College Completion

Overview

College Completion

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” President Obama said in a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.“And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education, and half of the students who begin college never finish.” With those remarks, the president put the issue of college completion front and center on the national stage.Calling the situation a “prescri

“Right now, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require more than a high school diploma,” President Obama said in a February 2009 address to a joint session of Congress.“And yet, just over half of our citizens have that level of education, and half of the students who begin college never finish.” With those remarks, the president put the issue of college completion front and center on the national stage.Calling the situation a “prescription for economic decline,” Obama went on to urge all Americans to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. “By 2020,” he said of the goal, “America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

The “once again” comment refers to the United States’ former stature as the most college-educated nation in the world. Policymakers and educators bemoan the United States’ gradual slide from that once-lofty rank , a decline that has been documented in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report “Education at a Glance,” which tracks college completion rates in industrialized countries worldwide. To meet Obama’s goal, the United States will have to raise the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 64 with a college degree from its measurement of 41.2 percent in 2010 to nearly 60 percent. Considerable debate has arisen over whether America’s gradual decline as first in the world in educational attainment is the result of actual slippage or rather is more a matter of other nations making more progress more quickly. Either way, it is clear that American policymakers and college completion advocates see the drop as a call to action.

And President Obama is not alone in setting a target date for that action to yield tangible results. For example, Lumina Foundation, an influential higher education philanthropy, aims to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality postsecondary degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. The College Board is also aiming for 2025, specifically to have 55 percent of the nation’s adults ages 25 to 34 hold at an associate’s degree or higher. While the dates and goals vary, together they underscore how central the college completion agenda has become to higher education policy and practice. This Topics section examines how this movement has developed and what it has meant for higher education.

Spellings Report

The college completion agenda has been advanced by a number of philanthropic organizations and policymakers. While President Obama gave this agenda a prominent push, many of the issues being championed by today’s college completion advocates were raised in a 2006 report, titled “A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education.” The report is commonly referred to as the Spellings report for Margaret Spellings, who was U.S. secretary of education during President George W. Bush’s second term.

Like many of the current completion initiatives, the Spellings report called for better data on college graduation rates as the nation’s demographics—and the backgrounds and lives of those seeking college degrees—were starting to shifting substantially. The report was critical of institutions of higher learning for not doing more to move students from enrollment to degree. “Among high school graduates who do make it on to postsecondary education, a troubling number waste time—and taxpayer dollars—mastering English and math skills that they should have learned in high school,” the report states. “And some never complete their degrees at all, at least in part because most colleges and universities don’t accept responsibility for making sure that those they admit actually succeed.”

The Spelling Report’s conclusions regarding college graduation rates gained more urgency during and after the 2008 global financial crisis. As unemployment rates swelled and were slow to recede, prominent research from institutions including the Georgetown University Center on the Workforce and Education concluded that people with college degrees or higher were less likely to be unemployed and earned substantially more over their careers. It is important to note, however, that some advocates for improving college completion rates emphasize the importance of a college education for its own inherent value in fostering self-efficacy and citizenship.

One central question in the efforts to improve college graduation rates is which changes would produce the most effective results? Is the completion problem a result of student’s lack of time, money, or a combination of both? Would it be most effective to revamp postsecondary institutional practices to take into account the reality of today’s students so that the time to degree can be shortened before “life gets in the way,” as has become a common refrain for college completion advocates? For instance, the 2011 report “Time Is the Enemy” from Complete College America—a nonprofit organization that specifically focuses on improving graduation rates—argues that, among other things, college curricula should take into account the “busy lives” of contemporary students, who collectively no longer mirror the “traditional” college student who enrolls in a four-year institution straight out of high school.

Other organizations, such as the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, emphasize the impact of a student’s socioeconomic background. For instance, in a one brief, the institute argues that income-based inequality in educational attainment is “a central obstacle to achieving the 2020 goal and that decreasing income-based attainment gaps must become a central focus of federal education policy.”

Improving the Data

Others who have examined college graduation rates have raised questions about the federal college completion data system, which is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS. While IPEDS calculates college graduation rates based on full-time, first-time students, a growing chorus of higher education officials say IPEDS fails to capture the realities of today’s college students, who take longer to complete their degrees or who transfer from one institution to another. IPEDS also has been criticized for not tracking the progress of students who transfer colleges, though this practice might be revised to account for their graduation at their transfer institution. (In April 2012, the Education Department released an action plan to enact these revised graduation rate data collection policies, but did not set a date for revised measurements to be in place.) Using the full-time, first-time criteria, only about half of all students who enroll in college earn a four-year degree within six years.

In the philanthropic world, the two biggest players in college completion are the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, both of which have devoted millions of dollars to research a wide range of issues in higher education, from lack of college readiness (“college knowledge”) among low-income students to postsecondary remedial education, which is often considered to be one of the barriers to students’ progress toward graduation. (Both the Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation provide grant support for EWA’s work pertaining to higher education.)

In December 2008, the Gates Foundation announced a $69 million initiative of multiyear grants to “double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26.” Many of those grants were given for three-, four- and five-year projects, meaning that over the next few years, the foundation and journalists will be asking  questions about what was learned and achieved through those grants, as well as several other multiyear grants projects the Gates Foundation has since launched to improve higher education attainment in the United States.

The same goes for the grants awarded by the Lumina Foundation, whose work in improving higher education attainment is tied to a strategic plan that it announced in 2009 known as Goal 2025. Lumina’s “big goal,” which it describes as “audacious,” is to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025.” (The foundation defines high-quality credentials as degrees and certificates that have well-defined and transparent learning outcomes that provide clear pathways to further education and employment and is looking to raise the percentage of degree holders from 24- to 64-years-old.)

Other major players in the college completion agenda include the College Board, which has an initiative formally known as the College Completion Agenda. The initiative is essentially a two-pronged approach that deals with state policy and national metrics. Specifically, the College Board releases an annual College Completion Agenda progress report that keeps tabs on where the nation is in proximity to its various college completion goals. Additionally, the College Board has produced a state policy guide that features “best-practice policy examples, all aligned around 10 key recommendations.”

Key Coverage

Highlighted journalism and reports for this topic

  • California Community Colleges Release Completion Scorecards

    April 10, 2013

    California’s community college system on April 9 unveiled Web-based “scorecards” on student performance at its 112 colleges. The new data tool is user-friendly and often sobering, with graduation, retention and transfer rates for each of the colleges and for the overall system, which enrolls 2.4 million students. (Inside Higher Ed)

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  • California Bill Seeks Campus Credit for Online Study

    March 13, 2013

    If it passes, as seems likely, it would be the first time that state legislators have instructed public universities to grant credit for courses that were not their own — including those taught by a private vendor, not by a college or university. (NY Times)

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  • Competency-Based Education Has Fans, Detractors

    January 2, 2013

    But few traditional schools in Indiana have plans to adopt competency-based education in a way that allows students to progress toward degrees on their own time lines. Such schools as Indiana University, Indiana State University and even for-profit educators like Harrison College say they plan to stick closely to their models that require specific amounts of time in class to graduate. (Associated Press) 

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  • For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

    December 22, 2012

    The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

    Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points. (The New York Times) 

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  • Skilled Workers In Training As Economic Reality Marries Apprenticeships With College

    December 7, 2012

    An age-old doorway into skilled trades and a middle-class life, the apprenticeship is making a comeback, rebounding after all but disappearing in recent decades in the face of a decline in union membership and dwindling demand for skilled labor. And as the economy changes, today’s apprenticeships combine the chance for workers not only to master skills while earning a paycheck but to get a college degree at the same time. (The Hechinger Report) 

    Read More »
  • Student-Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards

    November 27, 2012

    Of the $956 billion in student-loan debt outstanding as of September, 11 percent was delinquent — up from less than 9 percent in the second quarter, and higher than the 10.5 percent of credit-card debt, which was delinquent in the third quarter. By comparison, delinquency rates on mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and auto loans stood at 5.9 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively as of September. (CNBC) 

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  • No Income? No Problem! How the Gov’t Is Saddling Parents with College Loans They Can’t Afford

    October 4, 2012

    A joint examination by ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that Plus loans can sometimes hurt the very families they are intended to help: The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who’ve overreached. When a parent applies for a Plus loan, the government checks credit history, but it doesn’t assess whether the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. It doesn’t check income. It doesn’t check employment status. It doesn’t check how much other debt — like a mortgage, or other student-loan debt — the borrower is already on the hook for. (ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education) 

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  • Teacher’s Wages Garnished as U.S. Goes After Loan Default

    July 2, 2012

    Lawyers drained Linda Brice’s bank account and seized a quarter of her take-home pay, or more than $900 a month. Brice, a first-grade teacher and Coast Guard veteran, begged for mercy, saying she couldn’t afford food, gas or utilities.

    Brice’s transgression: she defaulted on $3,100 she had borrowed more than 30 years ago to pay for college. The chief federal judge in Los Angeles took her side, ruling that Brice should pay only $25 a month. The law firm of Goldsmith & Hull — representing the federal government — then withdrew $2,496 from her bank account. (Bloomberg News) 

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  • Facing Facts

    May 29, 2012

    In some ways, community colleges have faced the most scrutiny by advocates of the college completion agenda. This article reports on a panel discussion of the impact these efforts have had on two-year colleges. “[If] the focus on completion gets too singular, two-year colleges run the risk of neglecting student access and even the quality of learning on their campuses,” the story notes. (Inside Higher Ed)

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  • College Dropouts Have Debt but No Degree

    May 28, 2012

    The consequences of leaving college before graduation are not just educational.  Dropping out also can have a significant financial impact: “College dropouts are also among the most likely to default on their loans, falling behind at a rate four times that of graduates.” (Washington Post)

    Read More »
  • To Raise Completion Rates, States Dig Deeper for Data

    March 2, 2012

    With the growing demand for improving college completion rates has come a need for more thorough information about just how well or poorly colleges and their students are performing on a variety of measures. In a growing number of states, that data is being used to improve the number of students who finish their degrees. (The Chronicle of Higher Education) examines the trend.

    Read More »
  • Don’t Lecture Me

    January 6, 2012

    EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. College students spend a lot of time listening to lectures. But research shows there are better ways to learn. And experts say students need to learn better because the 21st century economy demands more well-educated workers. (American RadioWorks)

     

     

    Read More »
  • Application Inflation

    November 5, 2010

    EWA 2010 National Reporting Contest winner. With skyrocketing numbers of applicants and declining percentages of students accepted, how are admissions offices handling the multiple pressures they face? Are schools bringing in more and more accomplished students, or just the same kind of enrollment class compared to students from a decade ago? (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Reframing College Completion

    October 28, 2010

    The national college completion goals laid out by President Obama and various organizations are literally monumental, aiming to move millions of Americans to college degrees. This article examines efforts to break that large, national goal down into smaller regional and metropolitan goals. (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • To Pump Up Degree Counts, Colleges Invite Dropouts Back

    October 24, 2010

    Many advocates for increasing the number of Americans with college credentials assert that one efficient way to raise that number would be to convince adults who have dropped out of college to return and finish their degrees. This article examines the pros and cons of that approach. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

     

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  • Education Experts Discuss Ways to Improve College-Completion Rates

    June 2, 2010

    This article examines the ideas experts — including some college presidents — shared in a discussion entitled “Competing in a Global Economy: How to Boost College Completion Rates,” sponsored by the Gates Foundation. “American colleges often focus too much on enrolling students and not enough on making sure they graduate, a number of panelists said.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Seminoles helped by ‘LD’ diagnoses

    December 18, 2009

    EWA 2010 National Reporting  Contest winner. For college athletes, how much help is too much if they have learning disabilities? This story features a fired disabilities coach who university officials say blurred the line between aiding student-athletes with learning disabilities and academic fraud. Other members of the university’s athletic academic support unit in some cases supplied answers to tests, and in other cases typed papers, for 61 athletes in football and other sports. (ESPN)

    Read More »
  • Gates Fund Creates Plan for College Completion

    November 21, 2008

    This article covers the Gates Foundation’s original announcement of its college completion initiative. A subscription is required to view the full article. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »

Reports & Data

Notable research on this topic

  • A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education

    March 26, 2012

    This is the third major report the Lumina Foundation has released to assess the nation’s progress toward Lumina’s goal “to increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The report found that only 38.3 percent of working-age Americans held a two- or four-year college degree in 2010, concluding that “if we continue on our current rate of production, only 79.8 million working-age Americans (46.5% of those aged 25-64) will hold degrees by 2025…This will leave us more than 23 million degrees short of the national 60 percent goal.”

    Read More »
  • Time is the Enemy

    September 2011

    This comprehensive study challenged the conventional image that most college students enter postsecondary education directly from high school and proceed directly to a bachelor’s degree in six years or less. It notes instead that “Nontraditional students are the new majority” and that “Part-time students rarely graduate,” among its other groundbreaking findings. (Complete College America)

    Read More »
  • Developing 20/20 Vision on the 2020 Degree Attainment Goal — The Threat of Income-Based Inequality in Education

    May 2011

    In this report, the Pell Institute says that “The nation’s failure to keep pace with other countries in educational attainment among 25- to 34- year-old adults can largely be traced to our inability to adequately educate individuals from families in the bottom half of the income distribution.”

    Read More »
  • The College Completion Agenda: 2011 Progress Report

    2011

    Tracking the national progress toward its goal for college completion, the College Board offers 10 recommendations for improving educational attainment. At the postsecondary level, the goals include reforming college admissions, simplifying and improving financial aid, and offering better academic counseling to college students.

    Read More »
  • A Test of Leadership: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education

    September 2006

    This study, commonly known as the Spellings Report—in reference to U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings who commissioned it—is perhaps one of the earliest landmarks in the current college completion agenda.  “We may still have more than our share of the world’s best universities,” the report asserts. “But a lot of other countries have followed our lead, and they are now educating more of their citizens to more advanced levels than we are. Worse, they are passing us by at a time when education is more important to our collective prosperity than ever.” (U.S. Department of Education)

    Read More »

Five Questions to Ask

  1. Look at the graduation rates for the past five years for the community colleges and four-year colleges that you cover. Have these increased or decreased, and—if so—why? Have they started any new initiatives to improve graduation rates?
  2. One crucial question to the college completion agenda is the balance between access and graduation rates. If, as many people argue, the most efficient way for colleges to improve their graduation rates is to enroll high school graduates with higher grade point averages and college admissions test scores, then students with less competitive credentials could be shut out of higher education. How have the colleges you cover managed this balance over the years and are the scales starting to tip in one direction?
  3. Another key question regarding graduation rates is the socioeconomic backgrounds of a college’s students. It is commonly thought that the less affordable a college becomes, the less likely its students are to graduate. What the financial aid policies and practices of the colleges you cover and the average student debt loads for their graduates? How have cuts in state funding and the general economic slump affected the net prices students have to pay to earn a degree?
  4. What percentage of first-year students at the colleges and universities you cover have to take remedial or “developmental” education courses? What percentages of those groups go on to earn degrees? Many advocates for improving college graduation rates assert that these courses present a major obstacle, leading students to accrue debt for courses that don’t count toward a degree. Are there any initiatives to change how these courses are handled at these colleges?
  5. Are the demographics of your community changing and, subsequently, are the populations of the colleges in your region in flux? If colleges and universities are to meet the 2020 and 2025 graduation goals proposed by the president and organizations, these institutions likely will have to educate many more Latino, black, and low-income students, the precise groups they historically have struggled with.

Organizations

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in December 2008 announced a $69 million multiyear grants initiative to “double the number of low-income students who earn a postsecondary degree or credential with genuine value in the workplace by age 26.” While the foundation has done extensive, non-education-related work in developing nations, “In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.” The Gates Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regarding the coverage of higher education.

The College Board runs the College Completion Agenda project. The Board releases an annual completion agenda progress report that examines the national progress on various college completion goals. The College Board’s own college completion goal is to increase the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds who hold an associate’s degree or higher to 55 percent by the year 2025.

Complete College America, launched in 2009, is a national nonprofit set up to “work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates or college degrees and to close attainment gaps for traditionally underrepresented populations.” The shifting demographics of American society are central to CCA’s efforts as they note “we must move with urgency to reinvent American higher education to meet the needs of the new majority of students on our campuses, delicately balancing the jobs they need with the education they desire.”

The Institute for College Access and Success “works to make higher education more available and affordable for people of all backgrounds.” TICAS’s research and advocacy efforts largely focus on the roles that socioeconomic income and student play in affecting whether students earn postsecondary degrees.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy “is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to promoting access to and success in higher education for all students.” IHEP approaches postsecondary improvement with five key goals in mind: access and success; accountability; diversity; finance; and global impact.

The Lumina Foundation for Education is a philanthropic organization dedicated to improving college graduation rates in the United States. The foundation—headquartered in Indianapolis—was established in 2000, and in 2009, Lumina announced its Goal 2025 initiative, which seeks to “increase the percentage of Americans with high-quality degrees and credentials from the longstanding rate of 39 percent to 60 percent by the year 2025.” The Lumina Foundation has sponsored the Education Writers Association’s work regarding the coverage of higher education.

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education researches and emphasizes the role that socioeconomic background plays with regard to a student’s ability to earn a college degree. The Pell Institute also studies issues affecting the completion rates of first-generation students and students with disabilities.

Suggest a Change

If you’d like to suggest an addition or change to this section, send an email to EWA Project Director Kenneth Terrell.

 

Latest News

CUNY to Revamp Remedial Programs, Hoping to Lift Graduation Rates

Twenty-thousand new students arrived at public community colleges in New York City last fall only to be told they were not ready for college-level work. Instead, they were placed in remedial classes to complete the preparation they were supposed to have received in high school. But for a significant portion of these students, remedial courses will not put them any closer to a degree. 

Latest News

How Can Community Colleges Get More Students to Graduate?

When Jerry O’Neal went to school a couple of decades ago, career services was something you went to as you were getting ready to graduate and didn’t have a job lined up.

That’s not true for his daughter, Lisa O’Neal, who is in her first year at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. She’s starting her academic career thinking about career services and what she wants to do when it she gets out.

Member Stories

March 2 – 9
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Chad Livengood of Crain’s Detroit Business reports on how Michigan State Superintendent of Schools Brian Whiston offered an 18-month reprieve to 25 persistently low-performing schools in Detroit facing closure if academics do not improve.


 

As standardized tests in Ohio are ready to begin, Shannon Gilchrist of The Columbus Dispatch looks at whether third-graders are too young to have developed the computer skills to take a timed test.

Key Coverage

Why Aren’t There More Michigan Community College Graduates?

Chelsea Wilson thought she knew what going to college would be like. But she realized it didn’t match her picture of what it would be — a picture she had in her mind’s eye from the movies.

“I felt so out of place,” Wilson, 20, of Taylor said of that year at Schoolcraft College in Livonia. “I had no clue what I was doing.” So she left Schoolcraft  and started working. She’s hardly alone in dropping out of a community college.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Would Free College Lead to Too Many Graduates?

The presidential election pushed grassroots proposals to make public college free into the mainstream. But should these plans stay there? And if so, in what form, now that the most prominent supporters of those proposals lost the race for the White House?

Member Stories

February 2-9
Here's what we're reading by EWA members this week

Lauren Camera writes for U.S. News & World Report that while DeVos may be a champion of school choice, she will need to take a piecemeal approach to expansion, as it is unclear whether measures like a voucher proposal would garner more support from lawmakers if pushed by DeVos.

On Kara Newhouse’s Women In STEM podcast for Lancaster Online, African-American teenagers from the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, school district share what they thought of the recent Oscar-nominated film “Hidden Figures.”

Latest News

Report: Survey Shows Cheating and Academic Dishonesty Prevalent in Colleges and Universities

A new survey that shows that students are cheating frequently using a variety of methods, particularly in the face of the advent of online schools and mobile devices.  Conversely, some teachers were found to be becoming increasing unethical in the face of increased pressure to have their students perform while others have left the profession because of the pressures of Universities to pass students so the income stream continues.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Program Steering Latinos to Ph.D.s Gets Underway

The University of Pennsylvania Center for Minority Serving Institutions has announced its first cohort of students from Hispanic-serving institutions who will take part in the center’s new program, “HSI Pathways to the Professoriate.” The program, announced last year, seeks to increase the diversity of the college teaching profession by guiding Latino college students through graduate school and the acquisition of a Ph.D.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

10 Things You Should Know About Earnings After College

Go to college, get a better job. That’s the message at the heart of the nation’s ongoing efforts to encourage a wider array of students to attain degrees. But college’s effects on graduates’ earnings is complex, varied and often misunderstood. While a bachelor’s degree clearly matters, where and what a student studies can be just as important as whether the student graduates with a degree at all.

Latest News

What We Learned About Betsy DeVos’s Higher Education Positions … Not Much

In a hearing that lasted three and a half hours, education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos revealed very little about how she intends to govern an agency that oversees thousands of colleges and universities and the trillions of dollars in loans and grants that help keep their doors open.

Higher education took a backseat to K-12 policy at Tuesday’s confirmation hearing, but the few times that senators asked DeVos about her stance on key regulations and the role of the government in student lending, she provided vague, noncommittal answers.

Latest News

America’s Great Working-Class Colleges

The most comprehensive study of college graduates yet conducted, based on millions of anonymous tax filings and financial-aid records, tracked students from nearly every college in the country (including those who failed to graduate), measuring their earnings years after they left campus. The paper is the latest in a burst of economic research made possible by the availability of huge data sets and powerful computers.

Report

Fewer Borrowers Are Repaying Their Loans Than Previously Thought
New America

Today, the US Department of Education announced a critical error in the way it had previously been calculating repayment rates across the more than 4,150 institutions that receive federal loans each year. A coding error meant that many borrowers were incorrectly considered to be paying down their loans when in fact they were not making principal payments. As a result, many schools’ repayment rates are on average a third lower than originally reported.

Report

Fewer Borrowers Are Repaying Their Loans Than Previously Thought
New America

Today, the US Department of Education announced a critical error in the way it had previously been calculating repayment rates across the more than 4,150 institutions that receive federal loans each year. A coding error meant that many borrowers were incorrectly considered to be paying down their loans when in fact they were not making principal payments. As a result, many schools’ repayment rates are on average a third lower than originally reported.

Report

Fewer Borrowers Are Repaying Their Loans Than Previously Thought
New America

Today, the US Department of Education announced a critical error in the way it had previously been calculating repayment rates across the more than 4,150 institutions that receive federal loans each year. A coding error meant that many borrowers were incorrectly considered to be paying down their loans when in fact they were not making principal payments. As a result, many schools’ repayment rates are on average a third lower than originally reported.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Wealthier Grad Students Earn the Most Lucrative Degrees

More Americans are pursuing graduate degrees, but it’s the students from wealthier backgrounds who are most likely to earn the degrees that pay the most, a new report shows.

“I think that the idea that people from low-income backgrounds are so unlikely ever to get to medical school or law school is definitely a problem,” said Sandy Baum, a renowned scholar on the economics of higher education and a co-writer of the report.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Who Benefits from New York’s Free College Plan?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make tuition free year at New York’s public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 is being touted as a shot across the progressive bow. As the new Congress and White House tout a conservative agenda, the governor is offering a playbook that states could use to capitalize on the liberal currents that crisscrossed the Democratic presidential primaries.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

What’s Next for the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics?
A Q&A With Outgoing Executive Director Alejandra Ceja

Alejandra Ceja has been the executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics since 2013 — a position she’ll give up at noon on Jan. 19, the day before the presidential inauguration. I recently sat down with her at the U.S. Department of Education to talk about the state of Latino education, the Initiative’s first 25 years, and what we can expect from the Initiative under the next administration. 

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length. 

Member Stories

December 15 – December 22
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

This company trains schools how to respond to active shooter attacks, reports Dan Carsen for WBHM. Unlike other training, this group, which has partnered with 3,700 districts, encourages staff and students to fight back.

A heartwarming tale or a case study in picking favorites? Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel examines the merits of a Florida university absorbing a bionics company and the worries other firms have about an unfair competitive environment.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

New Poll: College Grads Unhappy With the Career Services They’re Getting
More than half say their career offices were unhelpful or only somewhat helpful

Universities and colleges may be seen as gateways to good jobs, but many don’t pass the test on providing students useful career advice, according to a new poll.

More than half of college graduates say the career services offices of their alma maters were unhelpful or only somewhat helpful, compared to 43 percent who say the offices were helpful or very helpful, the Gallup-Purdue Index shows.

Member Stories

December 2 – December 8
Here's what we're reading by EWA members

Boys are less likely than girls to take advantage of college-prep services in California. Larry Gordon of EdSource reports on the how and why.

The school district in Ohio’s capital created a counseling response team to aid students at campuses beset by tragedy. A team of roughly 20 personnel responded to 17 incidents last year, write Bill Bush and Shannon Gilchrist for The Columbus Dispatch.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Colleges Face a New Reality, as The Number of High School Graduates Will Decline
An increase in low-income and minority-group students will challenge colleges to serve them better

The nation’s colleges and universities will soon face a demographic reckoning: A new report projects that the total number of high school graduates will decline in the next two decades, while the percentage of lower-income and nonwhite students will increase.

EWA Radio

‘Unprepared’ in Memphis: The Realities of College Readiness
EWA Radio: Episode 99

In a new series, Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Jennifer Pignolet tells the story of Shelby County students working hard to make it to college — and to succeed once they arrive. And their challenges aren’t just financial: for some, like Darrius Isom of South Memphis, having reliable transportation to get to class on time is a game changer. And what are some of the in-school and extracurricular programs that students say are making a difference? Pignolet also looks at the the Tennessee Promise program, which provides free community college classes to qualified students, and assigns a mentor to help guide them. 

THANKSGIVING BONUS: EWA journalist members share some of the things they’re grateful for this year. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Will Education Fare Under President Trump?

The long, strange election cycle came to an end Tuesday with the election of Donald Trump as the next president. And while his campaign platform was scarce on education policy details, there’s no question his administration will have a significant impact, from early childhood to K-12 and higher education

Report

Competency-Based Education in College Settings

Competency-based education (CBE) has ignited a great deal of public interest in recent years because it allows students to learn and progress at a flexible pace and holds promise for filling workforce skills gaps. What makes it different? First and foremost, it measures learning rather than class time. Students move through material independently, usually in preparation for specific jobs, progressing when they demonstrate mastery of required knowledge and skills (called competencies).

Seminar

Doing More With Higher Ed Data: From Policy to Newsrooms
Philadelphia • February 2–3, 2017

With colleges and universities under increased pressure to ensure that more students earn degrees without amassing mountains of debt, journalists are at the forefront in examining how these institutions  measure up. But there’s one major obstacle that both colleges and reporters share when it comes to making sense of how well these schools are meeting their goals: insufficient data.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

A Push for More Latino College Graduates in Texas, but Not by ‘Business as Usual’

Latino children will “pretty much determine the fate of Texas” during the 21st century, the state’s Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes said in his annual address this week.

That’s why the state will need to get more creative in educating Latinos and ensuring they graduate from college. “Doing business as usual,” won’t work, he said, according to the Austin American-Statesman

Key Coverage

In One Corner of the Law, Minorities and Women Are Often Valued Less

The 4-year-old boy was mentally disabled, unable to speak in complete sentences and unable to play with other children because of his violent fits of hitting and biting.

The decision facing one Brooklyn jury last year was how much a landlord should pay in damages to the boy — named “G.M.M.” in court documents — after an investigation showed he had been living in an apartment illegally coated with lead paint. To determine that, the jury would have to decide how much more the boy would have earned over his lifetime without the injury.

Report

Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More Than Triples After Graduation
Brookings Institution

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages). But over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to a whopping $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts.

Key Coverage

Higher Ground: KIPP Strives To Lift New Orleans Grads Past Their Struggles

Eleven years ago, as Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters receded, experts promised to transform the city by upending its schools, fixing poverty and crime by and through degrees. …

Far more students graduate from New Orleans public high schools now: 75 percent, up from 54 percent before the storm …

But the real test is what happens after high school. The new New Orleans won’t materialize if beaming teenagers walk off the graduation dais as if it were a gangplank.

EWA Radio

Chartering a New Course: KIPP’s Katrina Generation Goes to College
EWA Radio: Episode 93

Students march in parade holding a KIPP Central City Academy banner.

When Hurricane Katrina swept through New Orleans in 2005, much of the city’s infrastructure was washed away — including its public education system. Changes imposed after the storm have produced a system primarily of charter schools which are independently operated and publicly funded — including those run by the KIPP network.

In the new series “Higher Ground” (for NOLA.com/The Times Picayune), reporter Danielle Dreilinger looks at where the city’s KIPP’s graduates wind up after graduation. She talks with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about the project (part of the EWA Reporting Fellowship program), and how the high-achieving charter network is seeking to improve New Orleans’ students chances of postsecondary success. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Programs Providing ‘Excelencia’ in Latino Education

The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Excelencia in Education has released its annual list of college programs and community groups that are effectively supporting the educational advancement of Latino students in higher education, or “Examples of ¡Excelencia!“ 

Here’s a look at this year’s honorees.

Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program, Northern Virginia Community College

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

First in the Family: What Works for First-Generation College Students

Source: Flickr/ via COD Newsroom ( CC BY 2.0)

“A bad attitude is like a bad tire: You can’t go anywhere until you change it,” Arizona State University sophomore Ricardo Nieland told a roomful of journalists gathered on the campus for a seminar on innovation in higher education earlier this month.

Nieland was speaking on a panel about college students who are among the first generation of family members to pursue a degree. The session addressed the struggles many of these young adults encounter in higher education.

Member Stories

September 23 – September 29
What we're reading by EWA members this week

Melissa Sanchez does some digging for The Chicago Reporter to learn that undocumented students represented roughly a quarter of all the learners who benefited from the city’s free community-college tuition program. Undocumented residents are barred from receiving federal aid for college.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

College Completion Failures Must Be Tackled in Tandem With Costs, Report Says

By Shenandoah University Office of Marketing and Communications (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Two numbers haunt the college landscape: $1.3 trillion and 40 percent.

The first is the ever-increasing debt Americans are shouldering to pay off the cost of a degree. But a growing chorus of experts believes that extraordinary sum obscures another crisis: For many, those debts wouldn’t be as devastating had they earned a degree. But only 40 percent of Americans complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

The upshot is that millions of Americans earning meager wages are on the hook for thousands of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Understanding the Student Loan-Debt Picture

By Dwight Burdette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“There’s a lot of talk about the student debt crisis and I’m going to tell you that I don’t think there really is a student debt crisis,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president at The Institute for College Access and Success. “What there are are multiple student debt crises.”

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Analyzing College Endowments: Do’s and Don’ts

Analyzing College Endowments: Do’s and Don’ts

You’d be forgiven for thinking higher-education reporting is a game of billion-dollar bingo, with each aspect of the beat pegged to insane sums, such as the $1.3 trillion in student loan debt.

One way of answering whether students are getting a fair shake is to see if the colleges that educate them are spending the institution’s resources in ways that enable more college-goers to afford the cost of a postsecondary degree. 

EWA Radio

Same As It Ever Was: The Pitfalls of Remedial Education
EWA Radio: Episode 88

Pixabay/Karsten Paulick

Millions of high school graduates show up for the first day of college academically unprepared for the rigors of higher ed. And that’s where remedial (or “developmental”) education comes into play. Students don’t get academic credit for these classes even though they still cost them in time and money. And there’s another problem: being placed in even one remedial class as a freshman — particularly at a community college — can significantly reduce a student’s odds of ever completing a degree.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Ensuring College Readiness and Success for Latino Students

From left, Fermin Leal of EdSource, Juan Garcia of ACT, Carolyn Sattin-Bajaj of Seton Hall University, Carmen Macias of the University of Southern California, Victor Zamora of KIPP Colorado Schools participate in a panel discussion about Latino students and college readiness at EWA's third annual Spanish-language media convning. Source: Twitter/ @leslieenriquez

The number of Hispanics taking the ACT exam jumped 50 percent from 2011 to 2015. But only 15 percent of those test takers are scoring well enough to be deemed college-ready in all four subjects, compared to 28 percent of other students.

These figures starkly reflect “the gap between the level of aspiration and the level of readiness” required to thrive in college, said Juan Garcia, senior director of the ACT’s Office for the Advancement of Underserved Learners.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The Republican Plan For Higher Education: Less Red Tape And Less Money

By Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Past is prologue.

That’s what Republicans promise in the higher education platform they’ll finalize at their national convention in Cleveland: an approach that follows the direction they’ve already taken in Congress.

Fewer regulations for colleges and universities. Less red tape for students.

Less money.

“Obviously what we do legislatively is a statement of our philosophy and our principles,” said Virginia Foxx, Republican chair of the House subcommittee that oversees higher education and co-chair of the GOP platform committee.

Report

The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class
Urban Institute

This report uses absolute income thresholds adjusted for inflation and family size to show that the size of the upper middle class grew from 12.9 percent of the population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014. In terms of shares of total income, the middle class controlled a bit more than 46 percent of all incomes in 1979, while the upper middle class and rich controlled 30 percent. By 2014, the rich and upper middle class controlled 63 percent of all incomes, while the middle class share had shrunk to 26 percent.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Higher Education and the 2016 Presidential Election

Flickr/Michael Vadon (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The first total solar eclipse to sweep across the entire continental United States in 38 years will occur on August 21, 2017. Don’t expect reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) anytime before then.

The HEA expired at the end of 2013 and it’s likely nothing will happen with it in an election year or soon thereafter, agreed a panel of journalists discussing key higher education issues and the 2016 presidential election, at the Education Writers Association National Seminar in Boston in May.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

College Graduation Rates Rise, But Racial, Gender Gaps Persist

Source: NCES

Whites, blacks, Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans are all graduating from college at higher rates now, but stubborn racial and gender gaps are widening, a new federal report finds. Women earn more college degrees than men but receive lower wages, while whites and Asian-Americans continue to earn bachelor’s degrees at higher rates than blacks and Hispanics.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Higher Ed: Hunger on Campus

Flickr/Salvation Army USA West (CC BY 2.0)

The stereotypes of the financially struggling college students are well-known. They live on ramen, share an apartment or house with several roommates, and work part-time for money to buy beer. They get summer jobs to cover college tuition and expenses. And they come from middle- and upper-class families, so if they do struggle sometimes to pay the bills, that scarcity is hip and cool.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Graduation Rates Highest at Selective Institutions

Source: Flickr/ via Alan Light (CC BY 2.0)

The more selective the institution, the higher the graduation rate for Latino students, a new study by Excelencia in Education shows. 

At selective colleges and universities — those that admit less than half of applicants — 68 percent of Latino students graduate and are more likely to do so on time. At other four-year institutions and two-year colleges, the Latino graduation rates are 47 and 17 percent, respectively. 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Psychology, Mentoring and Dollars: Innovations in Graduating More Students from College

Flickr/Cat Branchman (CC BY 2.0)

College students enter their institutions excited about learning and eager to succeed. Yet many don’t.

Hurdles like the cost of attendance certainly exist, but researchers are also now starting to examine the effects psychological barriers such as social group dynamics, self-confidence and feelings of isolation have on college students’ success.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Obama Official: To Lower Cost of College, States Must Spend More

U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell spoke at EWA's 69th annual National Seminar in Boston. Source: U.S. Department of Education

“The most expensive degree is the one you don’t get.” That’s Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell quoting former U.S. Ed Secretary Arne Duncan at the Education Writers Association’s National Seminar on Monday. Mitchell’s talk focused on how to prevent such a costly slip.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How Colleges Can Help Students Who Are First in Their Families to Attend College

Reina Olivas, right, speaks to reporters at an EWA journalism seminar in Los Angeles, February 27, 2016. (Photo credit: EWA/Mikhail Zinshteyn)

A few weeks ago Reina Olivas got on the phone with a freshman college student. “She was having a hard time with the cultural experience, the college experience,” said Olivas, a college mentor who’s in her third year at the University of Texas at Austin. “So I asked her this initial question – ‘Have you gone to office hours?’”

Olivas is part of an eight-person crew at the Dell Scholars Program that connects with 1,500 college students across the country who could use a helpful hint from other students who also are wending their way through higher learning.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

SAT Makes Bid to Better Serve Poor Kids

David Coleman speaks to reporters at an Education Writers Seminar in Los Angeles, February 27, 2016. (Credit: EWA)

The SAT has been called out of touch, instructionally irrelevant, and a contributor to the diversity gaps on college campuses because the test arguably benefits wealthier students who can afford heaps of test preparation.

But now the SAT is fighting back. The College Board, the test’s owner, is hoping that a major makeover of the assessment that’s set to debut this weekend will persuade critics that students, teachers and colleges still need an exam that has been a centerpiece of the admissions landscape for 90 years.

Key Coverage

The Promise of Social and Emotional Learning in U.S. Schools

For the eighth grader Kimberly Wilborn, a lesson about Nelson Mandela made it all click.

“Ms. Plante was talking about Nelson Mandela and how he forgave his jailers,” remembers Wilborn, who is being raised by her aunt on Chicago’s South Side. “And I thought if he can forgive them, I can forgive my birth mom and my dad for not being there for me. I actually cried. It felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders.”

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Students Rich and Poor Are Stressed Out Over Paying for College

b r e n t/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

A survey of the nation’s college freshmen indicates a class of young adults stressed out about the cost of financing a degree, even if they’re relatively well off.

The study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute lends new insight into not only the concerns young college students have about their debt loads, but also the effects high school experiences have on their attitudes about higher education.

Seminar

Higher Ed 2016
September 16–17 • Tempe, Arizona

What new techniques and practices should higher education embrace to ensure that more students graduate? Join the Education Writers Association September 16–17 at Arizona State University to explore cutting-edge innovations that aim to address financial, academic, and social barriers. More on the seminar theme.

This annual seminar is one of the largest gatherings of journalists covering postsecondary education. Network with others covering this beat and step up your coverage for the upcoming academic year.

Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona
Blog: The Educated Reporter

EWA Radio: Here Are Your Favorites of 2015

It’s been a terrific year for our scrappy little podcast, and we’re thrilled to report an equally stellar lineup coming to EWA Radio in 2016.  

I’d like to take a moment to thank the many journalists and education experts who made time to join us for lively conversations, and to all of you who have offered suggestions for stories and guests to feature. Please keep the feedback coming! 

Here’s a quick rundown of the 10 most popular episodes of the year:

Report

Hungry to Learn: Addressing Food & Housing Insecurity Among Undergraduates
The Association of Community College Trustees

According to a new survey of more than 4,000 undergraduates at 10 community colleges across the nation, half of all community college students are struggling with food and/or housing insecurity. Fully 20 percent are hungry and 13 percent are homeless. These numbers are startling and indicate the need for a multi-pronged, comprehensive set of institutional, state, and local policies to alleviate the barriers presented by poverty, so as to improve educational success.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino College Graduation Rates Are Up, Yet Gaps Persist

Source: Flickr/ via Illinois Springfield (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A new report analyzing a decade’s worth of college graduation rates at more than 1,300 four-year colleges and universities reveals both positive and negative findings for Latino students. 

The good news: Of the underrepresented minority groups on college campuses, Latinos saw the largest gains in graduation rates between 2003 and 2013. The bad news is that significant college completion gaps persist.

Report

Bridging the Gap Between Higher Education and the Workplace
Gallup

This report focuses on key measures of life among Colorado graduates — work, well-being and the evaluation of their college experience — to illustrate the link between undergraduate experiences and success in the workforce and in life after college. The findings are from Gallup-Purdue Index results from 1,045 graduates who received a bachelor’s degree from a Colorado college or university between 1948 and 2015.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Saving on College by Doing Some of It in High School

Gov. Dannel Malloy announces the creation of Connecticut's first P-TECH high school, modeled after the IBM-backed school in Brooklyn, New York. (Source: Flickr/Dannel Malloy)

Last week the White House announced a new higher education experiment that will direct federal grants to some high school students who want to enroll in college classes.

The plan is to start small, with the administration offering $20 million to help defray the college costs of up to 10,000 low-income high school students for the 2016-2017 academic year. The money will come from the overall Pell Grant pot, which is currently funded at more than $30 billion annually and used by 8 million students.

Webinar

Seven Challenges First-Generation College Students Face & How to Write About Them

(Bigstock/michaeljung)

While many first-generation students are excited and ambitious when they step on campus — eager to beat the odds and become the first in their families to earn a college degree — others struggle with guilt, fear and loneliness, sometimes even struggling to remember why they decided to attend college in the first place. And they grapple with these feelings while they also have to figure out how to apply for financial aid, register for classes, and manage the other necessities of undergraduate life knowing they can’t turn to their families for guidance based on experience.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Their Roles in Higher Ed

Panelists Alicia Diaz, left, of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and Kathleen Plinske, a Valencia College campus president, discussed the roles of Hispanic-serving institutions at EWA's 2015 Spanish-Language Media Convening. The discussion was moderator by Adolfo Guzman-Lopez or Southern California Public Radio. 
Source: Valencia College/ Don Burlinson

In recent years, the United States has seen overall enrollment declines in the numbers of students seeking postsecondary degrees, but in a panel about Latinos in higher education at the Education Writers Association’s second annual Spanish-Language Media Convening, the executive director of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities reminded journalists of one area of growth: The number of Hispanic-serving institutions is on the rise and accelerating.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

How Community Colleges Are Helping Transfer Students

Source: Bigstock

Students who transfer between colleges and universities on their path to achieve a college degree often encounter obstacles — barriers, like lost credits, that could keep them from finishing their degree altogether. At EWA’s recent seminar in Orlando focused on higher education, reporters got a lesson in the data on transfer students and heard from experts who are making the process of transferring and going on to earn degrees easier for students at their community colleges.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Florida Colleges Face Life Without Remediation

Letting students decide whether they need remedial courses is shortsighted, Valencia College President Sandy Shugart said. Valencia College/Don Burlinson

Each year, hundreds of thousands of new college students arrive on campus unable to handle freshman level work and wind up in remedial classes. That’s a major frustration not only to the students but also to lawmakers who believe public dollars are being used twice for the same instruction – once at the K-12 level, then again in postsecondary financial aid.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Debt-Free College: Why It’s News Now

As Democratic presidential hopefuls assemble in Las Vegas today for their first formal debate, one topic that has received little airtime during the Republican face-offs is likely to garner far more attention: the high cost of attaining a college degree.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The New Effort to Link College to Careers

Students of the culinary program at Valencia College in Orlando demonstrate their kitchen skills. (Source: Twitter/@GabrielleRusson)

As tuitions swell and student loan debt climbs further, one aspect of higher education that has been overlooked is the recipe required to transform a college education into a set of skills that prepares students for the workspace.

As it turns out, neither colleges nor employers have a firm grasp on what flavor that special sauce should have, reporters learned at “The Way to Work: Covering the Path from College to Careers” – the Education Writers Association’s seminar on higher education held in Orlando Sep. 18-19.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student Debt Forgiveness Program Adding Up

Flickr/COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)

A government program that allows student loan borrowers to reduce their monthly payments significantly is growing in popularity — and increasingly eating into U.S. federal coffers.

The U.S. Department of Education is sticking to the rosier news in a brief report released this week that shows the number of U.S. student loan holders enrolled in income-based repayment plans has jumped by more than 50 percent since last year. According to the government, 3.9 million borrowers have signed up for income-based repayment plans as of June of this year.

Report

When Women Out-Earn Men 
Federal Reserve Bank of New York

We often hear that women earn “77 cents on the dollar” compared with men. However, the gender pay gap among recent college graduates is actually much smaller than this figure suggests. We estimate that among recent college graduates, women earn roughly 97 cents on the dollar compared with men who have the same college major and perform the same jobs. Moreover, what may be surprising is that at the start of their careers, women actually out-earn men by a substantial margin for a number of college majors.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

NCLB Rewrite Survives Senate Vote

A mock schoolhouse outside the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. (Flickr/elonjoned)

It’s been a hugely busy week for education reporters on Capitol Hill, as the Senate plowed its way through the Every Child Achieves Act, one of the leading contenders to replace No Child Left Behind as the nation’s framework for funding public schools.

The Senate approved passage of the bill Thursday with 81-17 vote. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Money Magazine’s College Rankings Examine How Much ‘Value’ Students Get

The folks at Money magazine are largely doing the work the White House sought to do but hasn’t: rate colleges and universities by the extra boost they give students in landing financially rewarding careers.

Released this week, Money’s rating system ranks more than 700 schools according to an in-house rubric for measuring how much value a college offers students given its price of attendance. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Ten Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Game Day at the University of Iowa. Focusing on how athletic programs influence a university's operations is a smart story for reporters, says Inside Higher Ed's editor Scott Jaschik. (Flickr/Phil Roeder)

Editor and co-founder of Inside Higher Ed Scott Jaschik’s panel “Top 10 Higher Ed Stories You Should Be Covering This Year” has attracted such a crowd every year that this year he began  his presentation  at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago by noting that he’d been asked in the halls whether he’d be charting new territory. Although some stories remain fixtures on his must-cover list, there are new trends that education reporters should track, he told the roughly 80 attendees.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Opening the Door to Student College Success

Johnson Gate at Harvard University. Researchers say low-income high school students with strong academic records aren't getting shut out of college opportunities. (Flickr/Wally Gobetz)

In the conversations surrounding low-income students’ access to college, there’s one statistic that Harold Levy finds most worrisome: Among those students who are in the top quartile academically and also among the lowest quartile financially, 22 percent never take the ACT or SAT.

That means many very smart, very poor kids aren’t even getting close to college.

Story Lab

Story Lab: Making Federal Data a Gold Mine for Your Reporting

Need a state or national statistic? There’s likely a federal data set for that. From fairly intuitive and interactive widgets to dense spreadsheets — and hundreds of data summaries in between — the U.S. Department of Education’s various research programs are a gold mine for reporters on the hunt for facts and figures.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.

Report

Equal Talents, Unequal Opportunities
A Report Card on State Support for Academically Talented Low-Income Students

Year after year, in every state and community in our nation, students
from low-income families are less likely than other students to reach
advanced levels of academic performance, even when demonstrating
the potential to do so. These income-based “excellence gaps” appear
in elementary school and continue through high school. It is a
story of demography predetermining destiny, with bright low-
income students becoming what one research team referred to as a
“persistent talent underclass.”

Webinar

How Many Students Graduate From College in Your State?
Early Access to NSCRC Report

How Many Students Graduate From College in Your State?

As students look to curb the amount of loan debt they build on their way to a degree and policymakers eye the need for more college-educated workers, the focus on college graduation rates continues to increase. But exactly how many students actually earn a postsecondary degree can be a difficult question to answer because most data sources lose track of students as they swirl from one college to another, in and out of higher education as “life gets in the way.”

Report

The Condition of Latinos in Education: 2015 Factbook
Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education

Excelencia in Education is committed to using data to inform public policy and institutional practice to achieve our mission of accelerating student success for Latinos in higher education. We know college success does not begin at the college gates. Every educational experience from early childhood to high school and into the workforce influences the potential for college success.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

Multimedia

Attitude Adjustment: The Impact of Mentoring and Psychology
2014 Higher Ed Semiar

Attitude Adjustment: The Impact of Mentoring and Psychology

Academics are just part of the story for many students entering college – a whole new culture of learning awaits them. But if they are first-generation college students, those cultural challenges can derail a promising postsecondary career. New research is exploring the effects mentoring programs and brief psychological interventions can have on low-income, minority and first-generation students. What can colleges do to promote resiliency and support student well-being for all students?  Are such efforts merely too much “coddling” of students by campuses? 

Multimedia

The Data Deluge: Can Student Information Improve Completion?
2014 Higher Ed Semiar

The Data Deluge: Can Student Information Improve Completion?

Is keeping students on track to earn a degree as simple as just sending them text messages reminding them to register for classes and renew financial aid? That’s one element of “predictive analytics,” which is the use of detailed student data—from demographic background to grades on recent homework assignments—to guide students toward academic success. With as many as 150 colleges and universities already using some form of analytics, what do journalists need to know about the pros and cons of how these systems work?

Report

“4-Year” Degrees Now a Myth in American Higher Education
Complete College America

In their latest report, Four-Year Myth, Complete College America and its Alliance of States reveal that the vast majority of full-time American college students do not graduate on time, costing them and their families tens of thousands of dollars in extra college-related expenses, as well as lost wages from delaying entry into the workforce. The report also points to spikes in debt in years 5 and 6 and shows that the overwhelming majority of public four-year colleges graduate less than half of their students on time.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

The ACT, STEM and Latino Students

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, according to a new report. Source: Hoodr/ Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fewer than half of Hispanic students who took the ACT this year met the college readiness benchmarks in math or science, but those who actually expressed interest in STEM fared better on the college admissions exam.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Reporting on College Financial Aid? EWA Can Help

Who deserves money for college more: students whose test scores and grades qualify them for “merit aid” or students with greater financial need who might be unable to afford college otherwise? New research suggests that colleges might increasingly be favoring less-needy students, in a quest to boost their schools’ rankings and help their bottom lines. Does that finding hold up to scrutiny? And how do colleges’ decisions on need-based versus merit aid affect college enrollment and completion?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts: Community College Results Weighed Down by Remediation

Jeffrey Beall/Flickr ( CC BY-SA 2.0)

From politicians to policymakers, the argument goes that sustaining America’s competitive edge will rely largely on more students graduating college.

But while the nation has notched successes in sending more students to postsecondary institutions, the college dropout rate remains stubbornly high. One major reason for the attrition: Millions of high school graduates are academically unprepared for the rigors of higher ed.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deciphering Student-Loan Default Rates

© PamelaJoeMcFarlane (Source: iStock)

The federal government today released a snapshot of how well borrowers with federal student loans are repaying their debts, indicating that fewer Americans are defaulting on their college loans compared to past years, but that the figures still exceed pre-recession levels.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Higher Ed: Reporting on the College Student Experience

Our annual Higher Education Seminar took place in Dallas earlier this month — Southern Methodist University was our gracious host — and there have been some first-rate stories produced by EWA members who joined us for the event.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Data Might Help Colleges Sort Out the ‘Murky Middle’

SMU 2014, Photo by Kim Leeson

Stephanie Dupaul of Southern Methodist University put the theme of EWA’s 2014 Higher Education seminar, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience,” to effective use during a session exploring the use of data by colleges:

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Adding It Up: Financial Aid and Latino Students

Deborah Santiago shares information on financial aid at the EWA Spanish-Language Media Convening. Source: Jay Torres, Diario La Estrella

“How will I pay for college?”

Sound familiar? I’m still asking myself this question three years after I graduated.

Though not unique to college-bound Latino students, this question is one many of them face – perhaps even more dauntingly than their peers.

Deborah Santiago of Excelencia in Education discussed the process of college finance as it particularly relates to Latinos at the Education Writers Association’s Spanish-Language Media Convening in Dallas Sept. 4.

Report

Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion
Martha J. Bailey, Susan M. Dynarski

We describe changes over time in inequality in postsecondary education using nearly seventy years of data from the U.S. Census and the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth. We find growing gaps between children from high- and low-income families in college entry, persistence, and graduation. Rates of college completion increased by only four percentage points for low-income cohorts born around 1980 relative to cohorts born in the early 1960s, but by 18 percentage points for corresponding cohorts who grew up in high-income families.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts: The White House Plan to Rate Colleges Has Major Issues

Michelle Asha Cooper(L), director of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, speaks at the Higher Education Seminar put on by the Education Writers Association and hosted by Southern Methodist University (Credit: SMU 2014, Photo by Kim Leeson)

A new rating system backed by the White House aims to evaluate nearly all of the nation’s colleges and universities. Roughly 6,000 schools that educate around 22 million students are about to endure an unprecedented amount of federal scrutiny.

And though a version of the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System is scheduled to be unveiled in the fall, policy watchers are still unsure of what’s in store.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Help the 21st Century College Student

Source: Flickr/College of DuPage Newsroom

When Mark Milliron met with an advertising team to promote a new type of college in Texas, he wasn’t expecting fireworks. Still, the pitch floored him.

“The Texas Two-Step: Sign Up. Succeed.”

It was the sentence that would appear on billboards and in radio advertisements, enticing thousands of working adults to enroll in an online college – Western Governors University Texas. And it totally missed the point.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Chance to Earn College Credit for What You Already Know

Lipscomb University's Competency Assessment and Development Center in Nashville, Tenn. 
Photo credit: Melissa Bailey

A car salesman, a secretary and a military vet filed into a conference room for a new kind of high-stakes test – one that could earn them up to 30 college credits in a single day.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Study Examines Performance of Hispanic Serving Institutions

New research challenges the assumption that Latino students who attend Hispanic Serving Institutions are less likely to graduate than their peers at other colleges and universities. HSIs have undergraduate enrollments that are at least 25 percent Hispanic.

Researchers examined the graduation rates of Latino and black students attending HSIs and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Texas from 1997 to 2008.

Report

A College Education Saddles Young Households with Debt, but Still Pays Off
Daniel Carroll and Amy Higgins

The labor market bonus for completing a college degree is not fully realized in the early years of working. Looking at the wage income of households headed by an individual between 30 and 65 years of age reveals a much larger premium, both at the median and the 90th percentile. In many professions, a college degree combined with work experience opens the door to senior-level administrative positions and higher salaries. The average wage-income premium among these older households was 88 percent for degree-holding median earners and 93 percent for 90th percentile earners.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Summer Jobs Slide

 Source: Flickr/a loves dc

The summer slide doesn’t just pertain to flagging academic skills while kids soak in the sun and skip the books. Increasingly, even as math and literacy fall by the wayside, high school students are losing out on access to summer wages.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Coach on Campus: Student Success and Support in Higher Ed

The main purpose of college is to transfer knowledge to students, but that requires getting them to the classroom… and actually keeping them there until graduation. Nationwide, less than 60 percent of college students complete a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Performance-Based Funding: Do the Numbers Add Up?

State governments increasingly are tying money for higher-education institutions to performance-based outcomes such as graduation rates, rather than just student enrollment. Twenty-five states now have some sort of performance-based model and four others are planning to follow. But there are still major questions about how schools respond to these models and what outcomes they have. Those issues were the focus of a panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar, held last month at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Seminar

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Asian Americans and Affirmative Action

Below are tweets I picked that may help reporters tackle this important question of fairness on a demographic group tagged with many myths. Population projections show that by 2050 one in 10 Americans will have an Asian background. Thirteen percent of the U.S. will be African American.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top 10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Scott Jaschik addresses reporters at EWA's 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with  an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.

Report

New Gallup-Purdue Study Looks at Links Among College, Work, and Well-being for Life After College

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When it comes to being engaged at work and experiencing high well-being after graduation, a new Gallup-Purdue University study of college graduates shows that the type of institution they attended matters less than what they experienced there. Yet, just 3% of all the graduates studied had the types of experiences in college that Gallup finds strongly relate to great jobs and great lives afterward.

Report

A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education
A Detailed Look at Postsecondary Attainment - Nationally and in Every State

This is Lumina Foundation’s fifth annual issue of A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, our signature report on progress toward Goal 2025. In this report, we measure progress in the higher education attainment rate — the percentage of the nation’s adult, working-age population holding a high-quality postsecondary credential.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report Analyzes Latino College Completion State by State

The states with the largest Latino populations don’t necessarily have the best track record for graduating Latinos from college, a new state-by-state analysis shows.

According to the report from the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, in 2011-12 only about 20 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older had at least an associate’s degree. The overall population had a much higher rate, at 36 percent.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making the Jump to a Four-Year Degree Difficult for Community College Students

Several reports dropped this week about the difficulties community college students face transferring into a four-year college.

Nearly half of all postsecondary students are enrolled at a community college, and a poll from 2012 indicates 80 percent of those students aim to complete a degree at a four-year college or university. But while that goal is shared by many students, few actually successfully jump from a two-year to a four-year program.

Report

The Community College Route to the Bachelor’s Degree

It is well established that students who begin postsecondary education at a community college are less likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than otherwise similar undergraduates who begin at a 4-year school, but there is less consensus over the mechanisms generating this disparity. We explore these using national longitudinal transcript data and propensity-score methods. … 

Report

U.S. GAO – Federal Student Loans: Better Oversight Could Improve Defaulted Loan Rehabilitation

The Department of Education (Education) relies on collection agencies to assist borrowers in rehabilitating defaulted student loans, which allows borrowers who make nine on-time monthly payments within 10 months to have the default removed from their credit reports. Education works with 22 collection agencies to locate borrowers and explain repayment options, including rehabilitation.

Organization

Council for Adult & Experiential Learning

The nonprofit Council for Adult & Experiential Learning, or CAEL as it is commonly called, advocates for initiatives that enable adults to earn postsecondary credentials more efficiently. They “support ways to link learning from [adults'] work and life experiences to their educational goals—so they earn their degrees and credentials faster.” CAEL’s expertise includes efforts such as prior learning assessment and competency-based education.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

How Engaged are Minority Males in Community College?

It may seem like a paradox: Many Latino and black male students enter community college with enthusiasm and high aspirations. However, minority males are less likely to complete their degrees than their white male counterparts.

The Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) by the Center for Community College Student Engagement at The University of Texas at Austin came to that conclusion in its report “Aspirations to Achievement: Men of Color and Community Colleges.”

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Reports: Universities Helping Close Achievement Gap for Latino Students

Two new reports by The Education Trust recognize universities that are making the greatest strides in closing achievement gaps for Latino students.

The first study identifies San Diego State University and the University of Southern California for significantly increasing graduation rates among Latino students.

According to the report, the six-year graduation rate for Latino students who began school in 1996 was 31 percent. The rate for students who began in 2005 improved to 58.8 percent.  At USC, the graduation rate reached nearly the same level as white students.

Report

Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later

This First Look presents findings from the third, and final, follow-up survey of the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002). ELS:2002 provides a wealth of information from multiple sources (tested achievement, questionnaire, and administrative records) about the factors and circumstances related to the performance and social development of the American high school student over time.

Webinar

Getting to Degrees: New Research on College Completion Data

How many students are really graduating from college? This number is becoming more important as policymakers look to tie university funding to completion rates. But as more students start to “swirl”—take extended time off or transfer into another institution, acts that eliminate them from many traditional measures of college graduation –what’s the best way to keep track of which students actually earned degrees?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

States Balk as GED Gets More Expensive

Life for the nearly 40 million Americans without a high school diploma could be about to get harder as testing companies who create high school equivalency exams are rolling out tougher — and in some cases — more expensive

Report

Postsecondary Success for All: Leveraging Partners and Assets

In 2008, FHI 360 and the Citi Foundation joined together to launch the Citi Postsecondary Success Program, now called the Postsecondary Success Collaborative. Five years and 12,000 students later, the Postsecondary Success Collaborative has transformed the way participating schools and partners in Miami-Dade County, Philadelphia and San Francisco map resources and needs and collaborate to support college readiness and completion.

Multimedia

Tracking Veterans’ Success in Higher Ed

Tracking Veterans’ Success in Higher Ed

About 250 community colleges and four-year institutions recently have pledged to track veterans’ outcomes and support them on campus through a new program of the U.S. Department of Education. How much do we know about the recent success rates of veterans at American colleges and what services exist to support them?