Tying a college's Pell Grant eligibility to completion rates could undermine college access for poor and minority students, especially at community colleges, Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, wrote in an analysis Monday. Rather than focus on completion rates, Kantrowitz argued, more focus should be placed on increasing the number of Americans with college degrees -- a focus that could even cause completion rates to fall if more students enroll and do not all complete college. Focusing solely on completion, as some fear a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation-supported panel that will focus on student aid as an incentive might do, could end up hurting low-income students, Kantrowitz wrote: "One of the easiest ways to increase graduation rates is to exclude high-risk students. So efforts to boost college completion may directly or indirectly shift eligibility for the Pell Grant program from financial need to academic merit, hurting college access by low-income students."
Higher Education Quick Takes
The annual college rankings of U.S. News & World Report are out today, with only one change in methodology. The two most recent years of guidance counselor surveys, rather than just one year of data, will be used to calculate the counselors' ratings. The participation of college presidents in the survey (by filling out reports on the reputations of other colleges) is up a bit this year, if still way behind the two-thirds participation levels of a decade ago. For the new edition, 44 percent of all presidents participated, up from 43 percent a year ago. Liberal arts college presidents have been particularly critical of the rankings, but their participation rate was also up this year -- 47 percent, up from 44 percent a year ago.
The Obama administration's program to give young immigrants who lack legal documentation to stay in the United States a waiver of deportation has attracted more than 72,000 applicants, The New York Times reported. There has been debate over whether those eligible -- a group that includes many college students -- would risk submitting their names and various pieces of information to the government, and the early results suggest that many are willing to do so.
Harvard University's senior basketball co-captains, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, are withdrawing from the university after being told that they are among the students being investigated in a cheating scandal, Sports Illustrated reported. Had they stayed enrolled and been found guilty, they would have lost eligibility for the year ahead of athletic competition. By withdrawing, they may be able to re-apply in a year and gain another year of eligibility. One additional basketball player is also among those being investigated, Sports Illustrated reported.
Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. announced that it will join forces with Japan’s National Institute of Informatics to create a robot that can earn admission to Tokyo University, the most prestigious university in Japan, The Wall Street Journal reported. To gain admission, the robot (like other applicants) will have to pass a national entrance exam for universities and one that is given only by Tokyo University. The project is prompting renewed debate over artificial intelligence.
The governing board for California's 112 community colleges on Monday approved a policy of systemwide priority enrollment for students who have an educational plan in place and are working toward a credential or toward transferring. The proposal, which marks a substantial shift for a system with history of open access, was one of a set of recommendations last year by a state task force. The priority enrollment plan, while controversial, has also been praised for being a completion-oriented means of coping with deep budget cuts.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today announced it was seeking proposals for the creation of massive open online courses (MOOCs) designed to serve as remedial and other general education courses, which are often stumbling blocks for lower income students. The foundation said in its request for proposals that it hopes to encourage high-quality MOOCs that could help improve college completion rates. Currently, most MOOCs are geared to upper-division classes. "Ultimately, our vision is that MOOCs may provide institutions a way to blend MOOC content into formal courses with more intensive faculty, advising and peer support and also provide students an alternative and direct path to credit and credentials," the foundation said.
The University of Rochester has announced that it will no longer require all undergraduate applicants to submit either the SAT or ACT, but they will still have to submit some test. Others that might be used include the SAT subject exams, Advanced Placement tests or International Baccalaureate tests. In a statement, Jonathan Burdick, dean of admissions and financial aid, said: "Many prospective students 'test well' on general standardized exams, and bring that ability to campus, while some are best at mastering specific material in subjects that interest them most, and bring that diligence and focus. Both kinds of students can thrive at Rochester, and both will do best when they find each other here and develop many ways to collaborate and challenge each other."