Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 12, 2018

Three Ohio community colleges that have adopted the City University of New York's Accelerated Study in Associate Programs initiative have seen increases in semester-to-semester persistence rates as well as graduation-rate bumps ranging from 7.9 percent to 19.1 percent.

MDRC, a nonprofit research group, studied two-year results from an evaluation of the program and released the findings today. Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain County Community College created ASAP on their own campuses four years ago.

ASAP students were nine percentage points more likely to remain enrolled from semester to semester compared to their peers. These students also earned two additional credits per semester compared to their peers, according to the study.

December 12, 2018

The Higher Learning Commission, which is the largest regional accrediting agency, is seeking to change the conversation around defining student success for today's learners. With the release of a position paper, the first of three HLC plans to release on the issue in coming months, the accreditor argued that "current discussions and measures of student success are based on a construct that does not represent students now enrolled in U.S. postsecondary education institutions." The paper was written by a group of experts convened by the accreditor. The Lumina Foundation contributed funding for the project.

In particular, HLC said the focus on completion too often ignores individual students' intent or educational goals. And currently used completion metrics and approaches tend to privilege certain types of learners, by failing to directly address barriers nontraditional students in particular tend to face, or their priorities. This approach also undervalues certain types of institutions and programs. For example, HLC said community and technical colleges typically do not fare as well as four-year institutions on completion metrics because most of their students are working adults and not first-time, full-time ones.

A more flexible student success framework, with students at its center, would include measures of "attainment of learning outcomes, personal satisfaction and goal/intent attainment, job placement and career advancement, civic and life skills, social and economic well-being, and commitment to lifelong learning," the paper said.

December 12, 2018

The federal government, states and accreditors should standardize how they calculate job placement numbers for higher ed programs, according to a new report from the Institute for College Access and Success, a progressive group that focuses on affordability and access in higher education.

In the report, released Tuesday, the group finds that the employment metrics used by various entities have created a patchwork of data that makes meaningful comparison of programs nearly impossible. TICAS recommends that the federal government take the lead in standardizing job placement rates and that new investments be made in state databases that can be used to verify outcomes at higher ed programs.

December 12, 2018

A large and growing share of job candidates are assessed directly by potential employers on job-related competencies, experts from Ithaka S+R write in a new report. This practice allows employers to supplement or even skip traditional hiring criteria, including the focus on college credentials.

The report attempts to document and evaluate a "wave of rapid innovation" in pre-employment assessment. It found that, because of the perceived gap between job candidates' competencies and employers' needs, some employers are beginning to distrust traditional "signaling credentials" such as college degrees, industry association endorsements and state licensures.

Other major themes the researchers identified include:

  • Third-party providers are rapidly entering this new, technology-driven market and providing new assessment methods.
  • The marketplace is flooded, and choosing an assessment technology can be a burden.
  • Incompatibility of content and software across assessments and employers' human resources systems present barriers to the broad-based and efficient use of direct prehire assessments.
  • Intermediaries, including higher education administrators and industry association officials, often are out of touch with new methodologies used by employers and assessment providers.
  • Emerging partnerships involving several players in the ecosystem that provide integrated, multimethod assessment strategies are best equipped to successfully measure and develop job candidates' skills.
December 12, 2018

Service Employees International Union withdrew its petition to form a non-tenure-track faculty union at Vanderbilt University’s College of Arts and Science, both the university and the union said this week. “The union’s withdrawal marks a significant moment for the college,” John Geer, dean of arts and sciences, said in an announcement. “With the petition withdrawn, I look forward to working together to find solutions.”

SEIU said in a separate statement that non-tenure-track faculty members and graduate students on campus have formed the Alliance of Faculty Forward and Graduate Workers United. This new group will “engage with the administration” and “widen the network of allies interested in this endeavor without further delays from employer appeals to [National Labor Relations Board] rulings,” according to SEIU. The union withdrew other petitions at several smaller Vanderbilt colleges last year.

December 12, 2018

Today on the Academic Minute, Emily Bernate, assistant professor of Spanish at St. Edward’s University, looks at softening our requests to sound more polite. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

December 11, 2018

Inside Higher Ed's new report, "Smart, Succinct and Agile: Strategic Planning in an Age of Uncertainty," is an introduction and in-depth resource for administrators, trustees and others at colleges and universities embarking on a strategic planning process. Among the key issues discussed are when to do a plan, who should or should not be involved, the relationship between plans and new presidents, how to keep the campus and internal constituencies engaged, the role of equity and diversity, the role rankings play, and how plans have changed over four decades.

The report also details the latest trends in strategic planning and best practices leaders can choose from to build a meaningful process able to motivate key constituencies. It includes a high-level look at planning models, case studies of colleges and universities that have overcome planning challenges, and key considerations for leaders embarking on a planning process. It also explores the different purposes planning can serve, from legitimizing leaders’ efforts to galvanizing fund-raising to helping a campus find its way in a confusing world.

The report is available for purchase here; you may also download a free preview of it from that page. And we invite you to sign up for a webcast on the themes of the report, featuring Inside Higher Ed's editors, on Thursday, Jan. 24, at 2 p.m. Eastern.

December 11, 2018

Unmet financial need, meaning the gap between the cost of college and all student resources that do not need to be repaid, grew by 23 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to an analysis of federal data that the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) released today.

Nearly three in four college students in the U.S. experience unmet need. At community colleges, 71 percent of students have some unmet need, with an average amount of $4,920. Unmet need is higher at four-year institutions, the group found, with students of color and low-income students more likely to have it -- at significantly higher amounts.

"Unmet need can be considered a rough measure of our nation’s underinvestment in students that highlights the gap between expectations of affordability and reality," concludes the analysis, which was authored by Lauren Walizer, a senior policy analyst with CLASP's Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. "When policymakers don’t address unmet need, college becomes increasingly unaffordable and inaccessible for all students but particularly students of color, who comprise a growing share of our nation’s college-going population."

December 11, 2018

A number of colleges and higher education groups have registered their opposition to a proposed rule by the Trump administration that would redefine how the government determines an immigrant or nonimmigrant visitor is likely to become a “public charge” and thus ineligible for a green card or other change of immigration status.

Current regulations dating to 1999 hold that an immigrant can be deemed inadmissible or ineligible for a change in immigration status if they are determined to be "likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence." Whereas the government has previously taken into account the acceptance of cash benefits in determining whether an immigrant is likely to be a "public charge," the proposed rule would consider any use of a wider range of noncash public benefits -- including use of food stamps, nonemergency Medicaid and public housing assistance -- as “heavily weighed negative factors” in making these determinations.

Further, the proposed rule identifies a range of other factors beyond the current or past use of public benefits for the government to consider in determining whether an immigrant is likely to become a public charge in the future, including education level, English proficiency, medical conditions or disabilities, credit history and income level. Under the proposed rule, having a household income of 250 percent or more of the federal poverty level -- which translates to $30,350 for an individual or $62,750 for a family of four -- would be considered a “heavily weighed positive factor" in the immigrant’s favor.

The Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and the Community College Consortium for Immigrant Education submitted a joint comment on the proposed rule. Comments closed Monday.

“As educators and leaders of higher education institutions and organizations, we know that when students and their families are unable to meet core living and housing needs or face higher costs, the students are less likely to pursue and continue with their educational and career pathways,” the groups said. “While Pell Grants and other non-cash benefits that provide education, child development, employment, and job training are not included in the specified public benefits, we believe the proposed regulations will have damaging consequences, affecting students, families, and campuses across the nation. We are very concerned that many eligible immigrant students may mistakenly avoid applying for Pell or other financial aid and will be unable to afford higher education.”

The two groups also raised concerns about the effects on international students and exchange scholars who seek to extend or adjust their immigration status.

"For nonimmigrants, including F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, H-1B specialty workers, or their dependents, the public charge test would be applied when they apply to extend or adjust their nonimmigrant status," they wrote. "This rule would create additional tests and barriers for these individuals. Individuals would be subject to the public charge test each time they extend or change their status. For example, an international student with F-1 status applying for an employment status would be subject to the public charge test. The increased uncertainty imposed by the new regulations is likely to deter even well-qualified and affluent international students from attempting to study in the U.S., as the ability to gain U.S. workplace experience during an optional practical training period is often a key motivation for enrolling in an American college."

Presidents from a variety of types of colleges -- ranging from Southern New Hampshire University to the University of California -- have submitted comments opposing the proposed rule. A group of 10 presidents in the Massachusetts Community College System also submitted a joint letter opposing it.

Department of Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the rule is intended to implement an existing law requiring immigrants to be financially self-sufficient. “Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially,” she said in a statement issued at the time the proposed rule was released. “This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers.”

December 11, 2018

Lillian Schumacher, president of Tiffin University in Ohio, faces a court hearing after she was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated in August, the Advertiser-Tribune reported.

The result of Schumacher’s breathalyzer test was 0.117, well over the legal limit of 0.08 in Ohio. Schumacher was pulled over for traveling 44 miles per hour in a 35-miles-per-hour zone. A court spokeswoman told the Advertiser-Tribune that Schumacher still has driving privileges and that the suspension of her license was stopped until a further court order.

Lisa Williams, a university spokesperson, said that Schumacher declined to comment until the matter is legally resolved.

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