Category Archives: Higher Education

Room for Debate: Who Should Pay for Workers’ Training?

Source: New York Times, Room for Debate, March 19, 2015

A recent article about the demand for welders in Texas and the Gulf Coast region highlighted a growing partnership between the energy industry and community colleges. As the economy still struggles, and a so-called skills gap persists, who should pay for workers’ training?

Credentials, Not Diplomas, Are What Count
Maurice A. Jones, Virginia secretary of commerce and trade
Noncredit courses and training, with financial support from government and industry, can create ready-to-work job applicants.

Industry and Government Need to Help Workers More
Sara Goldrick-Rab, sociologist
Employers should reinstitute training programs. And government should bring down the cost of post-secondary education.

A Shared Responsibility
Dennis Brown, community college president
The area for the greatest potential for infusing dollars to help support students pursuing certificate and degrees are companies.

Private and Public Investment Is Needed
Chauncy Lennon, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Better data is important to ensure that resources are strategically spent on training programs that align with employers’ needs.

At 100 Colleges Around the Country, Adjuncts Take Action to Demand an End to Precarity and Low Pay

Source: Andrew Mortazavi, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, February 26, 2015

Yesterday, adjunct faculty members at over 100 college campuses carried out coordinated demonstrations as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day. Adjuncts aimed to draw attention to low pay, exploitative working conditions, and a lack of job security. They organized walkouts, “teach-ins,” and rallies to push for part-time academic workers’ rights and greater visibility. While specific goals varied among activists, most adjuncts organizing around the event are demanded better pay, more job security, and access to benefits. ….

Sick of our loans: Student borrowing and the mental health of young adults in the United States

Source: Katrina M. Walsemann, Gilbert C. Gee, Danielle Gentile, Social Science & Medicine, Volume 124, January 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Student loans are increasingly important and commonplace, especially among recent cohorts of young adults in the United States. These loans facilitate the acquisition of human capital in the form of education, but may also lead to stress and worries related to repayment. This study investigated two questions: 1) what is the association between the cumulative amount of student loans borrowed over the course of schooling and psychological functioning when individuals are 25–31 years old; and 2) what is the association between annual student loan borrowing and psychological functioning among currently enrolled college students? We also examined whether these relationships varied by parental wealth, college enrollment history (e.g. 2-year versus 4-year college), and educational attainment (for cumulative student loans only). We analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), a nationally representative sample of young adults in the United States. Analyses employed multivariate linear regression and within-person fixed-effects models. Student loans were associated with poorer psychological functioning, adjusting for covariates, in both the multivariate linear regression and the within-person fixed effects models. This association varied by level of parental wealth in the multivariate linear regression models only, and did not vary by college enrollment history or educational attainment. The present findings raise novel questions for further research regarding student loan debt and the possible spillover effects on other life circumstances, such as occupational trajectories and health inequities. The study of student loans is even more timely and significant given the ongoing rise in the costs of higher education.

Can Online Learning Bend the Higher Education Cost Curve?

Source: David James Deming, Claudia Goldin, Lawrence F. Katz, Noam Yuchtman, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20890, January 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
We examine whether online learning technologies have led to lower prices in higher education. Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, we show that online education is concentrated in large for-profit chains and less-selective public institutions. Colleges with a higher share of online students charge lower tuition prices. We present evidence that real and relative prices for full-time undergraduate online education declined from 2006 to 2013. Although the pattern of results suggests some hope that online technology can “bend the cost curve” in higher education, the impact of online learning on education quality remains uncertain.

Higher Education, College Degree Major, and Police Occupational Attitudes

Source: Eugene A. Paoline III, William Terrill & Michael T. Rossler, Journal of Criminal Justice Education, Volume 26 Issue 1, 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Existing police research has produced mixed results regarding the benefits of college education on the outlooks of officers. In addressing many of the well-documented methodological concerns of prior research, the current study augments the existing police education-occupational attitudes literature by examining the impact of varying levels of education (i.e. high school, some college, and bachelor’s degree and higher) on officers’ job satisfaction, views of top management, and role orientation(s). In addition, among those with a bachelor’s degree, the relevance of degree major on officers’ occupational outlooks is assessed. Our results address and inform advocacy efforts to make college education a bona fide occupational qualification.
Do College Grads Make Better Cops?
Source: Andy Henion,, February 9, 2015

College-educated police officers are more likely to be dissatisfied with their job. But they are less likely to use force on citizens, a new study shows. The research, which paints a broad picture of both the negative and positive effects of higher education on policing, also shows cops with a degree may have negative views of their supervisors. They’re also less likely to favor community policing, a strategy aimed partly at reducing the number of deadly police-citizen incidents that currently dominate the headlines…..

In at Least 22 States, Your Student Debt Could Cost You Your Job

Source: Chris Hicks, Jobs With Justice, February 9, 2015

….In at least 22 states, the government will revoke your professional license if you are unable to pay off your student loan debt. These state laws target a wide range of professions, including attorneys, physicians and therapists – even barbers make the list. But two professions show up over and over again: nurses and teachers. Both professions serve a critical role in our communities and are often wildly underpaid. Are we really in a position to be punishing the people we need the most? In Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington, nurses and health-care professionals can all be locked out from their job if they fall into default on their student loans. In Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Tennessee, laws prevent K–12 teachers from working until they begin to repay their student loans…..

Report on the University of California, Berkeley, Salary Equity Study

Source: Office of the Vice Provost for the Faculty, January 2015

This report focuses on the salaries of ladder faculty at Berkeley, with particular attention to equity by gender and ethnicity. A joint Senate-Administration steering committee has overseen both the preparation of this report and the design of the underlying study….Although the study cannot identify the causes for the salary differences it identifies, the steering committee believes that the study’s findings, together with the interpretative discussion in this report, provide a solid basis for making a number of recommendations. Some recommendations concern additional studies that the campus should conduct in the future, including annual updates of this study. Others stress the need for enhanced attention to issues of climate, work/life balance, and the fair distribution of opportunities and responsibilities. The steering committee also recommends programs of salary review and salary increases that, while open to all faculty members, would provide the campus with additional opportunities to meet its broadest equity ideals….
Follow the Money
Source: Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, February 6, 2015

Lots of colleges and universities acknowledge troublesome — if relatively small — gaps in pay among men and women professors, and among white and minority professors. But it’s a hard thing to study and address, given the many variables and competing theories involved. So a new, comprehensive study of tenure-line faculty salaries at the University of California at Berkeley — along with an administrative pledge to close revealed gaps — is getting a lot of attention…. Berkeley ran the data using two models, due to long-standing debate about which is most appropriate: one controlling for experience, field and rank, and the second controlling for just experience and field. Both models show that women earn less than their comparable colleagues who are white men, university-wide: 1.8 percent less, controlling for rank, and 4.3 percent less, not controlling for rank. There’s a smaller gap for ethnic minorities, compared to white men. For Asians, it’s about 1.8 percent in both models. For underrepresented minorities, it’s 1-1.2 percent, depending on the model. Digging deeper into the data reveals some gaps that are larger for certain groups in certain disciplines. Without any controls, the gap for women is about 15.8 percent. For Asians, it’s 10.8 percent and for underrepresented minorities, it’s 12.1 percent…..

On the Contrary – Affirmative Action

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 1, January 2015

Why Labor Should Support Class-Based Affirmative Action
Richard D. Kahlenberg

In the press, debates over affirmative action in higher education pit liberals (who support taking race into account in admissions) and conservatives (who oppose it). But there is a third way on the issue—affirmative action based on class, rather than race—which is far more progressive than our current system of racial preferences. As the U.S. Supreme Court curtails the ability of universities to count skin color in admissions, the class-based approach is quickly gaining ground. This is a development that organized labor ought to cheer. ….

Race Still Matters: The Continued Need for Race-Conscious Admissions Policies
Julie J. Park

…. Some who oppose race-conscious affirmative action heartily agree that this country still suffers from the cumulative effects of discrimination and that universities benefit from diversity. In spite of this, they do not see the need for continued race-conscious policies, arguing that we can achieve racial diversity without such measures. However, we still need policies that consider race as one of many factors in the admissions process, or at minimum, the option to use them when needed. Thus, my focus in this piece is on why we specifically need the flexibility to consider race as one of numerous factors in the admissions process (alongside class and other relevant attributes) and less on the broad legal rationale for affirmative action (historic discrimination or the diversity defense). These reasons include the need to use race-conscious policies when race-neutral policies do not result in sufficient diversity, the need for diversity throughout a college campus, and the need for relative equal status among students. ….

Richard D. Kahlenberg Responds

Julie Park makes the argument that because race still matters in American society, racial preferences should continue to be employed by selective colleges and universities. Moreover, she shows particular concern about the plight of middle-class and more advantaged minority students who she worries will not benefit from class-based affirmative action. I disagree with both strands of her analysis. ….

Julie J. Park Responds

In his piece, Richard D. Kahlenberg does a masterful job of demonstrating the emotional pull behind class-based affirmative action. Why wouldn’t anyone want to give low-income and working-class kids a leg up in the admissions race? I am in complete agreement with the need for class-based preferences in admissions. Still, I maintain my original position that universities need the additional option to consider race in combination with class and numerous other factors when they consider a candidate for admissions. ….

The Returns to the Federal Tax Credits for Higher Education

Source: George Bulman, Caroline M. Hoxby, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w20833, January 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Three tax credits benefit households who pay tuition and fees for higher education. The credits have been justified as an investment: generating more educated people and thus more earnings and externalities associated with education. The credits have also been justified purely as tax cuts to benefit the middle class. In 2009, the generosity of and eligibility for the tax credits expanded enormously so that their 2011 cost was $25 billion. Using selected, de-identified data from the population of potential filers, we show how the credits are distributed across households with different incomes. We estimate the causal effects of the federal tax credits using two empirical strategies (regression kink and simulated instruments) which we show to be strong and very credibly valid for this application. The latter strategy exploits the massive expansion of the credits in 2009. We present causal estimates of the credits’ effects on postsecondary attendance, the type of college attended, the resources experienced in college, tuition paid, and financial aid received. We discuss the implications of our findings for society’s return on investment and for the tax credits’ budget neutrality over the long term (whether higher lifetime earnings generate sufficient taxes to recoup the tax expenditures). We assess several explanations why the credits appear to have negligible causal effects.

Yes They Can: Supporting Bachelor Degree Attainment for Early Childhood Practitioners

Source: Laura Sakai, Fran Kipnis, and Marcy Whitebook, Diana Schaack, Early Childhood Research & Practice (ECRP), Volume 16 Numbers 1 & 2, Spring/Fall 2014

From the abstract:
As part of a longitudinal study, the authors interviewed 73 nontraditional students regarding their perceptions of the challenges experienced and supports received as they returned to school to earn bachelor’s degrees. All participants were working in the early care and education field. Interviewees perceived the cohort structure of their B.A. program as important to their academic success; this positive assessment increased over time and continued after graduation. A majority reported that program services such as financial assistance and the scheduling and location of classes were critically important throughout their participation in the degree programs. In contrast, academic and technological challenges reportedly decreased over time, and thus students’ need for support such as tutoring, counseling services, and technology assistance decreased. Many students whose primary language was not English reported relying on English-language assistance throughout their school experience even when they perceived English academic work to be increasingly less challenging. These findings suggest that those who design and implement programs to assist degree attainment should invest in academic supports at the beginning of the program while other supports, including financial assistance, the schedule and location of classes, and the cohort itself, are critical throughout students’ educational experience.