Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Colorado?

We have just updated our annual analysis of state fiscal investment effort in higher education. We now have 50 years worth of data for each state. We measure higher education investment effort as state fiscal support (largely appropriations) divided by state personal income (which we take to be the state’s tax base), and express the result as dollars for higher education per $1000 of personal income.

Measuring changes over the last 30 years—between FY1980 and FY2010—Colorado has reduced its state fiscal investment effort in higher education by (far) more than any other state: by 69.6 percent. Colorado has gone from $10.52 per $1000 in FY1980 to $3.20 per $1000 by FY2010. No other state can match this abysmal record of disinvestment in public higher education over the last three decades. Colorado has long been able to mask this destruction because so many college graduates educated elsewhere want to live in the state. But the real record is one of massive disservice to the state’s native population.

However, many national higher education organizations are headquartered in Colorado. In Boulder we find the national headquarters of the State Higher Education Executive Officers, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. In Denver we find the Education Commission of the States.

We wonder why these organizations continue to bless Colorado with their presence. What kind of message does this convey to the voters and elected officials of Colorado about what they have done to their state’s higher education system. Might it not be appropriate for these national organizations to announce to Colorado that they are considering leaving the state because of its destructive attitude toward the higher education industry that they represent? Undoubtedly this would be disruptive to the organizations now located there. But the message their continued presence in Colorado conveys is the wrong one.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Federal Dishonesty in Needs Analysis for Financial Aid for Low Income Students

The financial aid “system” was created to help students pay college attendance costs. This is not so much a system as it is a hodgepodge of policies, practices and paperwork that gets money to students in time to pay their college bills.

A major component of this hodgepodge is the federal need analysis used to get Pell Grants to students of low and lower-middle income families. This need analysis is fed by data supplied by students and their families on the FAFSA—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The federal need analysis produces an EFC—or Expected Family Contribution—based on family resources that presumes ability (not willingness) to pay college attendance costs. This approach is based on the widely shared view that students and their families have the first obligation to pay college attendance costs to the extent that they have income and assets beyond basic levels to do so.

But a careful examination of the federal policy decisions used to determine the Expected Family Contribution reveals profoundly troubling practices applied to students from the very lowest family income backgrounds. These practices deliberately minimize or even hide the very serious financial barriers to higher education that students from very low income backgrounds face when they seek to pursue higher education. We describe two of these federal practices here.

Converting negative values to zero in calculating the Expected Family Contribution. When FAFSA data supplied by students and their families is fed through the federal methodology to calculate the EFC, negative values are changed to zero. This is a federal policy decision. It applies only to very low income families where incomes fall below maintenance levels deemed by others to be required to maintain a minimum living standard in the U.S.

In these very low income families students play breadwinner roles. Earnings from their work help support the family. When they leave the family to attend college, the loss of their earnings leaves the family worse off—a sacrifice some students from these families are unwilling or unable to make.

Over the years several policy analysts have recommended calculating and reporting EFCs that include these negative values. These policy analysts have included Kornfeld, Kantrowicz, myself, and Merisotis. ACT used to report a coded negative EFC for financial aid officers to use to help them sort out different zero EFC students. Most recently Goldrick-Rab has observed that zero EFC students at the Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison have family incomes several thousand dollars higher than do zero EFC students at the University of Wisconsin’s regional campuses. The issue of the conversion of negative values in the federal methodology has been well known for decades. Yet the federal government chooses to hide, ignore and deny the reality of this additional financial barriers to higher education faced by students from very low income families.

Converting negative values to zero in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study.
This federal practice of converting negative values to zero has been carried over into the NPSAS files used to study how well financial aid in its broadest application meets students’ financial needs. I was introduced to this problem (although I did not understand it then) when a colleague at JBL Associates did some initial tabulations from one of the early NPSAS files. I was looking for unmet financial need. She prepared the tabulations through her online access.

I took these printouts home and went over them carefully. The numbers did not add up. She checked her work and assured me she had retrieved the data correctly. So I abandoned her tabulated numbers for unmet need and calculated them myself from the tabulated components of costs of attendance, less expected family contribution, less total aid received. The numbers my calculations produced both added up (because they were derived), and were far larger than the tabulated unmet needs of my colleague. I have continued to ignore tabulated financial barriers in NPSAS analyses, and calculated the financial barriers I report in OPPORTUNITY.

The federal government has been dishonest in assessing both ability to pay as well as measuring financial barriers to higher education for students from very low income families by following its chosen practice of converting negative values to zero. This hides a true picture of the real life conditions faced by those most in need of financial aid to be able to attend college. The practice should be stopped immediately, larger EFCs for these very low income students should be reported, and adequate and appropriate financial aid should be provided to help these students pay their college attendance costs. This practice should also be stopped and reversed in constructing the NPAS files on which policy judgments about financial aid are based.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Boy’s Day at Home and at School

The gender gap in higher education has been growing since 1981 when females surpassed males in college enrollment and bachelor degree awards. For a while we looked at higher education as somehow flawed in serving boys. There is some evidence from the National Survey of Student Engagement that this is true. But with more data and reflection, most of us came to realize that many more boys than girls were getting off the education train before they reached college age. So as higher education is prone to do, we pointed the accusatory finger at K-12 education and blamed them.

Now comes a report from the Census Bureau A Child’s Day: 2006 based on data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). This report is the fourth in a series examining children’s well-being and their daily activities at home and at school. This report offers useful and disturbing data on boys and girls that sheds light on how far off the education path many boys are from an early age. It is not just school where boys are disengaging—this report provides evidence of problems in home life too.

The SIPP data are collected from the “designated parent” which in 2-parent families is the mother. About 95% of the SIPP respondents were female, so these are largely maternal responses.

For their children ages 6 to 17 years, the mothers reported that:
• 60.8% of their boys often liked school, compared to 73.8% of their girls
• 52.9% of their boys were often interested in school work, compared to 68.7% of their girls
• 57.6% of their boys often worked hard in school, compared to 71.9% of their girls

Despite these notably poor indicators of student engagement in K-12 education, their mothers wanted :
• 88.6% of their sons to become at least college graduates, compared to 91.1% of their daughters
These mothers expected:
• 82.3% of their sons to become at least college graduates, compared to 86.2% of their daughters

This report of the study provides data that describe similarities in the lives of boys and girls at home. Among the similarities in the lives of boys and girls:
• Boys and girls were nearly equally likely to have been in non-relative child care, and to have spent nearly equal numbers of hours per week in non-relative child care.
• Boys and girls were nearly equally likely to have had breakfast with the designated parent during a typical week. Results were similar for regular weekday dinners.
• Boys and girls had similar types of and applications of television rules at home. (These rules included types of programs children could watch, time of day and number of hours.)
• Boys and girls had similar numbers of family outings together.

But there are differences too, and these differences provide interesting clues into the more grossly apparent enrollment and engagement problems that emerge when school enrollment is no longer compulsory and becomes voluntary and expensive. For examples:
• Mothers reported that they talked to or played with their child for 5 minutes or mjkore just for fun 3 or more times per day less often as their children aged, and this drop-off occurred faster with their sons than they daughters. Among children under 6 this gap was 0.9% in favor of girls. By 6 to 11 years it was 2.3%. By 12 to 17 years it was 4.8 percent.
• Maternal praise also declined as the child aged, and the decline was greater for their sons than their daughters. Among their children under 6, the gap was 1.3% in favor of the girls. By 6 to 11 years the gap was 2.0%, and by 12 to 17 it was 4.6%.
• Mothers reported that their sons were more likely to participate in sports than were their daughters, and that these differences increased with age.
• Mothers reported that their daughters were more likely to participate in clubs and than their sons were, and these differences also increased with age.
• Mothers reported that their daughters were more likely to be enrolled in gifted classes (26.6%) than their sons (22.9%), sons were more likely to have repeated a grade (12.9%) than were their daughters (8.0%), and that their sons were far more likely to have been suspended (13.8%) than their daughters (7.1%).

The published data from the SIPP provide interesting and useful insights from mothers’ perspectives about what is happening in the lives of their sons and daughters at home, at school and in communities. This published report invites further probing into the existing file for interactions by parental gender (there is some male parental data), race/ethnicity, marital status, educational attainment and employment status. But what is glaring deficient in this study is responses from fathers. God made men and women to have children, and this survey lets fathers off the hook.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recession Effects on Opportunity for Higher Education

I am looking at indicators that describe disruption in college access, choice and retention that students are facing and adjusting to because of the current economic recession. Here is what I have found in data so far:

So far college continuation rates for recent high school graduates do not appear to be affected. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the college continuation rate for recent high school graduates was at a record high in October 2008. Data are from the Current Population Survey. The 2009 data will not be available until spring.

Data from the annual UCLA survey of American 4-year college freshmen show sudden and significant deterioration in college choice beginning in 2006. Up to that point about 70 percent of 4-year college freshmen reported that they were enrolled in their first choice college. This share then dropped to 67.3% in 2006, 64.1% in 2007 and 60.7% in 2008. At the same time the share of these freshmen reporting that the offer of financial assistance was an important factor in their college choice rose from 34.3% in 2006, to 39.4% in 2007 and 43.0% in 2008. However, the share of these 4-year college freshmen reporting that there was a major concern about their ability to finance their college education dropped from 13.2% in 2005, to 11.6% in 2006, 9.5% in 2007 and 10.9% in 2008.

Pell Grant recipient data points to a record low share of recipients enrolled in public and private 4-year colleges and universities. These data are from the Office of Postsecondary Education, which administers the Pell Grant program. This a long term issue, but one that has sped up during the recession. In FY2007 a record low 45.0 % of Pell Grant recipients were enrolled in 4-year colleges. This dropped to 44.0% in FY2008, and a preliminary 41.3% for FY2009.

ACT has published data on frosh-to-soph persistence since 1983. We are looking at these data now. For all college freshmen this persistence rate to the sophomore year at the same institution dropped from 68.7% in 2006, to 68.1% in 2007, to 66.1% in 2008, to 66.2% by 2009. We have much more analysis to do of these data, but this factoid jumped out at me when I started graphing the data.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ranked Colleges and Universities that Exemplify Social Inclusion

Most of elite higher education in the United States practices class warfare against classes not already richly served by these institutions. We have a large group of ranked of colleges and universities that measure themselves by class exclusive criteria like college admissions test scores, admissions selectivity, and family income. They higher educate the rich and they are proud of it. They are enriching those born into affluence—those from inherited privilege classes. They offer a country club campus atmosphere needed to attract the affluent clientele they wish to enroll. They are also largely divorced from the national challenge of higher educating the growing share of the country’s population that is low income. There are whole recruiting, testing and college ranking industries that either exist to support this class structure of higher education or profit from it.

So it is quite unusual to find ranked colleges and universities that buck this trend and are deliberately practicing social inclusion. Or more accurately, these institutions are engaged in the higher education of the growing share of the country’s population that was born into low or lower-middle income families. This population is soon to become a majority of the K-12 student population, later to become a majority of higher education enrollments, and will eventually become a majority of the adult population, parents, taxpayers, workforce and voting citizens. These socially inclusive and exemplary institutions deserve recognition for their notable efforts to reach out to students who were born into low-income families.

We use two sets of criteria to identify these institutions. Group I institutions are ranked by U.S. News as among the top 100 universities and liberal arts colleges and have notably large shares of undergraduate students with Pell Grants. Group II institutions are also ranked by U.S. News among the top 125 universities and top 125 liberal arts colleges and have increased their enrollment of Pell Grant recipients at greater rates than the national growth rate in Pell Grant recipients. Only five of these 250 colleges and universities meet this criteria of engagement.

Group I

Berea College, Berea, Kentucky. This college was founded in 1855 as the first co-educational, interracial college in the South to serve low-income students primarily from Appalachia. An applicant with a family income above $40,000 is not admissible. In 2004 87.4% of its students received Pell Grants.

Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts. In 2004 27.7% of the undergraduates at Smith were Pell Grant recipients. In that year the average Pell Grant share among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges was 12.8%. At Smith the number of Pell Grant recipients has risen from 484 in 1992 to a peak of 716 by 2002. In 2009 there were still 645 Pell Grant recipients on campus. Unfortunately these numbers have been slipping slowly but steadily since 2002.

Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. In 2004 24.2% of undergraduates received Pell Grants, compared to 12.8% for all top 50 national liberal arts colleges that year. The number of Pell Grant recipients at Mount Holyoke has increased from 390 in 1992 to a peak of 448 in 2002. Since then this number has declined very slightly to 432 by 2009.

University of California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California. In 2004 38.7% of undergraduate students at UCLA received Pell Grants. This compares to 20.0% among all U.S. News top 50 national universities that year. The number of Pell Grant recipients enrolled at UCLA has increased from 6819 in 1992 to a peak of 9686 in 2004. Between 2004 and 2009 the number of Pell Grant recipients has declined steadily to 8852.

University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, California. In 2004 34.7% of undergraduate students at Berkeley received Pell Grants, compared to 20.0% for all top 50 “best” national universities as defined by U.S. News. The number of Pell Grant recipients at Berkeley increased from 5858 in 1992 to a record peak of 7989 by 2009.

University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, California. UC-San Diego increased its enrollment of Pell Grant recipients from 4608 in 2000 and 4680 in 2001 to 6458 in 2006 and 6817 in 2007, or by 42.9%. Since then the University has enrolled 7414 in 2008 and 8017 so far for 2009.

Group II

Between 2000+2001 and 2006+2007 the number of Pell Grant recipients in U.S. higher education institutions increased by 37.3%, from about 3.76 million to about 5.17 million students. Among the 125 “best” national universities (as defined by U.S. News and World Report), just four increased their own enrollment of Pell Grant recipients by more than 37.3%. Among the 125 “best” liberal arts colleges in the U.S. just one increased it’s own enrollment of Pell Grant recipients by more than 37.3%.

Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard increased its enrollment of Pell Grant recipients from 394 in 2000 and 636 in 2001 to 763 in 2006 and 808 in 2007, or by 52.5%. The number for 2008 was 940, and so far for 2009 the number is 959.

University of California-San Diego, La Jolla, California. UC-San Diego increased its enrollment of Pell Grant recipients from 4608 in 2000 and 4680 in 2001 to 6458 in 2006 and 6817 in 2007, or by 42.9%. Since then the University has enrolled 7414 in 2008 and 8017 so far for 2009.

University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pitt enrolled 3863 Pell Grant recipients in 2000 and 3828 in 2001. For 2006 Pitt enrolled 5080 Pell recipients, and 5719 for 2007, for an increase of 40.4%. Since then Pitt enrolled 5163 in 2008 and 4961 so far for 2009.

Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Arizona State enrolled 8590 Pell Grant recipients in 2000 and 8653 in 2001. Then in 2006 ASU enrolled 12,242, and for 2007 enrolled 11,783, for an increase of 39.3%. Since then ASU enrolled 11,779 Pell recipients in 2008 and 13,280 so far for in 2009.

University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia. Richmond enrolled 184 Pell Grant recipients in 2000 and 177 in 2001. By 2006 Richmond enrolled 242 Pell recipients, and 276 in 2007. This was an increase of 43.5%. In 2008 Richmond enrolled 305, and 351 so far in 2009.

We give honorable mentions to institutions that increased their Pell Grant enrollments by 30% to 37.2% between 2000+2001 and 2006+2007. The universities are: University of Denver, Loyola University of Chicago, University of California-Davis, Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of California-Riverside. The liberal arts colleges are Ursinus College, Agnes Scott College, Randolph College, Lake Forest College and Spellman College. Complete results for all 250 institutions ranked by U.S. News are available in the December 2007 issue (#186) of Postsecondary Education OPPORTUNITY. Online Pell Grant recipient data by institution is available at: https://cod.ed.gov/cod/LoginPage

Someday I will prepare a parallel Hall of Shame identifying the leading Class Warriors among the most Class Exclusive Gated Communities and Country Clubs. This will be a very much longer list.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Major Factors Influencing Federal Education Legislation

Robert Andringa prepared this list of what influenced federal education legislation in 1976 when he was minority staff director, House Committee on Education and Labor. For those of us who fancy our policy analysis as directly influencing how laws are made, this is a humbling lesson. - Tom

"The following list of major influences shaping federal education laws was put together in consultation with other Hill staff, but I take full responsibility for whatever reactions it generates! The variables are listed in the order in which I see their importance at this time.

1. Personal judgment and values of usually no more than 6-10 Congressmen and staff.

Some major bills have many issues…each issue is normally shaped and resolved by a small handful of people, later ratified by the full House and Senate…“judgments and values” are influenced by personal experience and the effect of the other items on this list.

2. Strong views of respected and trusted friends.

Each Member has a few trusted friends with knowledge in some particular area…these are friends from his hometown, experts with whom he has developed a friendship over the years, other Members, staff, etc.

3. Assumptions about the economy and budget.

These assumptions influence a Member’s interest in creating new programs or in cutting back on program authorities…also his or her sense of priorities among various educational needs.

4. Public opinion and the popular media.

Most Members do not support ideas which they feel do not have, or could not get, general public support…many shape their perceptions about educational needs by reading popular, rather than specialized, publications…the few people most involved in a legislative area do read more of the specialized newsletters and journals.

5. Strong views and efforts of major interest groups.

The education lobby is not one of strongest in Washington…yet major associations and coalitions can force consideration of issues they feel important…sometimes consensus among interest groups is important and sometimes a weakly developed consensus backfires.

6. Descriptive information about federal programs.

Most of this comes from the executive branch and a few educational associations…Members relate this to what they personally expect a program to accomplish.

7. Congressional hearings.

Attendance is often low, but “key Members” are usually present…educators often present long, dull papers full of jargon…many witnesses are not willing to be completely candid in formal, on-the-record sessions...field hearings [are] more important, although they are infrequent.

8. General Accounting Office reports and other independent reports on programs.

GAO studies get acceptance because GAO is [an] arm of the legislative branch and its studies are done in cooperation with Members…same applies to Congressional Research Service…sometimes other non-federal studies of existing federal programs are given similar credibility.

9. Policy research studies and reports.

These are often too long, full of jargon or statistics few understand…few people on the Hill have time to read such things…some studies use old data or come up with ideas Members have long since rejected…most influence from these reports must come indirectly through the other items on the list.

10. Administration views and lobby efforts.

Congress naturally puts this factor low when the majority party is different from that of the President…proposals often reflect budget constraints rather than sound educational policy…recommendations are often submitted too late in the process…recommendations of [a] technical nature to improve current programs have [a] much better success rate.

11. Program evaluation studies.

Most of these done by the U.S. Office of Education under contract…many are too late and use data that are too old…many studies try to quantify results that can not easily be quantified…most studies [are] done in isolation from other similar studies and miss the “big picture”…but there have been a few exceptions."

Friday, May 15, 2009

Shifting Freshman Market Shares

On April 28th the Bureau of Labor Statistics released it’s annual report College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2008 High School Graduates. BLS has released this report annually since 1959. These are data collected by the Census Bureau in the October supplement to the Current population Survey. The reported data provide the first comprehensive look at the transition from high school into college in 2008. I know we are all busy speculating what is going to happen in the fall during this the second year of the current economic recession.

The media have not yet reported from these powerful BLS data. I was blown away by one part of these data: the massive shift of high school graduates entering college through the 2-year portal and away from the 4-year portal. In 2001 68.1% of college freshmen who were recent high school graduates were enrolled in 4-year institutions (and 31.9% in 2-year institutions). Then in 2002 freshmen began a gradual shift away from 4-year to 2-year colleges. By 2007 the share entering 4-year colleges and universities had dropped to 64.1% (and 2-year had risen to 35.8%).

Then the recession began in December 2007. By fall 2008 the economy was in free fall. Families had lost a great deal of their investments in the stock market. And the share of 4-year college freshmen who were recent high school graduates dropped to 59.7% (while the 2-year college share rose to 40.3%). In one year, between 2007 and 2008, there was 4.4% shift in market share from 4-year to 2-year colleges.

Out of 2,161,000 fall 2008 freshmen this means that about 95,000 college freshmen had shifted from 4-year to 2-year colleges compared to the 2007 market shares. Compared to the 4-year market share in 2001 this means that in 2008 about 181,500 college freshmen have shifted from 4-year to 2-year colleges to begin their higher education careers.

The 2008 college continuation rate in 2008 was 68.6% which ties the record rate set in 2005. These 2008 freshmen are also attending college full-time at record high rates. So the story is this: the kids are trying hard to get a college education, but the world around them is failing them. The system is failing them.

We see why in another set of data that we are mining: the 2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study. The financial barriers to higher education faced by students from the bottom half of the family income distribution are greater than they have been since these data were first reported in 1990. No wonder our country feels like it is in free-fall, because it is.