Obama wants lower college costs, higher dropout age — from edweek.org by Alyson Klein

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Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

President Obama gave college affordability a prominent place in his domestic agenda during his annual State of the Union address, calling directly on universities to hold down costs in order to make higher education more accessible to the middle class. He outlined a set of proposals that include threatening universities with a loss of federal money if they are unable to tamp down tuition.

“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said in his hour-long address. He didn’t offer specifics, however, and the blueprint document the White House sent out to accompany the speech didn’t get specific either. But advocates expect him to lay out more concrete details in the coming days.

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State higher education spending sees big decline — from HuffingtonPost.com by Christine Armario

Excerpt:

MIAMI — State funding for higher education has declined because of a slow recovery from the recession and the end of federal stimulus money, according to a study released Monday.

Overall, spending declined by some $6 billion, or nearly 8 percent, over the past year, according to the annual Grapevine study by the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University. The reduction was slightly lower, at 4 percent, when money lost from the end of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act was not taken into account.

The funding reductions, seen across nearly every state, have resulted in larger class sizes and fewer course offerings at many universities and come as enrollment continues to rise.

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Beware: Alternative certification is coming — from The Chronicle by Richard Vedder

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

As college costs rise, however, people are asking: Aren’t there cheaper ways of certifying competence and skills to employers? Employers like the current system, because the huge (often over $100,000) cost of demonstrating competency is borne by the student, not by them. Employers seemingly have little incentive to look for alternative certification. That is why reformers like me cannot get employer organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to take alternative certification seriously. But if companies can find good employees with high-school diplomas who have demonstrated necessary skills and competency via some cheaper (to society) means, they might be able to hire workers more cheaply than before–paying wages that are high by high-school-graduate standards, but low relative to college-graduate norms. Employers can capture the huge savings of reduced certification costs. And students avoid huge debt, get four years more time in the labor force, and do not face the risks of not getting through college. Since millions of college grads have jobs which really do not use skills developed in college anyhow, alternative certification is more attractive than ever.

Addendums on 1/26:

  • President Obama: ‘Higher education can’t be a luxury – it is an economic imperative’ — from annarbor.com by Ryan Stanton
  • Survey finds that dwindling financial aid contributes to fewer college options — from the NYT by Daniel Slotnik
    Excerpt:
    College freshmen entering school last fall were less likely to attend their first choice of college, a function of both competition and cost, than at any other time since 1974, and fewer received financial aid through grants or scholarships, according to an annual survey of nearly 204,000 high school students.
  • Pressure remains for higher education: Moody’s — from Reuters
    The financial conditions of many U.S. colleges and universities will likely not improve much this year, as states continue cutting funding for public schools, students become more price sensitive, and areas for other revenue remain stretched, a lead rating agency said on Monday.  “During the past year, public and political scrutiny of colleges and universities, both not-for-profit and for-profit, has escalated and we expect that the sector will remain under the microscope in 2012 and beyond,” said Moody’s Investors Services in a report outlining why it is maintaining a “mixed outlook for U.S. not-for-profit private and public colleges and universities, mirroring our 2011 outlook.”

When the dam breaks… — from learning with ‘e’s by Steve Wheeler

Excerpt:

Publication of research is one of the most important facets of academic life. I can’t stress enough how important it is for good research to be as widely and swiftly disseminated as possible. Without it, our practice is less likely to be informed, and more prone to repeated errors. As a researcher myself, I take this challenge very seriously. Along with other educational researchers, I attempt to identify key issues for investigation and then spend considerable time and energy examining as much of the terrain that surrounds my research question as I can. Once I have analysed the data, I am usually able to arrive at some conclusions and write some form of report, which is likely to include a set of recommendations that I hope will benefit my community of practice. Such findings should be published widely to inform the entire community. This is the way it should be. And yet often, sadly, it just doesn’t happen.

From DSC:
Steve, I was unsuccessful in leaving a comment on your posting here…but I celebrate your walking the talk on this and for pushing the envelop on the proliferation of open access journals. And thanks for making some recommendations in your reports — for taking some stances. I was greatly disappointed in my ID Master’s Program to find how few scholarly articles took any sort of stand and asserted much of anything to move their communities of practice forward.

 

 

Indiana U. helps shape economic terms of eText transition — from convergemag.com by Tanya Roscorla

Excerpts:

As course material shifts from print to digital, Indiana University advocates on behalf of students for lower prices, more choices and common software platforms.

Based on feedback from students and faculty, Courseload rewrote the platform in HTML5 this summer.

When the university asked students why they liked e-textbooks better, 69 percent cited instructor annotations, followed closely by sustainability, cost, weight of books and student annotations.

 

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From DSC:
If you are a parent and you have hopes of your son(s) or daughter(s) obtaining athletic scholarships, your days may be numbered. I come from an athletic scholarship background and I’m glad that I do. However, the days of athletic scholarships may be pruned down a bit in these next few years as budgets continue to get tighter and tighter.

My guess at this point is that the smaller team sports — such as tennis, golf, wrestling, softball, lacrosse, etc. — may see fewer teams competing in the future. I don’t have data here (so I may be wrong), but I would guess that programs will have to be self-sustaining in order to remain open. The larger, revenue-producing sports will probably survive.

This article points to this topic:
‘Curriculum Review’ for Athletics — from InsideHigherEd.com

So if you are counting on a college scholarship, I hope your kids are at least in high school…if not, I would not count on this source of funding in the future…at least for smaller sports (and even that may be generous w/ the time frames here).

Kiva begins offering education microloans — from wired.co.uk by Duncan Geere

Kiva  begins offering education microloans

Crowdsourced microlending service Kiva has begun offering educational loans to students in three countries around the world, with the objective of expanding its successes with small businesses into encouraging the spread of learning.

How long does it take to create learning? (2010 Research) — from Brandan-Hall.com by Bryan Chapman

Bryan Chapman reports on the number of hours it takes to create 1 hour of ____ training

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From DSC:
I have it that in the near future, it will take a team of specialists to create and deliver effective learning content that is able to engage folks (the for-profits, as we’ve seen, are already doing this).  No doubt this takes time and money. That is why, within the world of higher ed, I think the use of pooling resources and expanding the use of consortiums might take off;  and/or…perhaps there will be more contributions to open source alternatives…I’m not sure. But this report shows that it can take a significant amount of time to create the content.

The important thing for the online world here is to leverage these efforts again and again and again. The more times that a course is used/taken, the ROI goes up and the cost per delivery goes down.

Buffett, Gates persuade 40 billionaires to donate half of wealth — from OregonLive.com

SEATTLE — Forty wealthy families and individuals have joined Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and billionaire investor Warren Buffett in a pledge to give at least half their wealth to charity.

Those who have joined the Giving Pledge, as listed on its website, are: Paul G. Allen, Laura and John Arnold, Michael R. Bloomberg, Eli and Edythe Broad, Warren Buffett, Michele Chan and Patrick Soon-Shiong, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, Ann and John Doerr, Larry Ellison, Bill and Melinda Gates, Barron Hilton, Jon and Karen Huntsman, Joan and Irwin Jacobs, George B. Kaiser, Elaine and Ken Langone, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, Lorry I. Lokey, George Lucas, Alfred E. Mann, Bernie and Billi Marcus, Thomas S. Monaghan, Tashia and John Morgridge, Pierre and Pam Omidyar, Bernard and Barbro Osher, Ronald O. Perelman, Peter G. Peterson, T. Boone Pickens, Julian H. Robertson Jr., David Rockefeller, David M. Rubenstein, Herb and Marion Sandler, Vicki and Roger Sant, Walter Scott Jr., Jim and Marilyn Simons, Jeff Skoll, Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor, Jim and Virginia Stowers, Ted Turner, Sanford and Joan Weill and Shelby White.

From DSC:
This is fantastic news! Excellent. I’m a big supporter of various charities myself — albeit with far fewer O’s ($$) behind the amounts of my checks than what these folks are able to provide!  🙂     But it got me to thinking…

If the United States government — or the government from another interested nation — could even get 1-2 billion of this enormous accumulation of wealth, think what could be done to create interactive, multimedia-based, engaging, customized/personalized, online learning-based materials that could be offered FREE of charge to various age groups/cognitive levels. Creative simulations and animations could be built and offered — free of charge — to students throughout the world. The materials would be available on a variety of devices for maximum flexibility (laptops, notebooks, iPads, iPhones, tablet PCs, workstations, etc.)

An amazing amount of digital scaffolding could be provided on a variety of disciplines. THIS could represent the Walmart of Education that I’ve been talking about…wow!

A marriage made in Indiana — from InsideHigherEd.com

Just about everywhere you turn, state leaders are searching for a way to use online education to expand the reach of their public higher education systems at a time of diminished resources.

The approaches vary: In Minnesota, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has heralded a future of “iCollege,” while in Pennsylvania, the state college system envisions using distance learning to help its campuses sustain their offerings by sharing courses in underenrolled programs. California’s community college system turned to a for-profit provider, Kaplan University, to work around its budget-related enrollment restrictions. And a grand experiment to create a fully online branch of the University of Illinois, meanwhile, crashed and burned last fall.

Struggling with the costs of teaching in higher education — Tony Bates

“So you can imagine my delight when Volume 38, Number 3 of ‘Planning for Higher Education‘, devoted almost entirely to Issues in Higher Education Finance’ arrived in the mail. There was indeed some very interesting findings in the papers in this volume, some of which certainly is of value in supporting what I am going to write in the chapter.”

From that posting, Tony lists the following references:

Bates, A. (1995) Chapter 8: Web-based learning: costs and organizational issues, in ‘Technology, e-Learning and Distance Education‘ London/New York: Routledge

Brinkman, P. and Morgan, A. (2010) Financial Planning: Strategies and Lessons Learned Planning for Higher Education, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 5-14

McPherson, P. and Shulenburger, D. (2010) Understanding the cost of public higher education Planning for Higher Education Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 15-24

Rumble, G. (2001) The Cost and Costing of Networked Learning Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Volume 5, Issue 2

Seybert, J. and Rossol, P. (2010) What drives instructional costs in two year colleges Planning for Higher Education Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 38-44

Twigg, C. (1999) Improving learning and reducing costs: re-designing large enrollment classes Troy NY: The National Center for Academic Transformation

Wellman, J. (2010) Improving data to tackle the higher education ‘cost disease’ Planning for Higher Education Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 25-37

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Improving quality AND reducing costs — from Tony Bates
Bassis, M. (2010) Changing the equation Inside Higher Education, March 25

This article, by the President of a private college, Westminster College, in the USA, challenges the notion that reducing costs of teaching reduces quality. Some interesting quotes will give you the flavour of the article:

So we started searching the literature for instructional designs that require fewer resources and result in high levels of student learning. The ones we found shared certain characteristics. They were driven by clear learning goals and involved extensive assessment and feedback to students. They stressed active learning and took maximum advantage of technology. In each design, faculty spent less time lecturing and more time coaching, proactively asking and answering questions with groups of students. And faculty were assisted in their coaching role by teaching assistants or peer mentors. Finally, economies of scale helped to produce significant cost savings….

I pulled together a team from our school of business and told them that the goal was to develop an undergraduate degree completion program in business that produced more and better learning at half the cost of our traditional program (emphasis DSC).

From DSC:
This is right along the lines of what I have been saying will happen — and is already starting to happen with Straighterline, University of the People, and other organizations. What are YOUR plans to deal with these trends?


From DSC:

This is not sustainable…tuition increases are going to drive folks to look for much cheaper alternatives. Whoever can be the institution that gets it right, they will be huge — and will make a worldwide impact!

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College food banks step up for students struggling to pay bills — from freep.com by Patricia Montemurri

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People are beginning to seriously ask, is paying this much for a higher ed degree worth it? Are there less expensive alternatives?

If people are asking this question, then those of us within higher education had better have some plans on how to address this situation. My personal take here is that we need to work to reduce the cost of getting a degree by 50% or more — while providing cross-disciplinary, real-world assignments and projects that engage the students…projects that help them build up valuable communication and research skills that will aid them in hitting the ground running upon graduation.

Here are recent examples of folks reflecting on this question/topic (never mind what you think of these postings or their authors — consider the fact that these a but a handful of such postings out there):

Personally and historically speaking, I just accepted that my wife and I would have to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to finance our 3 kids’ educations. As I’ve gotten older, I have realized a couple things:

  1. That’s not going to happen
  2. There will be other — far less costly — alternatives (see my Walmart of Education posting here)

The key thing here is this:

If people are even asking these questions, it is high time that higher ed came up with some serious/concrete/well-publicized and backed up solutions and responses to these sorts of questions. There have been increasing calls for accountability and transparency; and I’m sure we’ll work to produce that data. But in the meantime, the bottom lines will still be how much folks can afford,  what is their perceptions re: the value that a college education provides, and what does it take to earn a living (i.e. if employers of the future don’t require a degree, but rather look at what a person can do, then that situation will be important to consider here).

Don’t get me wrong. I strongly believe in the value of education. I came from a liberal arts background and I work for a Christian, liberal arts college. So my point is not to bash college educations. To me, a college education is still worth a great deal. But I went to Northwestern University, a university that currently costs ~$55,000 per year. I’m sorry, it’s just not worth that much (nor could I afford to send our kids there, even if I wanted to).

The key point I’m addressing here is that if people are asking these sorts of questions, then we have one more significant ingredient of the “Perfect Storm” that’s brewing for higher ed.

More later…

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