Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

December 1, 2016

The percentage of graduating high school seniors who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in 2015 varied widely by city, according to a new analysis from the National College Access Network. The group looked at numbers from 68 cities, finding that a high of 68 percent completed the FAFSA in Memphis, Tenn., compared to a low of 25 percent in North Las Vegas. The 68-city average was 48 percent, according to the group, which is close to the nationwide rate of 44 percent in 2014.

"Exemplar cities of all sizes show us that it is possible to have a high percentage of high school seniors complete the FAFSA," the report said.

December 1, 2016

Dowling College filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, moving to sell its two campuses on Long Island after shutting down this summer due to financial problems.

The small private nonprofit college estimated in court documents that its liabilities stand at between $50 million and $100 million. It estimated its assets as being worth between $100 million and $500 million. Dowling owns campuses in Oakdale and Shirley, N.Y., less than 20 miles apart.

Dowling will use bankruptcy protection in order to sell its real estate and other assets at the highest value possible, the college’s bankruptcy attorney, Sean C. Southard, told The Wall Street Journal. The college’s debt includes money owed on tax-exempt municipal bonds and general unsecured debt, he told the newspaper.

In June, Dowling announced plans to close after its enrollment dropped roughly in half since 2009 to about 2,000 students. Days later it said it was attempting to stay open by striking a partnership with Global University Systems, but it was ultimately unable to do so and closed its doors in August.

December 1, 2016

Colorado Heights University, a private nonprofit institution located in Denver, will shut down next year, The Denver Post reported. The small university enrolls mostly international students. University officials cited declining enrollment and the uncertain future of Colorado Heights' accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, as reasons for the university's closure.

December 1, 2016

About 80 member presidents of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities have signed a statement in support of students who have benefited from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, under which more than 700,000 young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children have gained temporary protection from deportation and two-year renewable work permits. President-elect Donald J. Trump has said he would end the program, which was created by President Obama in what critics view as an overreach of his executive authority.

“We, the undersigned presidents of Catholic colleges and universities, express hope that the students in our communities who have qualified for DACA are able to continue their studies without interruption and that many more students in their situation will be welcome to contribute their talents to our campuses,” said the statement from the college presidents, which went on to quote the pope.

“When Pope Francis visited the United States last year, he had this to say to the World Meeting of Families gathered in Philadelphia: 'Among us today are members of America’s large Hispanic population, as well as representatives of recent immigrants to the United States. Many of you have emigrated (I greet you warmly!) to this country at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation.' We are committed to educating these young people, brought to the United States by their parents, who come to our universities to build for themselves and us a brighter future.”

A group of 28 Jesuit college and university leaders signed a separate statement issued Wednesday on undocumented students. In the statement the Jesuit college leaders pledge "to protect to the fullest extent of the law undocumented students on our campuses"; "to promote retention of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA)"; "to support and stand with our students, faculty and staff regardless of their faith traditions"; and "to preserve the religious freedoms on which our nation was founded."

Apart from the statements from the Catholic and Jesuit college presidents, a letter in support of DACA from leaders of all types of higher education institutions had been signed by more than 400 college presidents as of noon Eastern time on Wednesday.

December 1, 2016

If another recession hits, many public colleges and universities are likely to increase tuition to raise revenue as they are squeezed by drops in state and local funding, according to a new report from New America.

The think tank released a paper Wednesday predicting how a theoretical future recession would affect higher education finances. It examined historical data on state appropriations, local appropriations, tuition revenue and enrollment levels from the past 15 years. New America then modeled each state’s likely outcomes in the event of recessions of differing severity.

Only a few states were projected to hold per-student tuition below the current national average of $6,006 in the event of a recession before 2022: California, Florida, Nevada and Wyoming. Meanwhile, Nevada, New York and Texas were among those found to be most likely to maintain tuition levels, lower tuition or receive increased state appropriations, even in the event of a future recession. Colorado, Delaware, Michigan and Minnesota were found to be likely to increase tuition significantly and receive state funding cuts.

The report’s authors noted that using past outcomes to predict the future is imprecise.

“States with high disinvestment and large tuition increases in previous recessions could easily reverse course should their priorities change,” they wrote.

The paper also calls for avoiding scenarios that negatively impact students by changing the way state higher education is financed. It suggests a requirement that state and local governments maintain per-student funding levels in order to receive federal aid and that a new state-federal partnership could be developed that would provide new federal funding for states agreeing to meet conditions like holding down tuition and raising state appropriations.

December 1, 2016

Today on the Academic Minute, Dwight DeWerth-Pallmeyer, associate professor of communication studies at Widener University, explains one way to get students thinking about how much they use their devices and how this could help the classroom over all. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

November 30, 2016

After reaching a peak of 14 percent in 2008, the number of undergraduates nationwide who used private student loans declined by roughly half by 2012, to 6 percent, according to a new data report from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. During the same time period, the percentage of undergraduates borrowing from the federal government through the Stafford Loan program increased to 40 percent from 35 percent.

"The decline in private education borrowing could potentially be attributed to a number of factors that include a tightening of lending standards; increases in the annual and aggregate unsubsidized Stafford Loan limits; a reduction in the number of private lenders in the education loan market; and the elimination of the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which made private lenders ineligible to make federal loans," the report said.

November 30, 2016

The Islamic State claimed Tuesday that the Ohio State University student who drove his car into a group of pedestrians and then attacked several people with a butcher knife was inspired by the terror organization.

Calling the student "a soldier" of ISIS, the group said that he "carried out the operation in response to calls to target citizens of international coalition countries." The organization, which released the statement through its news service, did not claim to have advance knowledge of the student's actions, though it has repeatedly called on its followers to conduct independent "lone wolf" attacks similar to what took place at Ohio State. The student, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, had posted a message on Facebook prior to the attack, urging the United States "to make peace with 'dawla in al sham,'" referring to the territories controlled by ISIS.

U.S. officials have not confirmed Artan's motive, but Josh Earnest, White House press secretary, said Tuesday that the student “may have been motivated by extremism and may have been motivated by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.”

Artan injured 11 people on Monday before being shot and killed by an Ohio State police officer. The injuries suffered by the victims -- who included undergraduate and graduate students and at least one university staff member -- are believed to not be life threatening, university officials said.

November 30, 2016

A new report documents unequal patterns involving gender in law school enrollments -- patterns that relate to employment prospects after law school. Among the findings:

  • While women earn more than 57 percent of undergraduate degrees, they make up only 51 percent of law school applicants.
  • About 3.4 percent of male college graduates apply to law school, while only 2.6 percent of women do so.
  • Male applicants to law school are more likely to be admitted than are female applicants, with admit rates of 79.5 percent for men and 75.8 percent for women. (While men, on average, have higher scores on the Law School Admission Test, women have better college grades.)
  • Law schools with the highest job placement rates tend to enroll smaller percentages of women than do law schools with poor job placement rates.

The report was prepared by Deborah Jones Merritt, a professor of law at Ohio State University, and Kyle McEntee, executive director of the group Law School Transparency, which has pushed law schools to reveal more information about job placement to prospective applicants. The full report may be found here.

November 30, 2016

Private colleges and universities are expected to post higher net tuition revenue growth than their public counterparts in the 2017 fiscal year, according to a new report released Tuesday by Moody’s Investors Service.

Private institutions’ median net tuition revenue is projected to grow by 2.5 percent, Moody’s found in an annual survey of higher education institutions it rates. That’s up from 2 percent in the 2016 fiscal year. Going forward, Moody’s expects private institutions to post annual net tuition revenue growth in the 2 percent to 3 percent range as institutions focus on affordability and face a competitive environment.

Public universities, meanwhile, are expected to experience slower growth in net tuition revenue -- median growth is projected at 2 percent for the 2017 fiscal year, down from 3 percent. The drop comes as many policy makers are limiting tuition and tuition increases for in-state undergraduate students. Median annual net tuition revenue growth among public institutions has fallen sharply from 8 percent in the 2012 fiscal year.

Overall, three-quarters of public and private universities anticipate year-over-year net tuition revenue rising in the 2017 fiscal year.

Large comprehensive universities are outpacing their moderately sized and small competitors in tuition revenue growth, Moody’s said. Large institutions are able to rely on their strong brands and diverse courses while often posting lower discount rates. Meanwhile, almost 40 percent of small private colleges anticipate net tuition revenue declines in fiscal year 2017.

Revenue growth will be affected by freshman tuition discount rates, which are expected to rise slightly year over year. The median first-year tuition discount rate at private universities has risen to a projected 47 percent for the 2017 fiscal year, up three percentage points from 2013. Roughly half of small and moderately sized private universities are forecasting first-year discount rates higher than 50 percent, while only 8 percent of comprehensive private universities are doing the same.

More than 60 percent of universities expected increased enrollment year over year in the fall of 2016, Moody’s said. Rising postbaccalaureate and graduate enrollment contribute to growth in the Northeast, while high school demographics are leading to enrollment growth in the South. Many universities in the Midwest project enrollment declines as the regional 18- to 24-year-old population lags, however.


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