Worthy of Note: August 24, 2011

What Cost College? Affordability

General Topics

Two SREB Data Services products provide the latest comparisons on college affordability
The SREB-State Data Exchange 2009-10 Indicators Report contains the latest summary comparisons on tuition and fees and student financial aid funding in the SREB states. (http://publications.sreb.org/2011/DEIndicators10_Dec10.pdf) Detailed comparisons by institutional category and by institution are also available. (http://info.sreb.org/DataLibrary/tables/Tuition10.xlsx)

The SREB Fact Book on Higher Education contains a full chapter discussing and presenting college affordability trends, issues and data. The printed 2011 edition will be available fall of 2011. On line access to the 2009 edition is also available and will contain the 2011 updates when the need edition is released fall 2011. (http://www.sreb.org/page/1123/fact_book_on_higher_education.html)

2011 Chapter Summary


Average Net Price of Attending College After Scholarship and Grant Aid, Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities, 2009
Annual Undergraduate Costs of College Attendance, United States (in 2009-10 dollars)
Percent of Income Required to Pay for One Year at a Public University, United States
Percent of Tuition, Fees, Room and Board Covered by Maximum Federal Pell Grant, United States
Student Financial Aid and Loan Trends, United States (in billions of 2009-10 dollars)
Minimum Debt Burden of College Graduates Earning Bachelor's Degrees, Public Four-Year Colleges, 2009

Tables (all 50 states and D.C. organized by region)

Median Annual Tuition and Required Fees for Full-Time Undergraduate Students
Percent of Median Family Incomes Required to Pay Median Annual Tuition and Fees
Median Annual Tuition and Required Fees for Full-Time Undergraduate Students at Public Universities, Colleges, and Technical Institutes or Colleges
Federal Pell Grants
Federal Campus-Based Financial Aid to Students
Federal Student Loan Programs
State Scholarships, Grants and Other Financial Aid Funds
First-Time Students' Participation in Student Financial Aid and Loan Programs at Public Four-Year Colleges
First-Time Students' Participation in Student Financial Aid and Loan Programs at Public Two-Year Colleges
Cost of Attendance and Net Price for Fall-Term, Full-Time, First-Time Degree/Certificate-Seeking Undergraduates Who Paid In-State or In-District Tuition, Public Four-Year Colleges and Universities, 2008-09

Why Does College Cost So Much?
David Leonhardt, New York Times, February 18, 2011
Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman are economists at the College of William & Mary, a public university in Virginia, and the authors of "Why Does College Cost So Much?" If you want the brief version, you could look at an op-ed article by the two economists for Inside Higher Ed or a summary of the book compiled by the University of Washington. The professors also talked about the book in this short video.

Trends in College Spending, 1998-2008
Delta Project
The mission of the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability is to help improve college affordability by controlling costs and improving productivity.

The Delta Cost Project report Trends in College Spending 1998-2008: Where Does the Money Come From? Where Does It Go? What Does It Buy? examines national college spending and resource trends in the years leading up to the current recession, with implications for what that means for "the new normal" in college spending.

What Does a College Degree Cost? (pdf)
Nate Johnson, Delta Cost Project, 2009
What does it cost to provide a bachelor’s-level education? This question arises with increasing frequency and urgency as pressure mounts on policymakers and education leaders to increase the education attainment level in the United States.

Consensus around a single method for change may be neither possible nor desirable, given the range of different policy contexts in which the question comes up. A common language, however, could help keep discussions of the issue more focused than they often are. This paper suggests the beginnings of that language by briefly outlining five approaches to degree costs:
  1. Catalog cost
  2. Transcript cost
  3. Full cost attribution
  4. Regression-based cost estimates
  5. Student’s cost of a degree

This paper explores the first three approaches using accounting data from the State University System of Florida (SUS), at different levels of detail. Much of this analysis derives from projects undertaken for the system’s newly created Board of Governors as it sought to estimate the cost of ambitious degree targets in its first strategic plan. Other systems or institutions will be able to replicate these with more or less detail depending on the data available.

The Center for College Affordability and Productivity
Founded in 2006, The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) is dedicated to researching the rising costs and stagnant efficiency in higher education, with special emphasis on the United States. CCAP seeks to facilitate a broader dialogue on the issues and problems facing the institutions of higher education with the public, policy makers, and the higher education community.

They define their mission rather broadly. “Affordability” means not only rising tuition and other costs to the consumer of education services, but more broadly the burden that colleges impose on society. “Productivity” refers not only to the costs and resources needed to educate students and perform research, but also to the measurement and quality of educational outcomes. CCAP is concerned about finding new ways to do things better – to improve affordability and productivity.

College Costs blogs are located here.
And check out these articles, too:
How College Pricing Undermines Financial Aid
25 Ways to Reduce the Cost of College

What Is the Price of College? Total, Net, and Out-of-Pocket Prices in 2007–08
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics
This Statistics in Brief describes the annual price of education among undergraduates enrolled in U.S. postsecondary institutions in 2007–08. The most recent administration of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) supplied the data.

College May Become Unaffordable for Most in U.S.
Tamar Lewin, New York Times, December 3, 2008
According to the biennial report from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education college tuition and fees increased 439 percent from 1982 to 2007 while median family income rose 147 percent. Student borrowing has more than doubled in the last decade, and students from lower-income families, on average, get smaller grants from the colleges they attend than students from more affluent families.

Projecting out to 2036, tuition would go from 11 percent of the family budget to 24 percent of the family budget, and that’s pretty huge.

What it Costs to Go to College
College Board
Lots of things to consider here. Keep in mind that the actual price the average undergraduate pays for a college education is considerably lower than the published tuition and fees. This is usually due to grants and other forms of financial aid. Look at what it really costs to attend college:
  • Public four-year colleges charge, on average, $7,605 per year in tuition and fees for in-state students.
  • The average surcharge for full-time out-of-state students at these institutions is $11,990.
  • Private nonprofit four-year colleges charge, on average, $27,293 per year in tuition and fees.
  • Public two-year colleges charge, on average, $2,713 per year in tuition and fees.

Of course, that’s not the total price. You still have to live somewhere, eat, buy books and supplies, and do your laundry. Read more about additional college costs you need to consider. Read more….

The Rising Cost of Higher Education: The Effects on Access, Retention and Affordability
Ryan Bien, Georgetown University, 2009
(Abstract only)
This analysis explores the rising costs of higher education and the residual affects on access, retention, and affordability. Higher education experts and economists analyze cost drivers and the data related to costs through various government and higher education reports and works. The complexity of driving factors created an environment rampant with finger pointing and confusion over causes and solutions. Further examination of cost figures, in comparison to limited federal student loan increases, illustrates the government's contribution to the cost gap……

The (Un)Productivity of American Higher Education: From “Cost Disease” to Cost-Effectiveness
Douglas N. Harris and Sara Goldrick-Rab, University of Wisconsin–Madison, December 2010
Productivity in academic degrees granted by American colleges and universities is declining. While there is some evidence this is caused by an uncontrollable “cost disease,” we examine two additional explanations. First, few popular programs and strategies in higher education are cost effective, and those that are may be underutilized. Second, a lack of rigorous evidence about both the costs and effects of higher education practices intersects with a lack of incentive to use cost-effectiveness as a way to guide decision-making. Rather than simply a “cost disease,” we argue that the problem is more a “system disease”—one that is partly curable.

In this paper, we test the hypothesis that productivity gains are possible, perhaps without losses to quality that might outweigh those gains. Our analysis follows an approach outlined by Harris (2009). Specifically, we examine the cost-effectiveness of higher education programs by drawing on evidence of impacts from prior studies and estimate costs by collecting additional data.

Tuition Costs

Chart: College Tuition Will Not Stop Rising
Dino Grandoni, The Atlantic Wire, Aug 16, 2011
Here's a chart that helps explain why the value of a college degree has been so hotly debated. Moody's, in a study (PDF) on student lending, has found that tuition costs have more than doubled since 2000.

College Costs Across States
Daniel Borzelleca, The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP), April 13, 2011
After adjusting in-state, undergraduate tuition rates for inflation, the national average tuition costs increased from $2,695 in 1973 to $7,963 in 2010, an increase of 195%.

Relationship Between State Support and Tuition Levels at Public Institutions (pdf)
University of Washington, April 12, 2010
This Planning and Budget Brief focuses on state funding trends that illustrate shift toward lower state support and higher tuition.

Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success
Kevin Carey and Erin Dillon, Education Sector, August 3, 2011
In Debt to Degree: A New Way of Measuring College Success, Education Sector has created a new, comprehensive measure, the "borrowing-to-credential ratio." For each college, authors Kevin Carey and Erin Dillon have taken newly available U.S. Department of Education data showing the total amount of money borrowed by undergraduates and divided that sum by the total number of degrees awarded. The results are revealing. Download the full report.

Textbooks and Course Content Costs

College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases
U. S. Government Accountability Office, July 2005
College textbooks have grown at twice the rate of inflation, trailing annual tuition. Read the full report.

Make Textbooks Affordable
The Student PIRGs
The PIRGs are independent statewide student organizations that work on issues like environmental protection, consumer protection, and hunger and homelessness. For nearly 40 years students working with their campus PIRG chapters have been making a real difference in people's lives and winning concrete changes to build a better world.

Everyone knows that textbooks are expensive. Students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks and course materials, which is about a quarter of the cost of tuition at a typical public university and nearly three-quarters of the cost of tuition at a community college. And costs are only going up - textbook prices have increased four times the rate of inflation since 1994!

PIRG research points to such questions as:
  • Why are textbooks so expensive?
  • What can we do about it?
  • How can students affect these questions?

Higher Education Retail Market Facts & Figures, February 2011
National Association of College Stores (NACS)
Student Spending on Course Materials
Student Watch 2010: Student Attitudes & Perceptions provides a larger look at student spending on course materials at all locations. According to the most recent Student Watch data, students report spending an average of $667 on required course materials in the past 12 months. This figure includes data from both full-time and part-time students. Full-time students reported spending an average of $693 on course materials compared to part-time student spending that averaged $531 in the past 12 months.

Textbook Prices
The price of individual textbooks varies greatly, depending on subject matter and many other factors. For college stores, any book or other media that is required or recommended for class is a textbook. This is a much broader definition than is used by publishers or often assumed by college students. And it is a significant factor in the average price reported from the NACS Financial Survey data. Textbooks for college stores will include many books and materials not published as textbooks. A few examples of general books that could be sold as course materials would be Jane Austen novels for literature classes, biographies for history courses, or current paperbacks for sociology and political science students. This broader definition results in significant differences in estimates of textbook prices and the total textbook market, compared to estimates based only on "published textbooks."

Average price for "new textbook"
Average price for "used textbook"
Please see definitions above for clarification.

The 2009-10 average price reported above was based on the sale of 9.4 million new books sold in 130 U.S. college stores. That year's average price for a used book was calculated from the sale of 5.7 million books.

Independent StraighterLine Survey
Burck Smith, StraighterLine (quote)
Today we released the results of an independent survey of our students that we commissioned. The takeaways are that:
  • Over 90% who sought college credit for completed StraighterLine coursework were successful.
  • Nearly 90% are enrolled in a degree program now or have successfully completed one after successfully completing a StraighterLine course.
  • Over 70% who completed a StraighterLine course felt it made them more likely to complete college.
  • Well over 90% would recommend the program to a friend (among those who successfully completed).

StraighterLine courses were found to be:
  • Equally or more rigorous (79% indicated StraighterLine courses more or equally academically rigorous than other options for getting college credit)
  • More convenient (72% indicated StraighterLine more convenient)
  • More affordable (73% indicated StraighterLine courses cost less)

Instruction Costs

Share of College Spending for Recreation Is Rising
Sam Dillon, New York Times, July 9, 2010
American colleges are spending a declining share of their budgets on instruction and more on administration and recreational facilities for students, according to a study of college costs. (Refer to Trends in College Spending, 1998-2008 cited above.)

Developmental Education Costs

The Costs of Developmental Education Report--January 2011 (pdf)
Maryland Higher Education Commission
The 2010 Joint Chairmen’s report required the Maryland Higher Education Commission (MHEC), in collaboration with the Maryland Association of Community Colleges, the University System of Maryland and Morgan State University to submit a report detailing the instruction costs of developmental education at each of the State’s colleges and universities, a review of best practices nationwide and at Maryland’s higher education institutions and a discussion of institutions that are most successful at providing quality developmental education programs efficiently as measured by student progression and cost.

Developmental Education Toolkit
Community College Central, University of Texas, Austin, June 2008
This toolkit is designed to help state and education leaders reshape policy to support the ongoing and increasingly vital efforts of community colleges to reduce the number of students entering college underprepared, and improve the success of underprepared students who enroll at their institutions.

Additional Fees Add Costs

The Great Fee Scam
Richard Vedder, The Chronicle, July 29, 2011
(Blog and responses)
Welcome to higher education, the home of lots of new “mandatory fees. Question: would you feel more comfortable buying a used car from a well-established car dealer or from a university president? When I started in higher education more than a half of century ago, I would have quickly answered “university president.” Now I am not so sure.

Strategies for Change

Winning by Degrees: The Strategies of Highly Productive Higher-education Institutions
Byron G. Auguste, Adam Cota, Kartik Jayaram, and Martha C.A. Laboissiere, McKinsey & Company, 2010
Increasing the proportion of the adult population with a higher-education degree is critical to creating opportunities for individuals and sustaining the country's economic growth. Yet college attainment rates in the U.S. have remained nearly flat for the past 10 years, whereas they have continued to rise in most industrialized nations. Based on a recent analysis, we estimate that the U.S. needs to graduate roughly one million more people a year by 2020 to ensure that the country has the skilled workers it needs to maintain economic growth. Read the full report.

Clay Christensen refers to this report in his new publication, The Innovative University. See mention below.

The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education (pdf) Based on The Innovative University: Changing the DNA of Higher Education from the Inside Out, Henry J. Eyring and Clayton M. Christensen. American Council on Education, February 2011
The language of crisis is nothing new in higher education. In1973 Clark Kerr, then Chairman of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, spoke at the annual meeting of the American Council on Education. Kerr cited recently published books on the state of the academy that included in their titles these descriptors: anarchy, bankruptcy, blind[ness], chaos, confrontation, crisis, death, degradation, destruction, embattle[ment], explo[sion], and fall. (He stopped after titles beginning with the letter “f.”) In the face of such extreme language, Kerr urged moderation and optimism: To those who see only gloom and doom, we can say that much that is good is occurring. To those who say that everything fails, we can say that much is, in fact, succeeding. To those who see only problems, we can say that there are possibilities available for their alleviation.

Today there is similar need for moderation and reason for optimism.

Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education
Clayton M. Christensen, Michael B. Horn, Louis Caldera, Louis Soares, Center for American Progress and Innosight, February 2011
This report tackles these questions by treating the industry’s challenges, at their core, as problems of managing innovation effectively. It examines the industry of higher education through the lenses of the theories that have emerged from our research on innovation…. This report does not provide “the answer” to fixing higher education. The theory of disruptive innovation has significant explanatory power in thinking through the challenges and changes confronting higher education. Disruptive innovation is the process by which a sector that has previously served only a limited few because its products and services were complicated, expensive, and inaccessible, is transformed into one whose products and services are simple, affordable, and convenient and serves many no matter their wealth or expertise. The new innovation does so by redefining quality in a simple and often disparaged application at first and then gradually improves such that it takes more and more market share over time as it becomes able to tackle more complicated problems. Read more and download the entire report.

Linking Costs and Postsecondary Degrees: Key Issues for Policymakers
Nate Johnson, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, July 8, 2011
(This is commentary but the site links to the paper, Linking Costs and Postsecondary Degrees: Key Issues for Policymakers.)

In “Linking Costs and Postsecondary Degrees: Key Issues for Policymakers,” higher education policy consultant Nate Johnson offers practical advice for decision-makers who are struggling to rein in college costs while improving productivity. Johnson provides a step-by-step guide to different approaches for calculating costs, highlights the tremendous variability in cost across programs within institutions, and documents some of the “hidden costs” of higher education. Rather than cut budgets across the board, as many cash-strapped schools have done, Johnson argues that budget decisions should be grounded in clear and reliable data that prioritize performance and productivity.

Johnson offers five simple "rules of the road”………

The Challenge to States: Preserving College Access and Affordability in a Time of Crisis
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, March 10, 2009
On February 21, 2009, the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education assembled a small group of policy experts to address the most critical issues confronting state higher education policymakers in the current economic downturn. This Challenge to the States is a brief statement of the policy experts. Dave Spence, President, SREB, was a participant on this work. The participants in the meeting have continued to guide the development of this statement. However, The Challenge to States: Preserving College Access and Affordability in a Time of Crisis (full report) is the responsibility of the National Center.

Affordability and Transfer: Critical to Increasing Baccalaureate Degree Completion
National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, Policy, June 2011
Many students are not able to keep pace with rising tuition, because family earnings have lost ground over the past decade.
  • Tuition at two-year and four-year institutions has outpaced median family income in the majority of states—and in all states where community colleges are most critical to access to college opportunity and to the baccalaureate degree.
  • Student financial aid did not keep pace with tuition costs, exacerbating the college affordability problem.
  • Forty-four percent of low-income students (those with a family income of less than $25,000 per year) attend community colleges as their first college after high school.
  • The most underserved populations are among the least able to afford steeply rising tuition, least likely to enroll in college, and least likely to complete degree and certificate programs if they do enroll.

A Review of ‘Crisis on Campus’
The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) Staff, August 9, 2011
Mark C. Taylor, Crisis on Campus: A Bold Plan for Reforming Our Colleges and Universities. Knopf, 1st edition (August 31, 2010) 256 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0307593290. Reviewed by Danko Tarabar for the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. Very interesting thoughts including ideas about tenure and liberal arts colleges. Read the full review “Renovating the Ivory Tower.”

Open Access

Open Courses: Free, But Oh, So Costly
Marc Parry, The Chronicle, October 11, 2009
Online students want credit; colleges want a working business model.

Solving the College Affordability Problem
Dan Lips, The Maryland Public Policy Institute, April 4, 2011
Advocacy for free and open higher education system

Open-Access Colleges Responsible for Greatest Gains in Graduation Rates
William R. Doyle, National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, February 2010
The largest gains in graduation rates over the past decade have been accomplished at open-access or nearly open-access colleges and universities. In addition, states could see even bigger increases if they directed their policies and supports toward improving graduation rates at these nonselective institutions.

Some Interesting Trends and Statistics

U. S. Department of Education
College Affordability and Transparency Center
(A participatory Website)
Which Colleges Have the Highest and Lowest Tuition and Net Prices?
Use the options here to generate a report on the highest (top 5%) and lowest (bottom 10%) academic year charges for each sector. Tuition reports include tuition and required fees. Net price is cost of attendance minus grant and scholarship aid. Data are reported by institutions and are for full-time beginning students.

How much do career and vocation programs cost?
Select a program and begin typing the name of a program (for example, “Cosmetology”) to generate a list of institutions that offer the program and the tuition and net prices they charge for the entire program.

How fast are colleges’ costs going up?
Select a type of institution to see which ones have the highest increases in tuition and fees and net prices (price of attendance after grant and scholarship aid). Data are for full-time beginning undergraduate students.

Trends in College Pricing 2010
College Board, 2010
Trends in College Pricing provides information on changes over time in undergraduate tuition and fees, room and board, and other estimated expenses related to attending colleges and universities. The report, which includes up-to-date data from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, reveals the wide variation in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country. Of particular importance is the focuses on the net prices students actually pay after taking grant aid into consideration. Because of the important role of grant aid, these net prices have not followed the same sharp upward path as the published prices. Data on institutional revenues and expenditures and on changing enrollment patterns over time supplement the data on prices to provide a clearer picture of the circumstances of students and the institutions in which they study.

Fast Facts: What are the trends in the cost of college education?
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (2010), Digest of Education Statistics, 2009
For the 2008–09 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,283 at public institutions and $31,233 at private institutions. Between 1998–99 and 2008–09, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 32 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 24 percent, after adjustment for inflation.

The College Affordability Crisis and Endowments
Burton Weisbrod, Evelyn Asch, and Jeffrey Ballou. Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University, Fall 2008
Concerns about college affordability and rapidly rising costs have focused attention on fat university endowments. For the past 10 years, tuition and fees have risen annually 5.6 percent at private and 7.1 percent at public four-year universities. This rate has outpaced the inflation rate for consumer prices, which averaged just 2.7 percent per year. At the same time, student debt loads jumped 58 percent after inflation. Read more…

The Working College Student

Understanding the Working College Student
Laura A. Perna, University of Pennsylvania, Academe Online 2010
New research shows that students are working more and juggling a multitude of roles, creating anxiety and lowering graduation rates

The Impact of Student Employment
Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed, June 8, 2009
As tuitions have risen and more and more undergraduates are enrolling later in life, nearly half of all full-time students and 80 percent of part-time students work -- numbers that are likely only to grow in the future.

One of the two studies, which is based on data from the National Survey of Student Engagement, looked at how various amounts of on- and off-campus work directly influenced students' self-reported grades and indirectly affected their levels of engagement in academic activities.

A second study (in Journal of Student Affairs, Work and Practice, Gary Pike), working more than 20 hours a week has a negative impact on students' grades, whether the employment is on campus or off. Students who work 20 hours or less, on campus and off report roughly similar grades, as do students who do not work at all.

Monetary Payoff -- Or Not: Alternative Paths

Is College Worth It?
Pew Research Center, May 15, 2011
Executive Summary: This report is based on findings from a pair of Pew Research Center surveys conducted this spring. One is a telephone survey taken among a nationally representative sample of 2,142 adults ages 18 and older. The other is an online survey, done in association with the Chronicle of Higher Education, among the presidents of 1,055 two-year and four-year private, public, and for-profit colleges and universities.

What's It Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors
Anthony P. Carnevale, Jeff Strohl and Michelle Melton, Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce (from the Press Release, May 24,2011)
Using United States Census data available for the first time, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce is helping Americans connect the dots between college majors and career earnings. In the new report, What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors, this first-time research demonstrates just how critical the choice of major is to a student’s median earnings.

While there is a lot of variation in earnings over a lifetime, the authors find that all undergraduate majors are “worth it,‟ even taking into account the cost of college and lost earnings. However, the lifetime advantage ranges from $1,090,000 for Engineering majors to $241,000 for Education majors.

“The bottom line is that getting a degree matters, but what you take matters more,” said Anthony P. Carneval, the Center’s director. The new report analyzes 171 majors in 15 categories. It tracks earnings by majors and provides key breakouts on questions of race/ethnicity and the gender differences in earnings.

The report finds that majors are highly segregated by race/ethnicity and gender, with few exceptions. White men are concentrated in the highest-earning majors, while women tend to be concentrated in the lowest-earning majors.

Plan B: Skip College
Jacques Steinberg, New York Times, May 15, 2010
What’s the key to success in the United States? A small but influential group of economists and educators is pushing another pathway: for some students, no college at all. It’s time, they say, to develop credible alternatives for students unlikely to be successful pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so. Follow this NYTimes article with this blog: Job Prospects Uncertain for New College Graduates (Jacques Steinberg, New York Times, May 19, 2011).

Skip Senior Year and Go Straight to College?
Scott Elliott and Sarah Butrymowicz, The Hechinger Report, June 8, 2011
When the Indiana legislature passed the budget at the end of April, it also launched Mitch Daniels’ plan, which allows high school students who complete their core requirements by the end of their junior year to skip senior year and go straight to college.

Money the state would have spent on senior year will become scholarship money: $6,000 to $8,000 for most students, depending on their school district.

It’s an idea that divides educators. Some think senior year is too often ill-spent and not so necessary. But others think the answer is to strengthen, not abandon, senior year.

Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy
John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Rutgers University, Jessica Godofsky, Cliff Zukin and Carl Van Horn, May 2011
A new nationally representative survey of 571 graduates from four-year colleges and universities from the classes of 2006 through 2010 documents the difficulties young people encountered as they entered a volatile labor market that eventually plunged into a deep recession. While graduates are satisfied with their decision to complete a four-year degree, a large percentage reports they are struggling to find full-time, permanent jobs with benefits that will lead to fulfilling careers.

Unfulfilled Expectations: Recent College Graduates Struggle in a Troubled Economy details the findings from the survey, which was conducted by the Heldrich Center in April 2011

Fast Facts: What is the average income for young adults?
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (2011), The Condition of Education 2011 (NCES 2011–033)
In 2009, the median of the earnings for young adults with a bachelor's degree was $45,000, while the median was $21,000 for those without a high school diploma or its equivalent, $30,000 for those with a high school diploma or its equivalent, and $36,000 for those with an associate's degree. In other words, young adults with a bachelor's degree earned more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2009 (i.e., 114 percent more), 50 percent more than young adult high school completers, and 25 percent more than young adults with an associate's degree. In 2009, the median of the earnings of young adults with a master's degree or higher was $60,000, some 33 percent more than the median for young adults with a bachelor's degree.

Education Pays 2010
College Board, 2010
Education Pays, published every three years, presents detailed evidence of the private and public benefits of higher education. It also sheds light on the distribution of these benefits by examining both the increases and the persistent disparities in college participation and completion. In the three years between the publication of Education Pays 2007 and Education Pays 2010, median earnings for four-year college graduates increased more rapidly than those of high school graduates and the gap between the unemployment rates of the two groups grew. In addition to earnings comparisons, the report documents differences in lifestyles, health, and other outcomes for people with and without college education. Differences in enrollment and completion patterns across demographic groups highlight the reality that gaps in educational attainment are explained by a combination of money and other factors.

The Edupunks Guide’ Offers DIY Path to a Credential
Marc Parry, The Chronicle, August 11, 2011
A new e-book seeks to help learners use online resources to chart alternative paths to affordable credentials. The free book, called The Edupunks’ Guide to a DIY Credential, is directed at low-income students. But its author, Anya Kamenetz, said in a blog post that she also hopes to reach professors and administrators who want to take advantage of “the latest technology, social media, and collaborative learning” to cut costs while improving education.

Download the e-book The Edupunks’ Guide to a DIY Credential here.

Diplomas Count 2011
Beyond High School; Beyond Baccalaureate
Meaningful Alternatives to a Four-Year Degree
Education Week, June 9, 2011
WASHINGTON—June 7, 2011—A new national report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center finds that the nation’s graduation rate has increased significantly, following two consecutive years of declines and stagnation. With this dramatic turnaround, the nation’s graduation rate stands at 72 percent, the highest level of high school completion in more than two decades. The report shows that the nation’s public schools will generate about 145,000 fewer dropouts than the previous year. These new findings offer reason to believe that the past decade’s unprecedented efforts to combat the nation’s dropout crisis are starting to produce results.

The report investigates options between diploma and four-year degree; explores multiple pathways to college and career; and provides individualized graduation reports Issued for all 50 states and D.C. Read the Executive Summary here.

Are Community Colleges an Answer?

A Comparison of College Affordability Indexes among City, Suburban, Town, and Rural Public Community Colleges
Lee Rusty Waller, Louis C. Glover, Madeline Justice, Academic Leadership Online Journal, Spring 2010
Although average community college tuition and fees have outstripped inflation, these tuition and fees have increased at a slower pace than have tuition and fees at public 4-year colleges. Accordingly, community colleges have emerged as an affordable alternative for students considering the pursuit of postsecondary education and workforce training. Though tuition at public community colleges is generally less than tuition at public 4-year colleges and universities, discrepancies appear to exist in the cost of attending community colleges in urban areas, suburban areas, and rural areas. Differences based on the degree of institutional urbanization appear to have an impact on the accessibility and affordability of community colleges. While geographic location is expected to have an impact on accessibility, geographic locations may also have an unexpected influence on community affordability.

This study focused on the following two research questions:
  1. What was the extent of college affordability indexes (CAI’s) for public US community colleges by urban centric codes of city, suburban, town, and rural?
  2. Did significant differences exist in college affordability indexes (CAI’s) assessed between and among public community colleges based on the urban centric codes of city, suburban, town, and rural?

Six Keys to Saving by Starting at Community College
Ron Lieber, New York Times, April 8, 2011
When Rich Johnston started college in the 1970s, four years at a standard university was out of the question financially. So he worked, knocked off two years of community college credits in 19 months and then worked some more. He makes a good case for spending the first two years in a community college.

Community Colleges as Debtbusters
Dean Dad, Inside Higher Ed, April 10, 2011
This blog offers commentary on the Lieber article above.

The Public Feels the Stress

Slip-Sliding Away: An Anxious Public Talks About Today's Economy And The American Dream
Scott Bittle and Jon Rochkind with Amber N. Ott, Public Agenda, February 3, 2011
(A Public Agenda Study done with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation)
Public Agenda, an innovative public opinion research and public engagement organization, works to strengthen our democracy's capacity to tackle tough public policy issues. Nonpartisan and nonprofit, Public Agenda was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in 1975.

Feb. 3, 2011 - - Despite signs of recovery from the Great Recession, 4 in 10 Americans find themselves living lives of constant economic struggle and worry, not just about paying their bills today, but about whether they'll keep a middle-class life in the long term, according to a new Public Agenda survey.

The survey, conducted with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, shows how widespread the struggle remains to make ends meet in America. Four in 10 Americans (40 percent) say they're struggling "a lot" in the current economy[1], while fewer than 2 in 10 say they're not struggling at all. Another 4 in10 fall somewhere in the middle.

The economically struggling are more likely to be concerned about long-term issues like paying for college and being able to retire than losing their job or paying immediate bills, the survey found. They're also more likely to gravitate toward solutions like making college affordable[2] and preserving Social Security and Medicare than tax cuts or reducing the federal deficit.

The Higher Education Funding Disconnect: Spending More, Getting Less
Jane V. Wellman, Change Magazine for Higher Learning, November/December 2008
Wellman offers a keen and thorough picture of the impact of higher education funding on the growing gap between the rich and poor.

The U.S. Senate Finance committee wants to know why institutions that are reported to average 20 percent annual increases in the market value of endowments of $500 million or more still need to raise tuition and fees every year. And the Internal Revenue Service is preparing for intensive audits of more than 400 institutions, looking at revenue-generating activities housed within them and how those activities fulfill the public or charitable purposes of the institutions. Meanwhile, legislation has been proposed in Massachusetts to levy state taxes on the Commonwealth’s wealthiest non-profit private institutions.

Media and policy attention to the wealthiest sector of higher education might cause the public and policy makers to think that most colleges and universities are awash in money—and looking only at the Ivy League and the biggest public research universities, it would be hard to argue that they’re mistaken. But the focus on revenue masks the bigger story in higher education finance in America, which is a story of growing gaps between rich and poor institutions, greater clustering of low-income students in poorly financed institutions, and disinvestment in teaching. Any one of these trends by itself would be disturbing; the three together spell real trouble for our future capacity to reverse America’s decline in postsecondary performance.

She offers a little optimism noting that for the first time in many years, there are more than a handful of institutional and policy leaders who are moving from analyzing the problem to doing something about it.

National Common Core and Next Generation Assessments

Common Core State Standards Initiative: The Standards
Building on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid, the Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education. The standards clearly communicate what is expected of students at each grade level. This will allow our teachers to be better equipped to know exactly what they need to help students learn and establish individualized benchmarks for them. The Common Core State Standards focus on core conceptual understandings and procedures starting in the early grades, thus enabling teachers to take the time needed to teach core concepts and procedures well—and to give students the opportunity to master them. Download the English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards.

Transitioning to the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Assessments (pdf)
Willard R. Daggett, Susan A. Gendron, Daniel A. Heller, International Center for Leadership in Education, 2010
The implications of these advocated changes are nothing short of a retooling of American education. A new, next generation assessment program will accompany the Common Core State Standards. These assessments range far beyond the usual multiple-choice and short-answer questions. This kit, and the International Center for Leadership in Education, can provide invaluable guidance, support, and leadership in the process of moving from the current system of teaching, learning, and assessment to the more demanding requirements of the Common Core State Standards and next generation assessments.

Online Enterprises Gain Foothold as Path to a College Degree
By Tamar Lewin
Some recent entrants into the field of online education offer grounds for both concern and hope.

Western Governors University: Weekly Prompts From a Mentor
Straighterline: A Way to Speed the Pace
University of the People: Open Courses, Nearly Free
Learning Counts: Receiving Credit for Job Experience
A Short-Lived Test, Even With Coaching