Office of Planning and Budgeting

 The Lumina Foundation set an ambitious goal to increase the percent of Americans with a two or four year degree from 37.9 percent to 60 percent by 2025. This goal has been picked up and echoed by many, including President Obama. In its latest status report, A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education, the foundation finds that degree attainment is increasing, but not quickly enough to reach the 2025 goal. The percentage of American working-age adults with college degrees has increased to 38.3 percent in 2010 from 37.9 percent in 2008.

The report emphasizes that faster degree attainment growth is necessary to ensure the US has enough qualified workers to meet the needs of the rapidly changing economy, which they estimate will require 60 percent of workers to have some form of higher education.  According to the report, attainment could be increased by increasing high school graduation rates and boosting degree attainment for minorities and adults with some college but no degree.

The report also includes a state-by-state breakdown of attainment rates. Seattle has the fifth-highest degree attainment rates of metropolitan areas in the US, with 48 percent of working-age adults holding college degrees. A higher-than-average percentage of Washington residents hold college degrees—42.5 percent versus 38.3 percent nationally in 2010. Twenty-five percent of Washington residents have some college credit but no degree, which the report claims could be a good avenue for increasing degree attainment. However, differences between population groups remain: Asian and White degree attainment is at 54.5 percent and 44.8 percent, respectively, but less than 30 percent of Black, Latino and Native American, working-age Washingtonians hold college degrees. While attainment in Washington State is growing, the report finds faster growth is needed to add 471,000 degrees by 2025.

To read more, check out the full report here.

A new report put out by the National Science Foundation examines math and science education at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary level. In general, the news is sobering: elementary and secondary proficiency in science and math is languishing below 40 percent nationwide. Chapter 8 of the report focuses on state indicators, featuring state-by-state breakdowns of science and math education. Important indicators include the number of Bachelor’s degrees conferred, the proportion of degrees in science and engineering (S&E) fields, state expenditures on higher education, and the prevalence of S&E jobs in the workforce. Interesting findings include:

  • In 2009, 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees were conferred in the United States, up 29 percent since 2000. Of these degrees, more than 501,000 were in S&E fields. In Washington State, 32.9 percent of degrees conferred were S&E degrees.
  • During 2010, the annual sticker price for a public 4-year education was $15,014, which represents a 43 percent increase since 2000 (after adjusting for inflation). This does not represent net price, since this number does not include financial aid.
  • In 2009, undergraduate education at a state institution consumed 35.7 percent of a Washington resident’s disposable income. Note that this number does not account for the 20 percent tuition hike in 2010.
  • State funding for major public research universities per student enrolled in 2000 was $10,107, which dropped to $8,815 in 2009.
  • In Washington, 32.5 percent of 25-44 year olds hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • 5.83 percent of Washington’s residents in 2009 were employed in S&E fields, up from 5.16 percent in 2000.
  • Washington has one of the highest rates of patents awarded per worker in S&E occupations in the US—28.2 patents per 1000 S&E workers.

The report indicates that research is flourishing and that Washington is increasingly awarding more degrees in S&E fields, but also that state funding for higher education and affordability have decreased dramatically. We will explore this report more in future posts. To read more about the report, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle post or read the full report.

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce issued a new report,  Hard Times, which focuses once again on why a college education is so important to employment and earnings in the US economy. While persistent critics of the value of higher education point to the recently rising unemployment rate for new college graduates, 8.9 percent, the report points out that for workers with only a high school degree the unemployment rate is 22.9 percent, and 31.5 percent for high school dropouts. The combined unemployment rate for all workers with a BA degree is currently 5 percent.

In addition to pointing out the positive correlation between college education and earnings and employment, the report analyzes data by college major. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found that the unemployment rate for majors closely tied to a particular industry or job (such as healthcare, business and education) was lower than the rate for those with more generalized degrees. The exception to this were majors like Architecture that are so closely tied to a currently ailing industry that current unemployment rates are the highest of all.

Ultimately, as the economy recovers and the recent graduates gain more experience, all graduates are expected to enjoy improved employment rates.

Last year, Washington State Senate Bill 5182 abolished the Higher Education Coordinating Board and created a Higher Education Steering Committee to assess the state’s need for a redesigned statewide coordinating agency for education. The 13 person Committee met four times and was chaired by Governor Gregoire, and also included UW President Michael Young.

The Final Report, released today, determined that a statewide education coordinating agency in Washington should be singularly focused on increasing educational attainment (at all levels). The report recommends the creation of an Office of Student Achievement, overseen by a majority citizen Advisory Board. This Office would be responsible for:

  • Setting and monitoring short and long term statewide goals for educational attainment
  • Engaging in strategic planning to meet attainment goals
  • Developing performance plans and incentives
  • Engaging in education system design and coordination
  • Providing educational data, research, and analysis in partnership with the existing Education Research and Data Center (ERDC)
  • Developing budget recommendations into the future
  • Setting minimum college admission requirements
  • Administering programs that provide outreach and education to students to increase educational persistence
  • Addressing issues affecting student retention at major transition points (e.g. high school to college, and two-year to four-year)
  • Administering student financial aid programs
  • Serving as the primary point of contact for public inquiries on higher education

The report presents two options for the focus of the Office of Student Achievement. In Option A, the Office would coordinate among and between all state educational entities at every level. In Option B, the Office would focus directly on coordination between secondary and postsecondary education. Governor Gregoire announced today that she was endorsing the adoption of Option B outlined in the Committee’s Final Report and would present implementation legislation shortly.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released a report entitled Projections of Education Statistics to 2019. The Center seeks to predict future trends in enrollment, completion, and diversity in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. The Center uses census data and economic forecasts to make its projections; however, such predictions are complicated to produce and always subject to unforeseen political, demographic and economic changes. Overall, the Center predicts growth in enrollment and degree completion for all levels of education, although it does not expect President Obama’s completion goals for higher education in 2020 to be met.

Major findings include:

  •  Total elementary and secondary school enrollment is projected to increase 6 percent by 2019, with especially large increases in the number of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students. Western states are projected to drive much of this demographic change with a 12 percent increase in these enrollments.
  • The total number of high school graduates nationally is expected to increase by 1 percent by 2019. In the West, however, the number of grads is expected to rise 9 percent.
  • Enrollment in post-secondary programs is projected to increase 17 percent, to 22.4 million by 2019. Minorities again have the highest rates of increase in enrollment, with the number of Hispanic students in particular expected to increase by 45 percent.
  • Women are projected to have larger growth in post-secondary enrollment between now and 2019 (21 percent) than men (12 percent).
  • The number of degrees awarded is expected to increase alongside enrollment, associate’s degrees up 30 percent, bachelor’s degrees up 23 percent, master’s degrees up 34 percent, doctoral degrees 54 percent, and professional degrees 34 percent.

For more information, graphical representation of these data, and details on methodology, check out the full report. To read about some of the reactions to these data and potential limitations of the study, read Inside Higher Ed’s blog post on this topic

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.

In an effort to give more students the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree and enter the workforce early, the legislature passed SB 5442, “Requiring the development of three-year baccalaureate degree programs.” The bill, which was delivered to the Governor for approval on April 12th, requires institutions of higher education to provide degree programs that enable academically qualified students to graduate in three years. The bill does not explicitly define “academically qualified students,” thereby leaving it up to the higher education institutions to make their own rules. According to the bill, qualified students must not be required to enroll in summer school or take a more than full-time credit load in any term in order to graduate early. They must also be able to take classes in their major starting in their first term. The legislature hopes this will have a positive effect on graduation rates, as well as lower the cost of a baccalaureate degree for both the state and the student.

Of course, the idea of three-year degree programs is not new. In fact, students coming into the UW with 45 credits or more can already, with attentive advising and careful planning, earn a bachelor’s degree in three years. However, the degree must still meet the same university requirements as those earned in four years. While legislators want to make it easier to apply existing credits to students’ degrees, those students must still earn at least 180 credits total and meet all distribution requirements. With more and more students coming into the UW with AP and IB credit, this option has become increasingly attractive to students eager to graduate and enter the work force. However, others have actually found that the push to graduate in three (or fewer) years is detrimental to their college experience. This prompted the ASUW Senate to pass a resolution giving students the right to waive excess AP and IB credits if they so choose. Either way, students’ options for shaping their educational experience, be it three years or four, are likely increasing.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that presents a Washington State Legislative bill that we are tracking and provides more information about what the bill does and why it is relevant to the UW.

As the demand for higher education increases, especially among students who are place-bound or have outside commitments that prohibit them from pursuing a traditional college education, online learning has become more and more popular. While some universities use limited online classes to ease overfilled classrooms or offer introductory classes more cheaply, some students study exclusively online.

House Bill 1822, “Establishing the first nonprofit online university,” seeks to partner the state with Western Governor’s University (WGU), a non-profit, online university, creating WGU-Washington. The bill has passed out of the House, was passed by the Higher Education and Workforce Development committee in the Senate, and has been passed to the Rules committee for second reading.

The new WGU-Washington would not receive any state funds, nor would its students be eligible for state financial aid like the State Need Grant; however, supporters of the bill purport that projected increases in the demand for postsecondary education combined with future labor force requirements are such that increased degree production in the state is crucial. Proponents see a partnership with WGU as a resource for Washington citizens and employers that does not require a large investment of state funds. The bill also seeks to make it easier for students to transfer credits between WGU and the “traditional” state institutions of higher education.

While some questioned the necessity of the bill at the Senate hearing, pointing to the fact that Washington students can already enroll at WGU independently, and that the state’s community colleges may be better options for such students, others maintained that Washington’s existing  institutions are overenrolled and that WGU offered a low-cost alternative to private for-profit online universities. Other critics pointed to the lack of data available on WGU programs, processes and outcomes as an indication that a WGU education may not meet the standards of the other institutions in the state.

WGU was chartered in 1996, and endorsed by the 19 Governors of the “Member States,” including former Governor Locke. It offers bachelor’s and master’s programs in the fields of education, information technology, health professions, and business. Basic tuition for a six-month terms is $2,890, though some program fees lead to a higher total cost. The institution currently enrolls 23,000 students all over the United States. Instead of a traditional classroom where a faculty member who is a subject matter expert teaches the material, WGU students are led through a competency-based curriculum that is developed by faculty mentors (who generally hold terminal degrees) and facilitated by student mentors and course mentors, most of whom have earned a graduate degree (although WGU does not provide an exhaustive list of faculty mentors or of student and/or course mentors). WGU asserts that the vast majority of alumni and their subsequent employers are pleased with their university experience, and feel they are competitive in the workforce.

The results of a Stanford University/AP education poll conducted in September were released yesterday. The representative group of respondents confirmed earlier data on the same topic, mainly that Americans believe strongly that higher education is a vital economic engine and that more Americans should participate in it, but that they are not very willing to pay higher taxes to increase public support for institutions.

Some of the most compelling findings included:

  • 88% believe that higher education has a very large or large impact on the overall prosperity of the country.
  • 79% believe that the US economy would improve if all Americans had at least a two-year degree.
  • 74% believe that the quality of education provided by four year public institutions in their state is excellent or good.
  • Survey respondents primarily blame students and parents for graduation rates, whether high or low.
  • Only 42% favor or somewhat favor raising taxes to increase support for higher education, while 46% oppose raising taxes.

Having weighed tens of thousands of public comments, the US Department of Education released today a final set of regulations governing various aspects of higher education. While primarily aimed at what are widely seen as abuses within the for-profit higher education system, the regulations apply to all institutions and are driven by the federal government’s interest in protecting the integrity of the federal government’s $170+ billion annual investment in higher education via student aid programs (governed by Title IV of the US Higher Education Act).

Notably, final regulations regarding the controversial gainful employment rule were not published today. Having received over 90,000 public comments and facing an intense for-profit sector lobbying effort, the Department has indicated a need for more time before it is able to finalize gainful employment regulations. The Department will host public meetings on the rule on November 4th and 5th.

Inside Higher Ed has a good overview of the regulations released today, which will take effect in July 2011, as well as links to the rules and a list of the revisions made since the initial rules were proposed. Major changes include:

  • Eliminates loopholes allowing institutions to provide incentive pay for admissions and financial aid employees. The rules now explicitly state that incentive payments for employees can not “in any part” be based on enrollment or financial aid metrics.
  • Revises the definition of a credit hour for the purpose of awarding federal student aid.
  • Clarifies the timeline for returning federal student aid when a student is no longer enrolled.
  • Requires for-profit institutions to provide easily accessed graduation and job placement statistics, as well has college cost calculators.
  • Requires institutions to notify DOE of new non-degree certificate programs, some of which DOE may determine require a formal application for federal approval (note that this is an area where feedback/lobbying had a significant impact as the original rule required DOE approval for all such programs).

These rules represent a large step for the federal government in regulating higher education in the US.

For more information on the federal government’s intensifying scrutiny of the for-profit higher education sector and why it matters to traditional institutions, see our previous posts: Senator Tom Harkin and the HELP Committee Continue to Investigate For-Profit Colleges, and Under Federal Fire, For-Profit Colleges Point Finger at Publics.

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