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October 21
Clery Act in the Spotlight

​Several events over the past few years, especially those of recent, have brought Clery Act compliance by institutions of higher education to the forefront of national discussions. Violations of the Clery Act have been increasing in recent years. In addition, members of Congress and the White House have played a strategic role in highlighting the issue of sexual assault on campuses and continue to push for more transparency to ensure the safety of students.

Specifically, US Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in July released a new report, “Sexual Violence on Campus: How Too Many Institutions of Higher Education are Failing to Protect Students,” which includes findings from a national survey of over 400 institutions and interviews gathered from a series of roundtable discussions. A summary of the results state that “many institutions are failing to comply with the law and best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students.” McCaskill along with other US Senators released legislation in July to address these issues. In addition, the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault released its first report on the issue in April of this year and continues to update guidance and model policies for institutions to use.

In response to these and other events, some lawmakers and public advocacy groups have also called for campus security statistics to be included in methodology to rank colleges.

Background on the Clery Act and Recent Amendments

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act requires all postsecondary institutions receiving federal aid to publish and distribute Annual Security Reports (ASRs) by October 1 each year that include specific campus crime statistics and policies. In addition to making the data available to current students and employees, colleges and universities must submit crime statistics to the U.S. Department of Education and notify prospective students and employees that the report is available, along with a description of the contents and the opportunity to request a copy. 

In addition, Congress last year reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which among other things amended the Clery Act to require institutions to include statistics on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in their annual security reports starting October 1, 2014, as well as include plans for certain policies and procedures around the issue. The U.S. Department of Education published final rules yesterday in the federal register, which become effective July 1, 2015. 


Official Resources for Clery Act Compliance

Admission offices must be aware of compliance procedures for distributing information to prospective students regarding the issue. Offices across campus, as well as institutions as a whole should work together to ensure best practices in informing students and families of Clery Act information. 

NACAC’s Compliance Center has the latest guidance on compliance specific to admission professionals. In addition, you can consult the following resources:

  • ​The U.S. Department of Education compiled a list of suggested resources to help support the sharing of resources postsecondary institutions may use to inform and tailor their campus sexual assault training and prevention efforts.
  • The Clery Center for Security on Campus assists colleges and universities in Clery Act compliance. The website includes resources that can aid institutions as they work to meet the campus safety and security requirements.


October 08
An Update on Common Core Implementation, District Progress on Teacher Preparation

​As states get ready to administer assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to students for the first time next spring, the 2014-15 school year will be a critical juncture for implementation of the CCSS. In NACAC’s session at National Conference on the new standards and assessments last month, attendees had many unresolved questions. One area in particular that stood out as an ongoing challenge was whether adequate professional development and teacher preparation to teach the new standards, would be reached across districts by the time the assessments are implemented this year. 

In a new report released today, the Center on Education Policy (CEP) found that in about a third of districts in CCSS-adopting states, leaders do not expect their district to complete important milestones of CCSS implementation- such as adequately preparing teachers to teach the Common Core and implementing CCSS-aligned curricula- until school year 2015-16 or later, (See Table 1 below). Another third expect to be ready this year. The survey is based on a nationally representative sample of districts located in the 43 states that adopted the standards.

Common core district milestones 2014.png


In addition, the report found that 88% of districts reported experiencing major (46%) or minor (42%) challenges with providing high-quality professional development and other support to ensure that teachers are able to implement the CCSS instructional activities. In an interview on the new report, Diane Stark Rentner, the deputy director of CEP, said “it seems to lead to the conclusion that more time is needed to get this down into the classroom level and have everyone more comfortable with the content and be ready to move forward and succeed,” (Education Week). 

While “about 90% of school district leaders in adopting states agree that the Common Core standards are more rigorous than their state’s previous math and ELA standards and will lead to improved student skills,” ultimately, the effectiveness of the new standards hinges largely upon teacher preparation and ability to teach the new standards. Check back at NACAC’s online resource for more updates on the latest happening with Common Core implementation. 
October 06
​Rx for Healthcare Access and Quality Care? Holistic Admissions.

Healthcare in the United States is marred by large disparities in access. While remedying these inequalities is a complex undertaking, a new study by the Urban Universities for HEALTH suggests that university admission practices are a piece of the puzzle—just maybe, a corner piece that will help guide the rest of the pieces into place.

On October 6, the Urban Universities for HEALTH (Health Equity through Alignment, Leadership and Transformation of the Health Workforce) released its study on the use and impact of holistic admission practices in the health professions. From considering an applicant’s race to not considering an applicant’s transcript, holistic admission practices for general undergraduate studies programs have been widely researched and hotly debated. UUH’s study is significant in that it not only focuses on a specific area of professional practice, but also in that it considers both undergraduate and graduate admission practices. UUH is an alliance of the Coalition of Urban Serving Universities, the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. The study examined the admission practices at 104 universities in 45 states, with a total of 228 health profession schools from within the universities, including nursing, medical, dental, and pharmacy schools, as well as public health programs.

The first challenge faced in studying holistic admission is settling upon a definition of just what constitutes holistic review. For the purposes of this study, researchers avoided a strict definition; participants were also asked to self-identify as practicing holistic or non-holistic review based on their understanding of the method. Then, researchers selected several qualities that are hallmarks of holistic review, and evaluated the extent to which each school practices the different components. Researchers acknowledged that the practices they chose as constituting holistic review are not exhaustive. Some of the qualities of holistic review used in the study included: whether and to what extent the institution uses information other than academic metrics (e.g., gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) in the initial review, whether the institution’s admission committee receives training related to the institution’s mission and commitment to diversity, and whether students are selected from the waitlist based on criteria relating to the school mission or commitment to diversity. Schools were scored on the amount and extent of holistic review they practice.

Some comparisons between self-identification and scored use of holistic review show how difficult it is to discuss holistic review without a settled definition:

Schools self-identifying as using holistic review: 75% of all schools surveyed

  • More common self-identification among graduate-level programs (low = 78% at PharmD programs, high = 93% at DDS/DMD programs) and far less common at undergraduate-level programs (only 47% of BSN programs)
  • ​14% were found to practice few or no elements of holistic review when application review methods were scored
  • 48% were found to use some elements and 38% were found to use many elements of holistic review

Schools self-identifying as not using holistic review: 25% of all schools surveyed

  • ​2% of schools were found to use many elements of holistic review, and 31% were found to use some elements
  • 67% use few or no elements

Among the schools that self-identified as using holistic review, even those that scored low, various positive outcomes of the holistic review process were reported:

  • ​Student diversity increased at 72% of the schools (81% at highest-scoring, 67% at mid-scoring, and 60% at low-scoring institutions)
  • 90% of schools reported an increase in or no change in the GPA of their incoming classes
  • 89% of schools reported an increase in or no change in standardized test scores of their incoming classes
  • 96% of schools reported an increase in or no change in graduation rates
  • 97% of schools reported an increase in or no change in the GPA of their graduating classes
  • 91% of schools reported an increase in or no change in student success in passing licensing exams (i.e., the students needed to take the test fewer times in order to pass)

Academic indicators of success aside, the UUH survey revealed some less tangible benefits that may be associated with holistic review: student engagement with the community, cooperation and teamwork, and students’ openness to ideas and perspectives different from their own. While not all schools track these qualities in their students, of those that do, the results strongly suggest that holistic admission practices had a positive net impact:

  • ​Student engagement with the community: 70% increased, 30% unchanged
  • Cooperation and teamwork: 66% increased, 33% unchanged
  • Students’ openness to ideas and perspectives different from their own: 75% increased, 25% unchanged

These indicators are the ones that seemed to most impress Co-Principal Investigator Greer Glazer, Associate Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing and Yvonne Maddox, Acting Director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. Holistic admission does not just impact underrepresented students, Glazer said at the press conference. Rather, it is “important to every student” because it “changes the dynamic” in which students learn, leaving them “more engaged, cooperative, [and] focused on teamwork.” Maddox discussed healthcare disparities in the United States and the fact that minority and low-income communities are primarily served by healthcare practitioners who come from similar backgrounds. Admitting students likely to be open to serving these communities is the first step to ensuring the communities receive adequate healthcare. Holistic admission, the UUH study reveals, not only helps universities admit more of these students, but also fosters an environment that increases the likelihood of all students choosing to work in underserved communities, regardless of their own personal backgrounds.

Admissions “is the gate people must go through” to enter the healthcare profession, Glazer said. “It is critically important to study admission… Admission practices can and should be evidence-based,” she continued, stressing that approaches used in admissions “should be as rigorous as any other strategic” undertaking at a university. The UUH study provides valuable evidence that holistic review is worthwhile, not only for the universities themselves, but for the communities their graduates serve. One of the main reasons some universities do not use holistic review is that they are unsure how to implement the process, or their admissions staff are not trained to fully understand the university’s mission. To the latter point, a quality displayed by schools that use holistic admissions is that their admission offices have their own mission statement that includes diversity; this could help integrate thoughtful, deliberate approaches to increasing or maintaining diversity through the application review process. As for the former, Glazer thinks “this [study] is a call to university presidents to fund” serious initiatives to study and implement holistic admission practices at their institutions. She expressed hope that the study will have particular impact on undergraduate admission in the health professions, such as nursing programs. Nursing, the only program in the study to admit students at the undergraduate level, was least likely to use holistic application review.

An archived recording of the press conference and UUH's full report and one-page summary may be accessed here​.

September 25
A new edition of The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing is now avaliable

​         

        Changes in the modern landscape of standardized testing are reflected in a newly revised edition of The Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, released last week in Washington, DC. The Standards are jointly published by the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association (APA), and the National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME). These standards have been published since 1966 and are regularly revised to maintain their “gold standard” status for psychological, educational, and occupational testing.  Changes in The Standards are of interest to NACAC members since they contain the most current best-practices for implementing and interpreting educational tests. NACAC's Statement of Principals of Good Practice encourages members and other professionals who interpret standardized test scores to be familiar with the most current research on the fair and ethical use of these instruments.

The major changes for the 2014 version of The Standards include increased attention to the fairness of tests and the ethical use of scores. Content about the growth of technology, proprietary testing, and scoring has also been expanded to reflect the increased use of proprietary tests in schools and workplaces. 

Previous editions of The Standards have commented on the importance of fairness in standardized testing. Since the last edition was published in 1999, the use of educational testing has become more extensive with tests now affecting educational and career trajectories for students and teachers like never before. With greater participation in standardized testing, The Standards now account for the new diversity of the test taking population. Sections of The Standards that have traditionally pertained to fairness are now consolidated into a single chapter in the “Foundations” section to highlight fairness’s importance in the era of widespread testing since the Joint Committee now feels that Fairness has equal importance with Validity and Reliability.

The Standards interprets fairness to mean that tests are sufficiently sensitive to test taker characteristics so that the test scores will yield valid interpretations for their intended uses. Ideally tests should have the same meaning for all individual test takers and would not advantage or disadvantage any populations in a systematic way. Ultimately, tests should be designed to allow test takers to demonstrate their standing on “construct(s) that the test is intended to measure.” The Standards enumerate how fairness in tests can be achieved by minimizing various “threats” in the areas of content, context, and opportunity. Concerns about fairness have also made their way into other areas such as “consequential validity.”  With the advent of high-stakes testing in schools and workplaces, The Standards recommends that evidentiary requirements should always be proportional to the importance or consequence of the test. Overall, all modifications and accommodations to the tests should be made with an eye toward ensuring the comparability of scores. The Standards recognizes that achieving test fairness often goes beyond what is required by law. 

The newest edition of The Standards also gives extensive consideration to the way technology now impacts standardized testing. The Joint Committee now recommends that the accessibility as well as security of testing and scoring be reviewed as more tests are administered via computer. The Standards also comments on the advent of automatic scoring algorithms. Such algorithms should be empirically and theoretically informed and have a basis for linking scoring rationales to the construct of interest. Lastly, proprietary test makers should be willing to disclose the principals behind their scoring algorithms or have them independently reviewed by experts.

 The Standards provide a wealth of information for admission professionals who may consider standardized tests for admission decisions or for school professionals setting up assessment and program reviews with standardized tests. NACAC’s Statement of Principles of Good Practice recommends that members familiarize themselves and their fellow staff with current inter-association standards particularly with respect to educational testing, score use, and score differences between sub-groups.  Accordingly, The Standards are an excellent resource for members who are looking for the most current information about the use, interpretation, and design of standardized educational tests.

More information about The Standards and a full copy can be found here​.


September 25
Research Suggests That Choice of Major Drives Post College Earnings

​Which is More Consequential: Field of Study or Institutional Selectivity

The Review of Higher Education

Yingyi Ma and Gokhan Savas 

Yingyi Ma and Gokhan Savas have recently published an analysis that demonstrates the intersectional effects of gender, family background, major choice, and institutional selectivity on earnings. In an effort to understand the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap and ways of closing it, their analysis has also shed light on what factors contribute to early career earnings. 

Field of study and institutional selectivity are considered to be the most important sources of income variation among college-educated workers. It is known that majors pertaining to science, technology, and business pay more than majors in education, humanities, or the social sciences. Graduation from a highly selective institution has also been associated with above average earnings and that low-income students are underrepresented at these schools. Ma and Savas have sought to understand the extent to which the premium attached to lucrative majors can offset the disadvantages associated with attending unselective colleges, being female, or hailing from a low-income background. Given that the price of tuition does not generally vary by course of study, Ma and Savas suggest that lucrative majors could be a way to ameliorate wage gaps for low-income students.

Ma and Savas found that participation in a field of study varies greatly by gender and class. The most important finding to emerge was that less privileged women benefit more from studying lucrative fields than privileged women who major in non-lucrative subjects but graduate from selective institutions. Other findings were less surprising. Low-income women studying non-lucrative majors at unselective colleges reported the lowest earnings. Men who studied lucrative fields at selective institutions earned the most. It was also found that a substantial proportion of the women who were in lucrative majors hailed from modest backgrounds. Conversely, privileged women were over represented in non-lucrative fields and reaped the lowest return from attending a selective institution. 

Ma and Savas feel that the most significant public policy implication from their findings is that educational leaders need to encourage women of all backgrounds to major in gender atypical fields. Majoring in a gender atypical field can offset disadvantages from attending an unselective college or hailing from a modest background. In their words, college majors can serve as a “meritocratic mechanism” which can provide economic mobility for students. The authors note the importance of social connections when obtaining work. While lucrative majors can allow women from less privileged backgrounds to access high paying jobs, Ma and Savas stress that women of all backgrounds need to be given more support with career networking.

The study can be found here​.


September 25
Professional Learning Communities Can Be a Cost Effective Way To Improve Teacher Quality

​Revisiting Professional Learning Communities to Increase College Readiness: 

The Importance of Pedagogical Content Knowledge. 

Educational Researcher

Jennifer Bausmith and Carol Barry

Student centered “standards movements” such as the No Child Left Behind Act and the Common Core Standards have given way to an interest in teacher centric professional development. “Professional learning communities” (PLCs) represent an opportunity to provide structured professional development that utilizes the lessons and advice from the most senior teachers in the learning community. With the renewed interest in teacher expertise, Jennifer Bausmith and Carol Barry suggest that PLCs are an appropriate means to help teachers improve their understanding of the content they teach and how students learn. 

Despite the advantages inherent to the PLCs, Jennifer Bausmith and Carol Barry have argued that PLCs as we currently know them will not be sufficient for helping teachers in light of the Common Core Standards. PLCs are underutilized in their capacity to increase pedagogical content knowledge and student outcomes. The authors note that professional development for teachers usually focuses on active learning, coherence, and collective participation. However, professional development materials regarding subject matter content are rarely found to be included in many PLCs. 

For all the promise that PLCs offer, their provincial nature might allow them to spread knowledge that is incomplete or insular. Since it is difficult for schools to recognize that they may be under-resourced, PLCs may allow schools to unintentionally encourage  “best practices” that have already been supplanted with more updated methods. Bausmith and Barry cite literature which has found that teachers who received substantial training by university-level educators have increased effectiveness as instructors. However, it would be difficult to increase the scale of this time intensive training to the national level. 

Bausmith and Barry position PLCs as a venue through which a "library of lessons" could be widely disseminated among the teaching profession. They recommend the creation of externally developed and standardized professional development literature that is indexed to the Common Core State standards. A library of lessons would allow improvements in pedagogical knowledge to be brought to the national scale while also avoiding the chaotic situation where each district develops its own materials.  

Overall, the development of current and research based instructional materials delivered through PLCs could help school systems align themselves with the Common Core Standards while also providing equitable access to quality teaching and college readiness. In an environment with budgetary constraints, directing funds to resources which have proven to be successful is a cost effective way to improve the quality of a school’s faculty.

The study can be found here​.




September 25
New Research Finds Link Between Attendance at For Profit Institutions and Student Loan Default

College on Credit: A Multi-Level Analysis of Student Loan Debt.

Review of Higher Education 

Nicholas Hillman

Nicholas Hillman, of the University of Wisconsin, has recently published a review of literature pertaining to loan default and conducted an analysis of factors that are strongly predictive of loan default. Overall, Hillman has found that “non-traditional” students are the most likely to default. His findings suggest that the federal loan system, despite its successes in promoting college access, may be rewarding existing privilege while also “sanctioning those who come from lower socioeconomic classes.” 

The role of loans in facilitating college education has increased over the last thirty years. Subsequent reauthorizations of the Higher Education Act of 1965 have each coincided with a shift away from grant-based aid to loan-based aid. Half of all post-secondary students are now currently borrowing to facilitate their educations and the average college graduate is expected to accumulate around $26,000 in loan debt. By 2011, the amount of outstanding loan debt reached $867 billion, an amount that exceeds nearly all other forms of credit. In the last 10 years, the two-year post-baccalaureate default rate has doubled with 374,940 individuals currently in default.

Hillman’s study analyzed a sample that included 16,700 students obtained from the National Center For Education Statistics. He found that the leading predictor of default was attendance at a proprietary institution. His data showed that slightly over half of all those currently in default attended a for profit two-year college. Even when controlling for student level characteristics, such as socio-economic status and academic profiles, these students had 2-3 times the odds of defaulting compared with students who attended public two-and four-year institutions. Hillman found that students attending community colleges are no more likely than students attending four-year institutions to default after controlling for student characteristics. However, 19 percent of those currently in default had attended a public two-year institution. The relationship between overall debt burden and default was found to be non-linear. Most defaulters have relatively low balances and default rates do not increase as debt levels go up. Student family income was also a strong predictor of student default. Default rates decline steadily as student family income levels go up.

Hillman finds that minoritized[sic.] and non-traditional students are the most likely to default. White and upper income students and students’ without dependent care obligations are the least likely to default. Overall, the role that for-profit colleges play in contributing to student loan debt cannot be attributed to merely preexisting conditions. Hillman suggests that these findings could contribute to the policy development process because our current loan policy overly sanctions individuals who are already underserved by higher education. 

The report can be found here​.


September 25
 New Research About The Impact Of Effective College Counseling

​College Initiatives Redefined

A Responsive Approach to College Counseling & Alumni Support

YES Prep Public Schools has released a report that details the strategies which have contributed to YES Prep’s considerable success in sending low-income and first generation students from the Houston area to college. YES Prep is a network of high performing public charter schools that was founded in 1998.  It currently serves 8000 students, 84 percent of which are “economically disadvantaged” and 90 percent are first generation college students.  Despite these challenging demographics, 44 percent of YES Prep alumni have earned a college degree. YES Prep alums have a six-year college graduation rate of 41 percent.  These statistics are remarkable since the six-year graduation rate among other low income Houston students is only 8 percent. Given its success in enrolling and graduating economically disadvantaged students, YES Prep believes its methods can be successfully employed around the nation.

Through experimentation and research, YES Prep has developed five revised assumptions about guiding students to college. They have found that college access does not nearly equal college success, non-academic skills are an important factor in student success, college partnerships are key, and college affordability is still pivotal. Overall, YES Prep has created a variety of organizational, philosophical, and research based reforms inspired by these findings.

YES Prep currently devotes four percent of each school’s budget to college counseling. This has a resulted in a student-to-counselor ratio of only 40:1, or a 12 fold improvement over the national average of 471:1. In addition to counseling, the YES Prep network has worked to align its curriculum with its college counseling efforts. The College Assessment Portfolio Program Project allows students to measure and document their progress towards college readiness during their four years of high school. The YES Prep curriculum includes significant emphasis on the non-cognitive factors which have been documented to contribute to college and life success. The YES Prep network has also worked to formalize alumni support in order to provide students with an extensive range of mentors. Their success is consistent with the finding that mentored minority students are twice as likely to persist and have higher GPAs than non-mentored students. 

The YES Prep network has looked outside its facilities to assist students during the transition from high school to college. Their network has been able to sign on 29 IMPACT partners which agree to meet 100 percent of admitted YES Prep alumni financial need and provide ongoing YES Prep programming. YES Prep has also worked to address college affordability by significantly expanding the amount of scholarship aid available to its students. These renewable awards are specifically designed to meet gaps in financial aid packages.

YES Prep believes that success in expanding access to college for the disadvantaged will come as the result of constant evaluation and experimentation. YES Prep cites data mining, reflection, and the continual adaptation of programs as key to finding real solutions to allowing more students to graduate from college.

The full text of the report can be found here​.


September 16
University Innovation Alliance Unveils Collaborative Plan to Increase College Completion

​Platters of cheese empanadas and fresh fruit greeted guests as they entered the Rotunda of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center to attend the University Innovation Alliance’s Announcement and Public Rollout event on Tuesday morning. But if the finger food was a notch above the usual, the content of the event cleared the bar with room to spare. Through well-moderated discussions and lively presentations, leaders from the UIA member institutions and their sponsors laid out plans to realize a vision of partnership that has been taking shape behind the scenes for the past fifteen months.

The University Innovation Alliance (UIA) is a group of eleven public universities committed to increasing the country’s number of graduates through collaboration and sharing of successful methods. The goals are to find scalable models of retaining and graduating students, particularly those who are underserved, underrepresented, and non-traditional. Alliance members are: Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, University of California at Riverside, University of Central Florida, University of Kansas, and the University of Texas at Austin. The Alliance has approximately $5.7 million in funding from the Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation, Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Markle Foundation, and USA Funds. The Alliance’s focus on these universities is an acknowledgment that, in order to meet college completion goals set by the Lumina Foundation and by the Obama Administration, public institutions of higher education will need to be the primary drivers of increased completion rates. There is no question that elite liberal arts colleges and Ivy League institutions are producing strong results, said Michael Crow (President, Arizona State University and Chair, University Innovation Alliance), but the problem with those models is that they are not scalable to impact the number of students who need to be reached if the country is to meet completion goals.

“Scale” is one of Mark Becker’s (President, Georgia State University and Vice Chair, University Innovation Alliance) four go-to words to describe UIA: Innovation, collaboration, translation, and scale. UIA member institutions will innovate on their own campuses and collaborate through a mentor/mentee relationship to learn from one another, and the projects they pursue will be able to be translated to the other member schools and scaled to affect large populations of students. Each member institution has a particular method it is using, successfully, to help attain the Alliance’s goals. Institutions that are leaders in one area will serve as mentors to the other institutions, who will work to adopt and adapt the strategies to their campuses. Some examples include:

  • Georgia State University – GPS Advising system that uses predictive analytics to predict an individual student’s performance in any given class and any given major
  • Oregon State University – E-Campus (Extended Campus) to reach 25-64 year olds with some college and no degree
  • Iowa State University – Learning Communities of 25-40 students that bring students together around shared areas of interest (specific academic program, social concern, identity, etc.) – students share classes, residence hall, dining, etc.
  • University of Texas at Austin – University Leadership Network financial intervention program that uses predictive analytics to identify the students at the very bottom of expected 4 year graduation rate and then provides them $5,000 scholarships each year, spread out in increments that are awarded as they meet certain academic goals.
  • University of Central Florida – Direct Connect program that creates very easy transfer between FL community colleges and UCF
  • Michigan State University – Campus neighborhoods created by dividing the 24 residence halls into 5 communities, each of which has access to academic advising, study spaces, a health facility, and financial  counseling.

When pressed on whether the Alliance will be open to other institutions to join, Kim Wilcox (Chancellor, University of California at Riverside) demurred, saying, “This isn’t a club you join; it’s a commitment you make.” He elaborated on the UIA member institutions’ determination to make sure they are able to accomplish their goals; before broadening the Alliance, the first step will be to ensure that the collaboration is producing results. Hilary Pennington (Vice President, Education, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation) expects that even if no other institutions are added to the Alliance, the ideas and methods developed will spread organically throughout higher education as administrators, who work on UIA projects, talk with non-UIA colleagues and move from one institution to another.

University leaders expressed differing views on the role public policy should play in helping prod along college completion rates. Current policies, David Leonhardt (Managing Editor of The Upshot, The New York Times) acknowledged, stress  enrollment, not completion--though this is changing as more states turn to performance based funding models. John Hitt (President, University of Central Florida) welcomes his state's performance based model, while Bernadette Gray-Little (Chancellor, University of Kansas) was more hesitant. Performance based funding is a good idea, she said, but has not necessarily been used "in a sensitive way." She argues that metrics must be adjusted to account for the students an institution serves; an admirable graduation rate at University A may be subpar for University B and truly unattainable at University C. Given budget realities, it is unlikely that colleges will lower tuition any time soon, but UIA members hope to help lower the cost of a degree by streamlining the process and accelerating the timeline on which students earn their credentials. Joseph Steinmentz (Executive Vice President and Provost, The Ohio State University) expressed a sentiment that seemed widely shared among UIA representatives when he said he feels "like much of the national commitment to have students go to college regardless of income has been lost." UIA member institutions are dedicated to reclaiming that lost commitment and taking a leading role in producing a high number of new college graduates.

None of the panelists or presenters feigned naiveté​; all recognize that the work ahead will be challenging. Wilcox lamented that "the sense that some universities provide access and some provide excellence is a profoundly disappointing notion"--one that UIA hopes to counteract. While the universities have their work cut out for them, as Becker noted in his introductory remarks, "these are not insurmountable problems." Indeed, each of the UIA member institutions is already making progress alone. In the coming years, the universities will work together to continue expanding opportunity. Their first initiative? Predictive analytics, for which Georgia State University, Arizona State University, and the University of Texas at Austin will serve as mentors.

September 15
2014 School Counseling Grants Issued

​Last Thursday, the Department of Education announced the recipients of its 2014 Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Grants. The grantees represent forty school districts in twenty states, and award amounts range from $180,928 to $398,279. Grantees will use the funds to train and support counseling staff, as well as to hire more school counselors. While most of the projects awarded funding are geared exclusively toward elementary students, some will also target secondary schools. Mental health is a prominent concern in the project abstracts, with grantees hoping the increased counseling manpower and training will allow their schools to more effectively aid students, particularly those coping with external pressures, such as poverty and dysfunctional home lives.

Descriptions of the projects awarded funding are available here. Earlier this summer, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged the Chief State School Officers to maximize their use of counseling professionals, and issued a comprehensive list​ of federal resources and funds available to support school counselors.

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