Underling and highlight text as you read and make flashcards for studying (use different colored cards). Copy over your notes to help with recall. Preview a chapter before reading it by first looking at the pictures and section headings.

Auditory – Listen to the words you read and read aloud or talk through the information. Record lectures, tutoring and study group sessions, etc. Make up and repeat rhymes to remember facts, dates, and names. Study in groups and particulate in class discussions and debates. Have a friend or classmate quiz you on vocabulary words and recite the word and definition out loud frequently. After you read a section, summarize it out loud.

Kinesthetic – Walk around as you read and listen to recordings of lectures and notes. Engage your fingers while studying by tracing words and re-writing sentences to learn key facts. If you have a stationary bicycle, try reading while pedaling and studying with music in the background. Try squeezing a Nerf ball or bouncing a foot on the floor.

Whether you choose to take classes online, on campus or both, knowing how you learn can make a significant difference in your academic success. A good teacher, online or in-person, will utilize multiple instructional strategies to meet the needs of all students, and the more you know about your learning style, the more you’ll learn.

Scott Hawksworth is with , a Chicago-based startup focused on higher education. Scott has been combining his passions for technology, the web, and education for over five years. He’s a graduate of The Ohio State University, and enjoys playing piano, reading, and trying out the latest video games in his spare time.

This blog does not endorse organizations that employ its contributors


What We’ve Learned From MOOCs

 Candace Thille, John Mitchell and Mitchell Stevens  written for  INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION


Back in 2012, massive open online courses entered public consciousness accompanied by grand promises of revolution. MOOC proponents, often backed by private venture capital, promised to make higher education more nimble and accessible than ever before. Three years in, at least, it hasn’t worked out that way. Our own assessment is that MOOC mania brought lots of hype, promising technology, some compelling if nascent science and broader recognition of a huge problem that no silver bullet can solve.

Our own university began encouraging new experiments with online learning in 2012. Two of us were at Stanford then, helping to produce massive open online courses based on recorded video lectures, multiple-choice questions and audience discussion, conveyed via the Internet to millions of people at no cost to them.

Faculty members responded enthusiastically. By 2013 a new campus operation was created to support online instruction. It helped our faculty produce 171 online offerings, including 51 free public MOOCs offered repeatedly, reaching nearly two million learners.

No doubt about it, we contributed to MOOC mania. Here’s what we learned.

First, MOOCs are not college courses. They are a new instructional genre — somewhere between a digital textbook and a successful college course. Although they can provide much richer learning experiences than a printed book alone, current MOOCs pale in any comparison with face-to-face instruction by a thoughtfully invested human instructor.

No education policy that has current MOOCs replacing quality classroom instruction should be taken seriously. That said, most MOOCs provide free or low-cost learning opportunities, so it makes good sense to view them as positive enhancements to the overall education ecosystem. Letters of praise and thanks from thousands of grateful MOOC learners from all walks of life attest to the contributions of this new genre.

Second, MOOCs are no panacea for educational inequality. Ample research now makes clear that the preponderance of MOOC users worldwide are college-educated men in highly industrialized countries. MOOCs have not provided a remedy for deep-rooted disparities in access to knowledge. Recorded video instruction based on classes at highly selective colleges cannot easily serve broader audiences of less prepared learners.

Third, simply transferring lectures online will not provide effective learning on a massive scale. As anyone who has taken one can attest, MOOCs are not Socratic wonders. Most of them rely substantially on short lecture segments in a talking-head format, replicating online the stand-and-lecture pedagogies of conventional classrooms without scaling the discussion sections, office hours, late-night dorm-room study groups, drop-in tutoring, painstakingly graded homework and other components of a successful large college class.

Instructors often complain about the inability of current MOOC platforms to facilitate creative ways of interacting with learners, and they’re right. The learning process is much more complicated than merely sitting in front of a computer screen. Successful online resources have been developed and rigorously evaluated, but they require careful learning design and engineering to engage students in meaningful activity.

Fourth, on another positive note, MOOCs have raised awareness about how online learning technology might be used to support the science of learning. Every keystroke people make when they interact with an online instructional offering leaves a data trace that can be gleaned to support learning research. Research with MOOC data has enabled us to see where people get discouraged in difficult lessons and how they can be encouraged to persevere.

As educators design more complex online tasks that scaffold and reveal learners’ thought processes, and analyze the data generated by learner interactions, we will probably improve the effectiveness of online learning and advance science generally. Since ancient times teaching has been regarded as an art: subtle, complex and hard to specify. Computational descriptions of how people interact with learning material, teachers and one another make it possible to pair that art with new kinds of empirical knowledge.

What no technology can solve is a failing business model for U.S. higher education. Citizens benefit most from education early in their lives when they are least able to pay for it themselves. Yet students and their families are now being asked to pay ever-larger proportions of the cost of higher education as government support for college has increasingly taken the form of subsidized loans.

Sticker prices for tuition and fees at residential colleges have risen faster than the rate of inflation for decades, making what was once called a “traditional” college experience, complete with dorm rooms and verdant campuses and football teams, into a luxury service. Using present technology, effective online courses are more expensive to produce than in-person classes and we do not know how to scale them to massive audiences without corresponding costs.

At the same time college completion and ongoing professional development have become more essential for success in the labor market. Students, parents, entrepreneurs and politicians alike are eagerly seeking alternative forms of higher education, and for a brief moment back in 2012 many wanted to believe that the simple Internet technologies embodied in MOOCs would be the next big thing. It’s not that simple.

MOOCs have not fixed higher education, but they are poignant reminders of the urgent problems of college cost and access, potential forerunners of truly effective educational technology, and valuable tools for advancing the science of learning. That’s progress.


John Mitchell, Mitchell Stevens and Candace Thille are professors and co-directors of the Lytics Lab at Stanford University.

Understanding Student Loan Debt


By Rachel Fishman, New America Foundation

Today, New America’s Education Policy Program released the fourth in a series of College Decisions Survey briefs that analyze new survey data about what prospective college students know about the college-going and financing process. Part IV: Understanding Student Loan Debt focuses on prospective and recently-enrolled college students’ perspectives on taking out and repaying student loans. It looks at estimates of the amount students plan to borrow, their monthly payments, and their repayment strategies.

It’s well-known that graduating from college with debt has become a reality for the majority of American college students, but this study sought to better understand what amount students thought is reasonable to borrow for their undergraduate education. Most students (87 percent) thought that some debt was reasonable, but they varied widely on how much they think they should personally borrow for their undergraduate degree. Of those who thought borrowing for an undergraduate education was a reasonable expectation, 55 percent said the total amount borrowed should be $10,000 or less, and another 31 percent indicated borrowing should be kept to between $10,001 and $35,000. The median amount students deemed reasonable was $10,000 over four years of college.

However, when students intending to borrow were asked how much debt they actually expected to accumulate, the median amount jumped to $15,000 over four years. Some outlying students estimated they would borrow much more, pulling the average expected loan debt much higher to $25,295.

Prospective and recently-enrolled students also have a difficult time estimating their monthly student loan payment. Students who anticipate borrowing estimate that they will repay $545 per month, on average. Using the repayment estimator that the U.S. Department of Education Federal Student Aid office provides, the monthly payment on the estimated average debt of $25,295 at current interest rates would be approximately $260 on the ten-year standard repayment plan.

“Students struggle to understand exactly how student loan repayment is structured compared to how much they’re borrowing,” said Rachel Fishman, senior policy analyst with New America and the report’s author.

Three possible policy changes could greatly improve student understanding of their debt and repayment options:

  • Under the current system, financial aid packages fluctuate year-to-year. A system that used an average of several years of income to produce an aid package valid over the course of a degree would make it possible for students to interpret their aid amount in cumulative terms
  • Entrance counseling for federal loans could be enhanced by providing information to students each time they take out new loans detailing their cumulative loan balance, interest rates, and estimates of time to repayment
  • A simplified federal loan repayment system of three options—the ten-year standard repayment, income-based repayment, and a consolidation option that will extend the payment horizon—would help alleviate student confusion

More About the College Decisions Survey

New America commissioned Harris Poll to create and administer the College Decisions Survey. A national online survey was conducted between October 7th and November 3rd, 2014. The sample included 1,011 completed interviews and consisted of U.S. residents ages 16 to 40 who do not have college degrees and plan on enrolling in a two-year or four-year college within the next 12 months (n=747). The survey also included individuals who were in the first semester of their first year at a two-year or four-year college (n=264).

The five College Decisions Survey briefs will be released during the spring and summer of 2015 and will cover topics including:

  • Financial concerns during the postsecondary decision-making process
  • The application process for different types of students
  • Students’ familiarity with financial aid
  • Students’ ability to estimate their loan debt and monthly payments
  • The college search process and helpfulness of various common resources

Read the report here.

Follow on Twitter using #CollegeDecisions.

Where do dreams about college lead?


Life in a college is a passport to the new unique world full of dreams, ideas, possibilities, along with limitations and responsibility for your actions. One can say that a new life begins there: new acquaintances, friendship, first love. Everything glows in iridescent colors. It helps to remember that the first serious disappointments are present in college life. In fact college is a just little drama practice before a serious performance.

How to fight down the first disappointments?

Here psychological stability of every separate student acts as the key and overriding factor. One should be ready to through the mill and move on; on this account skills of getting over a crisis that were trained earlier can help. It should be remembered that college is a simple training of your calmness under pressure. Truly adult life lies in store.

Do not lose trust in people.

Your acquaintances in a college will show all advantages of complicated human relations. In years to come one part of them will become lifelong friends, another part will teach you a few vital lessons and farther will chart their own course that probably will never meet your one. Place confidence in people with carefulness, in fact they will not be responsible for your decisions and acts even for those you would be stirred into. Liability is all yours.

Remember that you are a unique person.

There is no point to be tied to the chariot of your acquaintances because of the fear to differ from others and strike somebody as funny peculiar. Blending into the crowd does not make sense; in fact you will lose your time that can be spent with a profit to you. Latter search for personal fulfillment will not be a simple task. It may result in depression. Unfortunately a lot of young people confront such problem. You can avoid jumping into this bandwagon.

What path should be avoided?

It is not infrequent that the college students choose the way of quirky habits to combat disappointments and depressions. A slight possibility to relax becomes an alcohol or drugs abuse. Consolidation of information on college drinking and drug use clears up the reasons that explain what spurs college students on to come under dependences influence. For example, basic motivation of narcotic substances application is a misleading belief that it will help to increase concentration and stay focused. However it does not evolve the powers of one’s mind.

Who said it would be easy?

Undoubtedly, college study puts pressure upon students. Be realistic while assessing your possibilities. Brain-tire did no power of good yet. One successfully written test is not a guarantee of your successful graduation from college and not a further perspective of future employment. Every person has unique features. Do not bite off more than you can chew. At the same time play your cards right, as college will give you a lot of possibilities. Their proper use entirely depends upon your imagination and ambitions.

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:


Gaps in Alumni Earnings Stand Out in Release of College Data

From the New York Times

Kevin Carey

Colleges give prospective students very little information about how much money they can expect to earn in the job market. In part that’s because colleges may not want people to know, and in part it’s because such information is difficult and expensive to gather. Colleges are good at tracking down rich alumni to hit up for donations, but people who make little or no money are harder and less lucrative to find.

On Saturday, the federal government solved that problem by releasing a huge set of new data detailing the earnings of people who attended nearly every college and university in America. Although it abandonded efforts to rate the quality of colleges, the federal government matched data from the federal student financial aid system to federal tax returns. The Department of Education was thus able to calculate how much money people who enrolled in individual colleges in 2001 and 2002 were earning 10 years later.

On the surface, the trends aren’t surprising — students who enroll in wealthy, elite colleges earn more than those who do not. But the deeper that you delve into the data, the more clear it becomes how perilous the higher education market can be for students making expensive, important choices that don’t always pay

 The national universities producing the top earners are no surprise: Harvard, M.I.T., Stanford and others that routinely top the annual U.S. News & World Report college rankings. The most troubling numbers show up far beneath the upper echelons of higher education. Elite institutions prop up the overall average earnings of college graduates nationwide. Although earnings of college graduates continue to outpace those of non-collegians by a significant margin, at some institutions,  the earnings of students 10 years after enrollment are bleak.

The Department of Education calculated the percentage of students at each college who earned more than $25,000 per year, which is about what high school graduates earn. At hundreds of colleges, less than half of students met this threshold 10 years after enrolling. The list includes a raft of barber academies, cosmetology schools and for-profit colleges that often leave students with few job prospects and mountains of debt.

But some more well-known institutions weren’t far behind. At Bennington College in Vermont, over 48 percent of former students were earning less than $25,000 per year. A quarter were earning less than $10,600 per year. At Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, the median annual earnings were only $35,700. Results at the University of New Mexico were almost exactly the same.

The data reveals how much money students are borrowing in exchange for earnings after graduation. While U.C.L.A. and Penn State are both prestigious public research universities, recent U.C.L.A. grads leave with about 30 percent less debt, even as their predecessors are earning about 30 percent more money than counterparts at Penn State. Harvard students borrow barely a quarter of what Brandeis students take on, and earn nearly twice as much.

The return is unequal in other ways. There is an earnings gender gap at every top university. The size of the difference varies a great deal. At Duke, for example, women earned $93,100 per year on average, compared with $123,000 for men, a difference of $29,900. At Princeton, men earned more and women earned less, for a difference of $47,700. Women who enrolled at Cornell earned more than women who enrolled at Yale.

Defining higher education in purely economic terms risks exacerbating what some have described as the corporatization of the modern university. People get a lot more out of college than earnings potential. They learn to be better citizens and better human beings. The world needs dancers and poets along with the future investment bankers and tech entrepreneurs streaming out of elite schools.

The problem is that the dancers and poets are paying the same, ever-rising tuition, even though the necessary cost of running a good poetry program is probably not much more than it was in earlier times when college tuition was much less expensive than it is today. And you can’t pay your student loans back with citizenship — only dollars will do.

Colleges can ameliorate this problem by providing need-based financial aid to low-income students, reducing their debt burden and likelihood of loan default. The new data indicates that some colleges are more successful with this strategy than others.

At the University of Cincinnati, a third of low-income students (from households earning less than $30,000 per year) had failed to pay back any of their student loans five years after graduation. At the University of Alabama, the number was roughly a quarter; at Wayne State University in Detroit, over 40 percent. At the for-profit University of Phoenix, nearly two-thirds of poor students are in these dire straits.

It will take time for the raft of new federal earnings data to seep into the complex reputational ecosystem that continues to govern the higher education market. But this new bottom line will eventually become a permanent aspect of how colleges of all kinds are understood.

 Kevin Carey directs the education policy program at New America. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevincarey1


Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success

From Teachers College Record

reviewed by Thomas D. Cox & Laurie O. Campbell — September 08, 2015

Title: Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success
Author(s): Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars, & Davis Jenkins
Publisher: Harvard University Press, Cambridge
ISBN: 0674368282, Pages: 304, Year: 2015
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Community Colleges enroll approximately eight million students annually. Yet, the academic success of these students as determined by the completion of a four year degree is limited. A longitudinal examination of data beginning with students’ initial enrollment demonstrated that of the 7.2 million students who first indicated their goal was to earn a four year bachelor’s degree, six years later, less than three million students did. According to the research and experience of Thomas R. Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins, authors of the book Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success, this lack of student success may be attributed to the organizational structure of traditional community colleges.


Throughout the book, the authors compare and contrast two community college models: the cafeteria model (status quo) and guided pathways model. First, within the cafeteria model, students are left to navigate which classes to take and when with minimal guidance or guidelines. Often the consequences of students’ decisions contribute to delays in completing a degree due to missed classes as a result of their self-service career guidance and planning. Redesigning America’s Community Colleges’ premise states that the current cafeteria-style community college model needs a redesign in order for students to finish community college quickly and efficiently. The authors’ proposed overhaul would encompass student registration through graduation for the purpose of providing students not only access to higher learning but ensuring completion and academic success.


Redesigning America’s Community Colleges provides a framework and strategies for reforming cafeteria model community colleges to guided pathways colleges. The introductory chapter establishes the history of community colleges and includes information related to funding and legislation. Chapter One establishes the need for the guided pathways model and introduces the concept of program mapping. Chapter Two discusses the cafeteria and guided pathways models in light of student services, registration, and progress monitoring. Chapter Three considers instruction and plans for providing content that is coherent and relevant to the course of study.  Chapters Four and Five focus on stakeholders including underserved students and the role of college faculty and staff in providing support.  Chapter Six includes the cost and economic considerations of the guided pathways model as well as financial projections. The concluding chapter provides concrete example of students’ viewpoints and experiences in both of these models.


The blend of research and practical application, the depth and breadth of the authors’ experience, and their passion for community college reform are foundational aspects that contribute to the significance of the book. The authors’ 60 years of collective experience teaching and researching community colleges contributes to the rich descriptions, observations and examples throughout the book. The authors’ assert that current initiatives, innovations, and programs at community colleges do not yield the desired outcomes of more students graduating in shorter periods of time. These outcome deficits seem to influence the sense of urgency indicated by the authors to consider adopting the guided pathways model for long term reform in community colleges.


Not only does the authors’ experience contribute to the text but their candor and straightforward approach adds credibility to the book’s message. For instance, in Chapter Six, the authors acknowledge that the guided pathways plan may increase the per-student-cost for education. Knowing that some may discount an idea that requires added cost, the authors present information and explain the rationale informing their predictions for the long-term consequences of not redesigning community colleges. The authors challenge policymakers to not only raise tuition to cover these increases but also consider other options.


The authors’ message is clear throughout the book beginning with the names of the two major models discussed. The words “guided pathways” evokes views of walking down a path with arms of encouragement and support upholding the learner. In contrast, the cafeteria model may conjure images of gray beans (no longer green), long lines, and no concept of what is ahead or how to craft a nutritious meal of what can be seen. In this view, self-service and choice do not contribute to an efficient or adequate community college experience.


One criticism of the text includes presenting only two community college models. The authors compel readers to consider their colleges solely in terms of the two models. The classification of community colleges into two broad categories without mentioning other possibilities may cause some readers not to consider the strategies and tips shared throughout the book applicable. Another criticism involves the writing. Sweeping comments are made throughout the book. Observations are generalized to all institutions, yet in reality the comments are only applicable to some. Even though the authors’ candor adds strength to the text it can be viewed as a weakness relative to some general and sweeping comments that may be too broad.


The authors acknowledge that research for the guided pathways model is limited and in its infancy. However, preliminary analysis of data from colleges that have adopted aspects of the guided pathways model holds promise for success. Several of these exemplars are highlighted in the book. The authors recognize the need for rigorous research to determine success, barriers, and provide evidence that would help more community colleges decide to adopt the guided pathways model.


Finally, while most readers of the book will be community college educators and administrators, similar personnel at four-year institutions as well as policymakers would benefit from reading this book to learn more tips and strategies to promote student success. The guided pathways model complemented by high quality curriculum maps, greater course structure, fewer degree choices, and more student support has the potential to reform community colleges while staying true to the commitment of educating all students in the local community at a reasonable cost. Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success is a timely, well-researched book that should be read and discussed in light of the national call for community college reform. The goal of providing students direction and support to efficiently complete community college in a timely and cost effective manner is admirable and evident throughout the book.