Higher Education

College Affordability: New Data Source

Cap and Gown - AffordabilitySay hello to a treasure trove of college affordability data.

The Urban Institute recently launched the Understanding College Affordability project. Its premise? Affordability means much more than tuition, room and board. The site dives deep.

It dissects a broad set of student expenses, including lost earnings from time spent on school. It looks at how students cover expenses. And, it breaks down the financial impacts after graduation. (ICYMI: we looked at this, too.)

It even helps you calculate the break-even point for a student’s degree investment.

Ultimately, the project provides fresh perspective on the value of college.

“By presenting the big picture, trends over time, and the option to look more closely at the details, this website should support a more coherent and nuanced conversation about students’ financial access to a college education worth its cost.”

This information comes at the perfect time. More than ever, students need help navigating the financial realities of higher education.

More than ever, the schools, governments and industries serving students need a clear picture of those financial realities.

This tool is a great step in the right direction.

Higher Education

Trump Fuels Liberal Arts for Takeoff

Credit: Whytoread.comToo bad the Washington Post got to “Democracy Dies in Darkness” first.

Any number of colleges and universities nationwide could have used the line to market the heck out of their liberal arts programs, which have a huge growth opportunity thanks to President Trump.

His surprise election and clumsy administration have reignited an interest in governance that’s been dormant for decades.

Americans are marching by the millions, protesting at airports, starting Facebook groups, attending town hall meetings, joining the ACLU and the League of Women Voters, calling their representatives, holding rallies, downloading podcasts and boosting newspaper subscriptions.

We have a renewed focus on the meaning and worth of values like inclusiveness, respect, responsibility and truth.

Those values are the hallmarks of a liberal arts education.  They’re also the hallmarks of citizen leaders, regardless of party affiliation, that a changing nation needs in its boardrooms, nonprofits, classrooms, hospitals, laboratories, factories, communities and governments.

The case for liberal arts education is not any stronger this year than it was last year, it’s just more timely. Catch the wave.

Higher Education

Is the Student-Loan Market the Next Housing Bubble?

College debt has long been considered a crisis for students, many of whom feel like they have widening holes in their pockets. Now, some Wall Street analysts predict that the $1.4 trillion student-loan market is forming a bubble that’s about to burst, and skeptics (those with short positions) will profit all the way down.

FlowPoint Capital’s Charles Trafton calls it “the Credit: The Big Shortcollege bubble” in the New York Times. And, if he’s right, it’ll be The Big Short all over again.

Why should schools care? Because financial stress on students can lead to poor academic performance or, worse, increased dropout rates that impact rankings and brand. Unpaid bills on defaulted loans are another risk. Plus, admissions could be impacted if schools fail to communicate strong financial support and education for their students.

At the end of the day, a “college bubble” burst is bad news for everyone except the bears on Wall Street.

A potential crash will have unpredictable outcomes for schools. Here are some questions college marketers should be asking:

  • Do we have an updated crisis plan should this “bubble” impact our students, school or partner organizations? Have

Higher Education

College Debt: Delaying Millennial Milestones

Piggy bank with young man worrying in background

Many millennials don’t just live with crushing college debt – they’re so weighed down by it that they’re delaying major life milestones.

An ORC International survey commissioned by PadillaCRT found that 63 percent of millennials owe at least $10,000 in college debt, and 48 percent owe at least $20,000. Even worse, one in four millennials owe more than $30,000 in college debt and expect to take more than 20 years to pay it off.  Not surprisingly, there are ripple effects to this level of financial burden.

The survey also revealed that millennials’ college debt can drive their decision-making around major life events. Many are holding off on everything from starting families to investing in homes or vehicles.

Delaying Milestone Moments
For colleges and universities, this adds another dimension to conversation around the value of higher education. From their earliest interactions with potential students and parents, schools will need to demonstrate that a degree is worth the investment through student and alumni success metrics. And, during the search, application and enrollment processes, it will…

Higher Education

#HigherEd: Career Guidance Doesn’t Make the Grade

Prospective students are asking an important question: how well will this college prepare me for, or place me into, a career that meets my goals?

In a recent Washington Post article, higher education columnist and author Jeffrey Selingo said, “College freshmen now regularly say the No. 1 reason to attend college is to ‘get a better job,’ according to a major annual survey of incoming students conducted by UCLA.”

But students are saying their institutions aren’t making the grade.

The Perception

Fresh research from Gallup and Purdue University suggests that students nationwide are overwhelmingly disappointed with their schools’ career services programs. Only 17 percent of students surveyed said their career services office was very helpful.

This chart from The Atlantic breaks down the numbers, which don’t fare well in higher education’s favor:


Source: The Atlantic


Now, whether or not students are truly engaging with the career services offered (how can I be unhappy with a place I never really visited?) is another topic of discussion. It’s obvious that many schools’ career services offices have robust programs. Many have delivered incredible outcomes, too.

But perception is reality…

Higher Education

Big Paycheck, Little Trust


Source: www.megaprint.com

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports on the state’s highest paid employees. Six of the top 15 are college presidents or administrators. One is an offensive coordinator for a college football team.

For some observers, it’s an offensive situation as the costs of higher education skyrocket.

Here at the American Marketing Association’s annual Higher Education Symposium, the conversation started yesterday with a talk about Americans’ declining trust levels in government, business and media. The lack of trust in these institutions arguably gives colleges and universities greater trust to play an even larger role in addressing local, regional and national challenges.

But when obtaining a college degree typically saddles its earner with years of debt, excessive pay for administrators (and coaches!) undermines that trust. It creates a perception, fair or not, that institutions prioritize raising money, opening buildings and playing games over making college more accessible and affordable – a paramount issue for students and their families.

Higher Education

Supporting Single Parent Students at Wilson College

Photo Credit: Dustin O’Donnell

A perfect read for the holiday season: a story about people getting it right. NPR recently profiled the forward-thinking (and heartwarming) Single Parent Scholars program at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa. Created 20 years ago, this program helps cut through some of the biggest challenges facing students who are single parents: housing, childcare and transportation.

At the time, Wilson had just closed a dormitory due to low enrollment. Gwendolyn Jensen, then president of the college, had the vision to convert the dorm to meet the needs of single parents and their children. Now, the building is comprised of two-bedroom apartments, private bathrooms and shared kitchens. The first floor is dedicated to childcare, with a playground just outside.

Students in the Single Parent Scholars program pay full tuition, room and board – supplemented by scholarships and grants in many cases – but their childcare is free. And, with the dorm located right in the center of campus, students who are single parents enjoy the same convenience and access to campus resources as their peers.

An additional benefit of the Single Parent Scholars program is less…

Higher Education

Dollars and Sense: #HigherEd Student Loans in the Presidential Election

Today is Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Today is #ElectionDay.

I don’t need to say what’s been said before. Americans are voting today with varied emotions.

When it comes to higher education, the Democratic and Republican candidates are unsurprisingly running on vastly different platforms.

What remains to be seen is whether either candidate will go on to induce policy reform after “EDay.” Without endorsing anyone, here’s each major party candidate’s (short-form) stance on higher education and student debt.

Donald Trump

via Boston Globe

On October 13 in Columbus Ohio, Trump addressed student debt at a private “Millennial Rally” with about 450 college-aged adults in attendance. He said: “Students should not be asked to pay more on their loans than they can afford.” He then asserted that grads should not be weighed down by student debt for a lifetime.

Trump’s plan is income-contingent. Borrowers wouldn’t pay more than 12.5 percent of their income toward their federal loans, which would be forgiven entirely after 15 years.

His other focus is to use the power of the federal government to cut “administrative bloat” (think salaries and other administrative/overhead costs) to reduce…

Higher Education

Tech Doubts?

edtechInside Higher Ed released the 2016 Survey of Faculty Attitudes Toward Technology yesterday. Some don’t think tech’s helping much.

“Faculty members are still worried that online education can’t deliver outcomes equivalent to face-to-face instruction,” writes Carl Straumsheim. “They are split on whether investments in ed-tech have improved student outcomes.”

Some of the key findings from the survey include:

  • Fewer faculty members and administrators this year said technology in the classroom has resulted in significantly improved student outcomes, and more of them are finding it difficult to justify investments in ed-tech.
  • Both administrators and faculty members believe institutions are taking appropriate measures to protect personal information and intellectual property from cyber-attacks. Few believe those security steps infringe on their privacy.
  • Most faculty members aren’t taking to social media to talk politics. In fact, most faculty members don’t even talk about their scholarship on social media.

I’m happy to see any report about less politics in social newsfeeds, and glad to see professors questioning technology in the classroom more intensely. Tech provides increasingly valuable teaching tools to professors, but it can’t replace the value of great teaching to students.

Higher Education

Unpopular Opinion: College Rankings DO Matter

College Ranking Guides

Source: American Observer

Recently, a hot topic of conversation in the higher ed space is rankings – and some are implying that an overabundance of rankings are leaving students confused, not knowing which to trust to help them choose a school.

A recent New York Times op-ed took the notion one step further by simply calling college rankings a joke. Author Frank Bruni writes about quirks in the U.S. News & World Report rankings and how many schools will try to “game the system” to move up in the ranks. My main takeaway from his piece:
…rankings are front and center, fostering the idea that schools are brands in competition with one another. The rankings elevate clout above learning, which isn’t as easily measured.
I agree that rankings shouldn’t be the star of the show, but they deserve a supporting role, at least.

Why shouldn’t higher ed institutions make every effort to raise their profile? And why shouldn’t students tap all available resources to guide their best college decisions?

Rankings elevate a college’s brand in an age where differentiation is critical. The cost of…