- Protesting Against Education Budget Cuts (Photo credit: infomatique)
My previous post noted that tuition pays only a small portion of the cost of higher education in public colleges and universities. According to this year’s Condition of Education report, in 2009 – 2010, tuition accounted for about 16 – 18 percent of the total revenue of public postsecondary institutions (and 90% of private, for-profit post-secondary institutions). The Condition of Education is a report mandated by the United States federal government and published each year by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report is available for download at no charge and contains a wealth of information about educational institutions at all levels, including elementary and secondary, postsecondary, public, private non-profit and private, for-profit institutions. This is a rich, detailed, well-organized and trustworthy analysis of massive amounts of data that can be very useful for academic research and writing projects.
Here are a few direct quotes that reflect current conditions and changing trends in higher education (from the 2012 Condition of Education Overview). A useful and informative resource:
In 2009–10, more than half of the 1.7 million bachelor’s degrees awarded were in five fields: business, management, marketing, and personal and culinary services (22 percent); social sciences and history (10 percent); health professions and related programs (8 percent); education (6 percent); and psychology (6 percent) (indicator 38).
Approximately 56 percent of male and 61 percent of female first-time, full-time students who sought a bachelor’s degree at a 4-year institution in fall 2004 completed their degree at that institution within 6 years (indicator 45).
In 2011, some 32 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. From 1980 to 2011, the gap in the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher between Whites and Hispanics widened from 17 to 26 percentage points, and the gap between Whites and Blacks widened from 13 to 19 percentage points (indicator 48).
In 2010, young adults ages 25–34 with a bachelor’s degree earned 114 percent more than young adults without a high school diploma or its equivalent, 50 percent more than young adult high school completers, and 22 percent more than young adults with an associate’s degree (indicator 49).
The Condition of Education — Index — http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/ [The 2012 report and related information can be downloaded from this site. An ebook of the report is also available.]
The Condition of Education — Overview, Section 3 – Postsecondary Education and Outcomes — http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/overview.asp
The Condition of Education — Postsecondary Revenues – http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_prs.asp
As the end of the semester drew near, I fretted about a student or two who had done quite well for most of the semester, then drifted off course, and finally disappeared without a trace. As I tried to work this problem — figure out how to get my lost students to talk to me, two people asked me (with unveiled cynicism): “Why should you care more about students’ grades than they do?”
That’s a good question, though it is based on somewhat faulty premises. Most students do care about the grades that they get, and they also care about what they have learned in a course — or so it seems to me. When otherwise capable students disappear, there is usually some explanation. For some reason, though, given the strains of early adulthood and the fact that many first-generation students do not know how the system works, students just “log off” instead of asking their professors for help. They assume that nothing can be done and there are no options, and no one cares anyway, so (as one of my students put it) “I thought I might as well just take the F and deal with it later.”
As a professor, one of my responsibilities is to evaluate student performance. Disappearing students, by academic convention, get an “F” (failing) grade for the course. Alternatively, though, they could receive a “W, WP, WF” (withdrawal) or in some cases, or an “I” (incomplete, with the option of completing work within an agreed-upon time period). From my vantage point as a college teacher, getting an “F” might have long range consequences that should only be borne if the grade is really warranted and there are no other alternatives. So, in answer to the question above, here is another question: Why let talented students “give up” and “take their punishment” without at least trying to persuade them otherwise? Will students be “wrecked for life” because someone inside the Machine cared about their long-term best interests? And from a public resource perspective, courses retaken must be paid for again, and society always pays part of the bill. As high as they are, tuition fees cover only part of the cost of higher education. This means that re-taking courses always requires expenditure of public resources we cannot afford to waste. –EdProf
Well, the semester is drawing to a close. Last week of classes with final exams next week. Last chance for professors to highlight key principles and ideas, address omissions, demystify our teaching strategies (perhaps), and offer an apologia for the inevitable gaps between teaching aspirations and learning outcomes. In my experience, professors really do care about students and they share the hope that their students will benefit from their labors.
It seems to me that the credit for university courses that go really well must be shared, as this is always a product of group effort. A “good” course is one that students choose to create by investing energy, preparing well, taking risks, sharing thoughts and life experiences with one another, going beyond the surface level of understanding. Professors can try to create conditions that foster these desirable pedagogical ends, but it is always the students who make it happen!