VIA NYTimes: Financing for Colleges Declines as Costs Rise

Just so we’re all clear about this . . . .

State and local financing for higher education declined 7 percent in fiscal 2012, to $81.2 billion, according to the annual report of the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, and per-student support dropped 9 percent from the previous year, to $5,896, in constant dollars, the lowest level in at least 25 years.

And heres are the key paragraphs, which tie rising costs to degree completion rates:

Over the last 25 years, the share of public university revenues coming from tuition and fees has climbed steadily to 47 percent past year, from 23 percent in 1987. And with ever-higher tuition, full-time college attendance is out of reach for an increasing number of students, which bodes ill for their chances of completing a degree.

“We’ve developed a culture that says part-time study is O.K.,” Mr. Lingenfelter said. “But the more you go to school part time, the less likely you are to finish. We should be providing enough assistance that students can pay attention to their education, and not making a living for a short period of time, so they’ll be prepared to make a good living for a long time.”

Read the full NYTimes article from Tamar Lewin here.


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.



VIA Middle Class Political Economist: America Shows No Increase in College Graduation Rates Over the Last 30 Years

Via Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality blog, an interesting graph from Prof. Kenneth Thomas, the Middle Class Political Economist:

Middle Class Political Economist Percentage

Here is what he says:

Jared Bernstein (via Paul Krugman) highlights an amazing breakdown in the prospects for reducing economic inequality any time soon. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has made no progress whatsoever in increasing college graduation rates. To be specific, 25-34 year olds in 2009 had a college degree rate of about 40%, almost exactly the same as for 55-64 year old baby boomers. In the meantime, other industrialized countries were racking up substantial gains, most spectacularly in the case of South Korea where a little over 10% of 55-64 year olds have college degrees, but more than 60% in the 25-34 age group do. If you want to understand how South Korea has gone from a poor developing country to an industrial powerhouse within our lifetimes, this is one big reason.

So here’s a real conversation starter: what might be the response of the public universities of this country to a graph like this?


Please attend our upcoming CTE Faculty Brown Bag Workshop, “Are We Failing our Students?” Thursday, 10/11, 12-1:30, 306 MDA Library

CTE Faculty Workshop  

Thursday, October 11, 12-1:30 in room 306 MD Anderson Library

“Are we Failing Our Students?”

Improving our graduation rates is an important concern at UH. The problem is particularly difficult in large core classes.  This workshop will explore what we can do to improve student success, particularly in large lectures. Participants are encouraged to share their own perceptions about the causes of the problem and its solutions.  Speakers will include Dr. Andrew Hamilton, our new Executive Director of Academic Innovation, Dr. Donna Pattison (Bio) and Dr. Casey Due-Hackney (MCL).

Please reply to Dr. Jim Garson if you plan to attend, at

VIA Inside Higher Ed: “When Black Men Succeed”

This article about the research of Shaun Harper into the academic success of black men at college, and this cogent response from the Dean Dad blog, got me thinking about how we usually talk about “student success,” and how even the most well-meaning programs and services are organized around the presumed deficits or failures of the students.  I should say that even the baldly stated title of the IHE article unwittingly reinforces this set of assumptions.

Harper’s counter to this deep problem in framing and background assumptions about black male students was to look closely at successful students’ histories, to see what they might be able to tell us.  Unsurprisingly, the story is largely about the enormous impact of parents can have on their kids’ academic attitudes, largely in terms of setting expectations, and also about the surprisingly large impact of the conscious mentoring that these students received at some critical point in their education. Though these mentoring moments were felt by the students as “serendipitous” and unplanned, they had a considerable influence on students’ later directions:

Parents weren’t the only supporters who pushed and encouraged them. “The participants’ early schooling experiences almost always included at least one influential teacher who helped solidify their interest in going to college,” often going beyond simply teaching them to help get them information or access to services that would help them prepare for college.

Many of the research subjects “considered themselves among the lucky few to have had teachers who, for some reason, thought they were worth the investment” —  and often for reasons that were unclear to them. It was not, most believed, that they were academically high-achieving; fewer than half had taken an Advanced Placement course in high school, and fewer than one in five had participated in a gifted and talented program.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed
From a teacher’s perspective, the challenge then becomes how to reexamine one’s attitudes towards mentoring.  Who have we reached out to in this fashion, and could we do this kind of mentoring work more consciously, and more broadly, since the stakes are so high for our students?


Using Google+ Hangouts for Video Conferencing with Students

Google Plus debuted this summer as an alternative social media platform to Facebook. Because of its hundreds of millions of registered users in other Google platforms, such as Gmail and Google Docs, Google Plus quickly enrolled over 40 million users. Some users were simply tired of Facebook’s lax privacy policies, others tired of the games, and many others simply eager to see their other Google apps integrated into one central hub, which is apparently what is happening, gradually, at Google Plus. Immediately as it was released, professors began seeing the advantage of Plus in their classrooms.

Here, I’d like to discuss the most obvious tool within Plus for teachers — the Hangout feature. Hangout is a simple video application that allows users to conference with up to ten users simultaneously, with additional tools such as text chat and YouTube sharing that can help teachers, especially, connect and conference with their students.

Overview of Hangouts

Why Use Video Hangouts

Consider one of the primary influences of student success — out of class contact with her professor. Establishing regular office hours is standard for all of us, but the reality is that often our schedules do not work with student schedules, especially UH students, who often work and most often commute to campus. Getting to a professor’s office for the one or two hours she’s available can be not only very inconvenient, but also imposing, especially for our large-class sections.

Instead, I can use Google Hangouts to establish either a fixed time every week to video conference with one or more students or even set small-group supervision meetings with them. The student needs only create the Google Plus account (with any e-mail address), and with a PC with camera, will be able to consult with me from wherever she is, and from wherever I am — office, coffee shop, or back porch.

One immediate concern is privacy — just as we would not discuss a student’s grades with a group of people, we need to maintain strict privacy with our Hangout conversations as well. I first establish the simple rule, then, when using video conferencing with my students:

In any group setting, I will not discuss grades. Period. I can discuss lecture notes, assignments, and give feedback, but not specific scores.

This is no different than a meeting in the office — we can discuss grades individually, but if two or more students are present, we simply won’t. Using video conferencing is no different here.

One advantage of Google Plus, however, is that the Hangout can be open to all in your circles, a smaller circle of just class students, or individuals. This is immediately one of the advantages of using Google Plus over other social networks — you control who sees what and who you talk to. So, I could start a Hangout with just one class, all class sections, or a small student group of five students working on a group project. Google Plus allows you to control all this.

Some Quick Homework Before You Begin

When using Hangouts, review the Help section first, to understand the (simple and free) technical requirements, and how to limit your hangout to your selected audience.

And finally, consider other uses of Hangouts for engaging students, encouraging collaboration, consulting with experts, and otherwise strengthening the learning environment of the course.

VIA Inside HigherEd: “Student Success, In the Classroom” by Vincent Tinto

Vincent Tinto describes the current state of “student success” at most institutions:

Over the past 20 years, if not more, colleges and universities, states and private foundations have invested considerable resources in the development and implementation of a range of programs to increase college completion. Though several of these have achieved some degree of success, most have not made a significant impact on college completion rates.

This is the case because most efforts to improve college completion, such as learning centers and first-year seminars, sit at the margins of the classroom and do not substantially improve students’ classroom experience. Lest we forget, many students, certainly those in community college, commute to college and work and/or attend part-time. For them, if not for most students, the classroom is one, and perhaps the only, place where they meet with faculty and other students and engage in learning activities. Their success in college is built upon classroom success, one class and one course at a time. If our efforts do not reach into the classroom and enhance student classroom success, they are unlikely to substantially impact college success.

I agree with almost everything written here, but wondered why the learning efforts of faculty members seemed almost like an afterthought in this piece.  We hear about “professional development programs,” but very little about why faculty would want to learn how to do this work, or might resist it.  Is that a problem? Take a look at the comments and decide for yourself. DM
Read more:
Inside Higher Ed