Higher Education

The Graduate Student Debt Review: The State of Graduate Student Borrowing

March 28, 2014
A recent policy brief from the New America Foundation reports that the largest overall changes in student borrowing are at the graduate student level, with graduate student debt having increased significantly from 2008 to 2012.
 
Among the report’s findings:
 
  • The debt burden for a borrower earning a graduate degree increased (in inflation-adjusted dollars) from $40,209 in 2008 to over $57,000 in 2012.
  • The increase in graduate student debt is seen across a broad range of fields, not just law and medicine, two fields with expected patterns of high borrowing.
  • Roughly 40% of the $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loans financed graduate and professional degrees.
 
The report cautions against conflating undergraduate and graduate debt in discussions of college costs and student loans. Graduate degrees, the report argues, while providing an increase in earnings for recipients, are not the foundation for American economic opportunity and may not be what taxpayers feel comfortable subsidizing.

The Employer Potential of MOOCs

April 11, 2014
A recent report from RTI International and Duke University shows results from an online survey of 398 North Carolina employers regarding their knowledge and experience with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).  Data from the survey was combined with follow-up phone interviews and revealed that while a majority of employers had not yet heard of MOOCs, they responded very positively to the potential of MOOCs in their recruiting and hiring decisions. Respondents also indicated an interest in using MOOCs as part of their professional development training.
 
Among the survey’s findings:
 
  • Only 31% of employers had heard of MOOCs at the time of the survey.
    • Employers in the education, business, and communication fields were much more likely to have heard of MOOCs than were employers in finance, retail, or public administration.
  • Only one employer surveyed reported actually using a MOOC for recruitment, but 57% reported they could see themselves using MOOCs for recruitment.
    • Receptivity was particularly high from employers in the fields of business, communications, and manufacturing.
    • Organizations noted that due to increased competition in the workforce, MOOCs might be useful in exposing them to talented and experienced candidates.
  • 73% of employers viewed MOOCs positively with respect to their potential influence in hiring applicants who had taken job-related MOOCs.
    • Receptivity was particularly high from employers in the fields of business, communications, and education.
    • Employers noted that taking and completing MOOCs could be a sign of motivation among candidates.
  • More than three-quarters of employers surveyed had used, considered using, or could see their organizations using MOOCs for professional development. Receptivity spanned all industries, but was particularly high among tech companies.
    • In follow up interviews, organizations spoke to the need for highly specialized and technical MOOCs that could fill employee skill gaps.
    • Other organizations indicated a need for leadership and management MOOCs for employees.

Sharpening Our Focus on Learning: The Rise of Competency-Based Approaches to Degree Completion

March 14, 2014
A recent paper from the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment examines competency-based education (CBE) in the United States. CBE credits students with what they actually know and can do rather than how long students spent in a course. The number of CBE programs is increasing, the paper argues, due to growing concern about the quality and cost of higher education. The report analyzes current CBE models and describes how they might go to scale on a national level.

Among the report’s findings:
 
  • Institutions that are using competency-based education are approaching it one of three ways: (1) embedding it into traditional curriculum; (2) redesigning the curriculum entirely around competencies; or (3) redesigning the credentialing process around CBE, using direct assessment.
  • There are five common concepts in competency-based education (1)a focus on demonstrating knowledge; (2) clearly defined requirements of what graduates should know and be able to do in order to earn a degree;( 3) assessment practices that focus on real-life scenarios; (4) a de-emphasis on a traditional course format so that students can learn from open education resources or hands on, project-based environments. (5) customization of the learning materials for individual students, based on their needs, and the extent to which they might need additional help.
  • Some of the primary challenges facing competency-based programs in the U.S. are (1)determining eligibility for federal financial aid, (2) gaining buy-in from faculty,(3) developing and sharing best practices, (4) understanding the variety of assessment practices currently being used by CBE programs across the country, (5) working with regional accreditors, and (6) identifying what data should be collected on CBE programs and how best to collect it for continuous improvement.

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2007 Cohort PART TWO

March 7, 2014
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has released its second annual report on student attainment rates for student who first enrolled in postsecondary education in the fall of 2007. The report tracks students for six years through the spring of 2013.

Among the report’s findings:
 
  • Overall, 56.1% of first-time degree seeking students who enrolled in postsecondary education in fall of 2007 completed a degree or certificate within six years. Student completion rates, however, varied greatly by a student enrollment intensity.
    • Students who were enrolled exclusively full-time had a 77.7% completion rate.
    • Students who were enrolled exclusively part-time had a 21.9% completion rate.
    • Students who were enrolled on a mixed basis – periods of full and part time—had a 43.2% completion rate.
       
  • Students who began college at a more traditional age – age 20 or younger – had higher completion rates than older students who first enrolled in postsecondary education. By age groups, students who enrolled in postsecondary education in fall of 2007 completed a degree or certificate within six years as follows:
    • Among students ages 20 or younger, 59.7% had completed a degree within 6 years, 15.9% were still enrolled in school, and 24.3% were no longer enrolled.
    • Among students between ages 21 and 24, 40.8% had completed a degree within 6 years, 16.3% were still enrolled in school, and 42.8% were no longer enrolled.
    • Among students over age 24, 43.5% had completed a degree within 6 years, 12.5% were still enrolled in school, and 43.9% were no longer enrolled.
  • Student completion outcomes also varied based on the type of institution in which a student first enrolled.
    • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year private nonprofit, 70.2% had completed at a four-year institution, 2.6% had completed at a 2-year institution, 9.7% were still enrolled in school, and 17.5% were no longer enrolled in school.
    • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year public institution, 59.9% had completed at a four-year institution, 3.6% had completed at a 2-year institution, 15.0% were still enrolled in school, and 21.6% were no longer enrolled in school.
    • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year private for-profit institution, 40.1% had completed at a four-year institution, 2.3% had completed at a 2-year institution, 13.4% were still enrolled in school, and 44.3% were no longer enrolled in school.
    • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 2-year public institution, 29.9% had completed at a two-year institution, 10.0% had completed at a 4-year institution, 18.9% were still enrolled in school, and 41.2% were no longer enrolled in school.
    • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 2-year private for-profit institution, 60.4% had completed at a two-year institution, 3.0% had completed at a 4-year institution, 7.8% were still enrolled in school, and 29.8% were no longer enrolled in school.

College Blackout

  • By
  • Amy Laitinen,
  • Clare McCann,
  • New America Foundation
March 11, 2014
Ever-rising college costs, more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, and graduates doubtful that they’ll be able to earn enough to repay their loans have driven college value to become a major concern for most prospective students. Yet students, families, and policymakers are finding their questions can’t be answered—because the higher education lobby has fought to keep it that way.

The U.S. Economy After The Great Recession

  • By
  • Sherle R. Schwenninger,
  • Samuel Sherraden,
  • New America Foundation
March 4, 2014
The bursting of the housing bubble in 2008 plunged the U.S. economy into a serious crisis, leaving American households with a huge debt overhang and the economy with a large gap in output and employment. This report reviews the economy’s deleveraging and recovery experience more than five years after the crash. It explores the following questions:  
  • How far has the economy come in the deleveraging process? Is private sector debt now at a sustainable level or do households and the financial sector continue to need to pay down debt?  
  • To what extent has the U.S.

How Full-Time are “Full-Time” Students

February 28, 2014
Complete College America has released a policy brief reporting the results of a survey looking at enrollment patters of “full-time” and “part-time” students. Specifically, the brief looks at the number of credits “full-time” students are taking. The report finds that most students classified as “full-time” are not taking enough credits to graduate on time.

Among the survey results:
 
  • 69% of college students are not enrolled in a sufficient number of credits to graduate on time.
  • 52% of “full-time” students are taking less than 15 credits, the standard number of credits needed to graduate on time.
    • Among 4-year institutions, only 50% of “full-time” students were taking 15 or more credit hours.
    • Among 2-year institutions, only 29% of “full-time” students were taking 15 or more credit hours.

STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths into and out of STEM Fields

February 21, 2014
The National Center for Education Statistics has released a study looking at undergraduate student attrition in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). Specifically, the study looked at student movements in and out of the STEM fields between 2003 and 2009. In the study, student attrition was defined as undergraduate students declaring a STEM major and subsequently switching into a non-STEM field or leaving postsecondary education without earning degree or certificate. The study aimed to explore STEM attrition rates compared to other fields, the fields into which STEM majors move, and various student characteristics of those leaving and persisting in STEM.

Among the report’s findings:
  • ​Among 2003-2004 beginning bachelor’s degree students, 28 percent entered a STEM major at some point between 2003 and 2009. Among beginning associate’s degree students, 20 percent entered a STEM field in that time period.
  • Among beginning bachelor’s degree students who entered a STEM field between 2003 and 2009, 48 percent had left the STEM fields by 2009. Among beginning associate’s degree students who entered a STEM field between 2003 and 2009, the STEM attrition rate rose to 69 percent.
  • Attrition rates were similarly high in non-STEM fields. Among beginning bachelor’s degree students who entered the education field between 2003 and 2009, 62 percent had left the education field by 2009. Among beginning bachelor’s degree students who entered a health sciences field or humanities field between 2003 and 2009, by 2009 58 percent had left health sciences and 56 percent had left the humanities. Similarly high attrition at the associate’s degree level was also seen in education (70%) and humanities (72%).
  • Among students who left the STEM field for another field, 22 percent of bachelor’s students and 16 percent of associate’s degree students ended up pursuing a business degree, and 12 percent of bachelor’s students and 20 percent of associate’s degree students ended up pursuing a health sciences degree. 

NPSAS Price Estimates for Attending Postsecondary Education: First Look

February 14, 2014
Using data from the 2011-2012 National Postsecondary Study Aid Study (NPSAS:12), the National Center for Education Statistics has released a report on the price of college for undergraduate students during the 2011-12 academic year. The report looks at three price measures – price of attendance/sticker price (all costs without consideration of student aid), net price (price of attendance minus grant aid), and net “out-of-pocket” price (price of attendance minus all financial aid, e.g., grants, loans, work study).

Among the report’s findings:

Among all undergraduate students at 4-year public institutions in 2011-2012:
  • The average price of attendance/sticker price was $17,900.
  • The average net price was $14,300.
  • The average out-of-pocket net price was $9,600.
Among all undergraduate students at 4-year private, non-profit institutions in 2011-2012:
  • The average price of attendance/sticker price was $34,400.
  • The average net price was $23,000.
  • The average out-of-pocket net price was $15,000.
Among all undergraduate students at 4-year private, for-profit institutions in 2011-2012:
  • The average price of attendance/sticker price was $19,400.
  • The average net price was $16,600.
  • The average out-of-pocket net price was $9,000.
Among all undergraduate students at 2-year public institutions in 2011-2012:
  • The average price of attendance/sticker price was $8,700.
  • The average net price was $7,100.
  • The average out-of-pocket net price was $6,000.
Among all undergraduate students at 2-year private for-profit institutions in 2011-2012:
  • The average price of attendance/sticker price was $21,100.
  • The average net price was $18,600.
  • The average out-of-pocket net price was $12,400.
The report also provides price of attendance/sticker price, net price, and net “out-of-pocket” price data broken down by dependent student versus independent student status and for income quartiles. 

Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2007 Cohort

February 7, 2014
The National Student Clearinghouse has issued a research brief looking at the six-year outcomes of students who first enrolled in postsecondary education in the fall of 2007. The brief provides data broken down by type of postsecondary institution and by student enrollment intensity (e.g., full-time, part-time).

Among the findings:
  • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year private nonprofit, 69.1% had completed at a four-year institution, 2.6% had completed at a 2-year institution, 9.8% were still enrolled in school, and 18.4% were no longer enrolled in school.
  • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year public institution, 58.4% had completed at a four-year institution, 3.5% had completed at a 2-year institution, 15.2% were still enrolled in school, and 22.9% were no longer enrolled in school.
  • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 4-year private for-profit institution, 40% had completed at a four-year institution, 2.3% had completed at a 2-year institution, 13.3% were still enrolled in school, and 44.5% were no longer enrolled in school.
  • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 2-year public institution, 28.6% had completed at a two-year institution, 8.8% had completed at a 4-year institution, 19.1% were still enrolled in school, and 43.5% were no longer enrolled in school.
  • Within six years of starting their postsecondary education at a 2-year private for-profit institution, 60.5% had completed at a two-year institution, 2.1% had completed at a 4-year institution, 7.4% were still enrolled in school, and 30% were no longer enrolled in school.
  • Students enrolled on an exclusively full-time basis had significantly higher completion rates within 6 years of first enrolling.
    • Of students enrolled exclusively full-time, 76.2% had completed a degree within six years, 3.5% were still enrolled in school, and 20.3% were no longer enrolled.
    • Of students enrolled exclusively part-time, 21.9% had completed a degree within six years, 10.9% were still enrolled in school, and 67.1% were no longer enrolled.
    • Of students enrolled on a mixed basis (i.e., periods of full-time and part-time), 41.4% had completed a degree within six years, 25.4% were still enrolled in school, and 33.1% were no longer enrolled. 
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