Tag Archives: Chronicle of Higher Education

11 College admissions resources to read now. (Perhaps, even, instead of Dr. StrangeCollege.)

Having gone through college applications with two high school students in the past three years, here’s what we’ve been doing these days:

  • Driving our high school sophomore to his homecoming date.
  • Tailgating and watching UVA defeat Kent State with our third-year UVA student (aka: junior) during his frat’s fall parents weekend.
  • Delivering cough drops and healthy snacks to our first-year UVA student (aka: freshman).
September sky above UVA's Scott Stadium

September sky above UVA’s Scott Stadium

Here’s what we’ve not been doing:

  • Paying much attention at all to college admissions deadlines and news.

We’re enjoying this hiatus. Even though Mod Squad Linc will take the PSAT next month and will start receiving college flyers and emails in January, there’ll be no college applications for him until the 2016-17 school year.

If you happened to subscribe to this blog looking for college admissions news for 2014-15, these sites may interest you:

Head Count: Admissions and enrollment news from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Most recent post:  Applicants to Bennington College can ‘curate’ their applications

True Admissions:  the blog from the College Admissions Book. Latest post by Christine VanDeVelde: De-stress the college application process.

Parents Countdown to College Coach:  Helping parents navigate the college maze. Suzanne Shaffer’s latest post:  The college major debate: 4 points to steer teens in the right direction.

The College Solution blog. Lynn O’Shaughnessy’s latest post:  Please apply so we can reject you!

The College Puzzle:  a college success blog. Latest post by Michael Kirst:  College competition for students may hurt low income students.

DIY College Rankings. Latest post by Michelle Kretzschmar:  Help finding Minnesota Colleges.

On the Fast Track to an Empty Nest, by friend and neighbor, Tara Mincer, who will have three students applying within four years. Lastest post: Getting your high school senior organized.

Prep and study help: Academic advice and study tips for the college-bound

Also, find admissions blogs at colleges of interest. I am most familiar with Notes from Peabody, written by UVADeanJ, who does an excellent job of providing clear information about the process and what the college needs. Look at colleges’ admissions websites for how they communicate.

A variety of posts on this blog from the past three years can still be helpful, and most are searchable by tags, from dealing with deadlines, to essays, financial aid, visits, and more. Please remember:

  1. Any post needs to be read with “As I understand it…” and “as of today” mentally tacked on.
  2. Almost any response to a college admissions question can [and should] begin with, “It depends…”

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The debates on AP courses. Yes, No, Maybe, and How Many?

Every year the Higher Ed newsfeed fills with debates about AP courses, and this year is no different.

AP US History, decade notes.

AP US History, decade notes.

It’s up to each family to understand the issues involved and figure out the appropriate number for each student to take (if any). For background:

  • Last year the College Board administered more than 3.2 million AP exams. See College Board’s Who We Serve. This year the AP exam costs $89 per. (College Board is a non-profit organization, but more than half of their revenue comes from AP exam fees.) Factor that exam cost against the cost of taking a three or four credit hour course at a college.
  • Thanks to APs, many students now begin their first year of college with a semester or two of credits already earned. Yet, some colleges require a major to be declared when a certain number of credits have been achieved, sometimes leading to a first year student needing to declare prior to his or her second year.

Much of the recent debate includes discussion of a recent report from the Stanford University Education Grad School program, Challenge Success. Start with that fifteen page report, The Advanced Placement Program: Living Up To Its Promise? The authors set up a few claims and tackle a lot of issues as they pull them apart. Don’t miss the recommendations for students on page ten.

Here’s the thing: every student will have reasons to take — or not take — APs. Do not take them because everyone else is.

  • Do take them if your are interested in the subject and willing and able to put in the extra time and effort.
  • Do not compete to take the most APs of everyone you know.
  • Do focus on learning how to take an AP. Many high schools use the AP Euro class, typically taken by sophomores, as an intro to taking APs, spending time on the prccess as well as the content.
  • Consider starting slow and building through high school. Starting with one sophomore year, two junior, and three senior year shows increased effort and rigor and makes a lot more sense for most students than jumping in with two or three sophomore year.


More to read on APs:

Two perspectives from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

NO:  Stop Letting High-School Courses Count for College Credit, by Michael Mendillo.

The end result is that in many introductory college courses, the top students are simply not in the classrooms. For them, faculty-student interactions are not possible and the overall value of a university education is diminished. All of these aspects of educational disservice are due to the existence of the AP system.

The solution is simple: All the things a student accomplishes in high school—grades, extracurricular activities, sports, volunteering—are application credentials for college. There should be no carry-over of high-school accomplishments into the collegiate transcript.

YES:  Give AP credit where credit is due, by Mark Bauerlein.

We may ask, though, about the impact of refusing to give AP credit upon enrollments and test scores in high-school AP courses­—or other advanced offerings­. What’s the incentive for 16-year-olds to take a course with a stiffer workload, competitive fellow students, and the chance of a lower grade?

College credit means savings in time and money once they matriculate. Take it away, and students may wonder about the advantages. Yes, AP courses accustom them to college-level labor, and admissions offices favor AP as a sign that an applicant seeks a school’s best resources (this is Dartmouth’s policy). But those are somewhat fuzzy promises to a high-school junior.

NO:  AP classes are a scam, by John Tierney, writing in The Atlantic.

Many critics lay the blame on the College Board itself, a huge “non-profit” organization that operates like a big business. The College Board earns over half of all its revenues from its Advanced Placement program — more than all its other revenue streams (SATs, SAT subject tests, PSATs) combined. The College Board’s profits for 2009, the most recent year for which records were available, were 8.6 percent of revenue, which would be respectable even for a for-profit corporation. “When a non-profit company is earning those profits, something is wrong,” says Americans for Educational Testing Reform. (The AETR’s “report card” on the College Board awards a grade of D and cites numerous “areas of misconduct” by the College Board.)

Finally, here’s one high school teacher’s response to the Stanford report.

YES:  The Oft Understated Truth of AP Coursework, by John Blase, on his blog, Striving for Better.

Having taught an AP course for several years in the classroom (AP English Language & Composition, to be exact) I find that most of the arguments in this article and others purporting to say that AP coursework isn’t worth its weight miss one key important piece: Many students who are enrolled in AP courses are bored out of their skulls in regular classes.

. . .

As department lead, I made many observations of the teachers and students in their English coursework.  Every spring, I would ask the seniors in AP English Literature and Composition (the senior level AP English course at our school) one question:

“Now that you have taken the test, what could we, as an English department, have done better from day one of your freshman year to better prepare you for this course?”

The answers always came back the same: more of the stuff that made AP English what it is.  These students weren’t concerned with the college credit or the scores on the AP test.  They were concerned with not being bored out of their minds in their other classes.

Finding the delicate balance between enough challenge and too much, providing an overload of stress, is where an excellent guidance counselor or independent college counselor can truly help families. And the mix of courses, including how many APs, to reach that balance will be different for every student.

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On Recruiting Underprivileged Students

I recently quoted Kevin Carey, writing in 2010 for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He concluded Real College-Acceptance Rates are Higher Than You Think with this:

And of course it’s always worth noting that the vast majority of college students don’t go to a selective college at all and they’re the ones we should be worrying about.

Click for larger view. Via the New York Times.

David Leonhardt’s Better Colleges Failing to Lure Talented Pure, from the front page of the March 17th New York Times, provided current data supporting Carey’s assertion that most low-income students with high test scores don’t even apply to the selective schools.

The colleges that most low-income students attend have fewer resources and lower graduation rates than selective colleges, and many students who attend a local college do not graduate. Those who do graduate can miss out on the career opportunities that top colleges offer.

The new study is beginning to receive attention among scholars and college officials because it is more comprehensive than other research on college choices. The study suggests that the problems, and the opportunities, for low-income students are larger than previously thought.

. . .

If they make it to top colleges, high-achieving, low-income students tend to thrive there, the paper found. Based on the most recent data, 89 percent of such students at selective colleges had graduated or were on pace to do so, compared with only 50 percent of top low-income students at nonselective colleges.

It’s difficult for the colleges to recruit the high-achieving, under-privileged student, many of whom would be first-generation college students.

Matthew Yglesias has written a couple of Slate Moneybox columns about this recently. First, from Smart, Poor Kids Are Applying to the Wrong Colleges:

High-income, high-achieving students generally do what you’d expect. Most of their applications are to schools where the median admissions test score is similar to what they got. But they apply to some reach schools and most to a safety school. Generally they apply to the local flagship state university campus, which is sometimes a match and sometimes a reach depending on the state.

Low-income students are very different. Fully 53 percent of them apply to zero schools whose median SAT or ACT scores are similar to their own. Many of these smart, poor kids apply only to a single unselective school. Only a very small percentage of these kids—8 percent of them, the authors estimate—act the same as high-achievement kids from prosperous families by applying to selective schools, including some reaches and safeties.

Then, from How Smart Poor Kids Get Screwed by the College Admissions Process:

The problem really does seem to quite literally be that most low-income kids and their families are not well-informed about the situation. They don’t know personally what kind of SAT or ACT scores are good enough to go to a selective college, they don’t know which selective colleges are appropriate for someone with their test scores to apply to, they don’t know the strategic logic of “safety schools” and “reaches”, they don’t know about need-blind admissions policies, and they don’t have any social acquaintances who can inform this. Isn’t this what school guidance counselors are supposed to be for? Indeed it is! But they’re seemingly not doing a very good job, nor are the recruiting arms of selective schools.

When selective colleges are fielding many more applications than they can ever accept, and when many colleges need to ensure they have a number of full-freight applicants, and when a number of colleges have had to abandon need-blind admissions, how much time or effort can or will they truly put into recruiting the high-achieving, low-income students?

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College rejection letters, how colleges boost their rankings, and funny math.

Via sunnyydoodles.tumblr.com

Via sunnyydoodles.tumblr.com; outdated since Stanford charged $90 in 2012.

Only a few more days and college admission departments will send a boat load of letters (or push email “send” buttons) to reject millions of applicants.

Colleges will accept a few, too, but the real news to be trumpeted across the land in early April will be how many students they rejected.

From last year see, Ivy League colleges post record low acceptance rates, via Money.cnn.com:

Your odds of getting into some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges are shrinking.

The country’s eight Ivy League institutions finished sending out their admission decisions to applicants late Thursday. And many of the elite schools — including Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth and Cornell — are reporting that they accepted record low percentages of applicants for the upcoming school year.

As colleges send out more rejections they can also reduce their selectivity rates — the percentage of applications accepted out of those received — and help boost their rankings in US News & World Report and other popular  lists.

The story that doesn’t often make the front pages in admission season, though, is what goes into the calculations of the acceptance rates. The Common App has made it much easier to apply to more colleges, as long as Mom and Dad are willing to pay the application fees (up to $90 or more, each). Just because an elite school — say, Harvard with 34,302 applicants in 2012 or UC-Berkeley with 61,702 — receives more and more applicants each year, does that mean they receive proportionately more that are qualified?

Valerie Strauss wrote in the Washington Post last year, in Some 2012 college admissions rates hit new lows:

More kids who don’t have a prayer of getting into some of these schools apply anyway, but schools still get to brag that they have a record number of applications. As a result, some admissions counselors note that the percentage of kids who have a real shot at getting into some of these schools doesn’t go up much — if at all — from year to year.

Yet the reduction in acceptance rates remains the juicier story — and the story that helps support the narrative that students (and their parents) need to do anything to get into college, no matter the cost, retention rates, graduation rates, resulting debt load, or the job outlook.

Here are a couple more perspectives on the acceptance rate math. I’m quoting a paragraph or two, but the essays aren’t that long and — if you like this sort of thing — interesting.

Kevin Carey, in Stalking the True College Acceptance Rate for The Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote about the fifteen minutes it might take to screen applications into piles for Yes, No, and Maybe.

There are inevitably a lot of easy “No” decisions, because a substantial number of students treat elite college applications like a $90 lottery ticket. Such unqualified applicants don’t change the odds of qualified students being accepted. There could be 10,000 “No’s”, 100,000, it doesn’t matter. It only matters how many “Yes” and “Maybe” applicants apply (and how many legacies, athletes, Hollywood ingenues, and senator’s sons…).

. . .

From the student’s perspective, there’s no difference between applying to five elite colleges and being accepted at one and applying to 10 elite colleges and being accepted at one. You can only go to one. But the student who applies to 10 colleges drives institutional acceptance rates down, even though he or she doesn’t change the number that actually matters: the total ratio of high-quality applicants (not applications) to high-quality spots.

In another piece, from 2010, Carey cited Chad Aldeman, who suggests in The Quick and The Ed that we Switch College Admissions to a Single Lottery:

Now consider for a second that you are a high school junior and you see these rates. It’s becoming easier than ever to apply for multiple schools, so what is your rational course of action?

You’re going to apply for tons of schools, thinking that at least one will let you in. And the next year, when the acceptance rates go even lower (they’ve been falling for years), students will apply to even more schools. The chances of any one student getting into any one school will become smaller and smaller, even as the number of spaces at those schools keeps pace with demographic changes. The spaces themselves are not becoming more scarce; it’s the admissions craze that’s making them look that way.

Back to the 2010 article by Kevin Carey, for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He outlined the math in Real College-Acceptance Rates are Higher Than You Think, then put the acceptance rates into perspective with his last paragraph:

And of course it’s always worth noting that the vast majority of college students don’t go to a selective college at all and they’re the ones we should be worrying about.

More on that — in this week’s news — to come.

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Power restored at Mr. Jefferson’s University… and elsewhere.

June 27th Charlottesville Daily Progress.

I’m ready to get back to our college journey, but first I’d like to tie up a few local loose ends…

1.  On Tuesday, June 26th, to high praise from the University of Virginia community, the Board of Visitors reversed their ill-thought acceptance of President Sullivan’s resignation and reinstated her. This came after more than two weeks of rallies, hundreds of FOIA’ed emails, and thousands of tweets, column inches, chatter, and online comments.

2.  On Friday, June 29th, the Governor of Virginia reappointed Helen Dragas to the UVa Board of Visitors. It was Ms. Dragas, in her role as Rector of the BoV,  who — through borderline-legal manipulations and extremely poor management — launched the UVa community into this upheaval.

3.  Mere hours later, Mother Nature unleashed a derecho (straight-line storm with very high winds) and Virginia experienced its worst non-hurricane damage, leaving more than a million households without power, most for multiple days, and some are still without nine days later.

Coincidence? Surely.

In case you’ve not read enough about the UVa story, here’s one more article worth paying attention to…

Jeff Selingo, an Editorial Director for the Chronicle of Higher Education, wrote Fixing College for the New York Times op-ed page. He outlines the source of the anxiety UVa and most colleges face today:

Students were not the only ones to go deeper into debt. So did schools, building lavish residence halls, recreational facilities and other amenities that contributed little to actual learning. The debt taken on by colleges has risen 88 percent since 2001, to $307 billion.

This heady period of growth occurred precisely when colleges had the financial flexibility to prepare for what was to come: fewer government dollars, a wave of financially needy students, a drop-off in the number of well-prepared high-school graduates who could afford to pay, and, of course, technological advances in teaching and learning. Instead, colleges continued to focus on their unsustainable model, assuming little would change.

Other information industries, from journalism to music to book publishing, enjoyed similar periods of success right before epic change enveloped them, seemingly overnight. We now know how those industries have been transformed by technology, resulting in the decline of the middleman — newspapers, record stores, bookstores and publishers.

Some of Mr. Selingo’s solutions will sound very familiar:  better use of technology and more online courses were at the heart of the Dragas-led complaints about President Sullivan. Other solutions take higher-ed to task for their own mismanagement:  shift the focus to academics from administration and reduce the number of wasted credits. If you’re at all interested in the challenges colleges face today, it’s a good start.

Finally, I’ll end this with a quote from President Sullivan, when she spoke to a crowd of supporters after the vote to restore her to office. This, from the Charlottesville Daily Progress: Historic day at UVa: Sullivan reinstated after two weeks of turmoil.

She also expressed relief.

“As we know, Mr. Jefferson provides a perspective for every occasion,” Sullivan said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “And I’m reminded of his letter to James Warren after the election of 1800, in which he says, ‘It is pleasant for those who have just escaped threatened shipwreck to hail one another when landed in unexpected safety.'”

The crowd cheered.

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Watching your college implode.

Daily Progress, June 26th.

Last fall when the stories from Penn State kept getting worse instead of better, I wondered about the thousands of families involved, from the center of firestorm (victims, witnesses, coaches, and administrators who seemed to allow Sandusky free rein), to those rapidly engulfed (athletes, other coaches, faculty, students — well, the entire University including its vast numbers of alumni), to those a few steps further away.

Given our household situation, with a high school senior working on college applications, I also thought about those seniors whose hopes were to move to Happy Valley in August 2012. What were they thinking about their dream school?

While Pennsylvania has been dealing with the ugly details of the Sandusky trial, our state — and college of choice — plowed into its own disaster on June 10th. Two weeks later, we’re still in the midst of that train wreck.

If you’ve not seen the story, here’s a very brief description.

On Friday, June 8th, the Rector and Vice-Rector (aka chair and vice-chair) of the University of Virginia Board of Visitors stopped by the President’s office on a day’s notice to inform President Teresa Sullivan they had the majority vote of the sixteen-member board to fire her. They demanded her resignation to avoid a public dispute.

This brief meeting took place…

  • after months of private discussions and emails between very few Board members at a time to avoid the legalities regarding public meetings,
  • after corresponding, as well, with a short list of very well-heeled alumni,
  • in the absence of any public- or closed-meeting job review process,
  • without a full meeting of the Board of Visitors,
  • less than two years into President Sullivan’s five year contract, and
  • not insignificantly, after students and much of the faculty had vacated the Grounds for summer.

On Sunday, June 10th the Rector sent an email to the University community announcing an emergency meeting of the Board of Visitors that very day to accept President Sullivan’s letter of resignation, after a “unanimous vote”.

Later that same day an email leaked from the President of the Darden School Foundation — note that this Darden alum was not on the UVa Board of Visitors, but was a potential appointee by the Governor as of July 1st. His private email, accidentally sent far and wide (including, it has been said, to President Sullivan) by that tricky “reply all” option, provided a first glimpse of the scene behind the curtain.

Since then, I’ve updated a draft of this post a number of times but, frankly, while I could keep up with the story, the incredible clusterfutz kept moving too quickly for me to write about it. I was grateful to read a couple of local journalists, covering it full time, write that they couldn’t keep up with the story themselves.

The saga has been covered by national news (NYT, WSJ, USA Today, etc.) as well as the higher ed publications (Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education); you can find plenty of stories at each of those publications.

From the local Charlottesville perspective, there are a number of helpful sites. Here are just two:  One of our local weeklies, The Hook, published Sullivan Oustermath: A timeline of UVA in tumult yesterday, with links to a number of articles. Local blogger (also White House Fellow and transparency-in-government activist) Waldo Jacquith has written much (and very well) about it; this link shows the Sullivan related articles.

From the University perspective, the UVa Faculty Senate website provides a great number of documents and links.

The UVa student newspaper, the Daily Cavalier, deserves its own shout-out. While the local, state, and national (Washington Post) reporters were following the story, the student journalists at the Daily Cavalier were the first to file Freedom of Information Act paperwork to gain access to email files from the Rector and Vice-Rector. The students took those emails, delivered on paper rather than in digital form, and tweeted excerpts to allow another look behind the curtain at the Rector’s planned coup. Be patient if you follow the link to the paper; their servers are frequently overwhelmed.

There have been many ugly parts to this story. One of the ugliest is the misinformation published by the Rector’s side — well-heeled alumni, the major PR firm hired by the Rector and paid for by UVa — attacking President Sullivan and the University. Here are a couple of examples of that tactic:

Paul Tudor Jones is “an investor and philanthropist. UVa’s John Paul Jones Arena is named in honor of his father.” Jones published an OpEd in the Charlottesville Daily Progress on June 17th, see Aspiring to Achieve Greatness:

The recent resignation of President Terry Sullivan from the University of Virginia has created a great deal of uncertainty in the Virginia community. Change is never easy and often quite messy. But here is one thing on which you can rely. The spirit of Thomas Jefferson, the first rector of the University of Virginia, is cheering this bold action by the Board of Visitors. Jefferson was a change agent, a man of action and a perfectionist. To paraphrase him, it is time for a revolution.

Responding to the inaccuracies the following week, see UVa Admissions Critique Fails to Consider Important Context, by Greg Roberts, UVa’s Dean of Undergraduate Admission.

Given the confusion and misinformation about the role of yield in college admission, I felt it was important to provide this clarification. The Office of Undergraduate Admission is committed to excellence, integrity and the enrollment of a class the university community can be proud of.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published The Virginia Fracas, an overview of the story that was full of inaccuracies, blamed the deans and faculty, and made no mention of the Rector’s lack of due process:

What inspired this campus—not to say Greek-style—spectacle? Why, U.Va.’s trustees dared to fire a president who was working against the priorities that it is ostensibly their job to set. In a word, the convulsions of Athens and Madison have arrived in Charlottesville, writ academic: An attempt to modernize a public institution and protect taxpayers is met by a revolt on behalf of a status quo that can’t last.

That prompted the UVa Darden School of Business Dean, Robert Bruner, to respond with corrections in To Fight for the Truth:

Some of the most egregious damage to the Truth could have been avoided by simple fact-checking. The latest outrage appears on today’s editorial page of the Wall Street Journal wherein it is asserted that, “The deans of 10 of the university’s 11 schools have signed a letter for Ms. Sullivan’s reinstatement. Tellingly, the one dean who didn’t sign the letter runs Virginia’s graduate business school.” That’s dead wrong. I’m the Dean of that school and I did sign the letter. In fact, I helped to prepare it—my previous blog posting says so to the world. I agree with the Deans: President Teresa Sullivan should be reinstated. I stand together with the UVA community in protest of the deeply flawed process surrounding her dismissal. This is not what we teach at Darden. We have called continually for open dialogue among parties and transparency about decisions–and will continue to press for them. The University community deserves nothing less.

Where does that leave the University? See the photograph of this morning’s paper. Today the Board of Visitors meet to reconsider their ouster of President Sullivan. Will Sullivan be reappointed? Will the Rector be out? And, if you don’t live in Virginia, what does this matter?

Many involved in higher ed — or following higher ed — believe this is part of a much larger story related to the speed of change, the cost of a college education, and the limited funding available to our great public universities. I happen to agree with them.

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Good news for the educated-college-consumer: Know before you go!

One of my goals in reading about higher education is for our household to become better educated consumers before we spend a small fortune to educate three children.

This has led to discussions about:

  • how much money we think it makes sense to spend for a Bachelor’s Degree,
  • how many years it should take for a student to earn a BA,
  • which colleges retain more students,
  • which colleges actually have more students highly engaged in learning, and more.

Those discussions have led us to dig deeply into college websites. Which sometimes leads to frustration.

Yes, much of this information can be found, given enough time, interest, and strength in search skills for a wide variety of websites. Except for that ‘engaged learners’ bit — the Pew Foundation gathers that information and the colleges, for the most part, don’t share the results.

Since we still have to perform a lot of our own research it would be handy if much of the basic information were readily available in a clear, easy to compare format.

Apparently the White House thinks so, too, and so does the New York Times, which endorsed the government’s proposal in today’s editorial:  What College Students Need to Know.

Congress has taken some steps to mandate greater transparency from colleges. The 1990 Student Right to Know Act, for example, required colleges and universities that receive federal aid to disclose graduation rates. And the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act required schools to offer a way for consumers to determine actual costs after student aid is taken into account.

But many colleges have done a poor job of complying with federal disclosure rules, and much of the available information is not in one place. The administration’s new efforts would enforce reporting requirements and provide some new tools.

I wrote about one of those tools,  the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau‘s proposed Know Before You Owe worksheet, here.

College Value Profile. Click to enlarge.

The other tool the editorial endorses is the Department of Education’s proposed College Scorecard, which can be read about here. You can download a pdf of the scorecard from that link; here’s a quick screenshot.

Also reported today, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, is more disclosure on Virginia colleges and the jobs their graduates find. Take a look at Taking Some of the Guesswork out of the Value of College Question, written by Jeff Selingo.

Of course, not all colleges or majors are created equal. And it’s nearly impossible for consumers to get any information about how much a graduate in a specific major from a particular university earns. That’s probably one of the best measures of the return on investment in higher education, but, as with so many other tools that would allow consumers to make bottom-line comparisons, colleges are loath to share such information. In the absence of data, it’s easier for colleges to sell the dream of higher education at any cost.

Like politicians elsewhere, Virginia lawmakers have heard such complaints from parents and decided to do something about it. Over the last two years, the state legislature has passed two bills that, beginning this spring, will give families access to a key component in answering the value-of-college question: median salaries for the graduates of hundreds of academic programs across every public institution and some private colleges in the state.

The public database, which is expected in April, will allow students and parents to look at potential earnings over a six-year period in several ways. They can look at a specific program to see median earnings by type of degree (a certificate vs. a two-year degree in information technology, for instance) or across institutions (an English degree at James Madison University vs. the same degree at George Mason University), or majors across a campus.

Read the full article for some important caveats and for Mr. Selingo’s prediction that other states will see the need to follow Virginia’s lead.

For Mod Squad Pete, Julie, and Linc to create their own post-college opportunities, one of their best shots is to be highly engaged students in college. They can control that part of the equation. They should be able to access information on the pieces of the equation they cannot control, such as:

  • how will a college support their efforts both for learning and for career planning,
  • will it be possible to graduate in four years, given course and pre-req schedules,
  • where does higher tuition go — into the classroom, another luxury dorm, or the Chancellor’s paycheck,
  • how many classes are taught by full professors, how many by grad students, and how many by adjunct,
  • and — given the recent news about Claremont-McKenna — how honest the college is with any of this data?

I’d love to get the basic info either of these proposed reports offers. That would free up time to dig deeper on some of our other questions.

Do you think these reports would help? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

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