ED MAP: Insights Blog

7.13.15 Higher Ed Weekly Read: Articles Worth Reviewing
By JoAnn Rollins

1149239_50532713

Here are some industry articles that caught our eye recently.

Some Thoughts From Across the Pond. “We’re trying to figure out how to make research open access. The UK has been on an accelerated timetable compared to the US, but there’s still a lot that’s up in the air in terms of how it will be funded and whether existing commercial publishers will carry on with open access as a new and profitable business model; meanwhile we’re sorting out what libraries can  contribute and whether our support could lead to something more equitable.”

Green Shoots. “In broad outline, I like the idea a lot. It owes a lot to Sara Goldrick-Rab’s F2CO proposal from a couple of years ago, with a few tweaks to make it fit Oregon’s budget. The relative simplicity of the policy — fifty bucks a course — makes it an easy sell to students and families who are understandably wary of student loans. Assuming a 60 credit degree and three credits per class, that’s 20 classes at 50 bucks a pop, for a total of $1,000 for the first two years of college. If you’re taking a “terminal” degree or certificate with direct workforce applicability, then you’re getting a potentially significant lifetime wage bump for a thousand dollars. If you’re transferring, you’ll almost certainly start your junior year without debt.”

Who Is Fellini? “My own battle against assumptions is a work in progress for which I’d like to thank undergraduate students. Here are a few preliminary thoughts. Please add more in the comments section. 1. Give more verbal cues and clues when name-dropping. I now say, ‘Alexander Hamilton, our first secretary of the Treasury and an important promoter of the U.S. Constitution.’ I also define words that may not be part of everyday discourse.”

‘A Playground for Hackers.’ “The recently detected cyberattacks at Pennsylvania State University may spell bad news for other colleges and universities, according to IT security experts. Hackers such as those that targeted Penn State don’t set their sights on individual institutions, but on entire industries.”

Why the government let many trade schools become diploma mills. “Several consumer advocates interviewed by The Associated Press point to 2002 as the beginning of a dangerous rise of for-profit colleges. That’s when an Education Department memo written under President George W. Bush suggested colleges wouldn’t be severely penalized if they compensated college recruiters for getting students in the door. The memo became a tacit endorsement for the kinds of high-pressured sales tactics that emerged. The next big change, they say, came in 2006, when Congress passed legislation backed by the Bush administration that erased a requirement that colleges deliver at least half their courses on a campus.”

Bernie Sanders’s Charming, Perfectly Awful Plan to Save Higher Education. “Sanders wants every student in America to be able to attend a public college or university without paying tuition. Legislation he proposed to that effect a few weeks ago includes a reasonably plausible mechanism of multibillion-dollar federal subsidies and new regulation of state spending. The current Congress, it is safe to say, will not soon be passing such a bill. But in trying to define a new fiscal federalism for American higher education, Sanders has sparked a conversation that is likely to expand. Without something like the Sanders plan, the disgraceful dismantling of public higher education, underway in many states, will certainly continue.”

Despite Hurdles, Students Keep Switching Colleges. “Some 3.6 million students entered college for the first time in the fall of 2008, at the height of the Great Recession. Over the next six years, they transferred 2.4 million times, ricocheting between two- and four-year public and private colleges, often across state lines, according to a report being released Tuesday by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. ‘This has huge implications for the growing number of states with performance-based funding,’ Afet Dundar, associate director of the research center and one of the report’s authors, said in an interview. Such formulas reward or penalize colleges based in part on the number of students they graduate or retain from year to year.”

CCBC Finding Student Success at Accelerated Pace. “CCBC is well known for its Accelerated Learning Progam (ALP), a developmental writing program. Like AMP, ALP combines upper-level and lower-level writing classes, putting students on track to complete English 101 faster than they would in a traditional remedial class. ALP was the subject of a series of Community College Research Center (CCRC) studies. CCRC researchers found that the ALP approach resulted in better outcomes for students in terms of completing credit-bearing English classes.”

Mergers on the Rise? “As colleges explore methods of survival, many experts say mergers, absorptions, affiliations and partnerships are on the table more now than they have been in the past. In some cases, these mergers are much closer to absorptions, even if they are called mergers.”

Choking on AIR. “Part of the issue is the easy-but-false equation of graduation with success. As those of us in the trenches know, many students who attend community colleges don’t intend to graduate from them. Instead, they intend to do a year and then transfer to a four-year college. (The language of ‘degree-seeking students’ doesn’t capture that nuance.  These students are seeking degrees, just not there.)  A student who does that and subsequently graduates with a BA shows up in the cc’s numbers as a dropout, even though the student got what she came for. That student will show up in the 46 percent figure from the NSCRC, but will show up on the negative side of a community college’s graduation rate. Counting that as failure is measurement error.”

I Read “Data and Goliath” Because of Barbara Fister. “There are some lessons here as we think about big data and analytics in higher education. The temptation will be to capture everything when it comes to learner behavior. After all, the data is being produced in all those learning platform clickstreams. Why not capture and analyze it? One lesson from the NSA actions is that big data is not a substitute for sharp thinking. In education, we should take care to define our hypothesis and ground our research in both solid theoretical frameworks and the literature on student learning. This is only partially an issue of privacy, as most educational big data is anonymized. … Being thoughtful and deliberate in using big data is also a matter of effectiveness. We should not be seduced by the siren call of big educational data. Rather, we should bring the same healthy skepticism to our learning data as we bring to our traditional research practices.”

Blending Learning for the Non-Traditional, “Traditional” Undergraduate. “A recruitment tool and for strengthening cross-institutional partnerships. Transfer students commonly struggle with building a viable connection to a four-year institution. Offering them access to online courses prior to enrolling will not only build a steady pipeline of potential transfers, but also offer them a way to earn guaranteed credit at your institution before enrolling. This goes a long way with this population. Keep in mind that through online learning, you will also build better analytics about how these students learn, as well as about their unique challenges and remedial needs prior to matriculation. This will help you on three fronts: as a recruiting tool, as a means to help these students succeed once enrolled,  and as a means to strengthen partnerships with two-year institutions through data exchange and improved credit articulation and outcomes reporting.”

7 Benefits of Using Small Data in K-12 Schools. “The current obsession with big data has buried the fact that K-12 educators and administrators are more likely to gain useful information from small data sets. Big data’s overwhelmingly large data sets can be analyzed to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially in human behavior. Small data, on the other hand, is focused and fact-based, revealing the current state of something and providing context and opportunity for change.”

The Importance Of Student Control Of Learning, Especially For Working Adults. “There are disciplines and contexts where adaptive algorithms choosing appropriate content makes sense, but I find that too often this is the assumption for all of personalized learning. This example from Empire State College illuminates the growing importance of student control, especially for the growing working adult populations.”

Education Dept. Takes Steps to Ease Repayment for Student-Loan Borrowers. “This week the Education Department is expected to publish a proposed rule that would expand and remake Pay as You Earn, the most generous of the income-based repayment plans for student loans. The rule, which a panel of negotiators agreed on in April, would also make it easier for borrowers in the military to receive an interest-rate reduction on their student loans. (It’s a benefit that some student-loan servicers continue to deny to borrowers, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.)”

Rich Kids Study English. “Kim Weeden, a sociologist at Cornell, looked at National Center for Education Statistics data for me after I asked her about this phenomenon, and her analysis revealed that, yes, the amount of money a college student’s parents make does correlate with what that person studies. Kids from lower-income families tend toward “useful” majors, such as computer science, math, and physics. Those whose parents make more money flock to history, English, and performing arts.”

“Misbehaving.” “Anyone in academia seeking to lead organizational change should read Misbehaving. From Thaler’s (often very funny) description of how behavioral economics was created, we learn that describing the benefits of change will usually not be enough to motivate new behaviors. The people that make up organizations like colleges and universities will seek to avoid losses more than they will strive to create gains. Even if it is better for the institution as a whole if a diverse group of people engage in actions that may lead to setbacks, the natural tendency will be to play it safe. What higher ed leaders need to do is explicitly create incentives for risk taking, and then consistently reward failure as a well as success.  Experimentation cannot happen with some failure.”

Big Fat Hairy Facts. “The discussion to have about public higher education, especially but not only community colleges, should not be around how to discredit them. It should be around how to help them do right by their students. For all of public higher education’s flaws — regular readers have seen me mention a few — the fact that it serves the public that actually exists isn’t one of them.  That’s a feature, not a bug. If we want accountability, let’s start with accountability for accuracy. The ‘undermatching’ thesis holds no water. Let it go. And let’s focus policy discussions instead on ways to help the students who actually exist, succeed. They’re worth it. That’s a big fat hairy fact.”

Loan Collections and Bankrupt Borrowers. “Without congressional action, though, the Education Department doesn’t have the power to tell bankruptcy courts what standard to use in deciding whether to discharge student loans. But even without changing the standard, the department has some control over how the entities responsible for collecting federally insured loans, known as guaranty agencies, pursue borrowers for that debt. Tuesday’s guidance recommends that guaranty agencies, in effect, more carefully consider under what circumstances they fight borrowers in court who are claiming that an undue hardship entitles them to have their debt discharged. But the new guidance is far weaker than some consumer advocates and congressional Democrats had sought.”

‘Stabilizing’ Financial Picture. “The twin reports from Moody’s separately examine the financial “medians” (which strive to analyze performance based on a set of factors) for public and private nonprofit colleges and universities for the 2014 fiscal year, which for most institutions ended a year ago. Taken together, the reports show ‘much of the higher education sector stabilizing into balanced operations, increased liquidity and slowly strengthening balance sheets,’ Moody’s says. But about one in five institutions continue to struggle to produce enough revenue, with particular pressure on public and private institutions that do not have a national reach. The reports also suggest a growing gap between haves and have-nots.”

Higher Ed Upvoted. “Because of Reddit’s decentralized structure, any user is free to create a community, or subreddit, around any topic. That structure has spawned everything from forums organized around broad subject areas such as politics, technology and video games to catalogs of bizarre memes and safe havens for racism and misogyny. But more tightly moderated communities have also sprung up, including subreddits where anyone can post questions and receive answers from people with relevant educational or professional backgrounds.”

More Than a Third of College Students Transfer. “New data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center show that 37.2 percent of college students transfer at least once within six years. The research is based on the center’s virtually comprehensive database of American college students. It tracked first-time students who enrolled in college in 2008. Students often cross state lines (which means they don’t necessarily show up in state databases of students or graduates). The clearinghouse said nearly a quarter of transfers from four-year institutions left the state. And community college was the top destination for transfer students from four-year institutions, with 53.7 moving to a two-year community college.”

Simplifying Financial Aid: Gates Foundation Joins the Chorus. “The Gates foundation’s paper embraces the prior-prior year concept, saying it would give students ‘more time to apply for aid, compare and decipher aid award letters, and make key decisions.’ The paper also calls for allowing applicants who don’t file tax schedules — roughly three-fourths of filers — to complete a simpler form. (The other quarter of applicants would have to answer some asset questions, but they too would face a shorter form.) That idea comes from the College Board, which suggested ‘filtering’ applicants in its work for the foundation.Finally, the paper suggests expanding the amount of information that can be automatically imported through the IRS’s data-retrieval tool, including tax schedules.”

For Students, Textbooks Become Increasingly Optional Purchases. “Publishers are pushing a new model, called an ‘integrated learning system,’ in which students buy access to an online system that mixes reading materials, multimedia, and quiz and homework tools. Because access to the system is required in order to turn in assignments, everyone pays up. About 11 percent of students reported being assigned integrated learning systems during the past academic year, says Ms. Vassallo.”

Free Community College Catches On. “Yet the Oregon Promise, which the Legislature passed last week and which Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, is expected to sign, is an indication that the concept of free community college has some momentum. Mark Hass, a Democratic state senator in Oregon, proposed the legislation. It’s a last-dollar plan, which means the state will spend $10 million a year to fill in the tuition gaps that state and federal aid don’t cover. But eligible students also will receive a minimum grant of $1,000, which they can use for transportation, books and other expenses besides tuition.”

A Trend I Never Thought I’d See. “That said, I’m seeing a trend of late that I never thought I’d see. Tuition is being frozen in some states, and, in others, actually reduced. In my experience, ‘tuition’ and ‘cut’ don’t occur in the same sentence. ‘Budget’ and ‘cut’ do, or ‘appropriation’ and ‘cut.’ But ‘tuition’ and ‘cut’ is new. Even more surprising, the trend seems to have bipartisan support. Oregon and Tennessee have done variations on “free,” and now Washington and Minnesota are doing tuition cuts. Even Ohio is doing a two-year tuition freeze.”

Eight Tweets, Eight Tips. “Before starting a social media effort, ask: What are goals, strengths, target audiences? What commitment can be made? – @danzaiontz #cmcDC. Many aspects of a communication professional’s job are an art, but it can no longer be an art without purpose. The communication professionals at the conference were reminded that behind all great creative efforts must be strategy.”

What the New Gainful Employment Rule Means for College Students. “n 2009, the Department of Education began a negotiated rule-making session with the goal of strengthening federal aid program regulations to better serve students and families. Gainful employment was rooted in the concept that a school should experience consequences for the lack of success of its alumni. Under the rule, nearly all programs at for-profit institutions and a few other institutions had to meet a minimum repayment and student debt-to-income ratio, and more information had to be disclosed to current and prospective students. The idea was to try and ensure that programs where students needed to take on debt to attend provided a robust enough education that these students could obtain employment with wages high enough to allow them to successfully repay that debt. If the schools failed to meet these minimum criteria, access to federal student aid for those programs would be withdrawn.

Unizin One Year Later: View of contract reveals … nothing of substance. “e-Literate was able to obtain a copy of the Unizin contract, at least for the founding members, through a public records request. There is nothing to see here. Because there isnothing to see here. The essence of the contract is for a university to pay $1.050 million to become a member. The member university then has a right (but not an obligation) to then select and pay for actual services. Based on the contract, membership gets you . . . membership. Nothing else.”

The Winnower: a “radical” publishing platform that encourages debate. Interview with Josh Nicholson. “Publishing and then sorting also positions work in a different way.  Specifically, it eliminates the erroneous notion that publishing means your work is correct, which is a good thing because it puts the onus on other methods of approving/validating work, such as independent support from other labs, (i.e. has the work been independently reproduced?)  And last, post-publication peer means the entire process is transparent from start to finish.  The work is uploaded for all to see and evaluate and so are the reviews.  It makes absolutely no sense why the content of peer reviews are not published, except perhaps to protect the brand of publishers.”

Researchers Plan ‘Credential Registry’ to Compare Educational Qualifications. “The widening range of labor-market credentials available have pushed researchers to propose a credential registry, similar to a database of academic programs, that will offer a deeper look at different certifications. Researchers at George Washington University’s Institute for Public Policy, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale’s Center for Workforce Development, and Workcred, a nonprofit associated with the American National Standards Institute, were awarded a $2.25-million grant from the Lumina Foundation to develop the system.”

Contingent Faculty Aren’t Working in the Minors. “Here’s the thing, though. Failing to land a tenure track job doesn’t mean the contingent are exiled to the minor leagues, or community dinner theater, serving cocktails while delivering their lines. They’re still working in the majors. They just aren’t treated that way. Contingent faculty sometimes working for as little as $1500/class teach the same courses as tenured track faculty. They work with the same students. They have the same qualifications. Their paychecks are signed by the same entity.”

Software Will Not Eat Education. “Education is different. Effective education requires a relationship between a highly skilled educator and a learner. Teaching at scale (MOOCs), and teaching by simulation (adaptive learning platforms), raises the floor on what constitutes a valuable education.  The days of anyone paying for a transactional model of education are over. Knowledge transfer may be an essential building block for the acquisition of higher order skills, but it is the building block that will be (thankfully) commoditized.”

(Situational) Tolerance for Ambiguity. “But in thinking about my own tolerance for ambiguity, I wouldn’t call it high or low. It varies, and I think the major independent variable is my own feeling of competence in the situation.  When I feel like I can handle whatever the situation is likely to throw at me, ambiguity isn’t a problem. When I’m utterly lost, ambiguity can feel threatening. The key issue isn’t so much ambiguity or the lack thereof, but its possible outcome and my own sense of vulnerability. If that’s broadly correct, then part of what we need to do for students is to instill some confidence that they can find solutions.”

Enhancing the Digital Experience for Students. “I recently attended a Jisc event that was focused on learning, teaching, and technology. Participants were given (pseudo ironically) print copies of ‘Enhancing the digital experience for students’ discussion cards. While I’m obviously keen on limiting my print-based usage, I must admit that the cards (15 in total) are full of useful information in an aesthetically pleasing package. The cards are ‘designed to support conversations about students’ digital experience’ throughout their higher education (and/or further education) endeavors. If you’re leading a conversation at your campus about all things digital in the context of the student experience, then I highly recommend taking a look at this list from Jisc.”

JoAnn Rollins

JoAnn Rollins
Ed Map Director of Communications

There is no information for this author.

Our Mission

Ed Map products have always incorporated advisory services. This blog, drawing on leading resources and industry thought leaders, is a natural expansion of the scope and impact of those insights and advice.

ED MAP
Content Strategy and Logistics