“Worth Reading” is a hand-picked weekly collection of new, not-so-new articles and downright old ideas, events and other items for higher education professionals.
“Bottom Line: This year’s survey of higher-education executives underscores the dilemma that many colleges face as they deal with a declining number of high-school graduates (in much of the country) and falling state and federal spending on higher education.
The increased competition for students compels colleges to maintain spending on academic programs and amenities at the same time that there is widespread concern about the rising price of tuition and about access for low-income students.”
“Fifty years ago, the federal government committed itself to removing the financial barriers that prevent low-income students from enrolling in and completing college. For years, colleges complemented the government’s efforts by using their financial aid resources to open their doors to the neediest students. But a new report from New America suggests those days are in the past, with an increasing number of colleges using their financial resources to fiercely compete for the students they most desire: the “best and brightest” — and the wealthiest.”
“Philosophy, political science and art history majors need not apply, nor gifted high school seniors shooting for top-tier schools. “The Stanfords, the Harvards, oh my gosh, those schools are remarkable,” says Best. “But they’re irrelevant to the market.” The degrees Academic Partnerships are selling are aimed squarely at the bulging middle mass of the college market–the millions of adult students seeking degrees as a vehicle to better jobs and bigger salaries. Let the 20-somethings pack the coffeehouses, stadiums and frat parties. Best’s clients are all business. They are cops, nurses, teachers and construction workers grinding for the promotion and pay bump that comes with a B.S. in criminal justice or nursing or a master’s in education or construction management but can’t take days or nights off–much less four or five years–from the job and kids to earn a diploma.”
“To meet the target without spending more, colleges would simultaneously have to attract additional students, increase the proportion of them who complete a degree, and keep a tight lid on costs. Gaming the target by lowering the quality of the education or granting access only to the best-prepared students obviously wouldn’t count. Not surprisingly, many people within and beyond higher education say that colleges can’t possibly do all these things at once.”
“But McKinsey research suggests that many already are, using tactics others could emulate. In fact, the potential to increase productivity across the varied spectrum of US higher education appears to be so great that, with the right policy support, one million more graduates a year by 2020, at today’s spending levels, begins to look eminently feasible. The quality of education and access to it could both improve at the same time.”
“Henry L. Roediger III, a cognitive psychologist at Washington University, studies how the brain stores, and later retrieves, memories. He compared the test results of students who used common study methods—such as re-reading material, highlighting, reviewing and writing notes, outlining material and attending study groups—with the results from students who were repeatedly tested on the same material. When he compared the results, Roediger found, “Taking a test on material can have a greater positive effect on future retention of that material than spending an equivalent amount of time restudying the material.” Remarkably, this remains true “even when performance on the test is far from perfect and no feedback is given on missed information.”
“This barrage of readily available information has also created an environment where one of the worst social sins is to appear uninformed. Ours is a culture where it’s enormously embarrassing not to have an opinion on something, and in order to seem informed, we form our so-called opinions hastily, based on fragmentary bits of information and superficial impressions rather than true understanding.”
“Knowledge,” Emerson wrote, “is the knowing that we cannot know.”