Two years ago at the annual Council of Independent Colleges, a group of private-college presidents advocated for limiting the amount of financial aid awarded on criteria other than need—usually referred to as “merit-based” financial aid. Although the presidents received an enthusiastic response from the Council, little action followed. However, last Saturday at this year’s Council meeting, the conversation was revisited and two encouraging developments suggest progress may be more conceivable this time.
First, the presidents unveiled a draft “statement of principle,” which they hope will unite colleagues who believe that meeting financial need should be the highest priority of aid policies. Titled “High Tuition/High Discount Has No Future,” the statement articulates that the merit-aid/tuition discounting model is unsustainable and those signing their support acknowledge they’ve contributed to the problem. The statement cites a 2009 study that found “the increased use of merit aid is associated with a decrease in enrollment of low-income and minority students, particularly at more selective institutions.”
Second, David L. Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, revealed information from preliminary conversations with U.S. Justice Department officials regarding ways in which groups of presidents could discuss their tuition and/or financial aid policies without penalty and, hopefully, reach collective agreements to make college more affordable. This is significant as the Overlap Group, a set of elite universities that joined forces on admissions and financial-aid decisions for several years, faced antitrust charges by the federal government in 1991. The federal case effectively ended any meaningful collaboration on such topics, keeping schools in the dark about each other’s financial aid and admissions strategies.
“The fear, obviously, is that unilateral disarmament” in the merit-aid race won’t work, said one of the efforts’ leaders according to The Chronicle. Presidents worry that increasing need-based aid and decreasing merit aid, which is used to attract top students, will result in less robust enrollment and less prestige. But hopefully between the statement of principle, which could align presidents behind common goals, and discussions with the federal government, which could result in permissible collaboration, some progress will be made and the game of financial-aid chicken can end.
US News and World Report released its annual college rankings Tuesday and the UW dropped from 42 to 46 in the National Universities category, and from 10 to 13 among public universities.
This drop isn’t as severe as it might seem. As noted by the Seattle Times, this change is a relatively small one. In the rankings, many universities may have equal scores and so share a numeric rank. This year, for example, there are five institutions that are ranked 46th. Last year, there were several institutions ranked 42nd. Only one institution is now ranked above the UW that was not ranked above or tied with the UW last year: UC Irvine.
Ranks are calculated by weighting a number of factors:
- Undergraduate academic reputation
- Graduation rate
- Faculty Resources
- Student selectivity
- Spending per student
- Alumni giving
Interestingly, the factor for which the UW shows the greatest deviation from other similarly ranked institutions is “Faculty Resources.” While the UW is ranked 46th overall, it is ranked 150th in terms of faculty resources. The two most heavily weighted measures in faculty resources are:
- The percentage of classes with fewer than 20 students, and
- Average faculty salary.
Given the recent economic situation faced by the UW, it is not surprising that these are problematic measures for us.
In summary, the UW’s ranking has dropped, but the significance of that drop is low. Moreover, the UW’s low ranking on the key “Faculty Resources” factor is to be expected given the salary freeze and state funding cuts the UW has experienced during the Great Recession.
A new report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds that higher education is becoming increasingly integral to earning a middle class wage. The Center predicts that, in 2018, while there will still be jobs for high school dropouts and workers with only a high school degree, good jobs for these candidates will be scarce and an associate’s degree, and for many, a bachelor’s degree will be necessary.
The report seeks to paint a picture of the likely employment landscape in 2018, including those job fields (or “clusters”) that are expected to be growing and pay higher wages. It further analyzes what educational qualifications jobs in that cluster will require, finding that upward mobility for workers without higher education will be difficult to achieve—most workers do not stay in the same job for very long and most higher-paying jobs require more education, not simply more experience. Other key findings include:
- In 2018, 37 percent of jobs are expected to require a high school diploma or less. Of these jobs, however, only one third will pay over $35,000 a year (defined here as the Minimum Earnings Threshold necessary to enter the middle class) and will be concentrated in the areas of Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Architecture and Construction, and Manufacturing. The higher paying clusters are also heavily male-dominated, making higher education even more determinant for women seeking higher paying employment.
- Completing any degree significantly improves a worker’s job prospects and earnings. 54 percent of workers with an A.A .degree earn more than $35,000 a year, as do 69 percent of workers with B.A.s and 80 percent of workers with M.A.s.
- Health Sciences, Information Technology, Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security are career clusters defined by this report as High Wage, High Demand, and High Skill. This means that wages are higher than the average wage, employment is growing quickly (more than 10 percent expected between 2008 and 2018), and most workers in these industries hold a postsecondary degree.
To read more about the report, refer to the Executive Summary or the Full Report. Also see the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article on the topic.
The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce has released another report projecting an increasing need for college graduates in the US workforce. Like last year’s report, the new report, “The Undereducated American”, argues that there is an existing under-supply of college educated workers, evidenced by the very high college wage premium, and projects an increasing need for workers with a college education in the future, which will exacerbate this wage imbalance, as well as stunt economic growth.
The report predicts that the demand for college educated workers (including those with ‘some college’ as well as those with AA, BA and graduate degrees) will increase by about 2 percent per year between now and 2025, while the US is currently on track to increase the supply of college educated workers by only 1 percent per year. They recommend that the US produce 2.6 percent more college educated workers per year, another 20 million students total between now and 2025, to not only meet the increased demand, but to increase supply enough to bring the college wage premium down significantly (but still in line with other developed nations) and reduce overall income inequality in the US.
Most importantly, this report provides ample evidence that there is not an oversupply of college educated workers in the US economy, despite it being fashionable to assert that college might ‘no longer be worth it’ given the combination of economic distress and the rising cost of college. In fact, the college wage premium (the difference between what the average college educated worker is paid compared to a non-college educated worker) remains sky high in the US at 74 percent, contributing to growing income inequality in the US. The data show that not only do college educated workers dominate the highest paid positions in the US, but they make significantly more money than non college educated workers even within the same types of jobs.
Read the report to discover more about why they settle on the recommendation of producing 20 million more college educated workers (and a projected college wage premium closer to 46 percent), and to see detailed data on wage and employment trends by occupation and education.
CUPA-HR salary survey data, analyzed by Inside Higher Education, shows that, similar to faculty members, median pay for senior and mid-level administrators at public institutions of higher education was flat in 2010.
At private institutions, members of all three categories showed modest gains of between 1 and 2 percent, contributing to a growing gap between pay at public and private institutions.
Higher Education Strategy Associates, a Toronto based research firm, released a report last week that measures 17 nations on the affordability and accessibility of their higher education systems.
The report, Global Higher Education Rankings 2010: Affordability and Accessibility in Comparative Perspective, finds that while the United States ranks on the low end of affordability, it ranks 4th overall in accessibility. This counterintuitive finding is repeated across other nations in the study and suggests that these two goals are not as closely linked as some might assume. Overall, Finland scored highest on both measures.
If you don’t want to read the entire report, or scrutinize the research methodology, you can find a summary of the report and a table of the main results at the Chronicle.
In advance of the 123rd annual meeting in Dallas on November 14, The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) has released the final report resulting from five regional meetings to discuss key concerns about the future of public research universities, one of which took place at UW Seattle on April 26, 2010.
The report, Ensuring Public Research Universities Remain Vital, outlines the important contributions that public research institutions like the UW make to knowledge, society and the economy. The report also reaffirms the need for institutions to remain committed to their public mission of providing world class education that is affordable and accessible, and for the states to remain committed to facilitating that mission by restoring and protecting the public investment in higher education.
Additionally, the report addresses ways that the federal government can help keep US public research institutions vital. First, by reforming indirect cost reimbursement rate setting policies and regulations associated with federal research grants. Second, by exploring ways that the federal government can partner with institutions to provide operating support, including endowed faculty chairs, funding for doctoral trainees, and new targeted research funding.
John Aubrey Douglass of UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education has issued a new report on the current status of higher education, and potential paths for growth and change into the future.
In Re-Imagining California Higher Education, Douglass argues that the existing model for higher education in California (here representative of higher education in states across the US) has changed only incrementally over recent decades and is ill suited, due primarily to the combination of declining per student funding and increased enrollment, to meet the near-term demands of the economy, much less US stated goals of dramatically increased participation and attainment for the future.
Douglass proposes that California boldy reimagine its higher education system by building on the existing strengths of its current tripartite system (two year community colleges, the four-year California State system, and the four-year UC research institutions). Among his proposals:
- An expanded community college sector that includes a set of institutions offering four year degrees and a set of institutions with a more explicit ‘transfer focus’.
- A new poli-technic institution sector that focuses on applied degrees in science, engineering and technology.
- A new online ‘open university’ that focuses on adult and/or placebound learners in California.
- Increased focus on international recruitment to attract funding dollars and top talent to the state.
- Increased focus on partnering with the federal government in funding institutions beyond basic research and financial aid to students.
With arguably the best– and certainly the largest– public higher education system in the country, if not world, the old saying ‘So goes California, so goes the nation’ comes to mind while reading Douglass’ report.
While some may be expanding public investment in higher education, the US is not alone in wondering how to maintain globally competitive institutions while significantly increasing student access in the face of diminishing public resources. A British panel headed by Lord John Browne released a long anticipated report, Securing a Sustainable Future for Higher Education, which outlines Britain’s higher education goals, assesses the ability of the existing system to meet them, and proposes a new financing model that shifts the cost away from taxpayers and toward the graduates themselves.
The debate about higher education as primarily a public or private good is a familiar one in the US, where shifting the costs from the state to students has been a decades long trend. British institutions only introduced student fees in the early 90′s, and since 2006, British institutions have been allowed to charge a maximum of £3,000 ($4,800) per year to supplement government funding. If Britain were to implement the report’s recommendations to slash government funding by 82% and remove the cap on student fees, British higher education would not only catch up, but surpass the US in terms of the public/private split in higher education funding. However, note that loan repayment terms in Britain are much more flexible than in the US.
Some of the primary components of the proposal include:
- The institutions shall set fees competitively.
- The Government will front the cost of attendance via student loans.
- These loans will be paid back after graduation, but not unless or until the student is making more than £21,000 per year.
- The interest charged will only be high enough to cover the Government’s cost of making the loans.
- The student’s monthly loan payment will be based on earnings.
- All outstanding loan amounts will be forgiven after 30 years of payments.
Because the Government is taking on the risk in this model, they propose that institutions face a government levy of 40-90% on any fees charged above £6,000 to discourage needless fee increases.
Such a dramatic increase in the cost of higher education for British citizens is alarming to many. However, proponents note that as many as 20% of students might never have to repay the loans due to low income, and that many others will pay less than the total amount owed. Concerns remain, however, for those who believe in the concept of ‘sticker shock‘, wherein a lower income student is deterred from attending an institution due to the high sticker price, even if financing options may dramatically reduce the overall cost. Still others, including in the humanities and social sciences, are concerned about the differential treatment of medical and other STEM related education fields, which would continue to receive government investment.
The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine have sponsored an update to their consequential 2005 report entitled Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. The latest version is called Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5, and can be read online free of charge.
The new report highlights America’s relative decline in global competitiveness by presenting statistics on patent awards, research publications, employer surveys, and student achievement levels in math and science, among other things. While recognizing current economic constraints, the report calls for major investment in and reform of K-12 education, as well as a doubling of the federal basic-research budget to help restore and maintain US competitiveness in the global economy.
One action Congress can take immediately is to reauthorize the America COMPETES Act, which was passed in 2007 largely as a result of the 2005 Gathering Storm report. This Act received one-time federal stimulus funding in 2009, and is set to expire this year without Congressional action. The UW Office of Federal Relations provides regular updates on their blog regarding the Act’s progress in Congress.
In addition to this report, The National Research Council, at the request of Congress, has created the Committee on Research Universities, a panel of business and higher education leaders, to identify the “top ten actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century.”
The Committee held its inaugural meeting on September 22nd, and is scheduled to meet again in late November.