administrators

Free Employee GED Benefit

Several large corporations have partnered with the GED Testing Service to allow their employees to pursue the credential -- which is the equivalent of a high-school diploma -- without having to pay any fees. The new GEDWorks program also includes free student supports, including online study materials, practice tests and access to GED advisers. Participating companies include Walmart, KFC, Taco Bell and Southeastern Grocers.

“Walmart believes that education is key to an associate's personal and professional development,” Michelle Knight, vice president of talent development for Walmart U.S., said in a written statement. “The opportunity to earn a market-valued credential helps our people gain skills to advance their career. Achieving success with the GEDWorks program is a gateway to opportunity.”

The American Council on Education managed the GED until 2011, when it partnered with Pearson to create the GED Testing Service. The test received an overhaul at the time, moving to being computer based and dropping a paper version. It also became more expensive, more difficult and aimed in part at college readiness as well as the workforce. As a result, some competitor tests have grown in popularity since the GED's changes went into effect.

Arizona Pharmacy Dean Charged With Sexual Assault

The University of Arizona has placed on leave the dean of the College of Pharmacy, Jessie Lyle Bootman, who has been indicted on charges of sexual assault, sexual abuse and aggravated assault, ABC 15 News reported. The alleged incident involved an adult female and is not connected to the university. Bootman's lawyer released a statement saying that his client was "shocked and saddened" by the allegations, and denied any wrongdoing.

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Another For-Profit Becomes a Public Benefit Corporation

Stratford University, a for-profit institution based in Virginia, this week announced that it has become a public benefit corporation. That move, which a handful of other for-profits have made recently, is a legal change to a company's charter, which allows it to focus more on activities that do not generate a profit -- including actions that are aimed at benefiting the public.

"Stratford has a student-first mentality, and as a benefit corporation we have the liberty to make sure we are providing students with the best education in the best environment,” Richard Shurtz, the university's president, said in a written statement.

The university holds national accreditation. It offers credentials in information technology, hospitality, culinary arts, business administration and health care.

Jamie Merisotis discusses his book on talent production

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Jamie Merisotis of Lumina Foundation wrote a book on how to rethink higher education and immigration policy to fix America's talent pool problem.

Aspen Institute and Siemens Team Up on Skills Gap

The Aspen Institute and the Siemens Foundation this week announced the first results of a new partnership focused on the projected shortages of skilled workers for high-demand jobs in manufacturing, energy, health care and information technology. Community colleges are key to meeting this demand, the two groups said. So the Siemens Foundation is funding an effort by the Aspen Institute's College Excellence Program to identify academic programs at two-year colleges that help students achieve success in "middle-skill" STEM fields.

This week Aspen said it has awarded scholarships of between $3,500 and $10,000 to current students or recent graduates of these programs. All the recipients attend or have attended community colleges Aspen has named as finalists for its prize for community college excellence. On average, 93 percent of graduates in the Aspen-identified STEM programs were placed in jobs within six months of graduation -- jobs that had a starting salary range of $32,760 to $82,144.

Colleges continue to rescind Cosby's honorary degrees

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Honorary degrees are the last remaining tie many colleges have with Bill Cosby. More and more institutions are rescinding them, but some are refusing to do so.

Southern New Hampshire Partners With Coding Boot Camp

Southern New Hampshire University and the Flatiron School, a coding boot camp, today announced a broad collaboration. The university and the New York City-based education provider will seek to expand the use of Flatiron's recently created online learning platform. They also will create a joint academic program, through which Southern New Hampshire's campus-based students will take three years of courses at the university followed by six months of Flatiron's web development curriculum and a paid apprenticeship during the final semester before graduation. Finally, the two partners will create an in-person coding boot camp at Southern New Hampshire's Nashua campus.

“Our mission is focused on the success of our students. By offering this opportunity, we can position our students for career opportunities and future growth and success in their selected fields," said Paul LeBlanc, Southern New Hampshire's president, in a written statement.

Southern New Hampshire and Flatiron also announced that they will apply to participate in a recently announced experiment the U.S. Department of Education is hosting. That program will allow a handful of accredited colleges to partner with boot camps to offer academic programs that will be eligible for federal financial aid.

University Bans Zombies at Zombiefest

Florida Gulf Coast University will host a Halloween haunted house on Wednesday called Zombiefest. But The News-Press reported that no zombies will be allowed in. The university will not allow anyone in a costume, mask or face paint to enter. Officials said that a recent shooting at a zombie-themed event (not held on a college campus) has raised safety concerns. So the event at Florida Gulf Coast will be limited to students, who will be required to show identification cards with photographs that match their noncostumed faces.

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Fraternity Group's Tips for Avoiding Offensive Parties

The North-American Interfraternity Conference -- whose members are no strangers to racist parties and costumes -- posted a series of Halloween tips on Friday to "ensure that member organizations make responsible decisions regarding event themes, costumes and social media that reflect their values and morals." In a blog post, Devin Hall, coordinator of IFC services at the NIC, suggested that campus Interfraternity Councils "introduce the concept of cultural appropriation" through diversity education, select an inclusive social event and require chapters to register any parties and their themes with the IFC.

"Viewed as funny, ironic, trendy or an opportunity to be retweeted by [Total Frat Move], dressing up as a Native American, painting oneself with blackface or dressing as a homeless person is not only offensive behavior, but also correctable," Hall wrote. "Our goal is for fraternities to avoid promoting concepts that reinforce historical stereotypes and mock or offend various cultures, races, ethnicities or identities."

Why colleges engage in certain admissions practices (essay)

Earlier this past summer, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would eliminate a student’s opportunity to list in rank order the colleges and universities to which he or she had submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Many in higher education, and most involved in college counseling, applauded the decision.

Then, this month, the National Association for College Admissions Counseling amended its ethical guidelines to memorialize the department’s action, and it now discourages colleges from asking applicants to list in rank order the colleges they are considering.

These recent changes will force many of us who work at colleges and universities to more directly ask students about their level of interest in our institution. Because we will no longer be able to rely on our ranked position on the FAFSA, which had very high predictive value related to a student’s prospect for enrolling, we now will have to do the asking. This will be new territory for many of us and for students, but I believe such directness can be good for colleges, admissions offices, families and students.

I suspect this shift in communication may have been unintentional on the parts of both the Education Department and NACAC. I also think their actions were the result of a “parade of horribles” -- what-ifs and speculations -- that undoubtedly will bring focus to other important strategies and tools used by many colleges in the contemporary practice of admissions.

Oft mentioned among the parade of horribles are:

  • the potential for admissions offices to use (“misuse” is a better term) information, like rank order, to influence admissions and financial aid decisions;
  • the pressure on students to develop a strategy in developing their list order to make sure to maximize their options;
  • the potential that first-generation students and those from underserved or underresourced areas will not understand the process.

These sound pretty awful, while the actions of the Department of Education and NACAC, designed to protect students, seem sensible. So why in the world would admissions and enrollment professionals, also presumably interested in serving and recruiting students, engage in such practices?

Let’s start with two premises.

First, there are three types of colleges: superselective institutions that have the luxury of “crafting a class,” open-access colleges that accept everyone who applies and colleges that work tirelessly all year just to make each class.

Second, one of the primary responsibilities of today’s enrollment manager or senior admissions leader is to predict who will enroll.

While my institution may be positioned between the superselective and the just-make-the-class types, my sympathies are more closely aligned with the latter, given the realities of demographic shifts, changes in ability and willingness of students and their families to pay, and the affordability advocates who tout cutbacks to areas such as marketing, administration and recruitment.

At Augustana College, where I work in admissions, one of my primary responsibilities is to offer the president and the Board of Trustees a data-informed prediction about who will enroll each year. This prediction sets in motion a budget and planning process that impacts the quality of education we offer our students and the livelihoods of the people who serve our students. Therefore, I want to have as many resources as possible to help inform that prediction.

We don’t ask students to rank order the institutions to which they’ve applied, but we do ask admitted students whether Augustana ranks first or in the top three or top five choices. We’ve done this for years, postadmission, and have found it to be very helpful in prioritizing our outreach to students and making the best use of our time as admissions professionals. We’ve used this information along with FAFSA position to help predict who will show up on our campus in the fall.

So, let me offer a few reasons -- not in any rank order -- why an admissions office might want to have a good idea about our relative standing with students in an effort to be efficient and make credible predictions.

Limited, constrained human resources. For most college admissions offices, especially at those institutions that need to work very hard to make the class, human resources must be deployed carefully, thoughtfully and with the greatest good in mind. Given the size of applicant pools, it is usually impossible to develop relationships with everyone who applies. Many admissions offices try to learn where to focus their efforts to make the most meaningful connections. Information like the ranking of colleges, and many other things that demonstrate students’ interests, can help an admissions counselor prioritize work and concentrate on the students most likely to enroll. At institutions that need 20 to 25 percent of our admitted students to enroll, being able to connect with those most likely to choose our college is quite useful.

The need to work smarter. A constant chorus on college campuses today is to “work smarter, not harder.” Data equip an admissions office to do that. I am aware of very few admissions offices that are increasing staff sizes, which means we are expected to work smarter every year in an environment of heavier workloads and shrinking resources. Lacking human resources, we need data, tools and processes that streamline and focus attention and allow us to be smart in our work.

Vital volunteer engagement. When it takes a village to make the class, ensuring that your village of volunteers has meaningful engagements with prospective students is crucial to long-term recruitment and admissions success. Most admissions offices rely on campus partners to supplement the recruitment effort and ultimately be effective. If there’s one thing I know about volunteers, it is that one bad experience can turn an enthusiastic volunteer away forever. Many admissions offices need to do an internal sort to make sure volunteers have good experiences. Data that inform an internal sort are important to maintaining valuable relationships with our volunteers, too.

Efficiency and access. Most important, good use of time means we can focus more on first-generation or underresourced students and families. One of the reasons we must prioritize is so we can spend more hours on creating access -- working with populations who are not as familiar with the college search process or our type of college. Understanding that one student is clear about choosing your college can free you up to counsel others who need more information to make a comfortable and informed decision.

Most people would agree this list does not in any way sound related to a “parade of horribles.” In the end, it may just come down to the fact that communication patterns and predictions keep changing. Perhaps in a couple of years, students, becoming more savvy by the minute, will decide once they’re admitted to tell each college or university that it is number one on their list -- thus hoping to get more attention. To get to the real truth, we will again have to change our approach to how we ask them.

Because, ultimately, we should do all we can to communicate honestly and in depth with our accepted students, and that begins with directness and an effort to truly know what they are thinking. It’s the kind of communication that should precede any commitment of this magnitude.

W. Kent Barnds is vice president of enrollment, communications and planning at Augustana College.

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