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Could the Latino experience help revamp financial aid?

A new white paper from Excelencia in Education asks how financial aid could be reimagined based on the Latino college experience. 

The report, "Using a Latino Lens to Reimagine Aid Design and Delivery," identifies three current challenges facing federal financial aid: the inability of federal aid to keep pace with increasing college costs; the growing representation of "non-traditional" college students; and the broad recognition that federal aid policy must be redesigned to meet the national needs of a more educated citizenry and competitive workforce.

Reports NBC Latino:

Perhaps one of the most important – yet cost-effective – changes the federal government could make right now, says [Deborah] Santiago [Vice President of Policy and co-founder of Excelencia in Education], is to improve access to information for families.

"Better access on the college financial process would not cost us money, but it does requires intentionality; it has to be targeted at Latino families," says Santiago. The federal government can do a better job partnering with networks of college counselors and community organizations, or using Facebook and social media.
Read the full story here.

The curious legacy of credit hours

Where did the credit hour come from? What were they intended to do? And what are the consequences of our life with credit hours today? The Chronicle explores the history and the legacy of our awkward standard unit of learning: 

Perhaps the strongest evidence of the credit hour's inadequacy can be found in the policies and choices of colleges themselves. If credit hours truly reflected a standardized unit of learning, they would be transferable across institutions. Nearly 60 percent of students in the United States attend two or more colleges, so the nontransfer of credits has huge implications. But colleges routinely reject credits earned at other colleges, underscoring their belief that credit hours are not a reliable measure of how much students have learned. If higher education doesn't trust its own credits, why should anyone else?
Read the full story -- and what we can do about it -- here.

Open letter: College completion must be our priority

In October 2011, six assocations of college and university presidents convened the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment and began a conversation about the challenges higher education faces in ensuring that students complete. Chief among them: How can higher ed institutions better serve a changing student population, increasingly comprised of older, part-time, working students? 

The result is an open letter to college and university leaders across the nation that stirringly explains why college completion must be a national priority:

At the end of the process we reached two very broad conclusions. First, we were dismayed that a country so rightfully proud of pioneering mass higher education through groundbreaking measures like the Morrill Land Grant Act, the GI Bill, and the Higher Education Act now faces unsatisfactory and stagnating college completion rates.
But we were also heartened during our meetings to learn about the concrete steps that some colleges and universities have already taken -- some small and others large-scale -- to increase the number of students who stay enrolled and complete their education. But many  of the projects are new and the results are not yet clear. We believe these efforts are a good first step, but every campus can do more. 
Great ideas include easier credit transfers, online courses, and college equivalency assessments based on experience or a portfolio of work. Read the letter here. (Opens in a PDF.) 

New research shows what's working for financial aid

In a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract here), Susan Dynarski of the University of Michigan and Judith Scott-Clayton of Columbia University's Teachers College scan 50 years of financial aid practice and research to "review what is known and what is not known about how well various student aid programs work," they write.

Key takeaways? Money matters for college access; students loans can be effective if they're structured well; academic incentives can work.

Read this helpful study here

Minority serving institutions lead the way toward remediation reform

A new report released by IHEP shows that minority serving institutions (MSIs) are 

Advising plays a key role in college success

Students are more likely to persist, stay on track, and graduate on time when they receive face-to-face advising from a guidance counselor. But many students, especially at community colleges, don't even know advising is available to them, and the ratio of guidance counselors to students is dropping across the country.

Reports NBC News / The Hechinger Report:

On average, students rack up 136.5 credits toward bachelor’s degrees that require only 120, the advocacy organization Complete College America reports. One of every three switches majors, according to the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA. And the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics says that fewer than one in four students at public universities, and around a third at private ones, graduate within four years.

"There's too much wandering around," says Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. "It makes sense that if you know where you're going, you're more likely to get there."
Read the full report here.

Higher levels of degree attainment boost employment for all

New research from the University of Cincinnati indicates that higher levels of degree attainment in a region can boost employment for everyone - even the less-educated. 

For each 10 percent rise in the number of residents with a four-year college degree, the average overall employment rate in United States metropolitan areas rose by 2 percent between 1980 and the year 2000.
That employment rate benefited some of the least educated the most dramatically. For instance, every 10 percent rise in an area's four-year college degree attainment boosted the employment rate for women with either a high school diploma or even less education by 3.2 percent.

The research was published in the Journal of Economic Geograph and is based on an analysis of U.S. census data. 

Read more here.

To get back to the top, U.S. needs to push for two-year degrees

In the midst of our nationwide push for degree completion, success requires a renewed focus on two-year degrees, according to a new reportCommunity colleges are often underfunded, require more remediation than four-year schools, and enroll a higher percentage of low-income and working students.

The bright side? Community colleges are more affordable and accessible -- and many in-demand jobs require some post-secondary education, but not necessarily a four-year degree.

Reports the Christian Science Monitor:
"Many of the new jobs of the next decade or so will require some college after high school, but not necessarily a four-year degree … so [increasing two-year degrees] can have a significant impact on our economy," says Jim Hull, a senior policy analyst at NSBA's Center for Public Education and author of the report.

Read the full story here.

Ten innovative programs to increase completion

A compilation of Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC) grantee profiles illustrates the innovative approaches of 10 new postsecondary degree programs awarded grants under NGLC's third wave of funding, which focused on "Breakthrough Models for College Completion." It provides practical details of interest to those designing and planning innovative new degree programs.
Common attributes across the portfolio include competency-based learning, disaggregated faculty roles, tuition models that reward persistence, data to target supports, and self-paced instruction. The profiles also offer important descriptive information about the instructional and financial models and their unique methods and structures to provide high-quality associate's or bachelor’s degrees at affordable costs, particularly for underserved populations.

Access the full report here.

Research shows high graduation rates for college transfers

Statistically speaking, not many community college students transfer to four-year institutions -- about one in five. But according to recent research from the National Student Clearinghouse, of those that do transfer, 60% earn a degree within four years. For those who complete an associate's degree before transferring, the odds of earning a bachelor's are even better: 71% will earn a bachelor's in four years, while 80% will either graduate or remain enrolled. 

Writes Paul Fein for Inside Higher Ed: 

Four-year institutions have a big incentive to "poach" community college students before they complete an associate degree, Jenkins said, with one motivation being that they want tuition revenue for general education courses. "They use the community colleges to get students ready," he said.
... An ideal scenario is for community colleges and four-year institutions to encourage students to earn an associate degree before transferring and then make sure they arrive with junior standing in a major.
Read the full story here.

Memphis Talent Dividend sees increase in college grads, applications

Tennessee was once second-to-last in college achievement in the United States. But the state has been slowly moving the needle. This year, 26.5% of Tennesseans hold a college degree, a 2.8 percent increase in five years. And Memphis has seen a 1.4 percentage point increase in college grads since kicking off its Talent Dividend efforts in 2010.

In 2013, Memphis will focus on increasing the percentage of high school seniors who complete a FAFSA. Last year, 53% of Shelby County's high school seniors completed one, beating the national average of 48%. This year, the goal is 67%. 

Read more about Memphis Talent Dividend's success here.

Thinking of first generation students as pioneers

At a time when one in three American college students are the first-generation, we need to think critically about what makes them unique and how to support them in our institutions of higher education, writes Richard Greenwald. Instead of seeing them as a problem that the education system needs to fix, higher ed should seek to understand the challenges they're facing and think of them as pioneers -- and find ways to support them and set them up for success.

Greenwald writes:

So what should we do? First, those of us who were first-generation students must stand up and make our presence known. We should act as ambassadors, guides, and advocates for current first-generation students. We need to find ways to educate these students in the social aspects of college.
That means that our seminars for first-year students need more open and frank conversations about social expectations as well as what developmental tools are necessary. We need to offer workshops on college rules without stigmatizing the students who attend. In short, we need to write up the unwritten rules of college for them.

Read the full story here.

Record number of young Americans are earning college degrees

For the first time in history, a third of Americans age 25-29 have earned a bachelor's degree, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center. High school graduation rates are also at an all-time high, with 90% of those 25-29 holding a high school diploma.

Reports the New York Times: 

Over the past few years, education experts have warned that the United States had undergone a worrisome "education reversal," in which older Americans are more educated than younger ones. For example, in 2007, the share of adults aged 45 to 64 who had graduated from high school or earned a bachelor's degree was slightly higher than among 25- to 29-year-olds.

But now, the report found, "the education reversal that arose in the first decade of the 2000s has vanished or been reversed by recent improvements in the education attainment of young adults."

Read the full story here.

In Orlando, tracking down students who didn't know they earned a degree

As efforts ramp up nationwide to boost the number of Americans with college degrees to 60 percent by 2025, community colleges are looking at creative changes that could produce more graduates and make transitions to four-year institutions easier.
In Florida, community colleges have been scouring their records in search of students who have earned degrees and certificates but not yet received them. Thousands of students have been contacted in recent months, and many have been surprised by the good news, which comes as the state is pushing colleges to improve their completion rates.
The state's records show that from 2008 to 2011, 13,629 students left community colleges with 60 credits or more completed and without graduating. An associate in arts degree generally requires 60 credits. At Valencia College alone, officials say they identify about 60 students each semester who are eligible for associate degrees but failed to turn in the paperwork to graduate. This past spring, Indian River State College granted 222 degrees after poring over records dating back to 2005.

Read the full story here.


New resources on first-generation students, dual enrollment

We're adding new resources every day over at The Civic Commons' Talent Dividend Network page. Have you checked them out lately?

This month, we recommend: 

A brief from Higher Ed Insight on adult college completion
that recommends strategies for making contact with near-completers and overcoming barriers to enrollment. 

An in-depth policy brief from Jobs for the Future on dual enrollment and easing the transition from high school to college, with detailed information and recommendations for each state. 

A new community for first-generation students.

Many more Talent Dividend resources here -- bookmark the page and check back frequently!
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