Thursday, June 25, 2015

Predatory Colleges Find Friends in Congress (
Assigning value to a college program based on its value in the economy is problematic for me in three ways: 1) it narrows the value of college down to economic value when in reality that value is much more complex and influenced by several other factors, 2) it takes a lot of the consumer-ish responsibility students need to have to make choices about where to go to college and what program to enroll in, and 3) colleges have very little control over how the economy values a set of skills. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Articles for June 24, 2015

Adults, Computers and Problem Solving (OECD)
This report is especially interesting because it looked at how well adults accomplished "problem-solving tasks that require the use of computer applications, such as e-mail, spreadsheets, word-processing applications and websites..." Specifically, the report found that "...literacy proficiency and age have the strongest independent relationships to proficiency in problem solving in technology-rich environments..." (p. 54).  Of course, these skills apply to several career clusters, but the technical fields are especially susceptible to advances in technology and use a lot of specialized computer programs. Students who have trouble creating an e-mail or using Microsoft Word are not going to have an easy time working with image editing software, repair databases, or even just managing all the files that result from several drafts and separate pages typical of a technical field. This is not to mention those fields that need to create and/or repair technologies, like in a car, machine, or network, or the fact that many technical fields now conduct hiring processes electronically. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Articles for June 22, 2015

Higher ed as a commodity? Colleges have only themselves to blame (
This is a response to Hunter Rawling's post College is not a commodity, stop treating it like one (June 9), and it's pretty reflective of the other side of the balancing act colleges are facing. The hard reality is that colleges need tuition to operate, and not all would-be tuition-payers would be convinced by the message author Jeffrey Selingo feels higher education needs to promote. 

Selingo offers three reasons why the commoditization of higher education is its own fault: 

  1. For decades, higher education has promoted the personal economic value of higher education. 
  2. Students are not solely responsible for their success. The college does matter. 
  3. Colleges have turned the four-year degree into an assembly line of getting in and getting out as quickly as possible. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Articles for June 19, 2015

The Watchdogs of College Education Rarely Bite (The Wall Street Journal)
The Journal uses plenty of data to talk about a dimension of the college graduation/loan default rate conversation that has seemed to have been left alone until now: accreditation. Although it lays blame without really laying blame, the article offers several statistics on how many colleges accreditors have closed, and what the graduation and loan default rates are at those colleges they haven't. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Articles for June 17, 2015

Defining Competency (
Some in higher ed who were hesitant at first to accept the concept of competency-based education (CBE) are now starting to warm up to the idea, myself included. My feeling is that a lot of the hesitancy was based on mistrust--particularly, the legislative bodies don't trust individual colleges, nor do colleges trust individual instructors. It's much easier to 'cover up' a trouble spot that might hold a student back inside the context of an 18-week course; CBE potentially exposes weaknesses--but also strengths--in students, instructors, curriculum maps and course content, and assessment methods. The major decision-makers in higher education seem to have been nervous about approving a structure that might make those potential soft spots public, and the effects thereafter. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Articles for June 15, 2015

Lazy Rivers and Student Debt (
Although there are some political undertones--especially in the comments section--about the recent attention brought to this issue by Chris Christie and Elizabeth Warren, this article does offer some hard data about how much amenities like aquatic centers and climbing walls actually cost in relation to other causes for rising tuition costs. The argument is usually that large, expensive amenities like these attract students; the counter is that college affordability and repairs to academic facilities should be the priority. To me, though, this seems like the end of a long breadcrumb trail. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Articles for June 10, 2015

College is not a commodity. Stop treating it like one. (
This is a fabulous, fabulous post written by Hunter Rawlings, president of the Association of American Universities and former president of Cornell University and the University of Iowa. His main point is that the public forms all perception about higher education as if it is a commodity by focusing on the economic dimension of it; he uses the example of a car. However, "unlike a car, college requires the 'buyer' to do most of the work to obtain its value" (para. 4). He goes on: "...most public discussion of higher ed today pretends that students simply receive their education from colleges the way a person walks out of Best Buy with a television" (para. 5).    

Monday, June 8, 2015

Articles for Jun 8, 2015

2 + 2 Shouldn't = 5 (
Transfer credits appear to be yet another sticky spot that requires higher education to decide if it is a  public- or private-good industry. The process of trying to transfer over a class from one college to another seems to pit one college against the other in much the same way the value of a new car plummets as soon as its driven off the dealer's lot: both happen because of a lack of knowledge, which leads to a lack of trust. This is tough, because competing interests should have a little something different that makes them stand out. But if higher education, as seems to be the case, emerges as an opportunity that everyone should have, those differences will have a hard time existing since we'll need everyone to know the same thing. It seems that the answer to this problem has been to make more classes transferable, which, in turn, makes them more similar among different colleges that have traditionally had to compete for students. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Articles for June 5, 2015

Working Together to Prepare Students for College Success (
There is hope. A few great examples of partnerships between community colleges and high schools are discussed in this article. A program out of Maryland graduated 92 students from the Academy of Health Sciences Middle College; these students earned their associate's degree the same day they earned a high school diploma. In California, a consortium of eight colleges, 30 high schools, and more than 100 employers are organized into four hubs to offer support systems like dual-enrollment, bridge programs, mentorships, and tutoring to prepare students for ICT-related careers. Maricopa Colleges in Arizona implemented Hoop of Learning, a program that covers most of the financial costs of college and works with school districts to guide qualified participants into mainstreaming with regular college students. The GC PASS initiative in Texas encourages its eight community colleges and 11 school districts to create transition teams, and tackles the ever-present blame game between high schools and colleges in the process. 

Technical colleges would do even better to recognize the potential in partnering with high schools. Research out of the NRCCTE found that many students who have trouble with traditional academic subjects choose technical fields. Furthermore, research from the CCRC found that students in technical programs are less likely than students in an academic field to achieve their degree. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Articles for June 4, 2015

Serving America's New Traditional Students ( [PDF]
The focus of this short report is on the changing demographics of post-secondary institutions, and that education policy needs to allow access to account for those demographic changes. A key point given is a projection from the U.S. Census Bureau: by 2050, half of the population in the United States will belong to a minority group. Tied with the focus on the need for educational attainment to achieve better income equality, this has strong implications for what colleges are then tasked to do.

While the education than an institution provides must be tailored to the needs of modern workforce, in terms of skills, it must also be tailored to the changing needs and demands of students. 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Articles for June 1, 2015

Adult Course Offers Learning for the Sake of Learning (
Imagine that: intrinsic motivation increases success and value in higher education. This kind of motivation makes going to college more meaningful than just getting a degree for the end goal of making more money at a better job--and I say "just" because it should be one reason, not the only reason. 

The students at the program in this article are those students that we, in the learning center, see the most often. These are the students who traditionally need the most help, and are most likely to drop out before completion. Why? Just a handful of lines down the page, we find an answer: 
"'I was so freaking nervous,' Mitchell says, 'because I felt so dumb. You know, I felt like I was too old.'"