VIA NYTimes: Only Half of First-Time College Students Graduate in 6 Years

As we talk about 6-year retention rates around here, it’s worth thinking about the national trends, discussed in this nice post at the NYTimes by Catherine Rampell:

As we’ve covered here many times before, there is an abundance of evidence showing that going to college is worth it. But that’s really only true if you go to college and then graduate, and the United States is doing a terrible job of helping enrolled college students complete their educations.

A new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center digs deeper into these graduation rates. It finds that of the 1.9 million students enrolled for the first time in all degree-granting institutions in fall 2006, just over half of them (54.1 percent) had graduated within six years. Another 16.1 percent were still enrolled in some sort of postsecondary program after six years, and 29.8 percent had dropped out altogether.

Read the piece, then check out the Chronicle of Higher Ed’s interactive map to see how Texas compares to other states.




Thanks for attending the DTAR “Diversity” workshop, 2/14/13

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What might diversity mean for our classroom? How do we approach learning situations affected by diversity? How might we be most effectively sensitive to the needs of our diverse classrooms?
On 14 February, DTAR hosted the first TA workshop of the semester, exploring the topic of diversity at U of H. The DTAR workshop accorded participants, which included both TAs and TA supervisors, a chance to begin a discussion on teaching in diverse environments.  This was a discussion aimed at beginning a career-long conversation with other faculty, university services, and published research.

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“How We Learn”: TEDx at Honors, 2/23/13

I was thrilled to be part of the TEDxYouth@UH event yesterday, where some wonderful area high-schoolers, UH Honors College students, and UH faculty and grad students participated. The theme, appropriately enough, was, “How We Learn.” The fascinating thing was to see how strongly these students advocated for an engaged pedagogy, and their awareness of its importance for their own education.

Leah Morgan, an EPSY grad student who was worked with CTE DTAR, did a stand-out presentation, “The Power of Belief,” about how students’ views of their self-efficacy affected their performance. Prof. Bernard Robin (CI) gave a great presentation on digital storytelling. And I gave an address on “Acts of Reading.”

The Honors College Commons was a great venue for the event, and we had a terrifically patient and responsive crowd (it sometimes takes a while to set up the cameras between speakers). I’ll post the links to the YouTube videos when those are ready.

Thanks to Associate Dean Christine LeVeaux-Haley and Honors Dean Bill Monroe for setting this up and inviting the CTE to participate. We look forward to more events like this.


Thanks for Attending our “Art of Managing Graduate Students” New Faculty Workshop, 2/19/13

The session’s moderator, Dr. Tamara Fish, the CTE’s TA Coordinator, kicked off the event by introducing the speakers, which included Dr. James Zebroski (English), Gordon Taylor (Engineering Technology) and Victor Gallardo (Engineering Technology).

Dr. Zebroski’s remarks were organized around the topics of “working inside the institution–teaching”; “working inside the institution–research”; and “working outside or on the edges of the institution.” Here are a few of the highlights:

  • “I try to see TFs less as advanced students and more as junior colleagues (as cheesy as that may sound).”
  • “Set up a support apparatus or better use the one you have”; stakeholder conferences; coordination; anticipate pragmatic teaching concerns of new teachers.
  • encourage your grad students to attend and present at national conferences; attend with them, mentoring them there, and then debrief afterwards.
  • Set up voluntary groups, and FEED THEM.  Feed them some more.
  • Collaborate with wherever possible: write an FDIP grant that employs them, or use them for research, or co-teach informally with them.

Because Taylor and Gallardo work so closely together as Lab Managers for ET, they gave a joint presentation about the issues that they encountered in their work with TAs.  Here are their highlights:

  • To provide consistency of expectations with performance and outcomes, it’s necessary to communicate at the outset the department’s policies, rules, and expectations for students in the course.
  • Their lab students really benefited from a hybrid style of instruction, because it allowed them to review online materials (such as the CTE instructional modules) at their leisure, then discuss them in face to face groups or review as needed.
  • The differing cultures of students coming from different parts of the world or with experiences from different disciplines or universities made teaching more complicated at the graduate level.  Clear, consistent expectations communicated early and then reiterated throughout the semester were the only ways to address those potential misunderstandings.
  • Each semester was organized like a project that had to be reverse engineered from the final deadline back through the sequence of assignments and deadlines.

Finally, Dr. Tamara Fish noted that grad instruction was a “liminal space” where students could work together but which also might inspire anxiety, resistance, or anger.   She asked attendees to consider their TAs as apprentice faculty who would benefit from being introduced into the complexities and pleasures of academic work, even with all its institutional constraints.  As faculty, we helped to model for our students the nature of academic work.

After a lively discussion of professional dress, and the difficulties of teaching and professionalizing those not directly imitating our career paths, discussion broke up around 2:30.

If you have further thoughts on this topic, or would like CTE to address other topics of interest to you or your department, please email me at or hit REPLY on the blog.


Please consider attending our New Faculty Workshop, “The Art of Managing Graduate Students,” next Tuesday 12-1:30pm in 306 MDA

It’s not too late to attend the Workshop, “The Art of Managing Graduate Students,” on:

Tuesday, February 19, 2012
12:00 – 1:30 p.m.
in room 306, M. D. Anderson Library

Members of the Center for Teaching Excellence with its Division for TA Resources, led by CTE Director, David Mazella, and DTAR TA Coordinator Dr. Tamara Fish, will present strategies for developing successful graduate experiences that include setting expectations and gaining commitment, effective communication, inspiring and motivating through burn-out and crisis, and impacting future work ethics. This workshop is co-sponsored by Human Resources and the University Commission on Women.

Speakers at our roundtable will include:

Jim Zebroski (English)

Gordon Taylor (Engineering Technology)

Victor Gallardo (Engineering Technology)
You are welcome to bring your lunch with you.  Cookies and beverages will be provided.  Please R.S.V.P. to 713-743-9182.


VIA Peter Orszag: “More College Grads Equals Faster Economic Growth”

As if in response to last week’s scary graph (via the Middle Class Political Economist), here’s Peter Orszag (former CBO Director and Bloomberg columnist) giving his own interesting take on the outsized economic impact of financial aid in a post at the Washington Monthly College Guide:

For much of the 20th century, the U.S. benefited from rapidly rising educational levels, as the economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz of Harvard University showed in their 2008 book, “The Race Between Education and Technology.” Over the past 30 years, however, educational attainment has risen much more slowly. From 1960 to 1985, the share of adult Americans with at least a college degree more than doubled, to 19 percent from less than 8 percent. From 1985 to 2010, though, the share rose by only about half, to 30 percent. This slowdown has exacerbated inequality and crimped growth.

If the increase had continued at the same rate as before 1985, about half the adult population today would have at least a college degree. More graduates would mean lower inequality, because the wage premium for a college degree would be reduced by the additional supply. And it would mean higher national income, because better-educated workers are, on average, more productive.

After making suggestions to boost the numbers of college graduates, here’s a key point:

Among many considerations that influence a person’s decision to attend college, financial aid is a significant one. Aid to undergraduates totals about $200 billion a year in the U.S., and about two-thirds of students are eligible for some form of assistance. A variety of evidence suggests that every $1,000 of additional grant aid per student increases college enrollment by about three to four percentage points, according to a review of the literature by Susan Dynarski, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan, and David Deming, an assistant professor of education at Harvard . . . . The reverse is also true; people who lack access to financial aid are less likely to invest in college.

Orszag wants to continue initiatives to increase high school graduation, make more financial aid available to students in need, and simplify the financial aid process. As he concludes, “U.S. economic growth depends on it.”


Feb. 13th CIRTLcast: Linking Pedagogy to Professional Skills

CIRTLCast Presentation
Presentations on STEM teaching and learning from leaders across the CIRTL Network’s 23 institutions.

Linking Pedagogy to Professional Skills: One-Page Instructional Resources on Problem-Solving and Teamwork
Wednesday, February 13 at 2 pm CT

As we help prepare the next generation of STEM professionals, what are the skills, knowledge and ways of thinking they will need for the workplace? How can we connect pedagogy and course content to these abilities? In an NSF-funded study of professional work, we asked these questions of engineers and observed their work to determine how STEM education can better connect to current practice. As with our November 7th CIRTLCast, this session will draw on findings from our study to dig into two more of the essential skills emphasized by STEM professionals–problem-solving and teamwork. We will explore how to explicitly develop students’ real-world problem-solving and teamwork skills within your courses without a lot of extra work.

Presented by:
Tom McGlamery, Faculty Associate, Department of Engineering Professional Development, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Kevin J. B. Anderson, PhD CESA #2 School Improvement Consultant in STEM Education

The CIRTLCast series features presentations throughout the academic year on topics related to STEM education.  Future topics include service learning in STEM disciplines and issues confronting minority graduate students. We welcome comments or suggestions; contact Robin Greenler ( with any feedback.

To join the session, download a flyer, or see archived recordings of previous sessions, go to