The results of two new surveys released Tuesday reveal some of America’s views on both the future of higher education as well as its role in producing desirable outcomes, particularly career-ready graduates. Under Northeastern University’s sponsorship, FTI Consulting surveyed 263 hiring managers in July as well as 1,000 adult Americans in August. Here are some of their findings:
- Americans continue to see the value in higher education, but are concerned that the system does not adequately prepare graduates for their careers. Respondents ranked “level of education” as the most important factor in determining a job candidate’s success; yet, 62 percent said colleges currently do only a fair to poor job of preparing graduates for the workforce. That said, 79 percent believe their own college education prepared them well.
- Americans are conflicted about who has the greatest responsibility to train recent graduates for the workplace: employers (36 percent), colleges/universities (29 percent) or the graduates themselves (35 percent). When Americans were asked why U.S. companies are struggling to find good job candidates, the most common response was that companies are not investing enough in training new hires. However, 87 percent of Americans assert that higher education must change in order to maintain an internationally competitive workforce.
- Americans and business leaders value “soft” skills, like problem-solving and communication, over “hard” industry-specific skills. Most Americans (65 percent) and business leaders (73 percent) believe that, for people on the job market, “being well-rounded with a range of abilities is more important than having industry experience because job-specific skills can be learned at work.”
- Americans and business leaders agree that experiential learning is highly valuable to students’ careers. Nearly all Americans (89 percent) and business leaders (74 percent) believe that students are more successful in their careers if they have work experience from a field-related internship or job. Both groups agree the most important step the U.S. can take to better prepare colleges students is to broaden the professional work programs available to them.
- Although most Americans (67 percent) think colleges should adopt new technologies and interactive teaching methods, they have doubts about MOOCs and online degrees. Less than 30 percent of Americans and business leaders believe MOOCs are of the same quality as in-person courses, and only 37 percent of Americans would consider completing a postsecondary degree solely online. However, about half of all respondents believe MOOCs will transform education in the US and that online degrees will be equally accepted by employers within 5 to 7 years.
My take-away from all this, to summarize, is: Americans and business leaders believe that people on the job market need a college education, some professional work experience, and a well-rounded skill-set and in order to succeed. However, they also believe that colleges, businesses, and the government must play a role in helping students garner those qualifications.
Of the nearly 900 schools that received federal money for research and development (R&D) in FY 2011, the UW ranks first among public institutions and second overall in terms of federal research funding. According to a study by the National Science Foundation (NSF), approximately 20 percent of all federal R&D support went to just 10 universities. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed those universities, Table 1 summarizes their findings.
Johns Hopkins University, a private institution, topped the list with nearly $1.9 billion—more than doubling what any other university received that year. The majority of Johns Hopkins’ federal funding came from the Dept. of Defense and NASA. The university also brought in billions via fundraising efforts.
The UW came in second with almost $950 million in federal R&D funding—the most of any public school. The majority of the UW’s money came from the Dept. of Health and Human Services; however, the University was the top beneficiary of NSF funding, receiving more than $145 million in 2011.
Year after year, the same schools consistently receive the most money, said Ronda Britt, a survey statistician with the NSF. 24/7 Wall St. quotes her as saying, these universities “have big research programs that receive a lot of support year after year, and have a lot of infrastructure that helps them keep the money stable.” This holds true for the UW, which has ranked first among public schools since 1974. Having large endowments was another commonality of the top 10 schools, yet federal funding covered the bulk of R&D expenditures in all cases.
As these universities rely heavily on the federal government to support their research, many are concerned about the sweeping cuts of sequestration. The UW and other universities are preparing for a range of possible impacts. As described in our joint brief, the sequester could reduce the UW’s federal grant and contract support by an estimated $75M to $100M during FY13. The UW community is encouraged to remain cautious and conservative in spending federal awards and in planning for future federal funding.
The National Student Clearinghouse recently released an interactive map that illustrates the experience of students who were first time freshmen in 2006. The map shows six-year graduation rates broken down by institution type, student age, and part-time or full-time status. Washington’s level of college completion was higher than average—Washington’s six-year graduation rate for the 2006 first-time freshman cohort, across all types of institutions, was 66.3 percent, while the national average was 60.6 percent. Interestingly, full-time students at four-year public institutions in Washington had a much higher six-year graduation rate, at 86.4 percent, compared to 81 percent nationwide. Unfortunately, Washington students who enrolled part-time had completion rates below 19 percent at four-year publics and below 13 percent at two-year schools. Furthermore, non-traditional students (first-time freshmen 25 years old or more) were much less likely to graduate in six years than their younger counterparts.
To learn more, or to see how Washington compares to the rest of the United States, check out the interactive map featured on the Chronicle’s website or read the NSC’s report.
Many of the white papers sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project have focused on modifications to the Pell program and/or student loans and repayment (including the two I summarized previously, found here and here). However, the white paper released on Wednesday by the Center on Postsecondary and Economic Success takes a different approach. It argues that by making tax-based student aid more beneficial to low and middle-income students, the federal government could save billions of dollars, direct those savings to the Pell program and improve the financial aid system as a whole.
Current tax-based financial aid provides high-income families with much larger tax deductions, since the value of the deductions is linked to a family’s marginal tax rate. As The Chronicle notes, “a $100 tax deduction, for example, is worth early $40 to a high-income household but only $10 to a lower-earning family.” To remedy this issue and refocus the benefits of aid onto low-income families, the Center proposes increasing the refundable portion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The Center also recommends eliminating nonrefundable tax credits, such as the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC), since they do not benefit households that pay no income tax (i.e. low-income families).
The table below shows the percent distribution of student aid by type and income category in 2013. As you can see, Pell Grants (in blue) primarily benefit low-income families, whereas tax-based student aid (in purple) does the opposite. Another interesting table from the Tax Policy Center can be found here.
The paper includes three alternative proposals for making tax-based aid more helpful to low-income students and simultaneously boosting college access and completion. It also discusses three options for improving performance measures used in student-aid policies.
The Governor’s budget office released the first set of biennial budgets today. The current Governor proposed a “current law” balanced budget, assuming no new revenue, and a budget with new revenue, appropriating $34.1 billion of Near General Fund State per year, for which all of higher education, including financial aid, would receive nearly $3 billion (or 8.7 percent). As a reminder, Governor Gregoire’s budget proposals are the first of many budgets to be released for the upcoming biennium. The earliest point that the UW will have a sense of its actual anticipated state funding level is late April 2013. In addition, we might see Governor-elect Inslee release his own budget, or a set of budget priorities, in January 2013.
Under Governor Gregoire’s balanced and new law budgets, each of the state’s six baccalaureate institutions would receive slight increases in funding when compared to carry-forward budgets levels, with no new tuition increases or state funding reductions. While the UW has another year of tuition setting authority under HB 1795, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, this budget does not provide any new financial aid funds to cover tuition increases. Note that Education Legacy Trust funding, from which the UW normally received at least $8 million annually, was removed from all public baccalaureate institutions’ budgets and replaced with general fund appropriations.
The 2012 Legislature appropriated $209 million in state funds to the UW for FY13, thus, both of the Governor’s proposed budgets represent an increase in the UW’s state funding for FY14 and FY15. However, the budget bill devotes these increases to covering expenses associated with the UW’s collective bargaining agreements. If any funds remain afterward, they will be available for any other purpose(s).
Please review our budget brief on the Governor’s operating budgets and capital budgets. As usual, let us know if you have any questions.
The Wisconsin Education Approval Board, which oversees all for-profit colleges located in the state and any online-learning programs offered to its residents, may require that those institutions achieve specific performance standards in order to operate within Wisconsin. Specifically, that board is proposing to require that at least 60 percent of a college’s students complete their studies within a certain time-frame and at least 60 percent of its graduates have jobs. Public universities and private nonprofit colleges are not under the board’s jurisdiction and would therefore be exempt from the requirements.
The board already collects and publishes data on its institutions. According to those reports, average completion rates fell from 82 to 59 percent over the last six years and the percentage of graduates who were employed during a given year dropped from 44 to 22 percent (in the same time frame).
The Chronicle reports that the board is basing its standards on what they believe “Wisconsin consumers would find ethical, responsible, and acceptable for institutions choosing to enroll them.” However, for-profit colleges have already submitted letters to the board arguing that the proposed standards are “arbitrary and should not be broadly applied to a diverse set of programs, which often enroll underserved populations.”
While the federal government’s “gainful employment” rule is similar to Wisconsin’s proposal, it is unusual to see a state attempt this type of regulatory system. Some states have increased their requirements for online and for-profit institutions—but Wisconsin’s proposal is especially aggressive. For-profits that wish to operate in Washington must receive authorization from the Washington Student Achievement Council, which considers institutions; “financial stability, business practices, academic programs, and faculty qualifications”—but does not yet hold them to specific graduation or employment standards.
On Wednesday, Wisconsin’s board voted unanimously to postpone a final decision until a team made of board members, representatives from colleges and universities, and State legislators can review the proposal more thoroughly. The team is scheduled to make recommendations to the board in June of 2013.
Staff from OPB in partnership with staff from Regional and Community Relations are participating in a community-wide effort known as the University District Livability Partnership (UDLP) – a four-year strategic initiative to encourage investment for a vibrant, walkable University District Community. The UDLP involves University District residents, business, social service providers, congregations, the Greater University Chamber of Commerce, University of Washington and City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development, Department of Planning & Development, Police Department and Department of Neighborhoods. Additional information regarding the UDLP may be found here.
The partnership includes four companion projects: a commercial revitalization plan, urban design framework, community conversations, and long-term leadership. U District Next: A Community Conversation is a series of events designed to bring local and national voices to the U District to provide perspectives of experiences that may be relevant to the future possibilities in the U District. The discussions are structured such that participants will have the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. The first event is to take place on October 11th at 5:30 PM. The event is a walk and talk tour of the University District focused on the pedestrain experience. For additional information, please go here. To learn about future events or to participate through the web visit UDNext.com.
In a press release, the Council for Aid to Education (CAE) reported that giving to universities rebounded in 2011, raising $30.3 billion, an 8.2 percent increase over last year (4.8 percent, adjusted for inflation). The top 20 fundraising institutions, of which the University of Washington is number 14, received a total of $8.24 billion in 2011, representing a 15.8 percent increase over 2010. The UW raised a total of $334.49 million last year, up 17.3 percent from 2010 and up 5.8 percent from 2006. In general, most increases in giving to universities were earmarked for capital purposes, such as constructing buildings, though giving for operational purposes is still the majority at 58.7 percent.
A major driver of the increases in charitable giving to universities is thought to be the better performance of the stock market in 2011, which increased the value of gifts of stock universities received by 38.2 percent from 2010. Furthermore, the economy began growing again in June 2009, which increased confidence and therefore increased giving. Universities, which appeal to a number of philanthropic interests, were good candidates for investment. Finally, endowments gained back some value they had lost due to the recession, increasing by a median of 17 percent.
The increase in charitable giving to universities is an important development that could signal increasing confidence in the economy and growing interest in investing in students and learning. To read the full report, or to read more about giving at the UW, please click here and here.
The Seattle PI drew attention to two major UW Initiatives that were recently highlighted in a message from Provost Mary Lidstrom. Be sure to check out the new websites detailing both of these new efforts:
The Seattle Times published an article yesterday that outlined the State Treasurer’s desire to pursue a state constitutional amendment that would require the Legislature, starting in 2015, to invest more money into pension plans up front to help the state avoid ever entering ‘pay-go’ status where pension obligations must be covered from the state general fund.
In the meantime, the Treasurer, Jim McIntire, has requested that the Legislature invest $1.4 billion in existing pension plans for the 2011-13 biennium, a doubling of the $770 million invested in 2009-11.
The current estimated state budget shortfall for the 2011-13 biennium is $5.7 billion, and pension policy will play an important role as the state is forced to reorganize a shrinking budget.
For more information about this issue, read the OPB Brief published earlier this month.
Next Page →