Office of Planning and Budgeting

A new survey conducted by Hart Research Associates for the College Board entitled One Year Out asked a representative sample of 1,507 high school graduates of the class of 2010 about their high school experience and their first year out of high school. Of the sample, 43 percent are at a four-year college, 25 percent are at a two-year college, 6 percent are in trade school, and 26 percent are not currently pursuing higher education. Despite increased college costs and the still slow economy, respondents were overwhelmingly optimistic about the value of a college education, with 86 percent asserting that college is worth the time, effort and money and 90 percent claiming that a high school diploma is no longer enough for the demands of today’s work world. Furthermore, 66 percent are very or somewhat optimistic about finding good jobs in the future. Other findings included:

  • The majority of HS graduates enjoyed their high school experience, though most wished they had taken more (or more challenging) math, science and writing classes.
  • 69 percent of HS graduates claimed that high school graduation requirements were very or pretty easy, and 37 percent believe they should be made more stringent.
  • More than half of HS graduates enrolled in higher education found college more challenging than expected, and a quarter of those students needed non-credit remedial courses to catch up. Of respondents enrolled at two-year colleges, 37 percent took remedial classes.
  • The biggest concern by far (20 percentage points above all others) was affordability: 5 in 9 students who attend college find affording higher education pretty or very challenging, and 56 percent of those who aren’t in college claim cost was a big factor in their decision not to enroll.
  • Of students who did not enroll in college this year, 83 percent intend to go in the future.

To read more about this topic, check out the full report or read some of our previous blog posts on similar surveys: Recent Grads Affirm Value of College Education and Americans Struggling Economically, Worried About Affordable Higher Ed.

We’ve blogged previously about the controversial reforms being aggressively pursued by Governor Perry and various of the appointees he has placed on Texas higher education governing boards and in university administrations. The reforms were initially developed by the conservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), and are centered around placing the student in a stronger consumer role, basing professor pay and tenure more directly on student evaluations, creating a bright line between teaching and research funding, and changing the state funding model from one that subsidizes institutions to one that provides grants directly to students. Many may recognize these as reforms long advocated for in the K-12 sector for some time.

After a protracted battle between a variety of interested parties (academics, administrators, legislators, state leaders, alumni, lobbyists and more), the University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved what they called ‘A Framework for Advancing Excellence Throughout the University of Texas System‘ at their May meeting. An action plan released last week provided a glimpse at the compromises made to quell strong opposition.

More flexible than initially feared, the action plan allows institutions to tailor the reforms to their institutions. Major system-wide goals include:

  • Increased degree production
  • Increased use of online and blended instruction
  • Development of performance incentives for professors
  • Strengthening of post-tenure review for professors
  • Creation of external review for schools and colleges within the institution
  • Critical review of PhD programs and decreased time to PhD
  • Increased research collaboration, especially with non-academic partners
  • Increased research and philanthropic funding
  • Increased administrative efficiency through standardized systems, sharing of services, and better space utilization

Although much less divisive than the specific reforms championed by TPPF, these goals are ambitious enough to put Texas in a category of its own nationwide. How  individual institutions endeavor to implement the action plan in the near future, and the extent to which they engage faculty in the process, will likely determine the mood and direction in Texas public higher education for some time.

In the meantime, Florida Governor Rick Scott is indicating a desire to follow Rick Perry’s lead on this issue.

The UW moved from #4 to #1 on the Sierra Club’s 5th annual ranking of America’s ‘Coolest’ Schools. The survey questions sent to over 900 four year institutions focus on environmental goals and achievements in ten areas (energy supply, efficiency, food, academics, purchasing, transportation, waste management, administration, financial investments, and other).

Although ranked #1, there is still room for improvement as the UW still scored only an 81.5, earning an B- grade from the Sierra Club.

  • UW  Ranked 16 in the world: The annual Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), compiled by Chinese university Shanghai Jiao Tong, places the University of Washington at number 16 in the world. The rankings are heavily based on institutional and faculty achievements in STEM fields, including number of Nobel prizes and Fields medals won, and various citation measures. The US dominates this list, with 17 of the top 20 slots and 151 of the top 500.
  • Ohio latest state to consider greater autonomy for public institutions: In a reversal of previous reforms that attempted to consolidate the university system in Ohio, Governor Strickland endorsed the idea of ‘enterprise universities’ in his state budget, released March 2011. Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Jim Petro was tasked with creating a detailed plan for legislative consideration. He unveiled The Enterprise University Plan last week. The plan provides three levels of increasing autonomy from various state government requirements in exchange for a reduction in per student funding of 10-20 percent. The state would continue to cap tuition increases at 3.5 percent per year. While the support of Ohio State President Gordon Gee looks likely, it is not yet clear how other universities or faculty members and legislators will react to this plan as many large questions about both intended and unintended consequences have already surfaced. For related information see our previous post, Quest for Greater Autonomy for Public Higher Ed Continues, and our OPB brief on institutional autonomy.
  • Federal government joins lawsuits against for-profits: After implementing significant higher education regulation reform through the Department of Education, the Obama Administration shows a commitment to act by joining existing and new lawsuits against several for-profit higher education institutions accused of violating federal law. For related posts, see Federal Scrutiny of For-Profits Spurs State Action.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has published a report entitled “The College Payoff” which calculates the lifetime median earnings of workers at various levels of educational attainment. As could be expected, the more degrees a worker has, the more they will earn, on average, in their lifetime. This holds true even for workers with different degrees in the same jobs: An accountant with an associate’s degree will make $1,636,000 in their lifetime, while earnings for the same position rise to $2,422,000 for a worker with a bachelor’s degree, and to $3,030,000 for those with a master’s degree. Other notable findings included:

  • Holding a Bachelor’s degree results in a median lifetime income of $2.8 million, 84 percent higher than a worker with a high school diploma
  • Workers with a professional degree make almost four times as much as workers without a high school diploma in their lifetimes ($3,648,000 versus $973,000)
  • Women working full-time, full-year make 25 percent less over their lifetimes than men with the same level of educational attainment. In order to make more than a man with a bachelor’s degree, a woman must hold a doctoral or professional degree.
  • Latinos make on average 34 percent less than white workers, African American workers make 23 percent less, and workers of other races and ethnicities (Native American, Pacific Islander) make 22 percent less. Asian Americans, however, make roughly the same amount as white workers.

To read more about the report, check out Inside Higher Ed’s analysis: “Degrees of Wealth.” Also read our previous blog posts about the Center’s two preceding reports on this same topic: Help Wanted, and The Undereducated American.

Education Sector, an education policy think tank, recently released a report entitled “Debt to Degree,” which measures the ratio of student and parent, government-backed loans taken by students to the number of credentials awarded by an institution per year.  Based on this, the report concludes that:

  • Across all institutions and sectors, for each degree awarded in 2008/2009, $18,102 was borrowed
  • Degree to credential ratios varied considerably across institution types:  On average, families at four-year public institutions borrowed $16,247 per degree, compared to $21,827 at private four-years, and $43,383 at for-profit schools
  • Among elite research universities, Princeton, with its no-loan financial aid policy, had the lowest debt to credential ratio ($2,385), while NYU had the highest ratio ($25,886), due to its small endowment and less wealthy student body
  • Washington state has one of the lowest borrowing to credential ratios in the nation, with debt to degree ratios in the $5,000 to $9,999 range

Note that the study excluded private loans and Perkins loans, which some argue might mask even larger debt burdens, particularly at for-profit schools where institutional financial aid is limited. To read more about the study, including its limitations, check out the Chronicle’s and Inside Higher Ed’s articles.

Kiplinger has released a map showing average student debt versus average income across all fifty states, as well as categorizing institutions they have identified as the most expensive and the ‘best values’.  The UW comes in as the 10th best value public institution in the nation for 2010-11.

The map illustrates that Washington state students have a relatively low debt to income ratio: Average student debt is between $15,000 and $20,000, while average income is around $40,000 to $50,000, with about 61 percent of all students in the state taking out loans. Utah boasts the smallest amount of debt per student (under $15,000), while New Hampshire has the highest average debt load (over $25,000 per student).

These state level data are consistent with our most recent UW data. In 2009-10, 50 percent of all UW undergraduates borrowed and their average cumulative debt was $19,500. Although these figures are lower than the national average, they have increased over the last several years, especially as state funding cuts have necessitated tuition increases. This is why the UW Board of Regents voted to substantially increase the UW’s commitment to financial aid for resident undergraduate students starting this fall.

Note that Kiplinger also shows that students appear to be increasing their use of credit cards while in college, with 84 percent of students holding at least one credit card and half of all students holding four or more. The mean credit card balance was a record $3,173.

If the US House and Senate approve the debt deal that the Obama Administration and Congressional leaders seem to have worked out over the weekend, the Pell Grant Program will remain intact. Although PELL had been targeted for significant cuts, the deal leaves the current maximum grant at $5,550, and retains the in-school interest subsidy for graduate student loans.

Note that future cuts are still possible, especially if the number of eligible students continues to grow, increasing significantly the cost of the program. But, for now, the bipartisan support to leave the program largely untouched is encouraging. Make sure to follow frequent updates on the debt deal, federal budget negotiations and other relevant federal activity on the UW Office of Federal Relations blog.