Tag Archives: higher education today

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Higher Education Today: Easing the Gap Between High School and College

It’s not news that many U.S. students are unprepared for college. With billions of dollars at stake, not to mention America’s global competitiveness and the success of a generation, the causes the college readiness crisis are worth some serious investigating. Last week, as I browsed Knewton’s Higher Education Today portal, which aggregates news stories related to higher education and organizes them by state, I was afforded a look at some of the trends, challenges, and debates surrounding the gap between high school and college.

Here’s a quick look at what I found.

Waxing Rhapsodic About the Common Core

With only 56% of students who begin post-secondary studies completing their degrees within six years, it’s clear that a lot of students aren’t prepared for college when they enter. As a result, institutions like Southern Connecticut State University are actively working to build relationships between local high schools and colleges through workshop conferences that aim to “improve student outcomes through meaningful partnerships” and a stronger understanding of Common Core Standards. New College Board president and Common Core architect, David Coleman expressed an almost aspirational approach to nationwide standards in this thoughtful interview with Education Next: “I felt that the institutional interest in common standards would help the movement towards agreement that college- and career-readiness is the goal of K-12 education in this country… For me, the embrace of the Common Core is the embrace of that principle.”

Coleman also had wise words to say about the gravitas of his new position: “I think it’s fair to say that when one assesses something, particularly in a high stakes way, one should ethically have the obligation that is worth practicing a hundred times. That means you should test nothing that you don’t think that you want kids to practice, because they will.”

Revamped College Guidance Programs

Concerned about college readiness, some high schools, like the South Carolina one profiled in this Beaufort Gazette piece, have established a College and Career Readiness Initiative that contains “beefed-up guidance departments” and an increased focus on technology. Under the framework of the profiled program, counselors meet with students once a month and students compose practice college applications and receive federal funding to attend college visits.

The Gap Year: Hot Educational Trend

Some educators argue that what students are truly missing in the high school-to-college transition is the opportunity to reflect deeply on academic interests and career goals. As a result, states like Michigan are seeing an uptick in the number of graduates who take a “gap year” between high school and college for work, travel, and volunteering.

Capitalizing on the popularity of the practice (which received extra momentum during last year’s Royal Wedding hoopla, when it came to public attention that both Prince William and Kate Middleton had elected to take glamorous studycations before college), gap year fairs throughout the country now showcase opportunities for students to augment their K-12 experience with exotic internship and service programs. But there are downsides as well, as Barmak Nassirian, spokesman for the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, warns: “Like other educational fashion trends out there, this one is being stoked by well-organized business interests masquerading as idealistic facilitators of a new movement.”

Check out Knewton’s Higher Education Today portal for more curated stories!

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Higher Education Today: Spotlight on College Debt

With graduation season upon us, the topic of college debt is predictably ubiquitous. Last week, as I browsed Knewton’s Higher Education Today portal, which aggregates news stories related to higher education and organizes them by state, I was afforded a comprehensive look at just how student debt is affecting individual states as well as the nation as a whole.

Here’s a quick look at what I found.

The Problem

Time Moneyland’s “Has graduation season become the most depressing time of year?” contains a series of shocking stats like the following: “The average student debt load tops $25,000 in the U.S., while the job market for recent graduates continues to struggle. More than 95 U.S. colleges report that their 2010 graduates — the most recent data available — owed on average more than $35,000, and 73 colleges reported that more than 90% of the 2010 class had student loan debt, according to an analysis by the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success’ Project on Student Debt.” The problem is, of course, augmented for college dropouts who are in serious debt but hold no college degree.

To get a look at how college debt is affecting your state, subscribe to your state’s feed at the higher ed portal. State-specific articles like “Crushed by College Debt” contain nuggets of good-to-know information like the following: “130,000-plus Michigan residents are trying to repay school loans, and 10,711 are in default. Their average debt in 2010: $25,675.”

Solutions?

Several opinion pieces express enthusiasm for the 3-year degree, which is gaining momentum at several universities. Others, like this editorial from Christophe Pierre of the University of Illinois, argue that tuition reflects market realities and advocate for “differential tuition” as a way to at least partially address the problem. The opposing view is taken in the USA Today editorial, “Differential Tuition Hurts Undergrads, Economy” which describes the practice as “bait and switch” for students and ultimately, as taking the “‘universal’ out of ‘university.’” The incredible potential of online learning is also making its way into headlines.

Policy

The political side of the issue has played a notable role in recent campaigns: President Obama has been touring the nation and stressing the need to hold down college costs and urge Congress to pass a law preventing interest rates on some federally backed loans from doubling (scheduled to happen July 1). GOP nominee Mitt Romney has expressed similar concerns, though he differs in what he believes the federal government’s role should be.

The article, “College debt a ticking time bomb” notes, however, that “neither party has proposed a long-term solution for the time bomb represented by the estimated $1 trillion balance owed on student loans.” The article describes student debt as “several time bombs ticking simultaneously”: the economic fallout of a default rate that has doubled in recent years; the projected drop in economic demand as young people begin putting off major purchases that come with marriage, family, and home ownership; and the erosion of the American promise of meritocracy.

Check out Knewton’s Higher Education Today portal for more curated stories!