The EAB Daily Briefing

Are today's students migrating to value?

August 14, 2015

Erin Mischler

The Challenge: Changing Student Attitudes
As the sticker price of a college degree increases and family incomes stagnate, the amount of financial aid awarded has become a more important factor in a student’s college choice. Although a school’s reputation and its graduates’ outcomes have remained important, the increased importance of aid reveals a changing student calculus.

Aid Award Increasing in Importance as College Decision Driver
Percentage of Students Indicating Each Factor as "Very Important"

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The Result: Increasing Market Power for "Best Value" Options

Students’ changing attitudes have resulted in different enrollment patterns. For example, an increasing proportion of high-ability and non-resident students are migrating to flagship and other selective public universities, which stand out from other institutions due to their perceived value. As a result, the best public universities have significantly expanded non-resident enrollment—even the non-resident tuition prices at these schools are often still lower than the sticker prices of regional private universities.

Non-Resident Students Gravitating Toward Flagship and Selective
Public Universities

Growth in FT-FT Students from 2007-2012

Flagship and selective public universities have benefited from their newfound market power by enrolling a greater proportion of high-ability students as well—increasing the academic quality of their FT-FT cohorts.

High-Ability Students Migrating to Selective Publics
SAT point change (2002-2012)

Implications for My University

These trends are relevant to all schools because they show the changing attendance patterns of students and the migration of their tuition revenue dollars. Changes in student decision-making have put the best public universities in an enviable market position.

Flagship and Selective Publics Experiencing Outsized NTR/Capita Growth
NTR/Capita Annual Growth Rate from 2008-2012

Flagship and selective publics’ combination of high academic quality and relatively low price has helped them to maintain steady enrollment growth throughout one of the toughest periods of student recruitment. These schools should continue to capitalize on these changing student behaviors by marketing their affordability. Threatened privates, on the other hand, might more proactively promote available aid to reassure prospective students put off by high sticker prices. Learn more about the impact of price transparency and financial aid communications at our upcoming webconference.

Missing student found dead after police manhunt, campus evacuation

'We need to continue to be supportive of each other as we mourn individually and as a community'

November 23, 2015

The Washington College student whose disappearance led to a two-week campus evacuation was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police announced Saturday.

Six days after he went missing, Jacob Marberger, 19, was found in a picnic area at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

"This is a terrible blow to our community, and the outpouring of compassion and support we have shown each other will help us through this difficult time. We need to continue to be supportive of each other as we mourn individually and as a community," school officials said in a statement.

The school instructed its 1,450 students to shelter-in-place last Monday when Marberger's parents called and said their son had shown up at their home in Pennsylvania and left with a rifle case.

The decision to evacuate the campus on Maryland's Eastern Shore followed consultations with law enforcement on Tuesday, though officers say there was no evidence Marberger threatened anyone.

Administrators balance safety, learning amid string of threats

"He never made any threats to the students, so there's not any overt or tacit threat that we're aware of," says Adrian Baker, Chestertown police chief. "It really comes back to just a proactive, precautionary measure on the part of the college."

On Tuesday, police issued a warrant for his arrest on four charges: handgun on a person, possession of a firearm by a minor, illegal possession of ammunition, and dangerous weapon on school property.

Troubles at school

Jacob's father, Jon Marberger, says he believes his son's issues began in October when he started having trouble with his fraternity, Phi Delta Theta, and the Student Government Association (SGA) of which he was speaker of the senate. 

Jacob Marberger reported two SGA members for texting sexually inappropriate comments about a woman in the group. Both men lost their positions, upsetting some Phi Delta Thetas who were on a sports team with one of them.

After that, Marberger felt "very persecuted," according to one of his friends who spoke with NBC 10.

A prank last month upset him, says Jerry Roderick, the school's public safety director. Someone leaned a trashcan filled with water against his dorm room door—when he opened the door, water spilled in.

'We don't need more metal detectors, we need more kid detectors'

Two nights after that, Marberger allegedly brandished an antique pistol at the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house. He may have been intoxicated at the time, school officials say.

Students did not come forward about the gun, so it took three weeks for the school to learn of the incident. Following an investigation, Marberger was suspended from school and faced possible expulsion. He also was kicked out of his fraternity.  

He returned to campus and seemed to be handling the changes, a friend told NBC 10. Then, last Sunday, posts on Yik Yak started appearing discussing why Marberger had been absent from school.

"Nobody knew, I think 20 people knew and then suddenly in the span of two hours, the entire school found out," one student told NBC 10.

Shortly after, Marberger resigned his position from the SGA. Then early Monday morning, he drove to his parents' home in Pennsylvania to pick up one of his antique guns. He bought ammunition at a Walmart nearby and went to the nature sanctuary where he left a letter and shot himself (Witte, AP/U.S. News & World Report, 11/19; Svrluga/Shapiro, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/18; Araiza, NBC 10, 11/22; Weil, Washington Post, 11/21; Svrluga, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/21).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

Helping campuses heal: A new comprehensive guide for responding to student suicide

Group encourages schools to plan ahead

November 24, 2014

The first guide to helping colleges and universities respond to suicides on campus through "postvention" was published last week by the Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA).

The document is not meant to be read as step-by-step instructions after tragedy strikes, say HEMHA officials, but rather as advice on how to create a plan to sensitively and effectively respond to campus suicides before any have occurred.

"Instead of being reactive, let's be intentional about what makes sense for us as a campus community and how do we want to response and if this happens on our campus," says Monica Osburn, director of counseling at North Carolina State University and former president of the American College Counseling Association.

Related research brief: Creating comprehensive communities of care

This fall semester alone, at least 57 college students have died nationwide. Four have been ruled suicides. 

Created in conjunction with nine professional organizations, the document provides best practices for reducing the risk of negative behaviors, limiting suicide contagion, and aiding community healing following a suicide.  Until now, only hodge-podge suggestions from various organizations existed.

These include:

  • Respond quickly. Ensure rapid response by having a plan already laid out. A small amount of help given right away is more effective than a large amount later on.

  • Follow up. Supplement immediate responses with long-term courses of actions, such as events held on anniversaries of the event.

  • Form a committee. Identify coordinators and communication plans to streamline implementation efforts and lower the risk for errors.

  • Simplify. Resist the tendency to use jargon, be sure all professionals involved with postvention clearly understand directions.

  • Keep notes. After discussing with university legal counsel, the committee should keep track of actions taken for future effectiveness reviews.

  • Determine how to best communicate information. Address death directly and openly because delaying information encourages the spread of rumors.

  • Connect those in need with clinical services. Reach out to those most at risk for self-harm, they not may not seek out help themselves.

  • Balance memorials with the risk of encouraging further suicides. Ideally, not holding any service is best, but that may be inappropriate if schools typically hold memorials following other types of student deaths (Higher Education Mental Health Alliance, "Postvention: Guide for Response to Suicide on College Campuses," 11/2014; Kingkade, Huffington Post, 11/19).

Education Department failed three out of four cybersecurity checks

Nearly 50% of Americans have personal information in the vulnerable database

November 23, 2015

The Department of Education's information systems are not secure—at least, that was the takeaway at Tuesday's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee meeting, reports Valerie Strauss for the Washington Post.

Both Republican and Democratic members of the committee questioned department CIO Danny Harris about vulnerabilities in the system, which has data for more than 40 million federal student loan borrowers and millions of others in different aid programs.

"Almost half the population of the United States of America has their personal information sitting in this database which is not secure," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), referring to the 139 million unique social security numbers in the Education Department's central processing system.

Kathleen Tighe, the department's inspector general, testified that her team was able to infiltrate some department systems without detection. "We could have really done anything in there," she told the committee. "I am still concerned about the potential for breaches in the department."

Data breach exposes current, former, prospective students' records

The federal government recently issued a scorecard to assess how well federal agencies were implementing key areas of the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act. The Department of Education received three 'F's and one 'D' rating. Harris said the department should have received a 'C' grade, rating his confidence as a seven out of 10 that there would not be a system breach.

"I'm not going to suggest that we don't have a tremendous amount of work to do but I don't want the general public to think we are not secure," Harris said, also noting he expected the department to have vulnerabilities for the foreseeable future (Strauss, "Answer Sheet," Washington Post, 11/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

Vandalism of black professors' portraits roils Harvard Law School

Racism exists at the school, dean says

November 23, 2015

Black tape defacing the portraits of some black Harvard University Law School professors was discovered Thursday, prompting a police investigation as outraged faculty and students discussed the role of race at the school, the New York Times reports.

The portraits hung on a wall of the law school building. In a statement, the school's dean, Martha Minow, said the pictures had been "defaced." The Harvard Police said an investigation is "active and ongoing" and are treating the incident as a hate crime.

The vandalism angered faculty and students. "As a black student, it was extremely offensive," said Kyle Strickland, the president of the law school's student body. A group of students interrupted Minow's constitutional law class on Thursday morning to discuss the incident. According to the Times, some said racial issues at the school had reached a "tipping point."

Community reaction

On Thursday afternoon, hundreds of students, faculty, and community members gathered to discuss the issues. Minow, who has researched topics such as school desegregation, told the group, "Racism exists in America and in the United States and in Harvard and in Harvard Law School."

Students raised several issues at the meeting, such as a lack of full-time black faculty and teaching methods that don't recognize the role of race in legal decision making.

Yale students announce diversity demands

By Thursday evening, the tape had been removed and replaced by small Post-it notes on the edges of frames; they offered words of encouragement.

Josh Macfarlane, a second-year student, told the New York Times, "I just thanked them for teaching me so much" (Bidgood, New York Times, 11/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

What to do with your hands during a presentation

'When really charismatic leaders use hand gestures, the brain is super happy'

November 23, 2015

Preparing to speak in front of an audience involves enough hand wringing without having to think about what to actually do with said hands.

Most people have been taught to avoid moving their hands too much while presenting, but research shows that using your hands can actually better engage the crowd.

11 things not to say in a presentation

The most-watched TED talks, with an average of 7.4 million views, include an average of 465 hand gestures. In contrast, the least-watched videos (with just 124,000 average views) averaged only 272 hand gestures.

"When really charismatic leaders use hand gestures, the brain is super happy," says Vanessa Van Edwards, a consultant who studied the TED talks. "Because it's getting two explanations in one, and the brain loves that."

The Washington Post's On Leadership team spoke with body language experts and speech coaches to determine the best ways to use your hands during a presentation.

Use the hand movements descriptively. If you're discussing something small, pinch your fingers. If you're talking about a number below five, hold up the correct number of fingers.

"It helps people remember the number; it helps us believe the word. It's a way we underline, like a nonverbal highlighter, the word people should remember," says Van Edwards.

Open your palms to build trust.  Making outstretched gestures has an evolutionary underpinning.

"If I'm showing open palms, it signals to everybody that I've got nothing to harm you and I'm exposed," says Mark Bowden, president of a communications training firm.

Limit your movements to the strike zone. Don't get too wild with your gestures—try to keep them between your shoulders and hips.

Avoid pointing and the "Clinton Thumb." Pointing and a fist with the thumb on top of it come off as aggressive.

If you don't know what to do, let your hands fall to your sides. "It's like home base for our arms" and serves as a reset button, says Jerry Weissman, a corporate presentations coach.

Don't draw attention to your groin. Instead of clasping your hands in front of you, allow them to fall to your sides.

Mix up your hand movements. Just as you mix up the length of sentences in your speech, be sure to vary your gestures too. "When you do anything in a repetitive pattern, [the audience] is gone. It's boring," says Gina Barnett, an executive communications coach.

Don't hold things. "People fidget, and they're often clueless to what they're doing," says Barnett.

Show your hands. If you're at a podium, either gesture with your hands or lightly rest them on the top. If you're right in front of the audience, make sure not to hold your hands behind your back.

Don't try to create a branded hand gesture. German Chancellor Angela Merkel often holds her hands in front of her, making an inverted triangle with her fingers. This may work for her, but such gestures can "feel sort of stagey" or tense to the audience, says Barnett (Tan/McGregor, "On Leadership," Washington Post, 11/17).

Around the industry: College renames 'ISIS' registration system

Bite-sized college and higher education industry news

November 23, 2015

  • Arkansas: The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville is renaming its class registration system. On January 1, the program currently known as the Integrated Student Information System—or ISIS—will be called UAConnect. Officials decided on the change prior to the Paris attacks, according to a school official. The new name is more descriptive, says interim Chancellor Dan Ferritor. "ISIS doesn't mean anything, except right now it's got some pretty negative meanings" (Adams, Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, 11/20).
  • Florida: A federal jury found former Florida State University assistant professor James Doran guilty of embezzling $650,000 from the College of Business “Student Investment Fund,” for which he was the faculty adviser. Prosecutors say the crimes took places between 2010 and 2011. Doran faces up to 10 years in prison (Montanaro, WCTV, 11/19).
  • Massachusetts: Activists at Smith College barred reporters from a solidarity sit-in last week unless media members said they supported the students' cause. Between 300 to 500 students participated in the event. Activists say they wanted to create a space where students could share thoughts and experiences on race without fear of insensitive media coverage (Newberry,, 11/19).

Thoughts on a story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.

Moody's: Prepare for more college closures, flat tuition growth

'Families are becoming more sophisticated consumers,' expert says

November 20, 2015

Colleges and universities are poised for another year of sluggish tuition growth, according to a report from Moody's Investors Service released Thursday, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports for the Washington Post.

Based on its annual survey, Moody's expects net tuition revenue—the amount schools receive after awarding financial aid—will grow between 2% and 3% in the fiscal year 2016. Tuition will essentially be flat after adjusting for the historic rate of inflation.

That is a significant shift from a "years-long trend" of tuition growth outpacing inflation, Douglas-Gabriel writes. According to the report, concerns around affordability have put more pressure on schools to keep costs low.

Fed's 'College Scorecard' puts spotlight on earnings gaps

"Families are becoming more sophisticated consumers of the higher education sector, shopping by price, considering the cost of a full freight of four or five years in college," explains Erin Ortiz, assistant VP at Moody's and co-author of the study. The number of college-going students is also flat or declining, she says.

Multiple challenges

In addition to flat tuition revenue, several complicating factors will also make college administration more challenging, Douglas-Gabriel argues.

Public institutions are dealing with state-mandated caps on tuition increases. "As a result, nearly two-thirds of those schools expect less than 3% growth in tuition revenue," Douglas-Gabriel writes. In contrast, these institutions saw an annual growth rate of around 5% between 2005 and 2013.

Moody's says small regional or rural public colleges are particularly vulnerable because they have a limited ability to recruit out-of-state or international students who pay higher tuition rates.

Overall, private colleges are expected to post a median net increase in tuition of 2% but some of the sector is feeling strained. Nearly a quarter project a fall in net tuition—up to 5%. Moody's warns that these private schools may have a difficult time coping.

Susan Fitzgerald, associate managing director at Moody's and co-author of the report, said, "We expect to see more college closures and consolidations, so that bifurcation of the industry is continuing."

Moody's: Small college closures to triple by 2017

However, Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, argues that Moody's and others underestimate the ability of private colleges to adapt and raise money from alumni. "Colleges are doing all that you would expect them to do to economize," he says (Douglas-Gabriel, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 11/19).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.