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Dawn of The Dead

Dawn of the Dead

 

Matt Schifrin and Carter Coudriet of Forbes wrote an article about the financial ratings of private colleges, Dawn of the Dead: For Hundreds of the Nation’s Private Colleges, It’s Merge or Perish. The authors refer to Forbes’ analysis of the finances of 933 private, not-for-profit colleges with 500+ enrollments, stating that the majority of these institutions are in a precarious situation with their high tuition, tuition-dependent financial model, declining overall enrollments, and competitive landscape in higher education. It’s unsurprising that the wealthiest private colleges are doing well and in Forbes’ ratings, score a GPA of 4.5 and an A+ rating. However, the number of schools receiving a GPA of 1.5 or lower and a D has swelled from 110 in 2013 to 177 in 2019. Only 34 schools earned A+’s, with a total of 498 colleges earning C’s, an increase over 434 in 2013.

In addition to the previously cited contributing factors to the financial decline, there is excess capacity in higher education. According to Kevin Coyne of Emory University and Robert Witt of the University of Alabama System, there is a 6.4% excess capacity among public colleges, but a 12.4% excess among private institutions. Interestingly, the smallest privates have an overcapacity of 28%. As president of a very scalable, online institution, I believe that Coyne and Witt have not considered the vastly scalable operations of institutions with large online populations like APUS. Those considerations would certainly expand the overcapacity numbers immensely.

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skills training

Should Skills Training Replace Higher Education? Yes, the “Expensive Wandering” Part

Tom Vander Ark, CEO of Getting Smart and former executive director for education of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, recently wrote about changing criteria in considering college education versus other pathways pursued by high school students and their parents.

Vander Ark cites Dr. George Kuh’s October 2019 piece in the Harvard Business Review in which Kuh defends the long-term benefits of a liberal arts degree. Vander Ark shares my view in stating that price hikes in higher education have made the risk of debt without a degree the new worst-case scenario for Generation Z students. He cites Ryan Craig’s book, A New U, noting that the new rule for young people is to attend a good selective school for free if possible and so motivated. If not, look to stay debt-free and sprint to your first job.

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Dawn of The Dead

Which College Graduates Make the Most?

 

On November 20, 2019, the Department of Education released its long-awaited update to the College Scorecard, revealing median debt, earnings and other data for graduates of specific programs of the represented schools. The Wall Street Journal was given an exclusive look at the data before publication, and provides some comparisons of the data among schools and a handy tool for sorting the dataset by school, degree level and degree type to show the median debt for graduates and median income level the first year after graduating. 

I commend the Department for providing more consumer transparency. As I have written previously, the Scorecard will only be relevant when it posts data on all students, not just students using Federal Student loans. And even then, there are reasons why some institutions have dramatically different data. In this update, the Department has published both graduate and undergraduate data, some of which is revealing. For example, the Journal writes that dentists graduating from New York University had a median debt of $387,660 but only earned $69,600 in their first year after graduation. Dr. Robert Kelchen, a professor at Seton Hall, reports that the highest earners were dentists  graduating from Ohio State with a first-year salary of $231,200 and debt of $173,309. While there may be regional differences why NYU grads earn less than OSU grads one year after graduation, the difference in debt is likely due to one being private and the other public.

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Dawn of The Dead

Reviewing the Methodology Behind New ROI Rankings for 4,500 Colleges

 

I am no fan of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, primarily because it is incomplete and may be misleading for some metrics. Much of the data is derived from students using Federal Student Aid (FSA) only and some of it is from those who are first-time, full-time students using FSA loans. At APUS, most of our students are part-time, working adults not using FSA to fund their education. I first wrote about the Scorecard in 2016 and reported about others like me who criticized its incomplete data.

Despite the flaws of the Scorecard, I understand why Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce recently attempted to create a return on investment (ROI) for all colleges using this data. First, it’s the only published source that uses IRS data to match earnings with students who have attended those specific institutions and who received FSA. With access to earnings, institutional costs and debt incurred, the researchers can calculate a rudimentary ROI.

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College ROI Boston

A First Try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 Colleges

Anthony Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce issued a report ranking the ROI of all 4,500 colleges and universities listed in the College Scorecard.

Included among the researchers’ notable findings:

  • Community college and many certificate programs have the highest ROI in the short term (10 years).
  • Colleges that primarily award bachelor’s degrees have the highest ROI in the long term (40 years).
  • Public colleges have higher ROI than private colleges in the short term.
  • Degrees from private nonprofit colleges generally have a higher ROI in the long term than public universities.
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Dawn of The Dead

Maryland’s Kirwan Commission

One of the frequently covered topics in higher education is the cost of college and specifically, the reduction in state funding for their public institutions. Less covered nationally is adequacy of the cost of K-12 education. In 2016, the Maryland governor and legislature jointly formed the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education, also known as the Kirwan Commission after its chair. The goal of the bipartisan Commission was to research successful school systems globally and make recommendations to make Maryland’s world-class. Governor Larry Hogan appointed two people to the commission, and the state senate president and house speaker appointed five persons each. There were an additional eight members appointed by the State Board of Education, Maryland State Education Association, Baltimore Teachers Union, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, Association of School Business Officials, Maryland PTA, and the Maryland Association of Counties.

The Commission issued two interim reports and one preliminary report before presenting its findings in October 2019, recommending that Maryland increase its annual spending on education by $3.8 billion to be phased in over the next decade. While a precise funding formula has yet to be negotiated between the state and counties, the Commission has recommended that it be split approximately 50/50 between the state’s portion and that covered by Baltimore City and 23 counties. On the surface, it’s hard to argue against recommendations such as requiring higher credentials for new teachers and increasing teacher pay, funding for pre-kindergarten, and funding for schools with many children living in poverty.

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Dawn of The Dead

NCAA Governing Board Allows College Athletes to Receive Compensation

On October 29, the NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow Divisions 1, 2 and 3 to permit athletes to receive compensation for their personal brand or celebrity, while not also becoming employees of their university. The three divisions must change their bylaws by January 2021 and with those changes, ensure that athletes will not be classified as professionals. This change of NCAA policy is likely in response to bills like California’s Fair Pay for Play Act, which mandates that athletes receive fair compensation for their work and will take effect in 2023.

The NCAA has been under siege for years. As the governing body for college sports, it has reaped the rewards of sponsorship contracts for broadcasting rights and shared little with the athletes performing on the field, court, track, diamond, course, or arena. Universities belonging to the Big 5 athletic conferences are additional beneficiaries, awarding multi-million dollar contracts to successful coaches and few benefits beyond college scholarships to their athletes. The NCAA’s dual role as regulator and enforcer is arguably influenced by the value of those big network contracts as evidenced by the verdict of no punishment for the University of North Carolina’s athletic program for steering athletes into “paper classes.” On the surface, one can only assume that the NCAA ordered its attorneys to find a loophole to avoid punishing one of college basketball’s perennially strongest programs.

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Dawn of The Dead

The Public Higher Education Funding Conundrum

It’s no secret that state funding per student for public higher education has dropped significantly since the 2008 recession. In response to lower tax revenues during the recession, states cut their funding to higher education (a non-mandated spending item in most state budgets) and public colleges and universities responded by increasing tuition, recruiting more out of state students, eliminating faculty and staff positions, and shuttering academic programs. Many states’ tax revenues have rebounded since then, and yet their funding for higher ed has not. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only four states out of 49 analyzed have increased their funding per student above the 2008 funding levels.

Given that state treasuries have purportedly returned to pre-2008 levels, one might assume that states would no longer be cutting higher education funding. However, that’s not the case. At least three states recently indicated the potential for change, and not necessarily positive change. The most notable was Alaska, where Governor Mike Dunleavy cut the state’s higher education funding by more than $130 million on June 28. The cut represented 41% of the state’s annual higher education budget. After the legislature failed to override his line item veto cut, the board of regents declared financial exigency. After weeks of discussion, the Regents and Governor agreed to reduce funding by a cumulative $70 million over three years. However, this occurred after the system president proposed merging the state universities under one entity, triggering a faculty vote of no confidence and a letter from the universities’ accrediting body. The Regents and the system president rescinded that recommendation, for now.

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Dawn of The Dead

Why Skills Training Can’t Replace Higher Education

 

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Why Skills Training Can’t Replace Higher Education,” Dr. George Kuh posits that “much of the current media-reported posturing by policy makers and pundits about the failure of U.S. colleges and universities to adequately prepare people for the 21st-century workplace is either ill-informed or misguided.” Dr. Kuh, chancellor’s professor emeritus of higher education at Indiana University, describes today’s media narrative as one focused on the need for vocational skills versus “useless liberal arts programs.” Multiple badges and certificates will be issued to indicate proficiency in certain skills and in the future, a trusted entity will “rack and stack” a combination of them to issue the equivalent of a college degree.  He acknowledges that “short-term vocational skills-based programs are critically important and well-suited for many.” However, he also questions why this should be the desired policy for addressing the needs of the 21st-century workplace.

 

Dr. Kuh notes that “workplaces, societal institutions, and the world order are only going to get more complicated and challenging to navigate and manage, increasing the need for people with accumulated wisdom, interpersonal and practical competence, and more than a splash of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and altruism.” He also notes that there are “no short cuts” to enabling people to deepen learning, develop resilience, and convert information into action. Shortening education in order to bolster productivity is shortsighted for many reasons, and he expects that many learners from traditionally underrepresented groups will likely gravitate toward these shorter and less expensive training programs at the risk of delaying or denying themselves a foundational baccalaureate degree. He calls on business leaders to speak about what the country needs from our postsecondary system and for a re-balancing to occur based on their experience leading their corporations through this era of rapid, technology-driven change.

 

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Dawn of The Dead

The 60-Year Curriculum

 

A friend recently sent me an article from The EvoLLLution,Preparing a Traditional University for the 60-Year Curriculum,” by Josh Herron, dean of Online and Continuous Learning at Anderson University. Herron discusses ongoing corporate initiatives to train and retrain their employees, noting that universities should consider the 60-Year Curriculum (ages 15-75) as a framework to prepare people for lifetime learning in order to continually re-tool or upskill because of technology disruption eliminating their jobs. Citing badges, certificates and “other modular approaches,” in addition to Competency Based Education (CBE), he assesses the Anderson initiatives accomplished thus far using this framework.

One of the articles he notes was an EvoLLLution interview with Hunt Lambert, dean of Continuing Education and Extension at Harvard. In the interview, Mr. Lambert suggests that higher education morph from its two-year A.A., four-year B.A., two-year M.A., and seven-year Ph.D. learning models to a 60-year model to cover the likely major career changes/shifts of adult learners. I found it particularly noteworthy that he stated that if higher education institutions do not make these changes, then Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Salesforce, and others will. He further states that, in the long run, any individual school is unlikely to supply more than 20 percent of any learners’ solutions from their faculty-based degree programs (italics are mine). I wholeheartedly agree.

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