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How to Understand the High Cost of College

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In a recent (April 4, 2015) opinion essay in the New York Times, “The Real Reason College Costs So Much,” Paul Campos, a law professor, argues that the high cost of college tuition today is solely the fault of the colleges, more caused by administrative bloat than by reduced governmental funding.

This is becoming an all-too-common complaint. In recent years, it has become popular for commentators and politicians on the federal and state levels to complain vociferously about the cost of a college degree. Implicitly — and all too often explicitly, as in the case of Mr. Campos — the allegation is that the colleges somehow are gouging students, profiteering at their expense.

This could not be further from the truth. In my 35 years in higher education at many different colleges and universities, small and very large, I have witnessed colleges do summersaults to try to keep the cost of tuition and expenditures down.

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Big Shifts in Economy Give College-Educated Workers Clear Edge

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As high school seniors weigh their college offers this month, there is more evidence that investing in higher education is worth it: College-educated workers in America now make 80 percent more on average than workers without a college degree.

That wage advantage is twice as much as it was 50 years ago, when workers with a high school diploma could often make a competitive salary in the manufacturing sector.

A new report released Monday by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce documents the shift to a high-skilled economy where more college-educated workers are in demand, but not enough are graduating.

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STARBUCKS UPDATES COLLEGE ACHIEVEMENT PLAN

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Last Monday – April 6, 2015–Starbucks announced updates to their College Achievement Plan (CAP), which provides tuition reimbursement to employees admitted to Arizona State University’s online degree program. For employees of corporate-owned Starbucks (about 60 percent of U.S. stores) who work 20 or more hours per week, CAP reimburses the out-of-pocket costs of tuition to ASU Online after all other types of financial aid have been applied. Participating employees also receive a tuition discount, funded by ASU, equivalent to about a 42 percent reduction in tuition costs. The program was launched in June of 2014, and currently enrolls about 2,000 Starbucks employees.

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Research to Ensure Access and Success in Higher Education

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A push to improve student success by providing access to high-quality online, blended, and competency-based education (CBE) led to establishment of the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) in October 2014. The United States Department of Education (USDoE) had received funding from the U.S. Congress in order to provide higher education the attention and resources to better understand the impact of distance education, and these resources supported the launch of a much-needed effort to identify and document key factors that impact student access and success — DETA.

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Debunking myths about college tuition

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The report aims to debunk four “myths” about tuition increases, and at the top is “Faculty are to blame for rising tuition.” To counter this, the report compares the five-year change in “average net price tuition” — cost of attendance less financial aid — to faculty pay increases.

Nationally, the report says, net price tuition rose about 6.5 percent. By comparison full-time faculty salaries declined 0.12 percent. The report doesn’t offer five-year data for individual institutions, but does give average salaries for the 2012-13 school year — the latest available federal data — and percent change from the previous year for most local colleges and universities.

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Lumina report addresses college achievement gap, calls for reform

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Although more students are earning college degrees, there is still a nationwide achievement gap that leaves the United States’ workforce demands unmet, a Thursday report by the Lumina Foundation found.

The percentage of jobs requiring a college degree will rise from 40 percent to 65 percent by 2020, the report stated. To address this demand, the report suggests encouraging people to finish their degrees and recognizing diverse forms of learning and credentials.

“For America to truly prosper, for the nation to attain not just individual opportunity and economic security, but social justice and cohesion, an increased sense of urgency is needed to expand college success dramatically, and in all directions,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, in a Thursday press release.

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College preparedness over the years, according to NAEP

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For almost a decade, the National Assessment Governing Board, which oversees the National Assessment of Educational Progress, studied whether and how NAEP could “plausibly estimate” the percentage of U.S. students who “possess the knowledge, skills, and abilities in reading and mathematics that would make them academically prepared for college.”

After much analysis and deliberation, the board settled on cut scores on NAEP’s twelfth-grade assessments that indicated that students were truly prepared—163 for math (on a three-hundred-point scale) and 302 for reading (on a five-hundred-point point scale). The math cut scores fell between NAEP’s basic (141) and proficient (176) achievement levels; for reading, NAGB set the preparedness bar right at proficient (302).

When the 2013 test results came out last year, NAGB reported the results against these benchmarks for the first time, finding that 39 percent of students in the twelfth-grade assessment sample met the preparedness standard for math and 38 percent did so for reading.

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Online courses might offer a path to more degrees – and to reducing the carbon footprint

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lder students who don’t want the full on-campus experience – and the costs associated with it – might be served effectively through high-quality online college degree programs, according to a new report.

And that might reduce the carbon footprint, too, saving money for both college and student.

The typical student pursuing an online degree through Arizona State University is a 31-year-old woman with a job who started college elsewhere and is seeking a place to complete it, according to a report the university released this week at the annual ASU+GSV Summit, a conference for people interested in education innovation.

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College Attainment Progress Won’t Meet 2025 Goal

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Despite several years of state and national efforts, the United States is producing nowhere near enough adults with a postsecondary education to meet its college attainment goal to meet workforce needs in the next 10 years, according to a new report from the Lumina Foundation.

Although incremental progress has been made, if current trends continue, the U.S. will still fall short by 19.8 million college credentials in 2025. The percentage of American adults between the ages of 25 and 64 with at least an associate degree increased from 37.9 percent in 2008 to 40 percent in 2013 – the most recent data available – for a total of 2.8 million additional credentials.

Previous research from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has shown roughly two-thirds of jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education by 2020.

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The Urgency of Increasing Higher Education Attainment in America

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As postsecondary skills have become essential to success for millions of Americans, few would argue that our nation has all of the talent it needs to prosper. New data reveal that our country risks falling behind in a global race — the competition for innovation and, above all else, talent — unless actions are taken now to significantly increase postsecondary attainment.

Projections by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce show that more than 65 percent of U.S. jobs will require some form of postsecondary education by the end of this decade. And yet, according to Lumina Foundation‘s just-released annual Stronger Nation report on postsecondary attainment rates across America, only 40 percent of working-age adults (ages 25-64) now hold at least a two-year degree.

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