Admissions

Agents expand reach into domestic higher education in Australia

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Australian colleges have long used recruiters to woo international students. Now they're turning to companies to help them recruit students within the country, too.

New report brings data to the debate over commissioned agents in international recruiting

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New report brings survey data from students, agents and institutions to bear on the debate over the use of commissioned agents in international recruitment.

New approaches to attacking the racial/economic achievement gap (essay)

As affirmative action continues to backslide, support for economic equality is growing. Could these narratives be combined to fuel new ideas that take advantage of this common ground?

Much is known about the racial achievement gap in higher education. Large, persistent gaps in degree attainment rates between Asian students and white students on one hand, and black, Latino, and Native American students on the other, help explain how the U.S.’s overall attainment rate fell from first in the world to 11th. Yet only recently has the economic achievement gap – a present-tense manifestation of what President Obama has called a “relentless, decades-long trend” of growing inequality – entered the public consciousness.

Research demonstrates that the wealthiest 25 percent of Americans are filling nearly 75 percent of the seats at the 193 most selective U.S. universities – which operate as informal gateways to America’s leadership class – while the poorest 25 percent of Americans fill only 5 percent of these seats. Indeed, the gap in test scores between wealthy students and poor students is almost twice what it is between black and white students. In other words, the opportunity gap in America today may be more about class than it is about race.

At the same time, support for the most direct approach to closing the racial achievement gap in higher education – affirmative action – remains on the decline. Twelve states, where roughly 30 percent of the entire U.S. high school population resides, have outlawed affirmative action over the past two decades.

This creep toward colorblindness seemed incremental and sporadic until last summer, when a near-unanimous U.S. Supreme Court tightened the vise on affirmative action by introducing a new legal framework in Fisher v. University of Texas. Though the only lower court to interpret this new framework held that affirmative action at universities in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi is still permissible, it remains to be seen how other courts will interpret the high court’s exacting new rules.

We believe that there is considerable opportunity to be mined from the crisis surrounding affirmative action, as populations that benefit from racial preferences also stand to benefit from socioeconomic preferences. Indeed, America’s twin achievement gaps could be squarely addressed by a number of “two for one” policies that are creatively tailored to take advantage of this common ground. Such an approach is not new: the federal TRIO programs – 50 years old this month – used first-generation and low-income status along with academic need in order to determine eligibility.

So, what can we do now? We should start by measuring the economic and racial achievement gaps as they exist today. One way to do that is to focus on the share of undergraduate students who receive federal Pell Grants, which go to low-income students. In Virginia, the disparities in this measure of diversity are striking: less than 20 percent of students at William and Mary, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and four other public four-year colleges receive Pell Grants; at Virginia State and Norfolk State, two-thirds of students receive these grants. Since many people who work outside higher education would not associate Pell Grants with low-income status, universities could be required to report the economic make-up of their student bodies to the U.S. Department of Education, as they already do with race. Colleges and universities currently disclose their net prices within income bands, and also have net price calculators available on their websites, but the extent to which this information is used by prospective students and families is unclear.

Once we know the extent of these economic achievement gaps, universities could take steps to close them by enrolling a more economically diverse student body. Indeed, some colleges and universities are taking steps to close the gaps both in admissions and in completion. Others should follow their lead.  This would require that the institution adopt an admissions system that assesses applicants for their economic and racial diversity. Then, a university could implement an admissions formula that values economic and racial diversity, putting the new measurements to work.

New research featured in "The Future of Affirmative Action," from Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, demonstrates that an admissions plan that measures and then values socioeconomic status, place (geographic diversity), and race will produce both higher economic diversity and higher racial diversity than either race alone (affirmative action) or class alone. Thus, an admissions plan that measures and then values these three variables together works best at closing the economic and racial achievement gaps simultaneously.

An even more nuanced approach to evaluating applicants has been developed by the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC-Berkeley. Under the institute’s Opportunity Enrollment Model, each applicant is given an “opportunity score” that is informed, in part, by the applicant’s neighborhood, including the neighborhood’s poverty rate, job growth rate, and proximity to employment, health care, and public parks, among many other factors.

Because the Opportunity Enrollment Model is technically race-neutral – it reflects the racial makeup of the applicant’s neighborhood, not the race of the individual applicant – universities could likely rely on opportunity scores to identify economically and racially diverse students in states where affirmative action has been outlawed. In order to help these ideas along, universities and nonprofits could forge partnerships with mission-aligned members of the tech community, who may be able to develop software and databases that help implement such models.

Government has a role to play, too. State governments could reward universities that adopt admissions models geared toward closing the achievement gaps, and could tie state subsidies to a university’s economic and racial diversity rates. The proposed federal college ratings system could reward universities in much the same way: if the ratings system’s “access” measurement (one-third of its “access, affordability, and outcomes” variables) is defined to include economic and racial diversity, then the greater the relative value placed on the “access” prong, the greater the incentive for universities to help close the achievement gaps.

A less circuitous option for using public dollars to close the achievement gaps may involve state and federal governments increasing their direct investments in minority-serving institutions, which educate a disproportionate number of both low-income students and students of color.

Altogether, in a field rife with opportunities for policy reform, the economic and racial achievement gaps rarely command the narrative attention they deserve. But as demand for economic equality rises – and support for affirmative action falls – a new narrative is quickly taking shape. Let’s greet it with new, efficient ideas that kill two birds with one stone.

David Bergeron is vice president for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress and former acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the U.S. Department of Education. Scott Greytak is of counsel with Campinha Bacote LLC in Washington.
 

Sociologists analyze access issues in higher education

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Sociologists, in annual meeting focused on economic hardship, consider policies and practices that hinder advancement of low-income students.

Study questions idea that those who enroll at more selective colleges are more likely to graduate

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Study questions idea that going to the most competitive college one can get into increases odds of completion.

Essay on the academic performance of undocumented and other immigrant students

Are we missing out on an opportunity to enhance the supply of people in the United States who are prepared for careers that require higher education? Should we encourage the presence of undocumented immigrants in that pool?

Discussion about who has the right to come to the United States and what they are entitled to after arrival has been ongoing since our country’s founding. Often, including recently, this discussion has concerned the rights of immigrants to higher education, and to monetary support for that education. Such discussions have become particularly heated regarding immigrants whose presence in the U.S. has not been officially sanctioned

For over 10 years, various legislators have proposed different versions of what is known as the DREAM Act. If made law, the DREAM Act would make some undocumented higher education students eligible for the financial supports available to American citizens and permanent residents, for example in-state tuition and federal work-study programs, and provide a path to full legal status in the U.S. Although no version of the DREAM Act has as yet become federal law, some states have allowed undocumented college students to be eligible for in-state tuition at the state’s public colleges. New York is one such state. However, the in-state tuition is limited to undocumented students who have graduated from a New York State high school after several years of attendance, and who are making satisfactory progress in college. In addition, undocumented college students in New York State remain ineligible for New York State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and for federal Pell Grants, among other financial supports. Florida has recently enacted a policy similar to New York’s. 

At the City University of New York (CUNY) the situation of undocumented students, who compose approximately 3 percent of undergraduates, is complex. In two recent papers, Dylan Conger and Colin C. Chellman demonstrated that, in a large CUNY sample, undocumented students were as well-prepared for college as were U.S. citizens. Further, undocumented students performed better than U.S. citizens, and as well as or better than permanent residents, in terms of grades and completion of associate degrees. Nevertheless, undocumented students were less likely to complete their bachelor’s degrees, a finding that the authors suggested might be due to these students’ lack of state and federal financial aid.

The purpose of the present piece is not to tell colleges and universities, or state and federal agencies, what they should do concerning financial aid for undocumented students. The purpose of the present piece is simply to provide evidence, including some additional, new evidence, regarding the potential benefits of immigrant students — whether documented or undocumented — to our economy. 

We already know that:

  • The United States has more jobs that require a college education than there are American citizens and permanent residents with those qualifications, and that gap is growing.
  • There is a significant financial benefit to graduating from college.
  • College graduates benefit our society in a great many ways. For example, Professor Henry Levin’s analysis of (CUNY’s) highly successful ASAP program showed that this program, one that more than doubles associate-degree completion rates, will result in lower public assistance, public health, and criminal justice system expenditures, and greater tax revenue.
  • Financial support of college students increases the probability of their graduation, as well as decreases the amount of time to their graduation.

Together, these findings suggest that were we to do more to financially support academically qualified students in college, our society would benefit in multiple ways. The additional information that we present here concerns which students tend to major in the fields that lead to relatively more remunerative positions, and thus which students’ financial support might particularly contribute to a sufficient supply of people qualified for positions that promote our society’s economic growth.

For many years, research has reported that students who come from less economically privileged backgrounds are more likely to choose majors, such as business and engineering, that tend to lead to relatively more highly compensated careers. An early example of this research is Raymond Boudon’s 1974 book Education, Opportunity and Social Inequality.

However, our recent research has found that, in a diverse CUNY cohort of over 9,000 baccalaureate students, other student characteristics — whether a student is a member of an ethnic or racial minority or, what is most relevant to the present piece, was born outside the U.S. (a characteristic of 38 percent of CUNY’s 240,000 undergraduates) — are variables more closely associated with choice of major. Students with these characteristics are significantly more likely to choose to major in business and engineering than are other students. Due to the fact that students with these characteristics also tend to come from families that have lower incomes, descriptive statistics considered alone suggest a correlation between family income and major choice, at least in the CUNY sample. However, as demonstrated in regression analyses, the strongest relationship with major choice is immigrant status. Immigrant students may therefore contribute disproportionately to the popularity of certain relatively more remunerative majors and thus to the pool of candidates qualified to fill jobs that most benefit the economy.  Supporting these findings, in on of their papers, Conger and Chellman have shown that undocumented students are more likely to major in business and engineering than are American citizens.

For all of these reasons, it seems that it could be helpful to our economy to assist immigrant students in finishing college by providing them with financial aid, for example. This conclusion leads, then, to the question of whether, and how, to aid the college education of the subset of immigrant students who are undocumented.  As mentioned earlier, different states have different approaches to this.

However, merely providing undocumented students with financial aid will not necessarily allow these students to maximize their potential societal contributions. For example, CUNY’s undocumented students are unable to participate in the clinical training portion of the nursing major because they cannot obtain the malpractice insurance and/or the permission to work in hospitals required for that training. So, even if undocumented CUNY students obtain sufficient funds for college and earn a perfect 4.0 grade point average in all of their courses, they cannot become nurses. This is unfortunate because, as Conger and Chellman’s research has indicated, CUNY’s undocumented students include many potentially outstanding nurses, and New York City consistently needs highly qualified nurses.   

The lack of financial aid and other supports for undocumented students eliminates economic and other benefits that could accrue to our society from a greater number of college graduates. The City of New York has a long history, dating from centuries before the founding of CUNY, of welcoming immigrants and of prospering as a result. In his book The Island at the Center of the World, Russell Shorto describes how the original Dutch colony of New Amsterdam encouraged immigrants and entrepreneurship of all sorts, policies whose positive influence is felt to this day. Shorto details how diversity and tolerance resulted in positive economic consequences for the colony and established a long-lasting, economically advantageous pattern of behavior for New York City. Encouraging immigration and encouraging higher education are conceptually linked in that both have to do with increasing access to opportunity and with increasing the presence in society of certain talents and skills. Both involve maximizing our society’s natural human resources.

We recognize, however, that providing financial aid to undocumented students might encourage more individuals and families to come to or stay in the United States illegally in order to obtain reduced-cost education. Various versions of the DREAM Act have been designed to take such possible consequences into account by providing financial aid only for a select portion of undocumented students. One example is the federal version of the DREAM Act currently being proposed by New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer. In this version, undocumented people may become United States permanent residents (and thus be eligible for federal financial aid) only if (1) they have been registered as provisional immigrants for at least five years; (2) initially entered the U.S. when younger than 16; (3) have a U.S. high school diploma or GED; (4) have a college degree, or have completed at least two years in good standing in a bachelor’s program, or have served honorably in the U.S. Uniformed Services for at least four years; and (5) have passed various security and law enforcement background checks. Under this proposal, the people who would benefit from the DREAM Act would be long-term U.S. residents who are very likely to be positive contributors to the national economy and society, people who frequently were brought here as young children at someone else’s initiative, and who know no home other than the U.S. 

Campaigns for access to education have long been seen as fights for individual rights. In 1949 W.E.B. Du Bois stated: “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.”  There are also practical benefits for an entire society of maximizing the number of people who attend, and complete, college. Higher education can yield positive consequences, not only for the individuals who partake of it, but also for our economy as a whole. Undocumented students as a group constitute a significant pool from which to reap these benefits.

Alexandra W. Logue has served as the City University of New York's executive vice chancellor and provost since 2008 and will become a CUNY Research Professor on September 1. Samuel L. Shrank is a senior associate at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company.

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New study notes diversity issues in admissions employment

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Survey finds that women and minority professionals don't rise through the ranks in college admissions offices.

Cornell's business school lets students apply using LinkedIn profiles

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Cornell's business school offers new application that lets prospective students submit their LinkedIn profiles.

New research provides insight into the growing pool of international high school students in the U.S.

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A rapid growth in the number of international students seeking American high school diplomas creates new recruiting opportunities for colleges.

Hampshire becomes only competitive college in the country that won't look at SAT, ACT scores

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Hampshire becomes only competitive college in the country that will not look at SAT or ACT scores.

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