Understanding the Needs of Your STEM and Health Sciences Faculty and Students
Until now, university press monographs have largely remained on the sidelines as author-side payments have facilitated OA models in journals publishing, particularly in STEM fields. Today, there is real interest in exploring what it would take to create and disseminate high quality digital OA monographs, but the question remains: what would it cost?
This year, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has funded Ithaka S+R to conduct a study of the costs of publishing monographs. Since January, industry expert Kim Schmelzinger and I have been on the road, meeting with press directors and their CFOs and business managers, and speaking with staff involved in all aspects of publishing. These conversations will permit us to provide insight into what it costs presses today to create monographs, from the work done to identify and develop new works, to designing and producing the text, to making sure the work is widely distributed upon publication. We hope that the study, by addressing the full costs of publication, will offer both a glimpse at the work needed to produce high-quality monographs and the hard data needed for presses and others to develop new models to support that work.
Our meetings with presses have been full of discussions of current practices, aimed at uncovering the activities that presses engage in, and that contribute to the quality of the works published. While learning about the unique nature of each press was a real highlight of this stage of the study, the final study findings—the financial data concerning the cost of publishing—will be presented in aggregated form.
We would like to thank the following presses for their participation in this study:
- University of Arizona Press
- Northwestern University Press
- Baylor University Press
- University Press of Colorado
- University of Arkansas Press
- Rutgers University Press
- University of Washington Press
- University of Virginia Press
- University of Georgia Press
- Texas A&M University Press
- The University of Michigan Press
- University of Minnesota Press
- University of North Carolina Press
- University of Nebraska Press
- Indiana University Press
- The MIT Press
- The Johns Hopkins University Press
- Columbia University Press
- Yale University Press
- The University of Chicago Press
Last week, we explored what the data behind “The Effects of Rising Student Costs in Higher Education: Evidence from Public Institutions in Virginia” tell us about degree-attainment rates at community colleges. We noted that eight years after students started at a community college, only 20% of those on track to earn a bachelor’s degree had earned one, and only 14% of students in the lowest income quintile had earned one. (See the blog post from May 7, 2014 for a full description of these results and the sample of students they were based on.)
Based on a comment to the previous blog post, we looked at degree attainment rates for the other income quintiles and put together a graph comparing degree attainment across multiple income quintiles. As suggested in the comment, higher income groups do have higher degree success rates, but those rates are still low.
(There are not enough students in the 5th income group to do this analysis, but it is likely that most higher income students fall in the "No FAFSA Submitted" group.)
Nancy Maron at HASTAC 2015: The Art and Science of Digital Humanities
Nancy Maron will speak on "Something of Great Constancy: Preserving the Elements of Innovative DH Work," a panel at HASTAC 2015: The Art and Science of Digital Humanities.
Roger C. Schonfeld is the guest speaker at the Professional & Scholarly Publishing's Books Committee meeting on Friday, June 12th from 12:30-1:30pm at the AAP New York office. This event is open to the public, and attendees can also join in via webinar.
Recently, Arizona State University announced that it would partner with edX, the online platform for MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) founded by MIT and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year of college that students could take for free without admissions and apply for credit after the fact.
The announcement is just another example of efforts in recent years to rethink the bachelor’s degree from a bundle of services offered by one college over four years (usually in a physical place) to an “unbundled product” that is consumed when and where students want it and is provided by various educational entities. In the case of the ASU-edX partnership, students would transfer their credits to Arizona State or another university to finish their degree. In other words, the freshman year would be unbundled from the rest of the degree.
The “disrupters” of higher education, led mostly by Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, are often the biggest advocates of unbundling because they want to take just a small slice—and the most lucrative for them—of the bundled experience. They like to compare higher education to other industries that have been unbundled by technology in the last decade, such as music (consumers buy singles instead of albums) or the cable-television industry (viewers can watch individual shows online instead of buying a suite of channels).
Supporters of unbundled higher education argue that disaggregating the degree is not only what today’s students demand, but that it would end up being less expensive because students would only pay for what they need. Many questions remain, however, about whether they’re right on either front.
Let’s take student demand. It’s true that today’s students need more flexible pathways to graduation than most colleges offer given that one-third of undergraduates transfer before they earn a degree and only around half of students finish a bachelor’s degree within five years.
But the idea of cobbling together a degree from multiple providers, in multiple ways might be just too much for many students to coordinate. For one, a bachelor’s degree is more than just a random collection of 120 credit hours. There is a curriculum behind it, and most students are not savvy enough to build their own degree.
And when it’s done for them, there seems to be little interest. “We need to take baby steps first,” Chip Paucek, CEO and co-founder of 2U, the online course provider, said on a panel I moderated Monday at the Challenge Cup Festival in Washington, DC.
As evidence, Paucek mentioned 2U’s failed pilot from a few years ago when it partnered with several elite colleges and universities to offer a semester of their courses online. No one seemed to want it. He thinks students might be more interested in unbundling the delivery system, so that they can more easily mix-and-match how they take the course between in-person and online classes.
And then there’s the price question. I’m not persuaded that an unbundled degree would be cheaper. Right now, campuses are full of cross-subsidies between their various functions. Large English courses support small chemistry labs, for instance. Student fees support a plethora of activities. If you unbundle the degree, fewer students will want those activities and thus pay for them, but campuses will still need to provide them for those students who do need them.
I’ve noticed this phenomenon recently in Washington, DC, with fitness clubs. The fitness club has been unbundled as new providers are offering bike spinning classes, gyms with only weights, and boot-camp classes. But each of these providers is charging almost as much for that single activity as what a half month might cost at a traditional gym. They have fewer members supporting what ends up still being an expensive, people-intensive and equipment-heavy business. The same is true of higher education.
Before we unbundle the degree, we need more evidence that students demand it and that it will be less expensive for them.
Jeffrey J. Selingo
Community colleges serve an important role in educating people from a variety of backgrounds and providing affordable access to higher education for people with a variety of educational goals. In recent years the missions of community colleges have grown, as has the number of students attending these institutions. Many community colleges serve some or all of their missions very well; others less so. All operate with very limited resources.
One important role of community colleges is to prepare students to transfer to a four-year institution in order to earn a bachelor’s degree. In the past few months there has been increased attention on growing community colleges’ roles as pathways to a four-year degree because of President Obama’s proposal for free community college. While the goals behind this initiative are laudable, it is important to take a closer look at the existing nature of these pathways to see how students move between community colleges and four-year institutions, and what the largest barriers are to success.
Using a private dataset from the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (the same one used in our recent report, The Effects of Rising Student Costs in Higher Education: Evidence from Public Institutions in Virginia), we were able to study patterns in enrollment and student persistence at the commonwealth’s community colleges. We focused on first-time, full-time students who enrolled in Virginia’s two-year institutions within one year of graduating high school, and among those, only on students who indicated at the time of enrollment that they intended to work toward a bachelor’s degree and who were academically prepared to enter college. This group of students only makes up 19% of all community college students; however, this is the group of students that we would most expect to succeed on the path from a community college to a bachelor’s degree. Virginia is fairly typical of many other states, so the findings here should shed light on challenges facing community colleges around the country, not just those in Virginia.
Looking at the 43,207 students who entered a Virginia two-year institution, on the specified track, between the fall of 1997 and fall 2004, we found that within 8 years of starting at the two-year institution:
- 20% of students earned a bachelor’s degree
- 17% of students earned an associate’s degree but no bachelor’s degree
- 54% of students dropped out (and did not return within 10 years of initially enrolling)
- 5% of students remained enrolled at some institution and another 5% were taking time off, but returned to an institution in the future
For the 5,489 students in the lowest income quintile, these numbers are even more discouraging:
- 14% earned a bachelor’s degree
- 14% earned an associate’s degree but no bachelor’s degree
- 60% dropped out
- 6% remained enrolled at some institution and another 6% were taking time off, but returned to an institution in the future
Obviously, overall numbers like these should not be used as a final measure of community college success. There is much more nuance to how students move through the system than that. For one, most students who earn a bachelor’s degree on this track do not do so within four years, and thus looking at four-year and six-year graduation rates is not a good indication of success. (The four-year graduation rate of this sample is only 9% and the six-year rate is 17%.) Second, many students who do not earn a bachelor’s degree still go on to earn an associate’s degree and/or are still working towards a degree at the eight-year cutoff point.
Moreover, many of the barriers to success for this pathway are not the result of what the community colleges themselves do or do not do. In fact, for most community colleges, the biggest challenges come from the lack of college readiness of the students they serve and the economic conditions of the regions in which they are located. Thus the patterns described above present a challenge not just for these institutions but for all of us committed to improving the pathway from a community college to a bachelor’s degree.
However, these caveats do not diminish the importance of the fact that 54% of these students have dropped out of college and only 37% have obtained a degree of any kind eight years later. The most common time for students to drop out is during or after the first year – 8% of all students drop out at the end of the first semester and another 10% leave at the end of that first year. Clearly, something is happening – or not happening – in that first year of community college that discourages a great many students from following the supposed pathway to a college degree. And, remember, these numbers are for students who enrolled initially as full-time students and who indicated their intention to use community college as a pathway to a four-year degree. The numbers are much lower for students who enrolled with less ambitious goals.
The low rates of bachelor’s degree attainment for students who start at two-year institutions raise serious concerns about the idea of encouraging large numbers of students to attend two-year colleges in order to pursue a bachelor’s degree. If we really hope to use community colleges as a pathway to a four-year degree, we first need to improve bachelor’s degree attainment rates far above the 20% described above. In order to do this we need to address the variety of impediments that students face along the path from entering a two-year institution to earning a bachelor’s degree.
First, many students entering community colleges are not as academically prepared for college work as their peers at four-year institutions. 22% of students in our sample took remedial courses in order to prepare themselves for college-level courses as part of their community college course load – for which they received no college credit. Academic and student support issues, such as advising and the design of remedial courses, require significant improvement at most institutions if we are to give students a realistic chance of achieving their academic and professional goals. In addition, we need to modify our expectations for time to degree when students have remedial course requirements they need to meet.
Second, costs are a significant barrier for many students. While free tuition may eliminate some of the financial barriers students face, in Virginia, tuition represents less than 20% of a student’s estimated cost of attendance; other expenses including textbooks, housing and commuting add up to much more than the still relatively modest tuition charges. Currently, financial aid does little to cover these expenses which may be more of an impediment to student progress towards a degree than tuition. Moreover, if the average time to degree is likely to be longer for these students, we should consider extending the time of eligibility for need-based financial aid to account for students who are making progress toward a degree, even if that means taking more than four or six years to do so.
The point of all this is that increasing enrollments and providing free tuition at community colleges is not a panacea for solving the educational gap that exists in this country. We do believe that expanding the role of community colleges in closing this gap is important and worth supporting, but it has to involve much more than free or low tuition. It must also involve appropriate investments to reduce the financial AND educational barriers that currently impede the progress of too many students in order to significantly raise student success rates. In fact, President Obama’s proposal for free community college also includes components that are intended to address these barriers. As this proposal moves forward, it is very important that we all pay close attention to the whole proposal and not just the free tuition part. Turning what is currently a blind alley for most students into a viable pathway to student success will require a major effort on the part of community colleges and those who support them, but it is absolutely essential if we are going to encourage more students to begin this journey.
Please see our related blog post for more information about degree attainment at other income levels.
Arguing that the enormous changes occurring in research libraries are not matched by the pace of change in library program curricula, Deanna Marcum explores the gap between teaching and practice in our latest issue brief.
We hope that this brief will stimulate others to think about what we should expect from our MLIS programs. Please use our blog as a forum to share your ideas for reform and change.
Interested? Download "Educating the Research Librarian: Are We Falling Short?"
Join us at ALA for our workshop, "Designing User-Centered Survey Questions for Strategic Assessment."
Supporting the Research Practices of Laboratory Scientists: A Workshop at ALA
Join us at ALA for our workshop, "Supporting the Research Practices of Laboratory Scientists: An Ithaka S+R Workshop on Evidence-Based Decision-Making."