Higher Education

Overview

Adult Learners

Although adult learners are often assumed to be rarities on college campuses, adults have always been an important part of the student body. And as the job market increasingly demands workers with more postsecondary training and America faces the results of a “baby bust” starting in 2008, adult students have become crucial players in improving the economy and keeping colleges financially viable. 

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

Overview

College Faculty & Staff

Writing about higher education faculty and staff? Perfect. This is fertile ground for so many stories about higher education. 

Overview

College Finance & Operations

America spends nearly $700 billion a year on higher education, including paying instructors, funding research, keeping the facilities running and much more. At public universities, the biggest chunk of this comes from taxpayers, who deserve accountability for their money. So do students and their families, who fork over tuition and fees, and a fast-growing additional amount for room and board. At private, nonprofit institutions, the proportions are reversed, with more money coming from students than from taxpayers.

Overview

College Rankings & Ratings

There are more than 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States, ranging from open-enrollment community colleges to highly selective Ivy League institutions, from colleges with historical missions to educate the underserved to universities exploring the cutting edge of online education.

So—which college is the best in the nation?

Overview

Community Colleges

A community college has a bit of a split personality. One side of the college is full of students trying to take classes at a less expensive rate before transferring to a four-year school to finish up a bachelor’s degree. The other side is full of students working on the latest manufacturing robots, learning to cook or brushing up on their welding skills in a short time frame.

Overview

Federal Policy & Reform

The federal government provides billions of dollars in student aid and tax breaks to the nation’s colleges and universities each year, and it demands remarkably little in return.

Overview

Financial Aid

Financial aid describes the money that the federal government, state or municipal programs, colleges, private foundations and individual companies give to students in the form of grants, scholarships, below-market loans or tax breaks. Without aid, higher education — and indeed the American dream — would be out of reach for many low- and middle-income families. 

Overview

For-Profit Universities

For-profit colleges and universities are a growing presence in American higher education. The sector accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all U.S. college students in 2009—up from 5 percent in 2001—as well as an outsize share of the federal financial-aid dollars that help students cover the cost of higher education. For instance, nearly 25 percent of Pell Grant funds—need-based awards that the federal government provides to students from low-income families—go to students of for-profit schools.

Overview

Higher Education Reform

At a 1979 meeting of The University of Texas Arts and Sciences Foundation in San Antonio, Peter Flawn, then-president of UT-Austin, railed against what he dubbed the “widget theory” of education. The notion, he said, is “that a college or university is a manufacturing enterprise that produces products called academic degrees in basically the same way as a company such as Universal Widgets Inc. produces widgets.” He went on to forecast “that the struggle for excellence in higher education over the next decades will be a struggle against the widget theory in higher education and against those who knowingly or unknowingly espouse it.”

Overview

Online Higher Ed

There’s an online-learning boom going on in higher education. The focus is on a relatively new model that promises to teach tens of thousands of students at a time for free, with a mix of short Web videos and automatically graded (or peer-graded) assignments. These new offerings are called massive open online courses, or MOOCs.

Overview

Presidents & Trustees

When its governing board abruptly dismissed the president of the University of Virginia in 2012, the flagship state university quickly became the focus of national attention. The decision—prompted by board complaints that the president had not moved fast enough to address the university’s challenges—embroiled the board, faculty, and president in two weeks of public confrontations. It also prompted a board member’s resignation before ultimately culminating in the president’s reinstatement.