The EAB Daily Briefing

What are provosts worried about?

March 30, 2016

A unique value of EAB's IT Forum is our insight into the top-of-mind issues for various higher education leaders, including provosts, chief business officers, and enrollment management leaders. Our Academic Affairs Forum, which serves provosts and chief academic officers, recently released its annual topic poll, which uses member feedback to gauge the importance of potential research topics.

The results are telling. Not only do they indicate where provosts plan to focus their efforts over the next year, but the topic poll also provides clues as to how the office of the CIO may be affected in the coming year and beyond.

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First-gen professors reach out to first-gen students

'Now, as college faculty, I want my students to know what I didn't'

May 11, 2016

Faculty members who were the first in their families to attend college are in the perfect position to help connect first-generation students with campus resources, Melissa Scholes Young writes for The Atlantic

Young, who is now a professor at American University, says she moved from a small rural town in Missouri to attend Monmouth College with little understanding of how to navigate college life.

Her situation is far from rare: According to the College Board, more than 30% of undergraduate students today are the first in their families to attend college. However, first-generation students struggle in ways that their peers do not. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that these students have lower GPAs on average, and most of them require at least one remedial course. First-generation students also take more time to declare a major and are more likely to change majors throughout the course of their college careers.

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As a first-year student at Monmouth, Young faced challenges unlike anything she had experienced in high school. One such trial came in the form of a history class paper that she had done incorrectly. But instead of punishing Young for a paper riddled with mistakes and bordering on plagiarism, her professor supported her, showing Young how to write the paper properly and directing her to on-campus resources.

Inspired, Young now takes a similar approach to helping other first-generation students succeed, connecting students to the resources they need. 

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"Writing centers and campus counselors and diversity-inclusion programs want students to succeed," Young says. "But as a first-generation college student I avoided all of them, assuming I couldn't afford the extra bill. Now, as college faculty, I want my students to know what I didn't."

Young has helped one first-generation student named Sarah both in and out of the classroom by directing her to on-campus resources. She even granted Sarah an extension on a paper—with the caveat that she visit the campus writing center.

Young does not consider such attention special treatment. Rather, she believes she is simply helping first-generation students access the resources and support that their peers already use.

Young has been hesitant in the past to disclose the fact that she was a first-generation student, but she says that it is important for first-generation faculty to share their stories. 

"First-generation college students need role models that have navigated similar paths and succeeded against the odds," Young says. "We bring a diversity of backgrounds and working-class experiences to the ivory tower."

She adds, "And there are benefits to not knowing the rules. In college and my career, I didn't know not to knock so I learned to knock louder" (Young, The Atlantic, 5/6). 


UMaine's unique recruitment strategy brings more students, more diversity

'We need to import people of a younger age demographic'

May 11, 2016

The University of Maine's (UMaine) recruitment plan to significantly cut tuition for some out-of-state students resulted in a 54% jump in freshmen commitments, Rick Seltzer reports for Inside Higher Ed

Tuition cut in half for some

Under the Flagship Match policy, qualified students from certain Northeastern states pay the same tuition and fees that they would pay at their home state's flagship institution.

For some students, that means the cost of attendance will be cut in half. For example, students from Massachusetts will pay the price of in-state tuition for the University of Massachusetts Amherst ($14,141), saving them $14,709 off UMaine's previous tuition rate for out-of-state students.

UMaine seeks new sources of students

The university is pursuing the unique strategy because the population of high school students in the region is projected to shrink rapidly—by more than 5% over the next eight years. Competition for prospective students will become fierce.

"Frankly, we need to import people of a younger age demographic to become the educated workforce in the future," says UMaine President Susan Hunter.

UMaine targeted students from Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Vermont—though officials from the flagship universities in those states say they did not notice related drops in applications or yield rates. But they say they will continue to monitor for potential effects. 

UMaine sees a larger, more diverse incoming class

UMaine officials attribute the 54% increase in commitments to the matching program and accompanying out-of-state recruitment efforts, ranging from billboards to conversations with high school guidance counselors. Commitments from:

  • Vermont grew 22%;
  • Connecticut grew 33%;
  • Pennsylvania grew 35%;
  • New Jersey grew 37%;
  • New Hampshire grew 40%; and
  • Massachusetts grew 81%.

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While the average SAT score did fall 10 points, UMaine admitted 17% more students than the year before. School officials created the first university-wide wait list, and they were able to shape a more diverse incoming class. Compared with the current freshmen class, the incoming one has 53% more black students and 49% more Hispanic students.

"I think to some degree, the University of Maine is starting to get in the heads of students a little bit," says state Sen. Brian Langley (R). "To go out of state and advertise that the University of Maine flagship will accept you at your in-state university tuition, which splits the difference between our out-of-state tuition and our in-state tuition, it's a win-win" (Seltzer, Inside Higher Ed, 5/9). 


What's the point of commencement? One president's take.

Ceremony reminds faculty and staff what they're preparing students for

May 11, 2016

Commencement serves a larger purpose than a photo-op for students and their parents, writes Franklin & Marshall College President Daniel Porterfield. 

In a piece for the Washington Post's "Grade Point," Porterfield reflects on how graduation weekend reminds educators that a world exists beyond campus and of their responsibilities to prepare students for that world.

"College feels timeless because the students are always young, the traditions are always old, and ideas are the coin of the realm," he writes. "As a result, during the intensity of academic life, it's easy to forget that the students are not only and always students. Commencement reminds us that one's larger purposes in life, are not, in fact, to be taught by us, but rather to love and lead, teach and serve, chase a dream, find a calling, make a family, know oneself." 

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Porterfield recounts the struggles three graduating students overcame to arrive at commencement. One student lost her father during freshman year, but she persevered to achieve success in such diverse areas as rowing, painting, and biochemistry.

Another student almost transferred so he could better support his single mom, but stayed at Franklin & Marshall, recruited more students of color into his fraternity, encouraged his fraternity brothers to be good campus citizens, and ultimately became president of the fraternity.

A third student conquered her introverted nature to learn multiple languages, make friends with students from other religions, study abroad in two countries, and win a Fulbright fellowship.

Graduation represents the finality of school and provides a change to reflect on how much students like these have grown, according to Porterfield.

"This recurring truth renews us as educators," he writes (Porterfield, "Grade Point," Washington Post, 5/8). 


Persistence rates rise, especially for some nontraditional students

The figures suggest that students and institutions are recovering from the recession

May 11, 2016

College persistence rates have increased for three consecutive years, according to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center (NSCRS).  

The persistence rate measures the percentage of students who return to college at any institution for their second year, while the retention rate measures the percentage of students who return to the same institution.

The report found that among all students who began college in fall 2014, 72.1% persisted at any U.S. institution in 2015, while 60.6% returned to the institution where they began. The overall persistence rate for students beginning college in fall 2014 rose 2.1 percentage points since hitting a low in fall 2010, while that rate has increased 2.9 percentage points for part-time students during the same period.

Students ages 21- to 24-years-old at the time of college entry have made the largest gains, with a persistence rate of 54.9% and gain of 3.7 percentage points compared with the fall 2009 cohort. Students ages 20 and under had a persistence rate of 78.1%, but a decrease of 0.3 percentage points from the cohort of students entering college in fall 2009. About 14% of these students enrolled at a different institution their second year of college. Students older than age 24 at the time of college entry had a persistence rate of 50.5%.

For students entering college at four-year public institutions, the persistence rate reached 82.3%, up 0.1 percentage points from the year before, and up 0.5 percentage points compared with the group of students entering college in fall 2009. Among these students, 70.2% returned to the same institution in fall 2015.

Meanwhile, the persistence rate for students entering college at four-year private non-profit institutions  was 86.7%, down 0.5 percentage points from the year before and down 0.6 percentage points compared with the group of students entering college in fall 2009.

The persistence rate also decreased for students beginning college at four-year for-profit institutions, down 3.9 percentage points from the year before to 49.3%. Among all students in this group who began college in fall 2014, 44.2% returned to the same institution.

The persistence rate at two-year public institutions reached a six-year high at 60%, up 0.2 percentage points from the year before and compared with the fall 2009 cohort. Among all students entering college in this group in fall 2014, 48.5% returned to the same institution.

According to NSCRS Executive Director Doug Shapiro, the fact that persistence and retention rates have surpassed that of students entering college in fall 2009 suggests that students and institutions are recovering from the recession (Arnett, Education Dive, 5/9; National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 5/3).


Google: We can close the gender pay gap. Here's how.

'We can change the system'

May 11, 2016

Fairly compensating female employees starts with putting less stock in the question, "What's your current salary?" Laszlo Bock, SVP of people operations at Google, argues in an opinion piece for the Washington Post

Numerous studies show that women are systematically paid less for the same work than their male peers. According to one study by researchers at Cornell University, women are paid 92 percent of what men are after controlling for job type, experience, and other factors.

As Bock notes, there are many reasons for the pay gap, such as women being less likely to ask for raises. But hiring and compensation practices also play a role.

A major issue, Bock says, is what cognitive scientists call anchoring bias: our brains let an initial number affect our thinking. 

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For instance, researchers at Princeton University asked people to estimate the percentage of African countries that were United Nations members. Before doing so, they had study participants spin a wheel to that would either land on the number 10 or 65. Those who spun a lower number consistently estimated a lower percentage.  "They had unconsciously anchored on the initial number," Bock explains.

The same problem comes up in the hiring context: Firms, Bock says, "anchor too much on [an applicant's] current salary instead of what the job is worth."

For instance, if a male making $58,000 and a female making $50,000 are both hired for the same job that typically pays $60,000, companies may think it's unfair to give the female candidate such a significant raise. But that is anchoring bias, Bock says, and it's part of what perpetuates pay inequality. 

The better approach is to pay people based on the role, not based on their salary history, Bock argues. Each job at Google has a salary target set by human resources based on industry surveys. "If a candidate's current pay is below our target for that job, we simply ignore the prior salary and offer our target," Bock says.

According to Bock, companies should also establish systems to guard against bias, such as in promotion rates. Using such an approach, Bock says that controlling for factors such as experience, education, and job type, Google provides completely equal pay to men and women.

"The systemic underpayment of women chips away at our society's values of fairness and equality—and has a real economic impact on our daughters, sisters, and mothers," Bock warns. "But we can change the system" (Bock, "On Leadership," Washington Post, 4/29).


Around the industry: The College of New Jersey boosts graduation rates for disadvantaged students

Bite-sized college and higher education industry news

May 11, 2016

  • California: Some students and faculty at Scripps College are objecting to former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright serving as their commencement speaker. Critics say they disapprove of Albright's foreign policy record and condemnation of women who don't support Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. Other students, including the senior class president, Jennie Xu, recruited Albright themselves. Xu says she invited Albright because she also graduated from an all-women's college and was the first female Secretary of State (Xia, Los Angeles Times, 5/9). 
  • Illinois: The non-tenure-track faculty union at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ratified its contract last week following two strikes since April over stalled negotiations. The contract includes a 2.5% retroactive pay raise and a raise in the minimum full-time salary by 2018 (Inside Higher Ed, 5/9).
  • New Jersey: The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) is graduating 74 students in its Educational Opportunity Fund program this year, giving the program a four-year graduation rate almost equivalent to the school's overall rate. TCNJ's program is one of 41 funded by the state to provide additional support to educationally and economically disadvantaged students (Lai, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/9).