Postsecondary Education Aspirations and Barriers

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Americans understand that a postsecondary education is the key to finding a better job and building a better
life. This lesson hit home during the recent recession, when four out of five jobs lost were ones that required a
high school diploma or less.1 Though the economy has improved, most U.S. adults say that a degree will be just
as important or even more important in the future to getting a good job.

Hispanics and blacks are more likely than whites to say it is very important to increase the proportion of
Americans with a degree or professional certificate beyond high school. Many say they have taken steps to
attaining a degree, including completing a financial aid form, talking to a college adviser or recruiter and
researching degree programs. However, blacks and Hispanics continue to lag behind the average degree
attainment rate in the U.S.

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What People Think About College: a Snapshot of Public Opinion

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Given that the value of college is frequently challenged on multiple fronts these days, interest in how the public regards higher education runs pretty high among its champions.

The latest public-opinion poll from Gallup and the Lumina Foundation, released here on Thursday, provides some new data points.

In general, “the vast majority of Americans value education beyond high school,” said Brandon Busteed, executive director of education at Gallup. And they see higher education as connected to getting a good job and having a good life.

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Most Americans Say Higher Education Not Affordable

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A majority of U.S. adults, 61%, believe education beyond high school is available to anyone in America who needs it — down from 67% who felt this way in 2013. However, only a small minority (21%) believe higher education is affordable.

These findings are among many releasing Thursday in a report based on the most recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation Pollconducted Nov. 3-Dec. 18, 2014.

While the majority of all Americans believe higher education is available to anyone in the U.S. who needs it, some are more likely to feel this way than others do. For instance, Hispanics are more optimistic (73%) than whites (58%) that this type of education is available to all.

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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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