Home Online Education Access and Affordability

Access and Affordability

New Year’s Announcement: Free Tuition For Four Years – With a Catch

Among my newsfeeds over the holidays was one from the Lexington, KY Herald Leader about an announcement from Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY about a new four-year, tuition-free scholarship for local graduating high school students. The offer applies to students admitted over the next decade and requires they live on campus all four years and pay for room and board, approximating $12,000 annually.

Some College and No Degree

“Over the past 20 years, more than 31 million students have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate” is the headline for a recent Strada, Gallup and Lumina Study report. Another recent National Student Clearinghouse report provided an overview of this population by state, noting that a nuanced review of the data is required before making conclusions and recommendations. The researchers pulled Strada-Gallup survey data from more than 42,000 individuals who did not complete college to complement the Clearinghouse study and shared the following key findings.

Expanding Pathways to College Enrollment and Degree Attainment

Last week, non-profit research firm ITHAKA S+R released an issue brief, discussing the policies and reforms necessary for states to increase access to higher education and degree attainment. The authors write that the U.S. has a projected shortage of five million workers with appropriate postsecondary education credentials by 2020, noting that most undergraduate students today are nontraditional.

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.

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 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.

Prelude to a Pricing Paradigm Shift

 

Ryan Craig’s opinion piece in Inside Higher Ed last week queried why tuition for online programs hasn’t tumbled given the benefits of technology and scale amassed by some of the largest online institutions. He cites several sources, including the BMO 2019 Education Industry report and a 2017 survey by WCET, noting that the average per credit, in-state cost for an online bachelor’s program is 14% higher than on-ground and that 54% of institutions are charging online students more than those on-ground.

Craig states that regardless of which survey you find most credible, few institutions are charging less for online students. He ponders why this hasn’t happened, stating that some colleges and universities are operating subscale online programs which precludes the benefits of cutting tuition. Others spend as much as $5,000-plus in marketing costs to attract and convert a person to an online student.

Yes, Employers Do Value Liberal Arts Degrees…But Will That Change Public Opinion?

Dr. Lynn Pasquerella, president of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) authored an article for the September 2019 Harvard Business Review touting the merits of liberal arts degrees. AAC&U represents institutions committed to the value of liberal arts programs. In fact, APUS is a member and recognized by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission as a liberal arts institution.

Dr. Pasquerella notes that “it’s no secret that American higher education is under siege” and adds that politicians have fueled this dynamic by proposing legislation that would base funding on students’ employment after graduation and requiring institutions to amend mission statements citing such aspirations as “search for truth,” “public service,” and “improving the human condition.” She adds that the “achieve the American Dream” vision has been decoupled from higher education, keeping many individuals from recognizing that colleges and universities still contribute substantially toward societal and institutional transformation.

Open Educational Resources: Pioneering Low-Cost Course Materials and Peer-Reviewed Scholarship

This past November, a new kid on the block joined the ranks of peer-reviewed scholarly journals with its inaugural issue, APUS’s The International Journal of Open Educational Resources (IJOER). This publication, however, is not the common journal that academic scholars have all come to know and love.

In March 2018, APUS Provost Dr. Vernon Smith approached me to see if I would be interested in developing and overseeing a journal focusing on open educational resources (OER). After consulting with several OER leaders, I was quite surprised to learn that IJOER was indeed the FIRST journal to focus solely on OER research — especially given that the OER movement began well before 1995.

In fact, it wasn’t until November 2018 that the first OER-focused journal was developed. Prior to IJOER, research studies around OER were published in content-specific journals. For example, if a researcher conducted a study titled “The Development of OERs in the Physics Classroom”, the article would likely be published in a physics-related journal. IJOER provides scholars with a new and more relevant venue to publish their work.