Higher Education News
A lesson for admissions professionals in the arts of engagement across the campus, enlisting support and making allies everywhere, but chiefly at the top.
Many colleges offer such programs. But it’s tricky to tell whether they improve students’ decisions, now or in the future.
The students say the university didn’t do enough to protect them, and their education suffered as a result.
Social media is important, but applicants might not use it as you think. As for brochures, don’t waste the trees.
Much is changing in higher education.
Most fundamentally, students themselves are changing. After long decades of exclusion, college access has expanded opportunities for minority students, first-generation students, and low-income students. In 2015, students are more likely to attend community college than any other postsecondary option, and more likely to be older, living away from campus, and may be attending part-time while balancing work and family.The iconic picture of an 18-year-old high school graduate walking across a leafy campus toward her dorm room no longer reflects the reality of today’s college student.
Institutions of higher education are responding to these changes, in part by making course delivery more flexible. Technology has made this even more possible, introducing teaching and learning that is less constrained by time and place. Technology is also making new kinds of embedded assessment and adaptive curriculum possible, allowing instructors and students to discern with greater accuracy a student’s mastery of material or skills.
The demand for higher education is increasing, well beyond the capacity of traditional institutions. It’s easy to see why. As President Obama has said, the time when a high school diploma could lead to a good middle class job is gone. In today’s economy and tomorrow’s, some kind of postsecondary degree or credential is essential. That’s why we are committed to policies that increase access to high-quality programs, to keeping those programs affordable for all, and to ensuring quality outcomes for students.
Outside of the traditional colleges and universities, a vibrant marketplace for learning is emerging, whether through stand-alone MOOCS, “boot camps” that focus on training students for particular skills like computer coding, online skills courses, and institutional experimentation with competency-based programs and degrees. We applaud this wave of innovation and believe that the innovators are leading the way to a system of higher education that is more open, often less costly, more customizable to the needs of students, and more transparent in terms of its outcomes.
Many of the programs now offered outside of traditional higher education are of high quality and many earn learners access to new knowledge, new skills, and new opportunities. Some, however, are not. That’s not the problem, though. The problem is that we have few tools to differentiate the high-quality programs from the poor-quality ones. The normal mechanism we use to assess quality in higher education, accreditation, was not built to assess these kinds of providers. Moreover, even if they were, even the best programs and those serving low-income students would not, under current rules, be certified to receive federal financial aid because they are “programs” or “courses,” and not “institutions.”
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) is interested in accelerating and focusing the ongoing conversations about what quality assurance might look like in the era of rapidly expanding educational options that are not traditional institutions of higher education. We are particularly interested in thinking about quality assurance through the lens of measurable student outcomes and competencies. We have no stake in supporting one or another specific set of learning outcomes. Rather, we are interested in the fact that outcomes matter and ought to be the centerpiece of any kind of quality assurance. Outcomes, in this vision of the future, are clear claims for student learning, move beyond mere statements of knowledge to what students can do with that knowledge, and are measurable.
Join a Conversation
Over the coming weeks and months, we seek to engage broadly with the field to help deepen our understanding of how to recognize high-quality non-traditional programs. We think that a new set of quality assurance questions will need to be developed to ask hard, important questions about student learning and outcomes. These questions will help students, taxpayers, and those evaluating educational programs separate programs that are high-quality from those that do not meet the bar. Such a quality assurance process will rely much less on inputs, where the emphasis of much accreditation still rests, and will instead focus on outputs and evidence.
Based on some preliminary input we have received, we have identified several general categories in which questions should be asked:
- Claims: What are the measurable claims that a provider is making about student learning? Do those individual claims combine into a coherent program of study? Are they relevant and do they have value; how do we know?
- Assessments: How is it clear that the student has achieved the learning outcomes? Are the assessments reliable and valid? Do the assessments measure what students can do with what they have learned?
- Outcomes: What outcomes do program completers achieve, both in terms of academic transfer or employment and salary, where relevant? What are other outcomes we should ask about?
These quality assurance questions are designed to focus on student learning and other critical outcomes at a much more granular level. We welcome feedback and sustained dialogue on how to foster and improve quality assurance, particularly in this moment of tremendous innovation and change. We seek to convene, participate in, and hear the results of many conversations with diverse stakeholders. To join those conversations, please fill out the form below, or send us your thoughts, questions, and ideas for engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org.[contact-form-7]
Ted Mitchell is U.S. Under Secretary of Education
To recruit service members, colleges must first get on their radar, and for-profit institutions seem to have an advantage.
Grace College and Seminary, in Indiana, hopes its affordability program will be a hit with prospective freshmen.
The Russian Parliament is considering a ban on some foreign scientists and groups that run academic exchanges.
ED recently invited a group of transgender students to speak about their school experiences at a roundtable discussion with Secretary Duncan and senior officials.
During the roundtable in the Secretary’s conference room, students expressed the need for greater awareness of and school support for addressing issues affecting transgender students. They emphasized the importance of having their gender identity and expression respected within their learning community and feeling safe in school.
During the discussion, students talked about their experiences in school, such as being prevented from using the proper bathroom as well as being punished as a victim of bullies’ physical assaults. They also talked about what a tremendous difference it makes to their ability to learn and feel safe at school when they have the support of educators who believe in them.
ED officials listened to the students’ recommendations about how we can foster safer educational communities for transgender youth and ensure that all students can learn in safe and healthy environments. Among other things, students advocated for:
- schools to implement proper bathroom and locker room utilization,
- consistent recognition of appropriate names and pronouns, and
- elimination of the school to prison pipeline.
ED welcomed the dialogue and the chance to hear from these students. As one student explained, “It’s all about being true to yourself.” Embracing individuality and authenticity is a lesson that we all can learn from these courageous students.
Samuel Ryan is the Special Assistant and Youth Liaison and Hannah Pomfret attends McGill University and is an intern at U.S. Department of Education.
For some scholars, the news of psychologists' abetting torture by the U.S. government sounded a wake-up call.
Responding to concerns that transcripts don’t mean enough to employers, some colleges are experimenting with new ways to let students show off their skills.
The university’s president is pitching a plan to raise enrollment by developing a new set of courses with a Texas-based company, Academic Partnerships. But many professors are wary.
A discussion over the wording of a public statement encapsulates how the American Psychological Association provided cover to psychologists.
In the runup to its decision to close, the women’s college talked about becoming "an extension of UVa." Here’s how that almost happened, and why it didn’t.
While business schools have an important role to play in luring female candidates, recruiters are responsible for finding a market-based solution to the problem.
The American Psychological Association’s role in supporting torture by the U.S. military is not the only thing that makes it stand out.
The group was scolded for diluting its ethics code and engaging in a "disingenuous media strategy" at the behest of the U.S. military.
Rohit Chopra, a former official at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, talks about the pitfalls of what he calls a "broken" system and the pressures on for-profit colleges.