Posts tagged ‘Purdue University’

March 3, 2015

Lack of learning in college is a reason for poor job prospects

by Grace

Recent college graduates may not realize that a reason for their faltering careers could be because they have been “hamstrung by their lack of learning” in school.  But deciding how to assess what they learned in college is not straightforward.

A follow-up study from the authors of “Academically Adrift,” a book that showed how “many students experience ‘limited or no learning’” in college, tracked the same students into their lives after graduation.  As part of the original study , students had taken the Collegiate Learning Assessment (C.L.A.), “a test of critical thinking, analytic reasoning and communications skills”.

Even after statistically controlling for students’ sociodemographic characteristics, college majors and college selectivity, those who finished school with high C.L.A. scores were significantly less likely to be unemployed than those who had low C.L.A. scores. The difference was even larger when it came to success in the workplace. Low-C.L.A. graduates were twice as likely as high-C.L.A. graduates to lose their jobs between 2010 and 2011, suggesting that employers can tell who got a good college education and who didn’t. Low-C.L.A. graduates were also 50 percent more likely to end up in an unskilled occupation, and were less likely to be satisfied with their, they improved less than half of one standard deviation. For many, the results were much worse. One-third improved by less than a single point on a 100-point scale during four years of college.

The C.L.A. has gained the support of employers who say grades can be misleading and that they have grown skeptical of college credentials”.

Even as students spend more on tuition—and take on increasing debt to pay for it—they are earning diplomas whose value is harder to calculate. Studies show that grade-point averages, or GPAs, have been rising steadily for decades, but employers feel many new graduates aren’t prepared for the workforce.

Over a hundred colleges participate in CLA+, a test-based program that enables graduates to prove their skills to potential employers.  Some schools like California Polytechnic State University promote this test for its benefits to individual students, while other schools focus more on the CLA+ an assessment that shows the overall return on value they provide.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is in the middle of a battle having to do with the CLA+ at his school.

Two years into the job, Daniels has arrived at a major impasse with Purdue’s faculty: how to prove that students are actually learning something while at the university. Backed by Purdue’s Board of Trustees and inspired by the work of Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa (the authors of Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses) and others who argue that undergraduates aren’t learning crucial critical thinking skills, Daniels says the university must be accountable to students, parents, taxpayers and policy makers. He’s tasked a faculty body with choosing just how Purdue will assess gains in critical thinking and other skills after four years there, and he wants to start the assessment process soon — by the fall.

Purdue wants the student growth assessment “for the same reason that hundreds of other universities are already doing this — that research has shown that in some cases little to no intellectual growth occurs during the college years,” … “And the marketplace is saying emphatically that they find far too many college graduates lacking in critical thinking and communication skills and problem solving, etcetera.”

The CLA+ is not free of controversy.

… A 2013 study, for example, found that student performance on such tests varies widely based on motivation for taking the test. In other words, a student who has no reason to do well on the test might not take it seriously, and therefore can skew the results negatively for the institution. Others have questioned the appropriateness of basing assessment on small groups of students and whether the gains are likely to be notable at a university like Purdue that admits well-prepared students.

The most popular comment from the Purdue article made a good point.

Yes. It is time that universities and colleges follow the NCLB model on testing because it has worked so well….


Kevin Carey, “The Economic Price of Colleges’ Failures”, New York Times, September 2, 2014.

Douglas Belkin, “Are You Ready for the Post-College SAT?”, Wall Street Journal, August 25, 2013.

Colleen Flaherty, “Test Anxiety”, Inside Higher Ed, January 28, 2015.

August 5, 2014

Purdue University tries consolidating and streamlining to cut costs

by Grace

Purdue University president Mitch Daniels has been taking an aggressive stance in addressing high college costs, using “a combination of systemic cuts, organizational realignments and cash incentives”.  Of course, it is not an easy undertaking.

… criticism has come from both directions. Some think he is moving too fast, others not fast enough when it comes to cutting student costs.

Daniels faces many of the same challenges experienced by most other university presidents.

  1. Diminishing state funding, some of which was initiated while Daniels was governor of Indiana
  2. Administrative bloat. which has grown 75% over the last 13 years at Purdue

Consolidating and cost-shifting

Mr. Daniels says he is consolidating administrative jobs where prudent and leaving jobs unfilled where the duplication of effort makes that possible. He has jettisoned 10 university cars, consolidated hundreds of thousands of feet of off-campus rental storage and introduced a higher-deductible health-care plan.

Incentives to develop a three-year degree

He has also created two, half-million-dollar prizes for the first department that devises a three-year degree or a degree based on what a student already knows, not the number of hours he or she sits in a class. This summer, the school offered 200 more classes than last year in an effort to speed time to degree and generate more income for the school.

According to Daniels, there are ‘lots of opportunities” to cut costs’.

The problems are obvious and the ideas for solutions are plentiful, but can Purdue’s president lead the university to a successful implementation?

J. Paul Robinson, a former president of the faculty senate, said Mr. Daniels’s worth as a leader will be tied to his ability to prune that administrative bloat. “Let me put it this way,” Mr. Robinson said: “A blind man on a galloping horse at midnight with sunglasses on can see the problem. The question is, What can he do about it?”


Douglas Belkin, “At Purdue, a Case Study in Cost Cuts”, Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2014 .

December 24, 2012

Public college costs are rising, but still remain a good deal for some families

by Grace

The Wall Street Journal highlights the reasons why public college costs have soared over the last decade, increasing an inflation-adjusted 45% from 2000 to 2010.  At the same time, the situation for many middle-class families is not as dire as it is sometimes portrayed.

Reasons for escalating costs point to the dual problems of lower revenue and runaway spending.

Although state funding has increased over the years, it has failed to keep up with growing enrollment.  Scarce state resources have increasingly been directed to other needs, including Medicaid, prisons, and K-12 education.

Other factors are rising administrative costs, fancy facilities, and lower teaching loads

A number of factors have helped to fuel the soaring cost of public colleges. Administrative costs have soared nationwide, and many administrators have secured big pay increases—including some at CU, in 2011. Teaching loads have declined for tenured faculty at many schools, adding to costs. Between 2001 and 2011, the Department of Education says, the number of managers at U.S. colleges and universities grew 50% faster than the number of instructors. What’s more, schools have spent liberally on fancier dorms, dining halls and gyms to compete for

The University of Colorado at Boulder, like many other schools, is bringing in more foreign students to help the bottom line.

In 2010, officials persuaded lawmakers to exclude foreign students from the cap on out-of-staters—currently 45% of freshmen—arguing that the foreigners would add more global perspective. But they also covet the additional revenue, which officials estimate at $30 million a year. This year, CU is dispatching recruiters to more than a dozen countries, from Latin America to the Middle East.

Others are pursuing the same strategy. At Purdue University, 17% of undergraduates are from outside the U.S., mostly from China, up from 9% in 2009. At the University at Illinois, 13% of this year’s freshmen are foreign students.

Entitlement mentality?

Despite tales of woe, many schools are still affordable for middle class families if they plan ahead.  The Joiner family featured in the WSJ article is paying college costs similar to what Mr. Joiner incurred 25 years ago, yet they seem to feel entitled to a better deal.

Akaysha Joiner, the Aurora girl whose father attended CU in the 1980s, graduated at the top of her high-school class. When she applied, her father was making about $71,000 a year and her mother was temporarily out of work. CU offered her two grants totaling $7,400 and a $5,000 loan, which would cover slightly more than half the annual cost.

Mr. Joiner says that he hadn’t set aside money for Akaysha’s education and was surprised she hadn’t been offered more aid because of her top class ranking, the fact that he and his wife are alumni and that she is the child of a black parent and a Hispanic parent. “I don’t know that I expected a full ride,” he says. “But I had no idea [our payment] was going to be that high….

By fall, Akaysha had won $2,500 in non-CU scholarships, an additional $700 CU scholarship and a work-study job. That left the Joiner family owing about $9,000 for the year, including the cost of the loan. That is similar to what her father paid 27 years ago without any aid, after adjusting for inflation. Her grandfather gave her $4,000 to help out.

Mr. Joiner says the experience has left him wondering whether his two younger children will even “be able to go to a state school—forget about out-of-state.”

Criticism in the comments points out that this case is not such a hardship and Mr. Joiner seems to expect too much.

It didn’t occur to Mr. Joiner to save for his kids education just in case? Even with all of the media reports on soaring college costs?…

He thought she was going to get more preference because “she is the child of a black parent and a Hispanic parent”? But both parents are college graduates…upper-middle class by any sociological definition…why should she be entitled to any preference for her race? Typical liberal mentality…everyone is the member of some victimized special interest and entitled to have society pay her way.

March 21, 2012

Purdue scholarship chart clearly spells out basics, but the devil is in the details

by Grace

Basic information about Purdue University merit scholarships is clearly spelled out in an easy-to-read chart.  However, understanding important details below the surface calls for further scrutiny.

Here is Purdue’s chart.

Click to enlarge.

I like charts.  They’re quicker and easier to use if I’m trying to pull out key information about how much college is going to cost.  Click the image on the right to see another chart showing all categories of financial aid at Purdue.

Purdue is a state school ranked #62 on the USNews list of national universities.
 It is particularly strong in engineering, included in the top ten of USNews Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs Rankings.  Other well-regarded areas include business, education, and health sciences.  Cost of attendance is $23,468 for Indiana residents and $42,480 for non-residents. (The maximum Trustee scholarship of $16,000 would put a significant dent in that non-resident tuition bill.)

Some details about Purdue scholarships

Considering the risks of losing merit financial aid, I would think long and hard before encouraging an out-of-state student to accept a scholarship to attend Purdue as an engineering major.  The stress of keeping up good grades in that environment could be overwhelming.

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