Archive for ‘graduation rates’

July 24, 2015

College student retention services ‘is a hot business’

by Grace

Copley Retention Services is one of several companies that offers offers technology-based systems intended to keep students on track to graduate on time from college.  It uses “a combination of over 20 data points to flag students who may be at risk of dropping out”.

One in three college freshmen don’t return for their sophomore year. It’s a sombering statistic not just for students, but also for universities that miss out on tuition dollars.

Student retention services appears to be a growing field.

Forecasting student success is a hot business, and the industry has seen major consolidations this year. In February, Starfish Retention Solutions and GradesFirst have been acquired, respectively, by Hobsons and Education Advisory Board, two companies trying to move the needle on college completion rates. Earlier this week, Uversity was bought by TargetX, both of which provide data analytics to help colleges boost student recruitment and retention. Learning management systems like Desire2Learn also boast their own student success tools.

This need is also increasingly felt at the K-12 level, with startups like LearnSprout building early warning systems that tap into student information systems for signs that can help elementary and high school students stay on track.

Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, has partnered with other parties to invest $1.5 million in Copley.  He explains how colleges benefit from retention services.

Copley makes higher education more efficient. It is expensive to lose students or have them drag on their education over an extended period. Copley is the leader in helping schools address the needs of at-risk students. That is money in the bank for the school.

Of course, students benefit also.

If we can get more at-risk kids to graduate in four years or less, all while not over-taxing the support services of the school, tuition may have a slight chance of staying flat or going down.

But for many “at-risk kids”, all the tracking and remedial efforts may not be enough if they lack family support as well as the fundamental competencies that should have been taught in K-12.  It remains to be seen if these retention services are able to make a dent in the college drop-out problem.  However, if these services are funded by taxpayer dollars I don’t put much faith in how carefully their efficacy will be assessed.

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Tony Wan, “Copley Retention Systems Raises $1.5M From Mark Cuban, USA Funds to Boost Student Success”, edSurge, Jul 10, 2015.

Tony Wan, “5 Questions With Mark Cuban on Higher Education and His Newest Edtech Investment”, edSurge, Jul 17, 2015.

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December 30, 2014

How will the new federal college rating system affect higher education?

by Grace

Beginning next year, colleges and universities will be judged on three broad criteria when it comes to meting out federal financial aid: access, affordability and student outcomes, according to a new “framework” released by the Education Department.

Public input on the new framework will be accepted until February 17.

Schools could be rated on a sliding scale, from “high performers” to “in the middle” to “low performers,” based on such indicators as whether they meet a certain average net price, graduation and student loan repayment rates, and whether graduates get a job in the field they studied.

Measuring employment outcomes can be complicated.

One of the most controversial ideas that’s been debated is some kind of jobs measure. This framework includes two different examples: What percentage of students have a job, say, six months after graduation? And what are their median earnings long-term?

The administration says it will collect and present this labor market information in a way that is “sensitive to educational, career, work force and other variables.” In other words, a divinity school won’t be dinged because its graduates are pastors with low salaries.

Two other possibilities on the list for outcomes are grad-school attendance rates, and loan-repayment rates. That last metric has already been put into place as the “gainful employment rule” for for-profit colleges, which are suing to stop it.

What are the chances that once the metrics are in place, schools will try to find ways to game the system?  For example, will they push students to enroll in graduate school so they can be put into the “successful outcome” category?  Will standards for graduation decline?

Related:  ‘Gainful employment rules are applied unequally to colleges’

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Scott Neuman, “Education Dept. Issues Framework For New College Rating System”, NPR, December 19, 2014.

Anya Kamentz, “New Federal College Ratings Will Consider Aid, Total Cost, Employment”, NPR, December 19, 2014.

September 16, 2014

Posse Foundation boasts a 90% graduation rate

by Grace

The Posse Foundation makes college more accessible for students who may be overlooked by top schools because they do not meet their traditional admissions measures.  Although the program does not screen based on need, many Posse Scholars come from low-income areas.  Students are chosen based on a rigorous selection method, and graduate from college at a 90% rate.

What Is Posse? Posse is a college access and youth leadership development program that identifies, recruits and selects student leaders from public high schools and sends them in groups called Posses to some of the top colleges and universities in the country. A Posse is a multicultural team made up of 10 students. It acts as a support system to ensure that each Posse Scholar succeeds and graduates from college. Posse Scholars receive four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities.

How Did Posse Get Its Name? In 1989, Posse Founder and President Deborah Bial was working with talented urban young people. She watched these students go off to college, only to see them return within a semester having dropped out. Knowing that these students were bright and capable, she couldn’t understand what was making them leave college. When she asked them what happened, one student replied, “If I only had my posse with me, I never would have dropped out.” That simple idea, of sending a group—or posse—of students together so they could “back each other up,” became the impetus for a program that today has sent hundreds of students to top colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Why Posse? The Posse Foundation has three goals: 1) to expand the pool from which top colleges and universities can recruit outstanding young leaders from diverse backgrounds; 2) to help these institutions build more interactive campus environments so that they can become more welcoming institutions for students from all backgrounds; 3) to ensure that Posse Scholars persist in their academic studies and graduate so that they can take on leadership positions in the workforce.

Does Posse Work? Since 1989, Posse has recruited and trained 4,884 students who have won $577 million in leadership scholarships from Posse partner colleges and universities. More than 70 percent of Scholars have either founded or become leaders of campus organizations. Scholars act as change agents on campus, significantly contributing to the influence and longevity of student organizations. Most important, Posse Scholars persist and graduate at a rate of 90 percent. Posses help the retention of non-Posse students who are not part of the majority culture by fostering an inclusive campus community.

Posse recruits students from Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C.  It works with 51 partner colleges and universities across the country.

September 15, 2014

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?

by Grace

Which top colleges are most welcoming to low-income students?  The Upshot used the percentage of students receiving Pell grants along with net price of attendance for low- and middle-income families to find the most economically diverse top colleges.

Most Economically Diverse
Vassar
Grinnell
U.N.C.-Chapel Hill
Smith
Amherst
Harvard
Pomona
St. Mary’s (Ind.)
Susquehanna
Columbia

The biggest theme to emerge from our analysis is that otherwise similar colleges often have very different levels of commitment to economic diversity….

Similarly, by looking at schools on the list like Barnard and U.N.C.-Chapel Hill, it’s clear that otherwise dissimilar colleges show similar economic diversity.

How many low-income students actually graduate?

An additional data point that would be informative is the graduation rates for Pell grant recipients at these schools.  That’s a significant measure of how well a college serves its low-income students.

Low-income families can look at these lists and search out other information to help them understand how welcoming a particular college would be for their child.  Schools that partner with the Posse Foundation, a support program for that enjoys a 90% graduation rate for its participants, should be considered.

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David Leonhardt, “Top Colleges That Enroll Rich, Middle Class and Poor, New York Times, Sept. 8, 2014.

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August 13, 2014

Money Magazine’s college rankings could use more transparency

by Grace

Money Magazine entered the crowded arena of college rankings with its method of evaluating schools on “quality, affordability and outcomes”.  Yes, it’s another imperfect way to rank schools.  But it offers another viewpoint, somewhat limited, for families seeking information during the college search process.

To calculate its rankings, Money evaluates colleges in three equally-weighted categories: quality, affordability and outcomes. Because it’s hard to directly measure the educational quality of a college, Money relies on many of the same proxy measures used by U.S. News and others, including SAT scores, graduation rates, student/faculty ratios and admission yields. These favor colleges that are wealthy, rich and exclusive. Predictably, Harvard and Princeton are near the very top of the quality list.

Affordability is based on “net price”, and considers the average time students take to graduate.

The affordability metrics, by contrast, are more sophisticated than the simple measures of spending per student and published tuition favored by other rankings. Money starts with a college’s “net price” — tuition and room and board minus discounts and institutional scholarships — and then multiplies it by the average number of years students at each college take to graduate. The rankings also factor in levels of student borrowing and federally financed parent debt. Finally, Money includes two measures of student loan default rates that account for the percentage of students who borrow and the demographics of the student body.

Outcome is based on Payscale data, adjusted for demographics and majors.

The third category is the most interesting, and sure to be the most controversial. Money magazine defines outcomes almost entirely in terms of how much students earn after graduation. It uses Payscale, a website that allows people to compare their salaries with other people with similar jobs, as the source of the earnings data.

First, Money rates each college based on the median earnings of graduates within five years of starting their career and again after more than 10 years. Then it calculates separate scores that adjust for each college’s student demographics and mix of academic majors. A college that graduates an unusually large number of public-school teachers, for example, would see its earnings adjusted upward, so it would not be penalized for focusing on public service. A college with many science and engineering majors, who are typically higher paid, would have its earnings adjusted down.

Payscale salary data has limitations.  It is self reported, and the unemployed have no earnings to report so they are excluded from the figures.

Limited disclosure makes these rankings of limited use.

Money Magazine’s report does not break out the individual components used to calculate the total score for a school, leaving the public to wonder how the different factors measure up.  Because of this, these rankings are of limited use.  US News college rankings, on the other hand, disclose many of the individual components that make up a school’s total score, making their report much more useful.

Another important point to remember is that none of these rankings fully incorporates the qualities of the individual student, who “is actually responsible for a significant percentage of the higher wages attributed to college graduates”.

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Kevin Carey, “Building a Better College Ranking System. Wait, Babson Beats Harvard?”, New York Times, July 28, 2014.

March 11, 2014

The reduced purchasing power of the Pell Grant

by Grace

Cornell professor of political science Suzanne Mettler writes about how federal student aid has become less effective in promoting opportunity”.

…  In the 1970s, the maximum Pell grants for low-income students covered nearly 80 percent of costs at the average four-year public university, but by 2013-14 they covered just 31 percent. Presidents beginning with Bill Clinton introduced costly new tax policies to help with tuition, but these have failed to improve access for the less well off.

Perhaps if Pell Grant funds were spent more efficiently, they could be used to cover a higher percent of costs for qualifying students.

‘Pell Grants Shouldn’t Pay for Remedial College’

 … A huge proportion of this $40 billion annual federal investment is flowing to people who simply aren’t prepared to do college-level work. And this is perverting higher education’s mission, suppressing completion rates and warping the country’s K-12 system.

Current Pell Grant spending is wasteful.

About two-thirds of low-income community-college students — and one-third of poor students at four-year colleges — need remedial (aka “developmental”) education, according to Complete College America, a nonprofit group. But it’s not working: Less than 10 percent of students who start in remedial education graduate from community college within three years, and just 35 percent of remedial students earn a four-year degree within six years.

One solution would be to limit Pell Grant eligibility to students prepared to do college-level work.  That could be accomplished by having colleges establish minimum requirements for admission based on rigorous entrance exams.

Related:  We spend $40 billion yearly on Pell Grants, but we have no idea about results (Cost of College) 

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January 20, 2014

Early college high school may save money and improve graduation rates

by Grace

Early college high schools are small schools designed so that students can earn both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree. Early college high schools have the potential to improve high school graduation rates and better prepare all students for high-skill careers by engaging them in a rigorous, college preparatory curriculum and compressing the number of years to a college degree.

Intended to serve underrepresented groups; designed to “save time and money”

Since 2002, the partner organizations of the Early College High School Initiative have started or redesigned 240+ schools serving more than 75,000 students in 28 states and the District of Columbia. The schools are designed so that low-income youth, first-generation college goers, English language learners, students of color, and other young people underrepresented in higher education can simultaneously earn a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a Bachelor’s degree—tuition free.

Distribution of early college high schools throughout the country

20140117.COCEarlyCollegeHS1

Are early college high schools working?

Data from early college high schools are promising. First, the schools are reaching their target populations. Nationally, roughly three-fourths of the young people attending early college high schools are students of color, while nearly 60 percent report eligibility for free or reduced-priced lunch (a conservative indication of the number of students from low-income families). Most students attending early college high schools will be the first in their families to go to college. …

In 2010, 5,414 students graduated from early college high schools around the country. Their achievements far surpass those of their peers from traditional high schools serving similar populations. Preliminary data show that:

  • More than 250 early college high school graduates earned merit-based college scholarships. Four earned the prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, awarded to 1,000 high-achieving, low-income students each year.
  • 23.3% of graduates earned an Associate’s degree or technical certificate.
  • 77% of graduates went on to some form of postsecondary education: enrolled in four-year colleges (52%), two-year colleges (23%), and technical programs (2%).
  • Of 109 schools reporting data on graduates, more than half (56%) said that students had earned two or more years of college credit.
  • 80% of early college schools had a graduation rate equal to or higher than their school district (54 out of 68).
  • The average graduation rate for early colleges was 84%, compared to 76% for their school district.

Early college students are “more likely to earn a college degree than students in traditional high schools”.

Burges High School in my hometown of El Paso has just been designated an early college high school.  Demographics must have changed considerably over the last 40 years, as my memory is that Burges used to serve higher-income families.  Today almost 90% of its students are Hispanic and about 60% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

AP and dual enrollment courses are a way for students in more affluent school districts to gain college credits in high school.

June 12, 2013

Quick Links – Homeschooling surges in growth; glossary of education terms; higher college graduation rates

by Grace

Homeschooling growing seven times faster than public school enrollment’ (Breitbart)

As dissatisfaction with the U.S. public school system grows, apparently so has the appeal of homeschooling. Educational researchers, in fact, are expecting a surge in the number of students educated at home by their parents over the next ten years, as more parents reject public schools.

A recent report in Education News states that, since 1999, the number of children who are homeschooled has increased by 75%. Though homeschooled children represent only 4% of all school-age children nationwide, the number of children whose parents choose to educate them at home rather than a traditional academic setting is growing seven times faster than the number of children enrolling in grades K-12 every year.

As homeschooling has become increasingly popular, common myths that have long been associated with the practice of homeschooling have been debunked.

Any concerns about the quality of education children receive by their parents can be put to rest by the consistently high placement of homeschooled students on standardized assessment exams. Data demonstrates that those who are independently educated generally score between the 65th and 89th percentile on these measures, while those in traditional academic settings average at around the 50th percentile. In addition, achievement gaps between sexes, income levels, or ethnicity—all of which have plagued public schools around the country—do not exist in homeschooling environments.

Poor socialization is not a problem for homeschooled students.

Similarly, the common myth that homeschoolers “miss out” on so-called “socialization opportunities,” often thought to be a vital aspect of traditional academic settings, has proven to be without merit. According to the National Home Education Research Institute survey, homeschoolers tend to be more socially engaged than their peers and demonstrate “healthy social, psychological, and emotional development, and success into adulthood.”

* * *

Glossary of Education Reform for Journalists 

THE GLOSSARY OF EDUCATION REFORM FOR JOURNALISTS is a comprehensive online resource that defines and describes widely used school-improvement terms, concepts, and strategies for journalists and media professionals.

Top ten terms:

  1. Proficiency-Based Learning – 233 views
  2. Learning Standards – 110 views
  3. Rigor – 72 views
  4. Academic Acceleration – 67 views
  5. Blended Learning – 58 views
  6. Achievement Gap – 51 views
  7. Extended Learning Time – 48 views
  8. Personalized Learning – 45 views
  9. 21st Century Skills – 43 views
  10. Expanded Learning Time – 42 views

* * *

As colleges attract fewer marginal students who wouldn’t have succeeded in attaining a degree, completion stats go up.

College isn’t for everyone, and there’s data to prove it. During the 2011-12 academic year, the number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities dropped by 1.6 percent, while the number of degrees awarded increased by 5.1 percent, according to a new study. As colleges attract fewer marginal students who wouldn’t have succeeded in attaining a degree, completion stats go up. This is largely good news. Students who fail to complete their degrees take on the costs of college with none of the benefits of a degree.

May 6, 2013

Are these college presidents clueless?

by Grace

Only 65% of College Presidents Say It’s ‘Very Important’ That Grads Get Good Jobs
And just wait until you see what they say about tuition.

That percentage comes from a Gallup poll released this month.  The poll also showed that only 58% of college presidents  believe the percentage of students who graduate is “very important”, prompting Jordan Weissmann to ask:

If those aren’t tops on your priority list right now, what the hell is?

Apparently the cost of college is also not a priority, given that only 39% responded that the price of a degree is “very important”

Weissmann considers that perhaps he is being hypercritical.

… Perhaps the 37 percent who think graduation rates are only “somewhat” important when determining whether a college is any good are trying to take the sort of painfully nuanced view their fellow denizens of academia would expect.

I don’t know about their “nuanced” views, but I’m with Weissmann in believing that jobs, graduation rates, and cost of attending should be at the top of the list of what college presidents consider very important.

Related:  Families paying for college tuition have been hardest hit by inflation (Cost of College)

March 6, 2013

Quick Links – Title IX for boys; digital learning works better for some; higher funding does not equate with higher graduation rates; more

by Grace

◊◊◊  Glenn Reynolds suggests we should consider ‘Title IX for our boys’

… If schoolteachers were overwhelmingly male and girls were suffering as a result, there would be a national outcry and Title IX-style gender equity legislation would be touted. Why should we do less when boys are the ones suffering?

◊◊◊  ‘For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.’

Digital learning is expanding access to higher education, but may be widening the  achievement gap. Students who have trouble learning in a traditional classroom have even more trouble learning online, concludes a study of community college students in Washington state. For older students, women and high achievers, the difference between online learning and face-to-face learning is small.

Online courses can widen learning gap (Joanne Jacobs)

◊◊◊  Texas comes out looking good in latest Department of Education of Education report.

The Department of Education has just released its first state-by-state comparison of education statistics, and the report has a few surprises. Texas performed extremely well, tying five other states for the third-best graduation rate in the country, at 86 percent.

And Texas isn’t the only high-performing red state: Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Tennessee all place within the top ten as well. Meanwhile, New York, Rhode Island, and California, all of which take a traditional, high-spending, blue model approach to education, are closer to the middle of the pack , with graduation rates in the mid-70s.

This is convincing evidence against the popular notion that we can fix the public education system if only we are willing to spend more money. Not only does Texas do a better job of graduating its students than its blue state competition; it does so at a fraction of the cost per student.

Education reformers should pay close attention to how Texas achieved these results. Clearly, it’s doing something right.

The Texas Education Miracle (Via Media)

◊◊◊  The 10 Colleges Most Likely to Make You a Billionaire (Harvard Is #1) (The Atlantic)

In news that will shock no-one, earning a Crimson pedigree may be the surest-fire way to amass greenbacks. Almost 3,000 graduates of Harvard University are worth more than $30 million (each), according to rankings compiled by market research firm Wealth-X seen by Quartz, and most of them earned the money themselves. That’s more than twice the number of what Wealth-X calls “ultra-high-net-worth individuals” (UHNWIs) produced by any other institution in the world….

  • Of course, the top of the list is rather dense with Ivy. But even among top schools, wealth varies greatly: while the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University graduated a combined 2,390 UHNWIs, Yale, Princeton and Cornell count among them only 1,604, in total.
  • Of the US schools in Wealth-X’s Global top 20, just three are public: University of Virginia, the University of Michigan and University of California, Berkeley.
  • At least in the US, having a business school probably helps. The top five on the global list–Harvard, Penn, Stanford University, Columbia and New York University, in that order–all have top-flight MBA programs. Of the top 15, only Princeton lacks a B-school. On the non-US list, meanwhile, France’s Insead and LBS are both exclusively graduate business schools.
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