Posted by: Gregory Linton | 06/17/2020

College completion rates rose in fall 2019

On December 10, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released its annual report on college completion rates. Their methodology is unique in that they track students who finish at an institution other than the one at which they first enrolled. This provides a more accurate picture of how many students who start college end up finishing within six years. This year’s report, which focuses on the 2013 entering cohort, indicates some interesting trends, as I summarize below:

  • The overall college completion rate has increased by seven percentage points in the last for yours (52.9% to 59.7%).
  • Completion rates increased for the 2013 cohort across all types of starting institutions.
  • The college completion rate for students who started at a profit nonprofit institution was 76.5%, a 5.1-point increase from the low of 71.5% for the 2009 cohort.
  • The 2013 cohort consisted of 78.2% traditional age students (<21) and 11.5% adult learners (age 25 and over). The proportion of adult learners declined by one percentage point from the previous cohort.
  • Initial enrollments at four-year institutions increased slightly while initial enrollments at two-year institutions decreased.
  • 48% of the 2013 cohort were enrolled exclusively full-time, an increase of one percentage point over the previous cohort.
  • Completions at the starting institution increased for each type of starting institution.
  • In every racial/ethnic category, the completion rate for women substantially surpassed the rate for men.
  • African American men had the lowest completion rate (42%).
  • Of the 50 college major fields defined by the U.S. Department of Education, seven fields account for 61% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded: Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support (18%); Social Sciences (8%); Engineering (8%); Biological and Biomedical Sciences (8%); Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences (8%); Psychology (6%); and Communication, Journalism and Related Programs (6%).

The March 2020 issue of Educational Researcher published an article by Joseph A. Rios, Guangming Ling, Robert Pugh, Dovid Becker, and Adam Bacall entitled “Identifying critical 21st-century skills for workplace success: A content analysis of job advertisements.” Here is their definition of 21st-century skills: “a combination of cognitive (e.g., nonroutine problem solving, critical thinking, metacognition), interpersonal (i.e., social), and intrapersonal (i.e., emotional, self-regulatory) skills that are malleable (i.e., potentially responsive to intervention) and relatively stable over time in the absence of exogenous forces (e.g., intentional intervention, life events, changes in social roles)” (p. 1). They note that today’s workers need a broad skill set to deal with the demands of technological advances and globalized workforce, but employers have criticized recent college graduates for lacking these necessary skills when they enter the workforce.

In this article, the authors try to identify these 21st-century skills through a different approach than is normally implemented. They note that previous researchers identified workplace skills in three ways: (1) relying on theorists; (2) job analyses; and (3) employer surveys. As an alternative approach, they conducted a content analysis of online job advertisements posted on and

Out of 141,941 job advertisements that they examined, they found that the five most requested fields were business (25%), accounting (14%), engineering (13%), computer science (11%), and nursing (6%). They also found that 70% of advertisements requested at least one 21st-century skill and that an average of 1.69 unique skills were mentioned in these advertisements.

The five most highly requested skills were the following:

  1. Oral communication (28%)
  2. Written communication (23%)
  3. Collaboration (22%)
  4. Problem solving (19%)
  5. Communication skills (14%)

Of course, “communication skills” could be broken down into oral or written communication skills, which would push their percentages even higher.

Other skills mentioned were social intelligence (12%) and self-direction (10%), followed by professionalism, creativity, adaptability, service orientation, continual learning, and cultural sensitivity.

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 12/12/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week

“With the avalanche of new products, new technologies, and new ways of working, workers are going to have to become more creative in order to thrive amidst change.”—Campus Adobe, “Get Hired: The Importance of Creativity and Soft Skills,” p. 4

On November 5, Campus Adobe published a report titled “Get Hired: The Importance of Creativity and Soft Skills.” Some of the content summarizes prior research, but the report also presents new research based on analysis of 2 million job postings and 2 million resumes. Here are some of the key findings:

  • Leading employers identify the top three critical skills for the future workforce as complex problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
  • A survey of Generation Z students shows that 85% believe being creative will be essential to their success, and 76% wish there was more of a focus on creativity in the classroom.
  • 97% of employers say that creative problem solving is important for students to learn in school.
  • 69% of educators agree that there is not enough emphasis on creative problem solving in today’s curricula.
  • Job postings in 18 in-demand, growing career fields show that the most highly sought skills are communication (71%), creativity (50%), collaboration (41%), and creative problem solving (15%).
  • However, an examination of 2 million resumes show that fewer than ¼ mention creativity or communication, and only 11% mention collaboration. 1% mention creative problem solving.
  • One conclusion of the study is that educators need to place greater emphasis on developing creative and soft skills so that students can succeed in the workplace.
Posted by: Gregory Linton | 12/05/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: December 2-6

“The business of the college . . . is to prepare for life and not for making a living.”—Nicholas Murray Butler (1862-1947), President, Columbia University

Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics released new data and a set of web tables that presents results from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) spring 2019 collection. Here is a selection of enrollment data for fall 2018:

  • 20 million students were enrolled in Title IV institutions.
  • 84.8% were undergraduates, and 15.2% were graduate students.
  • Of those students, 73.2% were enrolled in public institutions, 20.7% were enrolled in private nonprofit institutions, and 6.1% were enrolled in private for-profit institutions.
  • Of the 4.1 million students enrolled in private nonprofit institutions, 68.3% were undergraduates, and 31.7% were graduate students.
  • 16.3% of students (3.3 million) were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses.
  • 65.3% (13 million) were not enrolled in any distance education courses.
  • 69.5% of all students were enrolled in a 4-year institution, and 30.5% were enrolled in a 2-year or less institution.
  • 61.3% of all students were enrolled full-time, and 38.7% were enrolled part-time.
  • 57.1% of all students were women, and 42.9% were men. Women outnumbered men by 2.85 million.
  • Of the 10.9 million undergraduates enrolled in 4-year institutions, 52.2% were White, 16.3% were Hispanic or Latino, 11.5% were Black or African American, 6.5% were Asian, 4.4% were nonresident alien, 4.3% were unknown, 3.9% were 2 or more races, 0.6% were American Indian or Alaska Native, and 0.02% were Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander.
  • The retention rate of first-time, degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students in the fall 2017 cohort was 81% for full-time students in 4-year institutions, 49.1% for part-time students in 4-year institutions, 62.6% for full-time students in 2-year institutions, and 45.1% for part-time students in 2-year institutions.
  • The retention rate for full-time students enrolled in 4-year public institutions and 4-year private nonprofit institutions was 81.2% for both groups.

Last week, three new reports were released that provide information about the perceptions of Americans about the value of higher education and about the return on investment of various majors. I will summarize the important points from each report.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The report published by these organizations is titled “Young Americans’ views on the value of higher education.” The report summarizes the results of interviews conducted between August 7 and September 9, 2019, with 265 teens age 13-17 and 1,036 young adults age 18-29. Some of the statistics are broken down between those two groups, and some are based on the total aggregate. Many of the findings are also disaggregated based on political affiliation and household income. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 61% of teens and 42% of young adults plan to attend or have attended a four-year college.
  • 77% of teens and 55% of young adults plan to or have already taken out student loans.
  • 62% of young people are concerned about making enough money to earn a good living.
  • Only 22% of young people think there are more disadvantages than advantages of attending a four-year college.
  • 70% of teens say their parents have indicated they will help pay for college tuition, but only 52% of young adults report getting this help.
  • More affluent young Americans are more likely to attend or plan to attend a four-year college.

Strada Education Group & Gallup

The report published by these organizations is titled “Changing the value equation of higher education.” Gallup interviewed 340,000 people from all education pathways to create a dataset so large and deep that educators, policymakers, and employers can take action on the results. This Education Consumer Survey considered two dimensions: cost value (whether consumers believe their education was worth the cost) and career value (whether consumers believe their education made them an attractive job candidate). Here are some of the findings from this report:

  • Consumers value their education when they clearly see its connection to a career.
  • Consumers report higher rates of value for vocational and technical programs and graduate degrees than the terminal bachelor’s degree. Only 40% who received a terminal bachelor’s degree believe it was worth the cost, and only 48% believe it made them an attractive job candidate.
  • With a bachelor’s degree, consumers value majors that are closely aligned with specific careers, such as health care, engineering, education, and computer science.
  • Only 34% of liberal arts graduates strongly agreed their degree was worth the expense, and 36% strongly agreed it would benefit their careers.
  • Consumers in any pathway see greater value when they see the relevance of their coursework in their work and day-to-day life.

U.S. Department of Education

Last Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education published additional data on the College Scorecard that allows consumers to compare student debt and first-year of earnings of graduates by major or graduate degree program at 4,400 institutions of higher learning in America that receive Title IV funds. Previously, the College Scorecard included only schoolwide statistics on debt and earnings of graduates. This additional information allows consumers to consider the return on investment for each program at each institution.

To protect students’ privacy, the government isn’t publishing data on programs with few students. For programs making the cut, the data show debt loads at graduation for students who finished college in the 2016 and 2017 school years. It also reflects how much students who graduated during the 2015 and 2016 school years earned a year after leaving school, excluding those who re-enrolled. The data were drawn from the Internal Revenue Service and federal student loan data.

According to the Wall Street Journal, at most programs graduates typically earn more in their first year of employment than what they borrowed in total for their degree. However, 15% of programs had graduates carrying debt greater than income, and 2% had graduates who owed more than twice their annual salaries.

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 11/25/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: November 25-29

“Consumers identified several areas their colleges and universities can focus on to increase value: When consumers find their courses are relevant to work, and when they have high-quality, applied-learning experiences and excellent career and academic advising, they see more value in their education.”—Strada Education Network & Gallup, “Changing the value equation for higher education,” p.7

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 11/22/2019

Higher Ed Quote of the Week: November 18-22

“As college costs and student loan debt continue to rise precipitously, more people are wondering if college is worth it. Based on earnings alone, yes, it is. On average, workers with a bachelor’s degree make 80 percent more than workers with no more than a high school diploma.”—Anthony P. Carnevale, Ban Cheah, and Martin Van Der Werf, “A first try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 colleges,” p. 1

Posted by: Gregory Linton | 11/22/2019

Why do students choose the college they attend?

Last week, Hanover Research released “National Prospective Student Survey: 8 Key Findings,” which reports the findings of a national survey of 1,000 current high school students who are interested in enrolling in an undergraduate program. Here are the eight key findings of the study:

  1. Salary maximization is the top driver for deciding to pursue higher education.
  2. Affordability is the most important factor influencing where a prospective student will apply.
  3. Cost considerations and job expectations will drive the decision of where to attend.
  4. Online search and institutional websites are the primary channels through which students learn more about an institution.
  5. Email and text messaging are the top communication channels to reach prospective students.
  6. A majority of prospective students prefer attending a school within four hours of home.
  7. Students also seek flexible degree programs.
  8. Nearly half of students want a delivery format that includes online content.

The fifteen-page report offers recommendations for how institutions should respond to each of the eight findings in order to attract prospective students.

Last week, the Center on Education and the Workforce of Georgetown University published a report titled “A first try at ROI: Ranking 4,500 colleges.” Using data from the College Scorecard, the report focuses on “net present value” of a college degree, which weighs future earnings against the total cost of the degree. See the document for a more complete (but complicated) explanation of the calculation. Here are some of the interesting findings in the report:

  • Community colleges and many certificate programs have the highest ROI in the short term (10 years), but colleges that award primarily bachelor’s degrees have the highest ROI in the long term (40 years). This is primarily because bachelor’s degrees take longer to complete, resulting in more expense and debt.
  • Public colleges have higher ROI than private colleges in the short term, but degrees from private colleges generally have a higher ROI in the long term. This is because of higher expense at private colleges, which eventually results in higher earnings.
  • The median net present value for all colleges is $723,000 in the long term, but only $107,000 in the short term.

Although this report recognizes that college provides non-monetary benefits, it focuses only on the monetary benefits. It also ranks colleges and universities regardless of their mission or their programs. Therefore, colleges with more higher-paying majors will generally rank higher in the standings.

Another flaw in this study is that it feeds the misconception that where one studies automatically results in higher or lower earnings. In the past couple of years, various studies and publications have shown that the major a student takes often matters more than where they take it. For example, a business major at a less expensive institution can have the same or better earnings than a business major at a more expensive institution.

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