Clinton/Sanders keep college costs in national spotlight

As Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders move to make free college a key piece of the Democratic platform, officials at some public colleges are hopeful that at the very least the effort will keep the issue of cost in the spotlight.

“I believe it’s a movement that’s not going to just die with the election,” said Kenneth Witmer Jr., dean of West Chester University’s College of Education and Social Work. “I think we’ll see pressure – from both those who want to go to college and those who came out owing a lot of money – on politicians to respond to this.”

Sen. Sanders, of Vermont, made free college tuition a rallying cry during his campaign and attracted support from many college students. Earlier this month, Clinton, who just won the Democratic nomination for president, announced her plan to offer free tuition by 2021 to students from families with annual incomes of less than $125,000 who attend public colleges in their state. Her announcement came after she met with Sanders last month and the two strategized on how to keep college costs at the forefront of the general election debate.

Speaking at the Democratic National Convention Monday, Sanders said although he and Clinton had sparred over plans to make college affordable in the past, they had agreed on the plan with the $125,000 income target, which he noted covers 83 percent of the population. His remarks again put student debt in the national spotlight.

“It certainly feels like the first time in my lifetime that higher education affordability and access has taken such a prominent position in a presidential primary process,” said Mary Cathryn Ricker, executive vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, who was on a panel in Philadelphia this week on student debt.

(Next page: A steep climb for the proposal?)

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Could tech prevent rampant international admissions cheating?

A program used by Chinese students, owned by test giant ACT, and recognized by admissions offices at many U.S. institutions has been found by Reuters to encourage cheating among its students. ACT says a computerized version of the test could help. But is there more that can be done; specifically, by more sophisticated technology-based strategies?

Click to Take Our Poll

Key Points:

  • At three different Global Assessment Centers (GAC) owned and overseen by ACT, school officials and proctors ignored, and were sometimes complicit, in student cheating on the ACT, according to seven students interviewed by Reuters.
  • The GAC is a program/certificate recognized by admissions offices at more than 60 colleges in the U.S.—including state universities in New York, Michigan, Iowa and Missouri.
  • The GAC program, which can cost students $10,000 a year or more, has emerged as one of many avenues in Asia used to exploit weaknesses in the US college admissions process.
  • This month, ACT Inc announced that, to combat cheating, it planned to introduce a computerized version of the ACT for overseas test-takers in the fall of 2017.

(Next page: More on the GAC in China; international admissions cheating habits; how tech could help)

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The growth of online learning and digital materials

Every Friday, I’ll recap some of the most interesting and thought-provoking news developments that occurred over the week.

I can’t fit all of this week’s news stories here, though, so feel free to visit eCampusNews.com and read up on other news you may have missed.

Online learning and digital materials have certainly evolved over the years, with free digital materials growing in popularity due to their easy accessibility and ability to be edited to suit individual teaching and learning needs. Here, we’re taking a look at some of the latest online learning developments and some of the newest trends in online digital materials.

Read on for more:

Survey: Online professional development booming with faculty
Higher-ed instructors most often prefer to participate in online professional development (PD) opportunities that focus on training for online software and digital resources (34 percent), classroom management strategies (34 percent), and digital device training (33 percent), according to a new survey.

Could textbook design curb student online cheating?
Researchers from the University of California Riverside and zyBooks recently presented findings at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) annual conference that shows students demonstrate integrity in learning and ignore online cheating opportunities—if they feel like they’re really learning.

Report: Use of digital course material increases
Ease of access and lower costs are two major drivers for the increase in digital course materials among college students, according to a twice-yearly national survey.

Department of Education proposes new rules for schools providing online courses
The Department of Education proposed new rules for schools providing distance education, such as online courses, in order to get the state authorization needed to qualify for federal financial aid dollars.

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Elsevier launches mobile-first personalized education platform

Elsevier, a provider of scientific, technical and medical information products and services, has launched Sherpath, a nursing and allied health, adaptive and mobile-first education platform focused on improving student outcomes.

“As digital learners, healthcare students now require shorter and more targeted, media-rich content accessible on their mobile devices,” said John Danaher, President, Elsevier Education. “And faculty now require data and analytics that eliminate the guesswork associated with teaching and student comprehension. Addressing these evolving educational needs in a digital and mobile age was the fundamental inspiration for the development of Sherpath.”

Elsevier experts created Sherpath to intersperse flexible content modules with frequent assessments to support just-in-time remediation and successful progression throughout the curriculum. With a mobile-friendly interface, adaptive technology, a recommendation engine, machine learning and sophisticated reporting tools, Sherpath delivers a highly personalized, integrated experience for students and instructors.

“While the average professor is already working 50 percent more than the normal 40-hour work week, finding the time to continually monitor the ‘vital signs’ of students’ progress becomes next to impossible,” said Danaher. “Sherpath will help instructors easily understand how their students are progressing, catching those at-risk and intervening before they fail. As a result, Sherpath will also improve student retention, better performance on high stakes testing, and career placement.”

For the past year, Sherpath has been used in pilot programs at 26 higher education institutions across the country and in a variety of program types. In addition to Nursing Fundaments, the platform also offers collections for three other topics in Nursing (Health Assessment, Pharmacology, and Dosages and Calculations,) as well as Medical Assisting. Additional course collections for Nursing covering Maternity, Pediatric, and Medical Surgical are slated to be added in the Fall of 2016.

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5 ways higher ed’s social media use has changed from 2015 to 2016

If 2015 was the year colleges and universities began using social media like any other media-savvy millennial, 2016 is the year of refinement and targeted purpose. From a surge in ‘Pay to Play’ and post curation to new measures of determining success, higher education is becoming a social media leader.

The findings are part of a yearly report (currently in its seventh year) conducted by CASEHuron Education, and mStoner, Inc.—written by Jennifer Mack, senior researcher at Huron Education and Michael Stoner, co-founder and president of mStoner—on higher education’s social media habits.

According to the 2016 report (slideshow is currently available), which received responses from over 1,100 CASE members in the U.S. and abroad (45 percent of respondents work in college and university Communications, 35 percent in Alumni Relations and the rest in other areas like Marketing and Admissions), social media advancement become incredibly refined in higher education.

Here are 5 differences in trends revealed in the 2016 report from the 2015 report:

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1.From Campaigns to ‘Pay to Play’

In 2015, according to those surveyed, the number of institutions using social media in campaigns, which the report defined as a planned strategy to achieve a specific goal, was the most notable trend, with 70 percent indicating they used social media in campaigns–up from 50 percent in 2012 and 59 percent in 2014.

In 2016, boosting posts and advertising was the biggest trend, with those surveyed reporting almost 8,200 paid post engagements. With a budget of just $125, institutions that generally reached an average of 2,000 people organically were able to boost their reach to almost 17,000 people. Cost per engagement was estimated at just $0.01.

“Because the organic reach of posts continues to plummet, we boost almost all of our posts,” noted one respondent.

The most successful social media users are more likely to boost and/or promote posts on Facebook and Twitter, while they’re more likely to advertise on LinkedIn, notes the report.

However, respondents warned that selectivity is key for boosting. According to the data, 68 percent boost no more than 1 in 5 Facebook posts, which drops to 1 in 10 for Twitter.

(Next page: Social media changes 2-5)

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EverFi expands compliance education resources

EverFi, an education technology company focused on critical skills and prevention education for K-12, higher education and adult learners, has acquired compliance education provider LawRoom.

With the addition of LawRoom, EverFi grows its customer base to 3,300 partners, including 2,000 corporations, foundations, and nonprofits and over 1,300 higher education institutions.

The acquisition includes LawRoom subsidiary CampusClarity. The combination of EverFi’s efficacy in alcohol abuse and sexual violence prevention along with CampusClarity’s flexible platform and compliance expertise will help campuses more effectively deliver and scale prevention education for students, faculty, and staff.

Together, EverFi and CampusClarity will also form the Campus Prevention Network, a nationwide coalition of over 1,300 higher education institutions that are committed to student wellness and safety. Through the Campus Prevention Network, colleges and universities will have access to award-winning online prevention training, regulatory compliance expertise, dynamic tracking and reporting, and groundbreaking prevention research based on the largest global dataset of attitudes and behaviors related to sexual assault and substance abuse.

“Whether for a student on a college campus or an employee in a corporation, innovative and proven digital education can help shape how we engage learners to prevent sexual violence and harassment,” said EverFi CEO Tom Davidson. “We now have an opportunity to welcome every campus and employer into our magnified network and truly tackle these issues at scale.”

The EverFi Campus Prevention Network will reach more than 5 million higher education students and staff across the U.S. annually, including public and private colleges and universities, community colleges, and state university systems. EverFi partners now include Boston College, Carnegie Mellon, Clemson University, Georgetown University, Harvard, MIT, the Montana University System, Princeton University, Oklahoma State University, Oregon State University, University of Michigan, Stanford University, Technical College System of Georgia, Tennessee Board of Regents System, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, the University of Texas System, University of Virginia, Villanova University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Among LawRoom’s corporate compliance education customers are Acxiom, Barracuda Networks, Cathay Pacific, Kimpton Hotels, Informatica, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Miami Heat, Patagonia, Samsung, SurveyMonkey, UFC Gym, and TIBCO. The combined company will not only ensure proven compliance training for enterprises, but also provide the additional cutting-edge skills that the next-generation employee needs to be successful across the globe.

Vista Point Advisors, a San Francisco based boutique investment bank, acted as the exclusive financial advisor to LawRoom.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Illinois community colleges are reforming developmental education

Illinois community colleges across the state have implemented a variety of reforms to developmental education. Promising strategies including co-requisite developmental education, summer bridge programs, and fourth year high school courses are providing a pathway to success for underprepared students.

In the last five years the number of students enrolled in at least one developmental course decreased nearly 24 percent.

Developmental education is often thought of as refresher courses in English, math and reading for underprepared college students. However, courses often come at a high price for students who must expend precious financial resources on non-credit developmental courses. Students enrolled in developmental education courses are less likely than their peers to complete a degree or certificate.

The Illinois Community College Board supports colleges in their exploration of innovative strategies and reform efforts to improve remediation and reduce time-to-degree,” said ICCB executive director Dr. Karen Hunter Anderson. “I am proud of the work going on in our community colleges to improve student successes and reduce college costs, especially for those students graduating from high school not ready for college-level coursework”.

Nearly half of the state’s 48 community colleges have implemented co-requisite remedial courses in English, math, or reading that place college students into remedial and college-level courses in the same subject at the same time. These co-requisite courses allow students to receive targeted support to help boost their understanding and learning of the college-level material. For example, Heartland Community College (Bloomington) is piloting a program where students enrolled in the developmental course are also enrolled in a college-level course with other students who directly placed into that course. With this model, students do not feel segregated and both courses are taught by the same instructor.

Summer bridge programs are designed to reduce remediation by providing a short refresher for students prior to their first college semester. Through various ICCB-funded projects, several community colleges have designed and implemented summer bridge programs. Richland Community College (Decatur) saw great success by utilizing a “boot camp” model for both math and English, specifically designed to assist students who barely missed the college-level cutoff score. At the end of the boot camps, the average math exit exam score was 27 percent higher than upon entry and 87 percent of enrollees passed the English exit exam.

Developmental course offerings taught at the high school during the regularly scheduled school day, also referred to as fourth-year courses, are an effective method of removing the need for remediation by providing coursework and early interventions prior to students exiting high school. Elgin Community College (Elgin) has implemented a fourth-year math course taught at six high schools throughout their district. The individual high schools identify and recruit students into the course which is aligned with the Illinois State Learning Standards and Elgin’s highest developmental course.

Sixty-five percent of the participating students moved up at least one course level. Illinois Central College (East Peoria) partnered with East Peoria High School to offer a fourth-year math course that also mirrored the college’s highest level developmental math class. With student success rates similar to Elgin’s, this type of alignment and remediation strategy proves to be a strong strategy for students on the cusp.

The Illinois Community College Board is the state coordinating board for community colleges. Illinois is home to 48 community colleges in 39 districts and has the third largest community college system in the nation serving close to 1 million residents each year in credit and non-credit courses.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Is this state tool the future of college choice for students?

Editor’s Note: The way students are choosing college is rapidly changing due to economic considerations. This tool could have a direct effect on your institution’s enrollment rate if implemented in your state.

Reader Question: Do you think this tool can accurately guide prospective students on their college choice? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or take our short poll on Page 2.

Janeth Mancha, a high school senior at MESA High School in Colorado, said she originally wanted to major in theater. But thanks to her state’s new data-based online college choice tool, she quickly realized a double major in both theater and business was a better option.

“I had a reality check in what I wanted to do,” said Mancha about Colorado’s “Launch My Career” tool. “When I saw my return on investment [ROI] for theater was negative, I realized that maybe that wasn’t my best option. From that day on, I thought about other things that I love to do, and how I can incorporate my passion for theater in another career.”

Calculating Mancha’s ROI for not only her major but her college choice wasn’t speculative. Instead, it’s one of the many valuable data-based insights part of a new generation of free college planning tools being rolled out by USA Funds, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Gallup and the American Institutes for Research/College Measures.

Rather than just providing one specific set of data to students, such as cost of a major, or average national employment rate via major, the tool puts all metrics into one tool for students interested in attending a college or university within a specific state. All metrics are state-specific as well.

“What I really liked about this website is that I could choose the lifestyle that I want when I grow up. I could see if I could afford a brand new car or if I would have to buy a used one. I could see if I could live in a house or if I would have to live in a studio,” explained Mancha. “Based on the lifestyle I want, being a theater major would not allow me to have children, or live in anything more than a studio. This tool helped me decide what would be best for me and my future, and any arrangements I would have to make to ensure I live the life I want.”

(Next page: How the college choice tool works; its metrics; future rollouts)

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Department of Education proposes new rules for schools providing online courses

The Department of Education proposed new rules today for schools providing distance education, such as online courses, in order to get the state authorization needed to qualify for federal financial aid dollars.

The proposal will help ensure students get a quality education and that taxpayer dollars aren’t wasted on schools that fail to deliver, according to Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports.

“Online courses have become an increasingly popular option for students seeking a higher education, especially for vocational training” said Suzanne Martindale, staff attorney for Consumers Union, who participated in the Department of Education’s negotiated rulemaking process which led to the proposed reforms. “Today’s proposal represents an important step towards creating baseline federal standards for distance education programs that will help protect students from poor quality schools that do little more than burden them with debt.”

Under the proposal announced today, the Department would require a school offering distance education programs to get authorization in each state where it wants to market its programs to students. It also requires any reciprocity agreement between states to leave room for states to enforce their own consumer protection laws.

However, the rule stops short of requiring schools offering distance education programs to obtain programmatic accreditation in all states where they want to do business. The rule requires disclosures, and an “acknowledgement” from the student that they received the disclosure, but in practice the disclosure could be buried in an enrollment contract. This means that students could sign up for programs with little actual notice that it won’t make them eligible to sit for an exam to obtain a professional credential, such as a nurse’s license, in their home state.

“Some for-profit career colleges have a history of enrolling students in online courses that mire them in debt without providing the education they need to get a license in the state where they live,” said Martindale. “The Department of Education should strengthen its proposal by requiring accreditation for all specific programs offered to ensure students aren’t pushed into signing up for programs that won’t meet their needs.”

In addition, the proposed rule doesn’t give a student’s home state clear and final authority to resolve complaints. It lets the reciprocity agreement determine which state has authority to resolve complaints, which could undercut states with stronger consumer protections. Consumers Union called on the Department to make clear that a student’s home state always has final authority to resolve complaints, as well as generally apply their consumer protection laws.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Startup connects universities and employers to boost graduate employment

Fidelis Education, an online learning platform used by over 100,000 students at 50 colleges and universities, today launched a new feature that allows colleges and universities to “friend” companies that might hire their graduates.  “Friends” have benefits including sharing content, mentorship, and work opportunities. With the support of employer-mentors, students on the Fidelis platform can access real-time guidance to inform their path from coursework to career.

“For many students, successful transition from college to the workforce hinges as much on their ability to navigate out-of-class resources and relationships that lead to a career as it does on the core academic experience,” said Tom Bowling of Frostburg State University in Maryland.  “The Fidelis platform helps bridge the gap that often exists between academic success and career success, and enables us to strengthen relationships with the potential employers of our graduates.”

New features on the Fidelis platform respond to demand from colleges and universities under increasing pressure to demonstrate workplace outcomes for students – and employers frustrated with the capabilities of recent graduates.  In addition to career counseling, the Fidelis Community incorporates a “Likelihood of Mutual Benefit” (LOMB) algorithm designed to help students select mentors with similar interests, geographic locations, and likelihood of meaningful and beneficial collaborations.

Founded by former Marine Officer, Gunnar Counselman, the Fidelis platform was originally designed to support the transition of returning veterans into higher education. “I learned first-hand that all students – veteran or otherwise – are more likely to succeed if they can develop skills that aren’t learned in a physical classroom,” said Counselman. “Together, colleges and corporations can demonstrate this for students by helping them identify the experiences they need to qualify for their dream career.”

Using the Fidelis Partnership feature, companies and colleges become “friends” or “partners,” enabling them to share resources and networks. The platform includes functionality (1) for employees, who can identify access content and courses at the university and (2) for college students who can now easily access corporate training opportunities from their schools partners. Corporations can also share career opportunities, and colleges can promote teaching or tutoring jobs related to the company’s expertise.

For more information, please visit www.fideliseducation.com.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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