Survey: Barriers to Improving Student Success

September 29, 2016

Reduced state funding is preventing colleges from improving student outcomes, but so are institutional challenges such as a lack of collaboration between departments and resistance from faculty members, a survey of college leaders found. The survey, conducted by the consulting and research firm Ithaka S+R, is a product of a panel of 111 "insiders" -- college leaders and experts among them -- the organization assembled last year to gather thoughts on current events in higher education. After last fall's inaugural survey, which looked at what college leaders consider the best strategies to improve student outcomes, this spring's edition focused on barriers. Findings include:

  • On a scale from one to seven, faculty resistance to change (4.96) ranked as the greatest cultural obstacle to improving student outcomes, followed by strategies and programs not designed based on rigorous evidence (4.89) and pressure to score a high placement in college rankings (4.71).
  • College leaders at public institutions are more concerned (3.34 on a seven-point scale) about the influence of corporate interests on higher education than leaders of private institutions (2.13).
  • Other than cuts to public funding of higher education, time and resource constraints (4.47), nonacademic programs and amenities (4.40), and rigid budget allocations (4.31) ranked as the top financial obstacles.
  • College leaders say researching student success and incentive programs that reward faculty members for improving their teaching are the best ways of solving the issues they identified.
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