Submitted by Anonymous on January 26, 2017 - 3:00am
What do Columbia University and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley have in common?
The Ivy League university in New York City and the Hispanic-serving institution in rural Texas are separated by vast geographic and social distance. And yet these two institutions have embraced the idea of a structured core curriculum as the best way to prepare undergraduates for both successful careers and lives of meaningful engagement with our increasingly complex world.
At its heart, a core curriculum in the liberal arts is meant to provide an intellectually unifying experience through deep and sustained engagement with significant texts and enduring human questions. Students grapple with common readings, issues and assignments and discern connections across disciplines. As a result, a core curriculum provides curricular coherence and cultivates a sense of belonging to an intellectual community.
In the Columbia Core, all undergraduates study a common set of foundational works in literature, philosophy, art, music and science. It began almost a century ago as Columbia College reoriented itself toward public schools by dropping its Greek and Latin entrance requirements. The “New College” would offer signature courses on the foundations of Western civilization to all students regardless of their professional aspirations, thus ensuring a shared and nonspecialized intellectual foundation.
A comparative assessment project, funded by the Teagle Foundation, led by faculty members in the core programs at Columbia, Yale University and the University of Chicago, has demonstrated the enduring power of this approach to liberal education. Based on hundreds of interviews with faculty members, students and alumni at various stages of their lives, the project has gathered a wealth of evidence showing that the habits of critical analysis, complex thinking and self-reflection cultivated in these courses provide a key resource for subsequent professional and personal development. The Core experience, the data suggest, continues to deliver benefits far beyond graduation and the specific professional pursuits of its alumni. Whether they are scientists, career diplomats or bankers, alumni point to their Core education as having given them the intellectual flexibility, nuance and ease with complexity on which they have relied in their professional and personal endeavors.
UT Rio Grande Valley, through a Teagle grant, extends the benefits of an elite liberal arts education to a very different undergraduate student population: first-generation, predominantly Latino students from the poorest counties in the United States. The biomedical sciences faculty has reinterpreted a liberal arts core experience as a highly structured foundation to careers in medicine. Although the degree program is professionally oriented, the perspective offered is humanistic in the broadest sense, encouraging students to consider the history of disease and public health, the experience of pain and illness, health informatics, health policy, and medical ethics. This ethos is illustrated by a series of virtual “grand rounds” embedded in course work that enable students to explore diseases and medical conditions through multiple dimensions: the patient’s experience, the lens of the medical care team, the underlying biomedical science, the public health history and the socioeconomic impact.
Early outcomes are promising. The first cohort of 129 biomedical sciences students arrived on the campus in fall 2015, and pass rates -- with a grade of C or better -- in introductory biology, chemistry and composition were 86 percent, 70 percent and 87 percent respectively.
The results underline the powerful impact faculty members can have by organizing curriculum -- not just individual courses -- to support students’ learning and success. Students move through the degree pathway as a cohort, taking sequentially linked courses that reinforce content knowledge and cognitive skills while building a sense of community.
The benefits that flow from a liberal arts core experience are especially significant for those students whom higher education has historically failed. Course requirements are unambiguous to students: no digging through an overwhelming catalog of options that may or may not fulfill vague graduation requirements. Students have a more academically cohesive and “career-aware” experience that makes the value proposition of staying in college clearer. (Other supports help, too; technology is a big one, as a student in the program reflected in this essay.) Ultimately, students respond to structured liberal learning that provides a firm grounding in the ethical, historical, cross-cultural and policy issues relevant not only to their professional aspirations but also to their lives.
Well-defined and integrated curricula put institutions on a virtuous cycle that amplify those benefits. Such curricula curb course proliferation and increase efficiency, freeing up faculty members to spend less time on course development and preparation and more time on high-impact practices like mentoring undergraduate research. As a result, institutions are able to better retain students (and their tuition dollars), deepen their learning, and operate in a more financially sustainable fashion.
Calls for greater curricular coherence are hardly new but have never been more urgent as colleges and universities contend with maintaining access and excellence in the face of resource constraints. As two very different institutions have seen, such coherence can be found in a well-structured core curriculum.
Loni Bordoloi Pazich is program director at the Teagle Foundation. Roosevelt Montas is director of the Center for the Core Curriculum at Columbia University and manages a Teagle grant examining the long-term educational benefits of core curricula. Steve Mintz is executive director of the Institute of Transformational Learning at the University of Texas System and manages a Teagle grant focused on embedding the liberal arts in professional degree pathways at seven UT campuses.
A monograph of long gestation, Peter J. Spiro’s At Home in Two Countries: The Past and Future of Dual Citizenship (NYU Press) is clearly not aimed at the readership of Americans who are considering an exit strategy right about now. A number of handbooks are already available, should that be your interest.
The author, a professor of law at Temple University, is more concerned with the logic of dual citizenship -- its evolution as a juridical concept and a practical option over the past 300 years or so -- than with the logistics involved in obtaining it. That said, Spiro notes that he and his children, while all born and residing in the United States, now also hold European passports. It’s a reminder of his larger point: that the tide of globalization in recent decades has turned dual citizenship from an anomalous and potentially dangerous condition into something almost commonplace -- or at least no big deal. Whether it will remain that way is another question.
The historical narrative in At Home in Two Countries has a fairly well-demarcated beginning, middle and end -- with each phase defined by how much strain dual citizenship places on the relationship between the individual and the nation-state. (Also by the potential for conflict it creates between the nation-states involved, but let’s leave that to the side for a moment.)
In the beginning, everything is reasonably straightforward. You were not the citizen of a nation-state but the subject of a sovereign. God had placed you in your respective positions -- tying you together on this earth for what were, presumably, good reasons that, in any case, were not up for discussion. It was “not in the power of any private subject to shake off his allegiance, and to transfer it to a foreign prince,” as the U.K.’s House of Lords declared in 1747, nor could “any prince, by naturalizing and employing a subject of Great Britain … dissolve the bonds of allegiance between subject and crown.”
Implicit in such an official statement of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance is the reality that it was being violated in practice. And within 30 years came the virtually unthinkable developments in the American colonies, where British subjects began “shak[ing] off … allegiance” to their sovereign without “transfer[ing] it to a foreign prince” but to their own republic instead.
Emigration was a constant drain on the sovereign’s human capital -- especially on military resources, since it provided a way to avoid conscription. So a variant of the doctrine of perpetual allegiance remained in effect even after the secular nation-state took over from divinely installed royalty. Becoming the naturalized citizen of another country did not necessarily bring an end to expectation that you should meet the motherland’s obligations and obey its laws. Nor would your children be exempt. That could make visiting family in the old country a risky enterprise. Dual citizenship of this sort was involuntary and unintentional, and it had potentially grave diplomatic consequences if the government of an individual’s adopted country tried to intervene.
The legal and political fights so occasioned throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries make for the most interesting pages in At Home in Two Countries. Laws and treaties took shape that made expatriation, naturalization and election (i.e., the choice of nationality by someone born to parents of different citizenships) more routine and less volatile -- as much as that was possible, anyway, amid wars and international tensions.
But the other side of this stabilizing trend was -- at least, until fairly recently -- a strong sense that dual citizenship itself was something to be avoided and prevented as much as possible. At best it would be a temporary condition, to be cured with the proper paperwork and no delay.
“On the one hand,” Spiro writes, “dual nationals represented a potential spark in the tinderbox, as issues relating to their protection or responsibility for their actions could readily escalate into interstate conflict. On the other hand, in a world premised on the fact of some level of interstate conflict, dual nationals could only be presumed to do an adversary’s bidding from within.”
In the United States, the peak of what Spiro calls “the consensus opprobrium” regarding dual citizenship came in the early 1950s, with Cold War nerves at their most taut. The timing is interesting, because it coincides with a rapid decline of the issue driving much of the 19th-century debate: the concern with foreign sovereigns trying to conscript naturalized citizens traveling abroad. It was no longer a problem routinely facing the American diplomatic corps, and by the 1960s, European and Latin American countries adopted conventions to end it as a source of friction among themselves.
“As states stopped fighting over dual nationals,” Spiro says, “there was much less incentive to combat the status.” What followed was the slow and uneven normalization of dual citizenship, as some countries ceased to require emigrants to renounce citizenship upon naturalizing elsewhere and others reaped benefits from absorbing immigrants who maintained their birthright citizenship. (“To the extent that a renunciation requirement deters naturalization,” writes Spiro, “society’s loss from the reduced rate of naturalization plainly overshadows the benefits of enforced renunciation.”)
So from the era of perpetual allegiance (in which dual citizenship was more or less a contradiction in terms) to the long decades of reducing the strains of expatriation and naturalization (when dual citizenship became an anomaly to avoid), we’ve reached the epoch of high globalization, with dual citizenship an established if not quite ubiquitous mode of transnational life. With dual citizenship “normalized as an incident of globalization,” Spiro devotes a chapter to the case for “the emergence of an articulated, protected right to the status” recognized by international law.
Here the author hits a note of expectancy that implies something almost historically inevitable: the result of forces moving in certain identifiable directions. For the course Spiro identifies moves in a recognizable direction. From epoch to epoch, the individual gains power in determining his or her status vis-à-vis instituted authorities. At the same time, conflict among those authorities tends to subside. Nationalism will grow kinder and gentler, to be replaced in time by a higher stage of cosmopolitan citizenship, as envisioned by Immanuel Kant or Thomas Friedman, albeit in somewhat different ways.
It will take much work and goodwill, but there’s no reason why things can’t keep moving forward in a virtuous circle. The potential for retrogression is not really a part of the scenario. It figures the normal global citizen of the future as someone choosing among citizenships -- rather than as a refugee without the option of claiming a single one, caught between nationalisms out for blood. In Spiro’s long-term perspective, the evolution of dual citizenship seems destined to keep on advancing, while at the moment it feels like we are at the edge of something, possibly a cliff.
Submitted by Sarah Bray on January 25, 2017 - 3:00am
One of the strengths -- and there are many -- of the American higher education system is its traditional commitment to access.
Higher education leaders at all levels have been united in their desire to create and maintain affordable pathways to attendance at postsecondary institutions. We all are aware of the well-documented potential for progress that higher education offers generations of students and families.
But without question, during the last 30 years, the affordability of a college degree has eroded noticeably and significantly. A number of factors have contributed to that trend, but it’s clear that, as low-tuition, low-aid models have evolved into high-tuition, high-aid models, more and more middle-class students have been denied the opportunity to pursue higher education. That is why we at the University for Kentucky have evaluated how we structure our scholarships and have decided to chart a dramatically different path -- one much more aggressive in facilitating the success of students and families of limited financial means. It is right for our students, and it is right for the Commonwealth.
We’ve seen that, over time, colleges and universities have begun to use institutional aid to “sculpt” their entering classes. We have deployed aid to meet institutional priorities -- to support worthy goals of academic achievement and diversity, and to achieve important strategic objectives such as higher graduation rates.
But at what cost?
The connection between socioeconomic status and academic ability is well established. On average, students from families with higher incomes score better on national tests (ACT and SAT), are academically prepared, and engage in college-preparatory tutorials, among other advantages. It is no wonder, then, that those students also are rewarded more generously with institutional aid that is targeted toward merit.
At the University of Kentucky, we understand the results of these socioeconomic advantages and merit-based aid strategies. Students at the top end of both academic preparation and income receive the bulk of our merit-based aid -- which means the students who have the most options for postsecondary attainment are also receiving the most resources.
The fact is, however, that promising students who come from lesser means have not had such additional advantages and, in too many cases, have suffered as a result. As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, we have a moral responsibility to change that situation.
To be sure, we have institutional aid dedicated to those with the most need, and we take advantage of the longstanding state and federal funds available. But, as has also been the case in the overall American economy since the Great Recession of 2008, we are observing the worrisome trend of a hollowing out of the middle. It is those students in the middle -- both in terms of socioeconomic background and academic preparation -- who are facing increasing obstacles to postsecondary attainment.
There is no question that these students can succeed. The question is can they afford the opportunity? At UK, our goal through our strategic plan is to place the student at the center of all of our decisions. Against that backdrop, we recently announced a new initiative that will radically change how we allocate our institutional aid.
Through UK LEADS (Leveraging Economic Affordability for Developing Success), we are intentionally moving away from the institutional merit-based-aid arms race and instead committing ourselves to serving our students and our state. We want unmet financial need to be off the table as a concern for students and families.
A review of internal data has indicated that students with $5,000 or more unmet need -- defined as the amount remaining after the expected family contribution and all other aid (institutional, state and federal aid) -- had a significantly higher risk of attrition than students with less than $5,000 unmet need. And attrition increased significantly with each additional $5,000 in unmet need.
UK LEADS will dramatically shift the ratio of merit to need-based financial aid over the next five years. Currently, 90 percent of our aid is targeted to merit. By 2021, we hope 65 percent will be directed to financial need.
We plan to continue offering merit-aid based on a set of selection criteria. But if we do not make a radical change, it will become more difficult for our middle-class students to attend and graduate from our institution.
As public institutions have entered the institutional-aid arms race, institutional goals have taken precedence over the needs of their states and students. At UK, we believe that if we focus instead on student success and what is best for our state, institutional success will follow. But the reverse may not be true.
In the wake of the recent presidential election, there is also a strong push nationally to reinvest in the middle class, to address economic dislocations wrought by globalization and technology. Access to higher education must be a vital component of that effort.
In changing the way we think about aid -- by focusing less on sculpting a class of students and being more concerned about who can be positively impacted by a renewed commitment to affordable access -- we in higher education can once again honor our legacy as the nation’s brightest hope for economic and social progress.
Eli Capilouto is the president and Tim Tracy is the provost of the University of Kentucky.
Every year without fail, a well-respected educator comes out against early-admission programs, calling them “barriers to keep most low-income students out.” This year’s quote is from a recent piece in Inside Higher Ed by Harold O. Levy, a former chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and the executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
I have great respect for Levy and for the significant work done by the Cooke Foundation to advance students of great potential from economically disadvantaged families. But early-admission programs are not discriminatory by definition at the bulk of the nation’s nonprofit, four-year colleges and universities. And in fact, they do not have to act against the inclusion of disadvantaged students at the nation’s most prestigious institutions. Here’s why.
It is true that many low-income students are not aware of early-decision programs because they are the first generation in their family to go to college and attend high schools where counselors are responsible for 1,000 or more students each. But colleges and universities can and do promote early decision and early action in all of their search communications, on their websites and in their brochures. And those of us who are committed to enrolling low-income students go out of our way to connect with them and to make them aware of early programs while saving places for them in the regular pool. Pell-eligible students represent 35 percent of the enrollment at my institution, Drew University, and we have an early-decision program -- so it can be done. Further, those students graduate at the essentially same rate as the other two-thirds of the student body, so they are being served well.
Many highly selective colleges are now test optional in admission, so the fact that low-income students may not have test scores in time for early deadlines is a nonissue at those institutions. And the notion that low-income students can’t commit to enrolling through an early-decision program because they need financial aid is an equally empty hypothesis.
First of all, the early Free Application for Federal Student Aid allows colleges to award actual aid upon early-decision admission. Second, as every early-decision institution will tell you, if the aid is not sufficient in the family’s mind, the student will be released from the early-decision commitment.
I always tell students and their parents that they should apply in a binding early-decision program only if parents know how much they are willing and able to contribute toward college expenses, and if they are not interested in comparing offers from other institutions. If they receive enough to make attendance possible, and the college is the student’s first choice, then the process has successfully concluded. If, however, they want to shop for the best deal, then early decision is not for them. But we can’t just say that early decision is bad for all low-income students.
In many ways, early decision is the best time to apply for financial aid, because colleges do not exhaust their grant resources during the early round. And as I said, if the aid is not sufficient, colleges will release students from the early commitment. This is a no-lose proposition for the student.
Levy presents compelling evidence of the disparity of incomes represented in early-decision programs:
The Cooke Foundation study found that only 16 percent of high-achieving students from families with annual incomes below $50,000 applied for college admission on an early-decision basis in the 2013-14 academic year. But 29 percent of high-achieving students from families with incomes above $250,000 applied on an early-decision basis. Is it any wonder that so many more upper-income students gain admission?
To be fair, that needs to be put into context. According to a 2014 report from the Pew Research Center, 51 percent of all low-income students were enrolled in college compared to 81 percent of all high-income students (defining low income as the bottom 20 percent of all family incomes and high income as the top 20 percent). In other words, many more high-income students enroll in college in the first place, so it is not surprising that many more high-income students also enroll through early decision.
This underscores the real issue for American higher education. We need to spend less time advocating for the elimination of a program, like early admission, that attracts higher-income students (who, by the way, help to bring in the revenue to support lower-income students) and more time -- as the Cooke Foundation and many colleges do so well -- developing better ways to recruit and support low-income students through to graduation. The future competitiveness of our country depends on it.
Robert Massa is senior vice president for enrollment and institutional planning at Drew University. He previously served as vice president for enrollment and college relations at Dickinson College and as dean of enrollment at Johns Hopkins University.
As a higher ed faculty member, my cognitive dissonance toward the term “big data” was palpable. My body would stiffen and my arms would fold when discussing the use of student data to increase enrollment or support academic performance.
Although my background in research instilled in me great respect for inquiry and data -- as did my childhood affinity for master observer Sherlock Holmes -- I was never at home with the idea of data with the term “big” thrown in front of it. Research, to me, was a very human endeavor, while “big data” represented something cold, calculated and ethically gray. Big data was the Moriarty to my Sherlock.
Within higher ed, I wasn’t in the minority with my cynicism. In a 2013 Educause report titled “Building Organizational Capacity for Analytics,” the authors identified a “substantial need for raising professional development, capacity building and the analytics IQ of institutional leadership and practitioners, at all levels.” Additionally, a recent Inside Higher Ed article by John Warner expressed skepticism of using aggregated data to predict individual behavior in education.
While I identify with the sentiment behind Warner’s data skepticism, I have come to understand in much greater detail the capabilities of data science and big data. And now that I’ve seen how data can empower institutions to match students to the right programs and provide individualized support through graduation, I am a huge proponent of increasing the use of big data in higher education.
My mind-set shift came care of a career change. After spending a few years working in higher ed, I moved to the private sector to help higher ed institutions increase enrollments, thereby helping students at scale. That move caused an immediate collision between my research-loving self and my dataphobic self, as now my work revolves around the insights of big data.
To reconcile these two seemingly disparate mentalities, I had to do some soul-searching. I quickly realized that my resistance to big data hinged on three things: my attachment to big data’s disreputable forward face, my ignorance of the breadth of big data’s capabilities and my misconception that big data could only create fixed, unchanging portraits of students.
Big Data Has a Bad Reputation
Big data’s public profile leaves much to be desired. As business executive Jonathan H. King and law professor Neil M. Richards pointed out in a 2014 Forbes article, “While there’s nothing particularly new about the analytics conducted in big data, the scale and ease with which it can all be done today changes the ethical framework of data analysis.” And we’ve seen this ethical dilemma play out for the worse in predatory marketing practices in a number of sectors, including higher ed. Once again: Moriarty.
Familiar questions about privacy, ownership and transparency of data are particularly salient in post-Edward Snowden America. Many privacy clauses lie buried in pages and pages of legal text, most of which consumers never read. With online activity becoming so ingrained in our daily lives, it is unreasonable to think that we can either: a) discontinue our online activities due to privacy concerns or b) fully attend to the myriad legal agreements our online activities make on a daily basis. If one wants to remain (or become) a contributing member of society, neither of these options is plausible.
Yet a simple truth underpins this ethical debate: big data itself is ethically neutral. As Debra Humphreys, vice president of strategic engagement at the Lumina Foundation, points out inGame Changers: Education and Information Technologies, “People define how technology is deployed, not the technologies that people invent.” Because people are at the crux of all ethical gray areas in big data, higher education institutions are confronted with the responsibility -- and opportunity -- to set the ethical standard for the utilization of data science.
Big Data Is Just That: Big
I remained unaware of the breadth of big data’s capabilities for quite some time. To visit examples put forth in Warner’s article, I too had caught word of studies that correlated things like first-semester credit loads and pre-emptive access to courses with student success. Yet we all know that correlation is not causation, and Warner rightly pointed out that “by focusing on questions of what (take 15 hours/access course early), we allow ourselves to keep from confronting the much more important questions of why.” This assertion lies at the crux of the misunderstanding of data science in education. We do have the capability to more narrowly get at the why behind student success on a much more individual level through data.
The truth is that data analytics capabilities have grown exponentially. Now millions of data points can be assessed in relation to all others. As Vernon Smith posited in Game Changers,
“A growing body of best practices and interventions that remove barriers to student progress and success exists, but those interventions would be better informed if they were based on what the research and actual behaviors indicate, rather than on anecdotal notions or experiences alone.”
In terms of research, these anecdotal notions come when they are founded on too little data. While sweeping interventions hinge on single data points like early access to online course materials, big data has grown the ability to concurrently assess millions of data points -- demographics, test scores, previous academic performance, employment, family size and learning styles, to name a few -- and potentially identify “at-risk” students. Holmes was right: “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by chance ever observes.” Leveraging big data to reveal those obvious things can help institutions paint a predictive picture of a student’s likelihood of success.
Data Analysis Is a Living Process
All that said, I wholeheartedly agree that predictive modeling alone is not the panacea to end all student failure. Neither is collecting real-time student data the only answer. The problem with many real-time indicators of student struggle is that once they surface, it’s often too late. Many students simply won’t raise their hands and say “help!” and it’s often too late to effectively assist them with red-flag indicators like not showing up to class or not logging onto a learning management system. Yet when we combine that predictive model with real-time indicators of student performance, you’ve got a living, individualized and iterative foundation for student support.
To maximize impact, we must view data in terms of iteration and interaction. By merging predictive models of student success with real-time indicators of student performance, we home in on a more individualized foundation for student success. Predictive models inform a baseline understanding for each student, then data on each student’s continuing exchanges with and performance at an institution can help inform interactions throughout the entirety of the student lifecycle. Only then can interventions hinge on a more holistic story than log-ins or credit hours alone can tell.
I am passionate about the mission of higher education, which is why I’m now doing what I do. Higher ed institutions fill a vital role in society and place value on information and high ethical standards. On the surface, higher education’s commitment to research, teaching and serving the public seems in opposition to the unethical applications of big data to simply maximize profits. Yet if we focus on transparency, customization and innovation, we can employ big data to more fully pursue our mission and goals. In this way, we’ll say to our students, prospects and stakeholders, “You know my methods, Watson.”
Danielle Caldwell is a former faculty member and current adjunct professor in Westminster College’s master of strategic communication program. After working with Westminster College and Southern Methodist University, she moved to Helix Education to help colleges and students at scale. Helix Education provides colleges and universities a comprehensive suite of technology and services to power data-driven enrollment growth.
Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, will be long remembered by those who cast a ballot for the 45th president of the United States. Donald Trump’s election has raised uncertainty and doubts about a reversal of globalization, as well as concerns about a continued commitment to diversity. With a conservative administration about to take office, it would appear that values counter to the international education field have prevailed.
And yet a look at historic Open Doors and other data from the Institute of International Education indicates that the prospects for international education should, in fact, look hopeful for some, while others will need to double down on their efforts. It’s worth analyzing the data to see what they say about the prospects for international education, specifically study abroad and international student enrollment.
Presidential Parties and Study Abroad
Consider first, the recent history of presidential administrations, along with the Institute for International Education’s Open Doors data. Looked at side by side, we can compare the number of students studying abroad from American colleges and universities with the party affiliations of the past two administrations.
While the data limit us to two recent presidents, a significant increase in study abroad students under the Bush administration from 2000-08 may be quite surprising. Yet during this time, study abroad numbers added more than twice as many students when compared to the Obama administration. Between 2008 and 2015, the number of students studying abroad rose from 260,327 to 313,415.
In comparison, IIE’s data on the number of Fulbright applications received also point to significant growth for faculty interested in overseas research during the George W. Bush administration. Between 2000 and 2008, the annual number of Fulbright applications received grew by 2,119, a 713 percent increase when viewed alongside the annual figures for 1993-2000, the Clinton administration. However, during the Obama administration, annual Fulbright applications received also continued to increase, nearly doubling from 6,703 in 2008-09 to 11,091 in 2014-15. This data set may be too small to draw conclusions, but it does provide food for thought and raises key questions applicable to the field. For example, with such an increase of faculty seeking to conduct overseas research, what factors contributed to a declining growth rate for students studying abroad during the Obama administration? Similarly, what more involved role can faculty play in motivating students to share a similar curiosity for global learning?
Presidential Parties and International Student Enrollment
On the other side of international education, what do the data tell us about international student populations? For international student recruitment, the Open Doors data go back as far as 1980-81. Combined with the study abroad data, this analysis leads us to a number of interesting potential trends and predictions.
Looking first at the net increase or decrease of international student enrollment over the past 36 years, the data alone do not shed much light. The number of international students coming to the United States to study has increased during each administration, with the notable exception for the years 2000-08. But when we look closely at the Obama administration, it is difficult not to recognize that international student enrollment increased by a significant 372,223 students -- a 390 percent increase from the prior Republican-led administration. By comparing the growth rates under different presidential administrations, it is clear that under Democratic presidents, the increase in international student enrollment is higher than under Republican administrations.
In addition, a comparison of Open Doors data on international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment in higher education in the United States is also significant. Under the two Democratic administrations included in the data -- the Clinton and Obama administrations -- international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment increased by 0.5 percent or greater from one administration to the next, rising to 5.1 percent of all American students enrolled in higher education in 2015-16. During the Clinton administration, between 1992 and 2000, international students made up 25 percent of the increase in total enrollment in colleges and universities in the United States. During the Obama administration, the estimated 372,223 international students studying at U.S. higher education institutions represent roughly 31 percent of the total enrollment increase.
Under Republican administrations, however, we see a very different trend. Between 1980 and 1992, and again between 2000 and 2008, international student enrollment as a percentage of total enrollment in American colleges and universities increased by no more than 2 percent. In fact, during the 2000-08 Bush administration, the percentage of international students enrolled compared to total higher education enrollment actually declined, even as total enrollment continued to rise significantly.
Furthermore, during Republican administrations, the data indicate that total enrollment in U.S. higher education increases at a far higher rate than under Democrat-led administrations. During the George H. W. Bush administration, between 1988 and 1992, for example, enrollment grew by 117 percent. During George W. Bush’s administration, from 2000 to 2008, that figure rose a staggering 867 percent. Notably, those increases were not due to an equal increase in the percentage of incoming international students. That percentage remained at or below 4.1 percent.
In contrast, Democratic administrations show a declining rate of growth for total enrollment in higher education in the United States. During the Clinton administration, between 1992 and 2000, total higher education enrollment increased by roughly 300,000, a 77 percent decline from the prior Bush administration. Similarly, during the Obama administration, the growth rate of total enrollment declined by 59 percent.
These findings, combined, lead to a significant correlation for the international education field: during Republican-led administrations, the rate of enrollment for U.S. domestic students increases much more, which is possibly one cause for the observed higher growth rate and corresponding number of students studying abroad.
Impact and Influence on International Education
As we look ahead, what can these data tell us about the next four or eight years under President-elect Trump’s Republican-led administration? More important, what might be the implications for the international education field?
First, if past trends hold, the future points to an increasing growth rate for total enrollment at American colleges and universities -- and possibly a significant increase. Between 2008 and 2016, 1.2 million additional students were enrolled at higher education institutions, bringing total enrollment to roughly 20.3 million. Under the incoming administration, that figure could reach 1.8 million more students or higher, assuming a growth rate of 50 percent under Trump’s administration. At the same time, international student enrollment as a percentage of that total will undoubtedly decline. Estimating how much it will decline is difficult, but based on past data, a forecast increase of 80,000 or fewer international students enrolling in American higher education institutions would be consistent with enrollment figures from 1992 to 2008. This would suggest that international students will account for an unchanged 5.1 percent of total enrollment in American higher education institutions.
In comparison, with an estimated 1.8 million more students enrolling in colleges and universities in the United States, the forecast for study abroad points to a tremendous potential for growth. Based on this estimate, the number of students studying abroad could potentially reach 2 percent of all enrolled students in the United States, which would equal an increase of over 130,000 students per year.
If such forecasts come to fruition, global initiative and international offices at American colleges and universities will need to strategically reflect on their allocation of resources. For example, how are admissions offices preparing to counter any negative effects of stable or even lower enrollment of international students? For education abroad offices, the number of students going to study overseas may be set to rise. Are adequate budgets being considered to cover the greater numbers of staff required, as well as the added responsibilities for study abroad advisers?
The Open Doors data clearly point to evidence that a Republican-led administration will play a significant role in influencing the international education community during the next four or eight years. Colleges and universities that are strategically prepared will be better positioned to accommodate the changing requirements of the field.
Bradley A. Feuling is the chairman and CEO of the Asia Institute, based in Shanghai. Over the past nine years, the Asia Institute has worked with more than 2,000 students and faculty members and has quickly become a leading host partner for many educational institutions in areas such as short-term programs, student recruitment, experiential learning, faculty exchange and career development.
A little over a year ago, our enrollment team at Augustana College met in retreat to discuss the anticipated impact of prior-prior year submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or early FAFSA, as it is called now. We completed a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis of what we perceived as entwined in this big change to the financial aid and recruitment timetable. After considerable discussion, we created new timetables, developed a new communication sequence for our prospective and current students, established new and updated old systems, and took a deep breath as we faced an uncertain future with new time frames and a new process.
As we spoke with visiting families during the spring and summer months, we were pleasantly surprised by how many seemed to be informed and fully aware that the FAFSA would now be available for submission on Oct. 1, rather than Jan. 1 -- and that applicants will be able to use income information from two-year-old completed tax returns rather than sometimes incomplete information from the previous year. The high level of awareness continued into the fall. All visit days and high school visits confirmed that families, school counselors and other influencers were aware, had adjusted timetables and were itching to submit the FAFSA earlier than ever before.
Oct. 1 came quickly, and so did the FAFSA submissions. It seemed as if many families were sitting at the computer ready to submit the infamous form in the same way many of us waited to order tickets for Broadway’s Hamilton, refreshing their browsers until they could get in and get it done.
In fact, the early volume of FAFSAs submitted from prospective and current students stunned Augustana’s office of financial aid. All the table tents in the dining hall, the umpteen emails we sent out, our first-ever FAFSA print mailer and the inclusion of the FAFSA timeline in our application instructions had worked. We are rolling in FAFSAs and have exceeded last year’s total volume from first-year students by 40 percent.
Given the high conversion/yield rate for FAFSA submitters in the past cycle, it’s time to break out the champagne. I mean, we’ve done it. We reconditioned the marketplace, prospective students and their families are following our directions, and now we just need to execute. Right?
I confess that I’ve enthusiastically shared the volume numbers with faculty and staff members, the president, and the chair of the Augustana Board of Trustees, and I even tweeted about it early on. But I also admit that I don’t know whether our numbers are strong or soft indicators. Perhaps, I suspect, they are a little of both.
And as I dig into the data, I am increasingly convinced that these lead indicators require very cautious interpretation and should temper my exuberance. Let me offer a couple of examples.
First, because of the U.S. Department of Education’s caution about establishing early timetables for submission, and the potential impact on underserved populations, I have been watching FAFSA submissions for applicants of color carefully and am cautious about what I see. Currently, we continue to see trailing rates of submission for students of color in the applicant pool, with more than 40 percent of those students who applied for admissions not yet filing the FAFSA. The department’s caution is relevant to all of us, and we must now ask what we can do to increase the filer rate among this important population.
Second, nearly 20 percent of those students who have submitted the FAFSA have not yet applied to my college for admission. Some of these FAFSA submitters are even coded as having asked us to cease communication with them. Now, a universal truth in college admissions is that 100 percent of the students who don’t apply don’t enroll. While there certainly is plenty of time for these hundreds of FAFSA submitters to still apply (and I sure hope they do), it’s also reasonable to conclude that we are not a serious consideration for them, making this usually strong indicator meaningless.
There is more to investigate as we look at these very early indicators, but only time will tell us what all of this means.
Looking at the data, I wonder if the Department of Education and all of those who pushed for early FAFSA may have just created the newest fast-application program. Fast-application programs for college admissions are frequently criticized for inflating applicant pools and making it too simple and too convenient for students to apply. These same programs make it difficult for new users in college admissions to interpret what an increase in volume may really mean to yield and enrollments.
Think about it. We’ve made it easier to submit the FAFSA. We’ve aggressively communicated about submitting the FAFSA. We’ve created a marketed FAFSA with the IRS data-retrieval tool. We have systemwide partners, like the Common Application, more effectively encouraging the submission of the FAFSA. We’ve done our best to better align the cost and admissions decision.
It seems we are doing all of the right things. But are we reaching all the right students and families --those most likely to choose Augustana and thrive here?
I am a believer in making the entire process more transparent and less complicated, and in aligning the cost and search process. But I wonder if early FAFSA will just add a new complication for colleges and families -- and more noise that must be interpreted and filtered. Only time will tell.
W. Kent Barnds is executive vice president at Augustana College.
This past fall’s elections marked a significant change for our nation, both in terms of leadership and direction. As a historian, I am always interested in the how and why of such phenomena, and as an educator, I am interested in what they mean for higher education. So I’ve spent a good deal of time in recent weeks talking with a wide range of people from coast to coast and reading a host of analyses in an effort to grasp the world that is unfolding and how our colleges and universities fit into it.
I’ve come away from that experience with two basic observations. The first is that our nation is more divided than I realized, and the division is more about opportunity than ideology. A recurring theme in my conversations and reading was one of anxiety and anger among many Americans about being left behind. Many people feel that globalization and innovation have not left them better off, and that the institutions that are supposed to help them are not there for them. This sense of an opportunity gap is palpable and powerful, and it will have a real and lasting impact on our politics.
The second observation is that this opportunity gap has a good deal to do with higher education. While inequities in economic opportunity lie at the heart of many Americans’ discontent, educational opportunity is a natural extension of that frustration. In recent years, we have seen survey after survey document the sentiment that education after high school is necessary but increasingly unaffordable. Meanwhile, according to recent data from Public Agenda, public belief that college is essential has slipped. It is too early to tell if that is a blip or a trend, but it is powerfully illustrated by a comment made to me by a gas station attendant in Iowa: “Why would I spend money I don’t have to go to a community college where no one graduates?”
As we begin 2017, I believe that we in higher education need to engage in a serious dialogue about our role in exacerbating the opportunity gap and our obligation going forward to close it. For me, that means grappling with three basic questions.
What Is Higher Education, and Who Is It For?
In our public conversation and policy making, we simply must take a broader view of education after high school and who pursues it. Even today, we labor under outdated images of newly minted high school graduates making their way to lectures and leafy quads, even as 40 percent of our students are over 25 and fully one-quarter are parents. It is time to move conversations about matters like digital learning and redesigning remedial education from the margins to the mainstream and embrace new delivery models that aren’t grounded in seat time and agrarian calendars but rather meet the needs of today’s students.
Institutions like Rio Salado College in Arizona grasp these realities and are responding to them by embracing a combination of online and in-class learning and by having an academic calendar that begins a new term virtually every Monday, rather than just two or four times a year. States are also waking up to the realities of today’s college students, launching initiatives like Tennessee Reconnect to bring adults with some college experience but no credential back into the pipeline for a degree or certificate.
How Important Is Higher Education?
Even as Americans increasingly question the value of higher education, the evidence is clear: our economy favors those with education and training after high school and punishes those who lack it. Virtually all the jobs created since the Great Recession required some form of postsecondary education, from short-term certifications to postdoctoral studies. And that trend will only continue, as the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Economy estimates that, at current enrollment and completion rates, our economy faces a shortfall of 11 million credentialed workers. We need more access and success in higher education, and we especially need it for the people who have consistently been left behind: low-income and first-generation students, students of color, and working adults.
And yet, higher education’s incentive and recognition systems continue to celebrate and reward exclusion. The institutions that top the U.S. News & World Report rankings are the ones that reject the most applicants. The colleges and universities that receive the greatest per-student public funding are the least diverse ones. And as my colleague Anthony P. Carnevale, direct of the center at Georgetown, noted recently, our elite institutions are unable to meaningfully tackle the growing opportunity gap in this country. We must rewrite that narrative if we are going to leave fewer Americans behind.
Institutions like Arizona State University, Georgia State University and the other members of the University Innovation Alliance deserve credit and, more important, support for their efforts to redefine excellence not in terms of whom they exclude but whom they include -- and how well those students succeed. So do open-access institutions that redefine their students’ experiences to emphasize credential completion and employment, like Miami Dade College and Sinclair Community College. They and a growing cadre of other innovators are determined to achieve excellence through inclusion.
What Is Higher Education’s Role in the Public Arena?
Throughout the nation’s history, colleges and universities and their leaders have been engaged in the great debates of war and peace, civil rights, and poverty and inequality. But as America increasingly cleaves along the lines of the haves and have-nots, where is higher education on issues affecting the disaffected, like immigration and health care reform? Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, rightly argued recently in this publication that as an enterprise, higher education has become too insular, too self-referential and too risk averse. Many college and university leaders, fearful of the wrath of politicians and donors, have moved from the center to the sidelines in the public arena. Their voices are urgently needed to substantively address the opportunity gap.
I am heartened to see campus leaders address questions related to immigration and use their convening power to address and hopefully lower racial tensions affecting many communities. But I am also left to wonder how much standing we in higher education have already ceded in the public arena, absorbed with the pursuit of prestige and the race for revenue as those left behind have fallen even farther back.
At the end of the day, I am an optimist. I believe that the educational opportunity gap can be bridged. In fact, it must be bridged if we are going to have an economy and society that is about raising people up rather than leaving them behind. For us in higher education, that process begins by recognizing where our rhetoric may be at odds with reality -- and then doing something about it.
Dan Greenstein is director of postsecondary success at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.