New pressure on colleges to disclose grads’ earnings

Joyce English was about to start studying toward an associate degree she hoped would lead to a job as a consultant to healthcare companies around Tacoma, Wash., where she lives, says the Hechinger Report. Then she discovered a database created by the state’s workforce training agency estimating what she’d earn with that degree versus how much she could make in other jobs with other majors and degrees from colleges and universities across the state. They paid more, she found.

“You obviously want something out of your education,” says English, who changed her mind and is now majoring in what she learned is the more lucrative field of business management at Pierce College. “You don’t want to go into something that’s going to pay you less than it cost to go to college.”

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Economic reality marries age-old idea of apprenticeship with college

Five-foot-two Jesica Bush exudes confidence, whether she’s scribbling notes in a 6:30 a.m. class at Bates Technical College here or wrestling 900-pound girders atop a mock two-story building, says the Hechinger Report. With her blond ponytail tucked inside a brown hardhat, the 30-year-old is an apprentice with the ironworkers’ union, a job that starts at nearly $25 an hour and will lead her in three years to both a journeyman’s card and an associate degree. Three years back, Bush sat in the state women’s prison in Purdy, finishing seven and a half years for an armed-robbery conviction. The former addict dropped out of school in seventh grade–“Me and school, we never saw eye to eye,” she says–was convicted of her first felony at 13, had a child at 15, and was sent to prison at 19. But when it took her just six months to complete her GED in Purdy, the instructors asked her to be valedictorian at the graduation ceremony and to start thinking about college. When she got a chance to fight fires with a prison brigade instead of cleaning toilets, she jumped on it and made the discovery that “I loved hard work. I’d never worked a day in my life…

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Student advising plays key role in college success–just as it’s being cut

Devon Mills pulls out his smartphone at a Starbucks on the Arizona State University campus, and maps out how long it will take him to finish his undergraduate degree, says the Hechinger Report. Just exactly the right amount of time, his phone tells him. Despite double-majoring in political science and justice studies with a minor in sustainability, serving as president of the college council and vice president of the Residence Hall Association, working as a page in the state Senate, and cramming for the Law School Admission Test, Mills is on schedule to become one of the distinct minority of American college and university students who actually receive their four-year bachelor’s degrees in four years.

“I can see the goal in sight,” he says, serenely scrolling through an online color-coded plan that shows him the requirements he’s finished and the ones he still needs to fulfill before graduating in 2014…

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Some universities trying to discourage student loans

In an effort to reduce student loan default rates, some colleges and universities are launching programs to improve student-loan literacy and, in a few cases, offer other kinds of financial assistance to students so they don’t get too deep into debt, says the Hechinger Report. Syracuse University, for instance, identifies students who are over-borrowing from private lenders and helps them stop by giving them direct grants for future semesters averaging $5,000 to $7,000 per year. Called the Money Awareness Program, the initiative has reduced the average debt of about 100 students each in their sophomore, junior and senior year by $21,000 each. In exchange, recipients are required to attend money-management courses once a semester until they graduate. Alvernia University, a Catholic liberal-arts college in Pennsylvania where 86 percent of undergraduates have some type of loan averaging about $10,000, requires that all of its incoming students take an hour-long financial management seminar…

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Net price calculators are hard to find, compare on college websites

Net price calculators – required on nearly all college web sites — let would-be students enter their personal information and get an estimate on the true cost of a specific college, including financial aid, not just the “sticker price,” says the Hechinger Report. Are College Net Price Calculators Easy to Find, Use and Compare? asks The Institute for College Access and Success. Not really, concludes the new Adding It All Up 2012 report: Based on an in-depth look at 50 randomly selected colleges’ calculators, tools are difficult for prospective college students and their families to find, use, and compare.

“While some were easy to find and use, others were buried on college websites, had dozens of daunting questions, or generated estimates that were confusing, misleading, or unnecessarily out-ofdate,” said Diane Cheng, author of the report…

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Bulgaria pioneers new approach to listing universities

Petar Stanchev is the kind of student Bulgaria needs to keep. Last year, according to the country’s Association of Private Universities, more than half of its college-bound students applied to institutions abroad, says the Hechinger Report. The 23-year-old planned to remain in this mountainous, verdant patch of southeastern Europe. For two years, working toward a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he showed up for classes in sociology and media at the prestigious Sofia University. The problem was, his teachers didn’t.

“I had a French teacher who didn’t come to lectures for weeks as though it was normal,” he said. “There were whole groups of us who were waiting for a lecturer who didn’t even bother to send us an email or let us know.” Finally, last spring, Stanchev got so fed up that he left home for university in the United Kingdom…

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State asks battered universities to solve its economic crisis

Just off the graveyard shift, Aaron Starks refuels with coffee in the early-morning quiet of the student union at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, steeling himself for his classes in electrical engineering, says the Hechinger Report. Starks, who’s 27 and raising a 19-month-old daughter, is in his third year at UNLV, persevering in the face of not only sleeplessness but deep state budget cuts that have forced courses to be canceled, programs eliminated, faculty furloughed and services exasperatingly scaled back—all while tuition has soared. Many other students in Nevada, however, are giving up. In this world-famous gaming capital, the odds are stacked against them. Just 36 percent earn their four-year degrees within even six years, a smaller proportion than in any state except Alaska. And as tuition rises, enrollment has been falling. That, accompanied by an exodus of college-educated workers, has further shrunk the proportion of 25- to 34-year-olds in this state with degrees, already the lowest in the country. When Starks is finished, he intends to leave, too…

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From the convention: How can we fix higher education?

Charlie Nelms, former chancellor of North Carolina Central University, wants to send higher education faculty members back to school. Speaking at a panel during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Nelms stressed the need for college and university professors to “teach people, not content,” says the Hechinger Report. Nelms believes that faculty members who went through postsecondary education years or even decades ago are not equipped to teach today’s students. He and his fellow panelists also mentioned the need to retool work study programs so they become more relevant to students. Other suggestions included improving the use of technology in higher education and pushing remediation into high school – all to help more Americans get a degree. The ideas were vetted during The College Advantage, a panel focusing on ways to improve higher education attainment for students, which happens to be President Barack Obama’s signature American Graduation Initiative. Obama has called for 60 percent of Americans aged 25-34 to have a postsecondary degree of some kind by 2025. The Lumina Foundation, which hosted the panel, shares those goals, which so far appear to be falling short

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Do in-state scholarships discourage students from graduating on time?

Programs meant to keep high-achievers close to home by providing scholarships to in-state public universities reduce students’ chances of graduating on time, according to a study released today by researchers at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, says the Hechinger Report. The study’s authors examined a Massachusetts program launched in 2004 by then-Gov. Mitt Romney that waives tuition for top students who agree to attend in-state public colleges or universities. They found that, while the program has accomplished its goal of keeping more of these students enrolled in Massachusetts, the students’ probability of graduating on time was 40 percent lower than if they’d attended higher-quality private institutions.

“Our working hypothesis is that these kids are giving up opportunities to go to campuses that are more competitive and much better resourced than the public system is,” said Joshua Goodman, an assistant professor of public policy at the Kennedy School and coauthor of the study.

The result, he said, is that the students vie for limited faculty time and often can’t get into courses they need to graduate within four years of enrolling……Read More

Colleges freeze, reduce tuition as public balks at further price hikes

As an undergraduate at the University of California–Irvine, Christopher Campbell was almost forced to drop out by repeated double-digit increases in tuition—some in the middle of the academic year—to compensate for massive state budget cuts, says the Hechinger Report. Campbell ultimately made it through and is starting law school at UCI this fall. But he watched classmates driven out of college by the unpredictable mid-year price hikes. Now he’s pushing an amendment to the California constitution that would ban public universities from raising tuition for students after they’ve enrolled.

“Students and families are fed up,” Campbell says. “And that’s only going to get worse. As more and more students have to deal with these problems, it’s just going to keep building until the problem is fixed.”

After three decades of tuition hikes that have outpaced inflation and increases in family income, students, families, legislators and governing boards are demanding a halt……Read More