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The consulting and research firm Ithaka S+R is launching a recurring survey of 110 "insiders" to capture what presidents, chancellors, provosts, faculty members and others think about current higher education issues. The first edition of the survey, published today, focuses on what those insiders say colleges can do to improve degree completion rates and the quality of student learning, and how to make higher education more affordable. Highlights of the survey, which was conducted in November and December, include:

  • On a scale of one to seven, respondents said proactive data-informed advising (5.93) and guided degree program pathways (5.71) have the greatest opportunity to boost degree completion -- more so than free community college (3.91), college credit for prior learning (4.48) or performance pay for faculty members (4.16).
  • Also on a seven-point scale, respondents said adaptive learning (5.6) has a greater potential to improve the quality of education than systematic assessment of student learning (5.15), competency-based education (4.95), tech-focused faculty development (4.9) and game-based learning (4.38).
  • Asked to rank the top five initiatives to make college more affordable, 59 percent of respondents ranked unbundling colleges and services first or second, making it more popular than institution and students sharing loan risks, free community college or passing institutional savings on to students. Income-based loan repayment received the least support.
  • 46 percent of respondents said the culture and structures of higher education represent the greatest obstacle standing in the way of innovation at colleges in the U.S.