Tuition Strategy Lacking

(Information excerpted from Inside Higher Ed)

Setting tuition at public colleges and universities is no simple task.

Governors and lawmakers approve different levels of state funding to subsidize higher education from year to year. Those same politicians are frequently unhappy with rising college costs, and they sometimes move to freeze tuition or cap its rate of increase.

tuition strategy

But flat tuition, if not accompanied by an increase in appropriations, can result in fewer sections and longer times to graduation, which is expensive for students and families. And because of the way many state aid programs are structured, public tuition rates can directly affect the amount of financial aid students receive.

In other words, setting public tuition is an exceedingly complex process involving numerous power centers. It’s a process with numerous possible unintended consequences for students’ ability to pay for college. Yet it’s a process that’s not even close to being standardized from state to state.

Most states don’t even have a single strategy for addressing affordability, according to a new report (http://www.sheeo.org/projects/state-tuition-fees-and-financial-assistance/2017-report) from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. SHEEO found that 68 percent of higher education agencies it surveyed had no unified affordability strategy taking tuition, fees and financial aid into account.

That lack of strategy comes even as four out of five states have put in place attainment goals for increasing the percentage of their residents with postsecondary credentials. As a result, SHEEO is calling for states to bring together governors, lawmakers, higher ed governing boards and college presidents in order to set tuition and fees in ways that line up with attainment goals.

Although SHEEO is pushing broadly for a balance to be found between the cost students pay and colleges’ revenue needs, it didn’t issue its new report to examine actual tuition costs in depth. Instead, it looked at the different ways states set tuition, fees and student aid by conducting a survey that received responses from 54 higher education agencies in 49 states.

Specifically, SHEEO is calling for policy makers to incorporate tuition policy into broader affordability and attainment strategies. Institutional revenue sources like state appropriations, financial aid and tuition should be coordinated, and more transparency should be established around institutional expenditures, the organization says. It also called for a multiyear approach to tuition policy – one that would not necessarily lock in specific tuition rates over a set number of years but would create a range of allowable increases over three to five years, allowing institutions, students and families to plan better.

There are still skeptics about the effectiveness of those strategies. Andrew Gillen, an independent higher education analyst, said increased coordination between policy makers could be worthwhile for some reasons. But he doesn’t think it will lead to a lower cost of delivering education or encourage third parties to shoulder more of the cost.

“The bottom line is that increased coordination doesn’t have much potential to reduce or reallocate costs,” he said. “And even if it did, it is unlikely students would see any of the benefit.”

There is also no guarantee that bringing different parties together would result in better coordination. Many players with power would be hesitant to give up the ability to set tuition, said Joseph Rallo, Louisiana’s commissioner of higher education. Different institutions also face vastly different situations.

Recruiting Outside the Box: Indiana Dual Career Network

Recruiting has become something of a dance. It’s no longer as simple as placing an ad and waiting for candidates to knock on your door. Recruiters must be creative and utilize a multitude of tools to source talent.

The standard avenues for recruitment still exist – word of mouth, employee referrals and job boards. There is one piece, however, that has been a challenge for individuals recruiting for highly specialized fields: What happens to the spouses of the candidates being courted?

Recently, I was invited by a colleague at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) to participate in a group called the Indiana Dual Career Network (IDCN). Laura Farkas, interim president of IDCN, summarizes the goal of the group:

The IDCN is a network of professionals throughout the state who are involved with talent recruitment, with the added focus of paying attention to Dual Career issues, which is another way of saying “Trailing Spouse” challenges. In other words, as Indiana companies and institutions of Higher Ed are trying to recruit talent to their organizations, a pool of talented spouses and partners develops alongside them, who will be wanting to envision compelling work for themselves. Instead of a problem, we want to engage with each other and share information, resources, and networking contacts to make sure we all see “Trailing Spouses” as opportunities.

IDCN started a little under four years ago specifically for the academic world. Department heads at a number of Indiana universities were having difficulty attracting talent and realized that often the reason a candidate rejected a position was the lack of job opportunity for the trailing partner.

Farkas shared a recent IDCN success story: A candidate for a job at Purdue University had received six offers, but chose Purdue because of the additional job search assistance available to their partner.

This is creative networking at its best. Communicating through ListServ, the group can spread the word within the academic world and to surrounding business partners and work to secure employment for those partners of job prospects.

IDCN’s goal is not only filling positions, but also attracting and keeping talent in Indiana. I definitely will continue to reach out to this group for upcoming open positions.

VIDEO: See What’s in the New Edition of BizVoice

Our Senior VP and editor of BizVoice Tom Schuman explains what’s in the March/April edition. If you’re interested in higher education, corporate social responsibility or Vanderburgh County, we have information you can’t miss.

This issue also focuses on the “Outstanding Talent” driver of the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 plan.

Read BizVoice online today.

Mitch Daniels on the Future of Undergrad Education

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels doesn’t shy away from the challenges facing higher education. He embraces the opportunities and shares his insights in this one-on-one interview. Read our full interview in the latest edition of BizVoice (and the story includes a QR code link to more video of the Daniels interview). 

New High School Diploma Requirements Ready for Next Round of Approvals

????????????????Earlier this summer, the Indiana Career Council met and heard an update on the draft plan for new high school diplomas, which would be set to begin in 2018. In order to simplify the process, the draft plan would change the current four diploma options – general, Core 40, Core 40 honors and technical honors – to three diploma options: college and career ready, honors and workforce ready. A good summary of the differences in the diplomas can be found at Chalkbeat.

The Indiana Chamber provided public comments to the plan earlier this year, which included items that we liked: an overall increase of core curriculum credits with a decreased emphasis on electives – including an increase of math, science and social studies credit requirements, a personal finance graduation requirement and a graduation capstone of a work-based learning experience. The Chamber did have some concerns and questions regarding: further descriptions and rigor of certain mathematics course requirements, and the absence of requirements in computer science/IT as well as a world language.

While the public comment period for the diplomas is now closed, the process to finalize this draft plan is far from over. The Commission for Higher Education passed a measure supporting the diplomas in August and it moved to the State Board of Education this month. It will then move to the General Assembly for debate in early 2016.

New Report Shows Progress In On-Time College Graduation, But Not Enough

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education (CHE) released the latest Indiana College Completion Report last week, which showed a nearly 7% increase in the number of Hoosiers earning bachelor’s degrees in four years or less. Small gains were also
shown in on-time completion for earned associate degrees. The Chamber’s Indiana Vision 2025 key driver of Outstanding Talent includes a goal on increasing to 60% the proportion of Indiana residents with high quality postsecondary credentials, which aligns with this study.

From the CHE press release: “We should be encouraged by Indiana’s degree completion gains, especially for our low-income and minority students,” Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said. “At the same time, we must not relent in our efforts to advance state policies and campus-level practices that encourage ongoing improvement. Opportunities for Hoosiers without a degree or credential beyond high school are diminishing daily. For individual quality of life as well as for our state’s economic future, it is critical that we dramatically increase education attainment in Indiana.”

For more information, view the CHE’s press release and the graduation report.

No Easy Answers: Charting the Future of Higher Ed

higher edFor a century, Hoosiers didn’t need a college degree to make a good living. But with the manufacturing-based economy changing dramatically and giving way, in part, to the knowledge-based economy, you can’t make that case anymore.

Amid the backdrop of an increased emphasis on postsecondary education, we turn to three recognized leaders in the higher education community to discuss the current climate and what needs to happen next:

A quick survey of the college landscape reveals some obvious challenges: rising tuition, student debt and getting more students to complete their degree. The latter is the focal point for Jones and his organization.

“We know that completion rates at most colleges in the country don’t exceed 50%. So the freshman class looks very good in terms of numbers and in terms of diversity, but in the graduating class we only have about half of those students there – and we’ve lost a lot of the diversity that we set out to accomplish. So that’s a huge challenge,” he offers.

Read the rest of the BizVoice magazine article. And be sure to check out the NEW July/August edition at www.bizvoicemagazine.com.

Understand Job Demand When Pursuing Higher Ed Options

Business Insider posted an article recently titled “I Consider Law School a Waste of My Life and an Extraordinary Waste of Money.” While this represents just one person’s experience, the narrative paints a startling picture of the realities some people face in this microcosm of higher education.

The article is a Q&A with an anonymous 28-year-old lawyer who says he incurred a “life-destroying” amount of debt by going to law school, with nothing to show for it now.

“Never in my worst nightmares did I think I’d find myself with $200,000 in debt, making less than $50,000, struggling to find job openings and to move on in my career,” he writes. “I live with my parents. I don’t have a car. I don’t go out to socialize. I don’t date. I don’t buy new clothes. I don’t buy electronics. I don’t buy much of anything.”

After he graduated from law school, he moved around small law firms for two years, even working for free as an intern at one point. Then, he worked for a $12,000 annual salary; after three months he got a raise to $24,000. Now, he works for a $45,000 salary with 15% of it going to his law school loans on an income-based repayment plan.

“There is an enormous oversupply of JDs in the United States. Low-paying jobs routinely receive hundreds of resumes from desperate law school grads,” he concludes. “I think getting a computer science undergrad or even community college degree leads to a more positive economic outcome than law school the vast majority of the time.”

Though Indiana needs more bachelor’s degree graduates too (in certain degree tracks), IndianaSkills.com was created to help meet employer and employee needs in a very specific area. The greatest job demand in Indiana is in the middle skills, meaning Indiana’s economy needs many more workers with sub-baccalaureate skills and credentials (associate’s degrees, certifications, certificates). Not all degrees and credentials are created equal – we encourage all students and job seekers to understand Indiana’s labor market demand when making choices about further education. IndianaSkills.com is one resource to find that information.

Education and Business Must Work Together to Succeed

Outstanding Talent is the first of four drivers in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Indiana Vision 2025 economic development action plan. Two goals of that driver directly address the importance of businesses being involved in upcoming Indiana College Success Coalition efforts. They are the need to:

  • “increase to 90% the proportion of Indiana students who graduate from high school ready for college and/or career training”; and
  • “develop, implement and fully fund a comprehensive plan for addressing the skills shortages of adult and incumbent workers who lack minimum basic skills.”

In order to achieve success in these areas, K-12, higher education and businesses must work together. The Indiana College Success Coalition is providing the opportunity for that to take place.

Five county summits (sponsored by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s Learn More Indiana initiative) have taken place, with two more coming up in October. Each is designed to allow community organizations, education representatives and business leaders to discuss opportunities and challenges in their areas. But after attending four of the first five summits, one piece of the puzzle that I’ve seen missing is the business input.

To voice concern about workers lacking skills or not being prepared for the workplace is understood. The next required step, however, is being part of the solution. The groups noted above must all collaborate. Employers must clearly communicate employee expectations – and these summits are one way to do just that.

Below is information on the two remaining summits, followed by details of an October 9 meeting in which you can learn more or potentially start a coalition in your county.

  • October 24, Lawrence County, Bedford Middle School (4:00-5:00 reception, 5:00-7:00 p.m., program). RSVP to Sarah Richardson at srichardson@hoosieruplands.org or call (812) 849-4447.
  • October 30, Hamilton County, Westfield High School (6:00-6:30, reception, 6:30-8:30 p.m., program). No advance registration required. Contact Nancy Ramsey (n.ramsey@yourcompasstocampus.org or 317-501-2473 for more information).

The October 9 Indiana College Success Coalition informational meeting (1:00-3:15 p.m.) will take place at the Indianapolis Wyndham West. Registration is requested prior to October 1. Contact Sue Reynolds (812-349-4142) with questions.

The Indiana College Success Coalition, sponsored by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education (Learn More Indiana), currently includes almost 1,500 organizations in 50 counties. Collectively, they have implemented over 2,100 activities to promote college access and success.  
 
Individuals living in counties that do not currently have a College Success Coalition are invited to start a coalition in their county.  In addition to start-up and progress funds, Learn More Indiana provides significant leadership team development, strategic planning resources, student data reports, mentoring and on-call support.  

Caution Required in College Ratings Plan

Yes, the explanation gets a bit technical. But the point – although changes in the current system are needed, getting a valid set of measures in place is not going to be easy — is valid in this Brookings analysis of President Obama's announced college ratings plan. Current data gaps are only one part of the challenge.

The President’s plan, which he is touting on a two-day bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania, proposes that the Department of Education develop a new rating system that will judge colleges based on accessibility for low-income students, affordability, and outcomes, including employment and earnings.  The ratings will be developed over the next year and will ultimately be made available to students shopping for college on the White House’s College Scorecard.
 
There is clearly a need for more and better information on college quality. The current lack of transparency has created a highly dysfunctional market for higher education in which students can choose from a wide variety of institutions but often have access to better information about the amenities colleges offer than the quality of their academic programs.  Consequently, colleges compete on measures that factor into popular rankings such as average SAT scores and student-faculty ratios rather than quality and price.
 
Expanding the College Scorecard is a worthy strategy on its own, but President Obama has proposed to go a giant step further and eventually tie the availability of financial aid to the new ratings.  Students attending highly rated institutions would receive larger Pell grants and more generous terms for federal student loans. Institutions would receive a bonus grant based on the number of Pell-eligible students they enroll and graduate.  As a result, institutions would have an incentive to recruit and graduate more low-income students, and low-income students would have an incentive to attend higher quality institutions.
 
If the problem in the market for higher education is a lack of information, why does more information need to be accompanied by top-down accountability from Washington rather than the bottom-up, market-based accountability produced by the information itself?  Congressional Republicans have reacted to the president’s plan with fears of “price controls” and “standards set by Washington bureaucrats.”  But these objections miss an important point about higher education: because taxpayers are footing the bill for a significant fraction of the nation’s investment in higher education, we cannot rely entirely on consumers to incentivize institutions to operate efficiently, innovate, and generate good student outcomes.
 
But getting from a laudable set of principles to a workable set of policies is going to be hard work.  The first task is for the Obama administration to develop a set of measures of college quality that will ultimately be accurate enough to use for accountability purposes.  This is not possible with existing data, with notable shortcomings including the fact that graduation rates are only calculated for first-time, full-time freshmen (who comprise a small share of students at many institutions) and a federal law banning the government from connecting education and earnings data in order to examine graduates’ success in the labor market.  These problems are fixable, but will take significant effort and, absent a back door to earnings data, Congressional action.