As college costs rise and student success rates stagnate, states and institutions of higher education have grappled with creative ways to improve student outcomes – particularly for those who are traditionally underserved. Recently, policymakers have increasingly turned to programs that target students even before they enroll full time in college, by implementing and expanding dual enrollment options that allow students to earn college credit while in high school.
In theory, dual enrollment programs (along with programs like Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate) benefit students in at least two crucial ways. First, by getting college credits out of the way inexpensively (and often for free), students enter college needing to earn fewer credits in order to graduate on time. Second, the exposure to more difficult coursework in a postsecondary-type setting may better prepare students mentally for the rigors of college-level coursework. These benefits may be particularly rewarding for low-income students, who finish college at significantly lower rates than their higher-income counterparts.
These ideas are buttressed by findings from rigorous empirical research. Brian An of the University of Iowa has found that dual enrollment programs significantly improve college degree attainment rates for low-income students, even after controlling for factors like economic and demographic background, family structure, academic standing and aspirations, and neighborhood characteristics. Researchers from AIR, evaluating the Gates Foundation’s Early College High School Initiative (which allows underserved students to earn up to 2 years of college credit in high school at little to no cost), found that participants were 20 percentage points more likely to earn a college degree than non-participants.
And, in a recent NBER working paper, researchers from the College Board and Harvard found that attaining a passing score on the AP exam increases the probability of receiving a college degree in 4 years by 1-2 percentage points per exam. Of course, students who pass an AP exam are, in general, better students than those who don’t pass the exam. To control for this, the authors used a regression discontinuity approach that compared students just above the passing threshold to those just below. While these students performed almost identically on the exam, the students who earned the score just above passing moved more quickly toward graduation.
As a result, offering opportunities for high school students to earn college credit can produce valuable longer-term benefits in college, especially for lower-income students. While many states and institutions have dual enrollment programs, a few are on the cutting edge.
The University of Texas, for example, is pioneering a free program called OnRamps that offers blended, credit-bearing courses designed by UT faculty and taught by high school teachers to students in their own schools. Georgia recently passed legislation expanding its dual enrollment offerings, which now allow high school students to take courses at in-state public universities – and earn both high school and college credit – for free. And a myriad of states waive AP exam fees for low-income students.
Dual enrollment programs, by themselves, are not enough to improve student outcomes across the board and close the opportunity gaps between different socioeconomic strata. But, as research has consistently shown, they can be remarkably effective vehicles for students to get a head start on establishing – and ultimately completing – their college educations.
On June 19, Nancy Maron, Roger Schonfeld, and Liam Sweeney will present preliminary findings on two research projects on mongraphs at the annual meeting of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) in Denver, Colorado.
The chance of getting into an elite college or university seems to be getting more difficult by the year. Every spring, selective institutions promote their latest admit rate, which is almost always as low or lower than the year before. It’s now a figure tracked by the mainstream media, another statistic in an endless line of numbers reported about higher education in the United States
This year, Stanford received 42,487 applications, and accepted 5 percent of them. Harvard collected 37,305 applications, and admitted 5.3 percent. Even Cornell, which has the largest freshman class among the Ivies, accepted just 14.9 percent of the 41,907 applicants it received.
The low acceptance rates, of course, have been driven in part by an unprecedented surge in applications in the past decade as applying to college online has become as easy as shopping on the Web. But while many applicants are clearly hedging their bets by applying to more schools than in the past, the uptick in applications also reflects real demand for a world-class university education.
Enrollment in American higher education grew significantly last decade among domestic and international students alike. Stanford University’s Caroline M. Hoxby has noted how college admissions has become much more of a global game in the past several decades. Advances in technology and less expensive methods of communication and transportation mean that talented students have many more choices beyond just those schools in their backyard.
Yet, for the most part, elite colleges and universities have kept a lid on their enrollment. Even as more qualified applicants come their way, they remain stuck in time, with a size of the undergraduate student body determined decades ago when fewer people went to college. Out of the few dozen most elite colleges in the United States, only one is going on any substantial drive to grow, and that’s Yale University. It’s building a $600-million mini-campus to welcome just 800 additional students.
“It’s like if Apple and Samsung only produced enough phones to meet 5 percent of global demand,” said Ben Nelson. Nelson is founder of the Minerva Project, which aims to build an elite liberal-arts institution that can compete with Harvard and Stanford for the best students.
Last week, Nelson was in Washington, D.C. to deliver Arizona State University’s annual Rhodes Lecture. In his talk, he mentioned that Minerva has extremely high admissions standards, but that it accepts everyone who qualifies. His hope is to have 10,000 undergraduates in a few years.
Minerva is able to grow quickly to meet demand because its courses are online, even though its students have a residential experience in four cities around the globe during their college years. It’s nearly impossible for selective residential colleges to scale like Minerva.
But the question remains why elite colleges can’t grow at all to meet the increased demand they have seen in recent years. The excuse they often use is that adding students requires additional facilities and personnel. But advances in technology often means that colleges don’t need as much physical space as an expansion would have required in the past. Hybrid courses don’t meet as often, freeing up space, and many professors have already experimented with flipped classrooms. Personnel also can be freed up by technology, although that’s a more difficult issue to tackle in any expansion.
Still, if Minerva achieves the success its founder is expecting, elite colleges will be increasingly asked why they can’t adopt some of its innovative practices, especially as the selective institutions continue to promote low admissions numbers each spring.
Jeffrey J. Selingo
Evidence-Driven Decisions on Library Space in the Digital Age: A Workshop at the Northumbria Conference
Designing User-Centered Survey Questions for Strategic Assessment: A Workshop at the Northumbria Conference
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.