Developments in Higher Education: 11/10

Increased instructional spending will improve student employment outcomes

Recent studies released by Inside Higher Ed have shown that increased funding for instructional costs will lead to improved benefits for students, including better post-undergraduate employment prospects. In particular, the results suggested that investing in specific services such as career-oriented programs would benefit students the most. These investments would not only make up for disparities between college students’ socioeconomic backgrounds, but would also increase all students’ chances of obtaining a full-time job after college. According to Inside Higher Ed, current research has shown that for educational institutions, increased spending in student services generally correlates with better employment outcomes for undergraduate students. A possible reason for this correlation is that these services offer opportunities for improving job-related skills, such as interviewing, networking and writing resumes.

Food insecurities rise on college campuses

Many students who come from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds have trouble paying for food on campus. According to a recent report from The Chronicle of Higher Education, when money gets tight, students reduce food expenses first. Different undergraduate institutions offer a variety of meal plans, including allotting students a certain number of meals per week. Students can choose to be on relatively cheaper meal plans in exchange for consuming less meals. While using a less expensive meal plan may reduce tuition and financial costs, eating less leads to a variety of other concerns including anxiety, depression and other health-related issues. At Western Oregon University, students have started to organize food pantries on campus that include groceries and unused food from the dining halls, where their peers are allowed to eat for free. At other colleges, including Columbia University, students have created a Facebook page and a mobile app where hungry students can be swiped into dining halls for free by another peer. Although Wellesley requires all resident students to be on the all-you-can-eat meal plan, many first-generation or low-income students in the college community experience financial challenges. In addition to raising awareness about food insecurities, many colleges, including Columbia and Wellesley, have created Facebook groups titled “Class Confessions” where students can voice their opinions on other socioeconomic issues.

Graduation rates for college athletes increases

According to the Los Angeles Times, college athletes across the country have been taking academics and athletics more seriously, which is reflected in higher graduation rates for athletes per year. According to National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) officials, college athletes often neglect their studies due to the time commitments of participating in college sports. The overall graduation rate among college athletes across the nation is currently 67 percent, slightly above the overall student graduation rate of 65 percent. The report also showed that in the past year, the graduation rate for men’s basketball athletes increased from 67 percent to 72 percent, while the graduation rate for women’s basketball athletes increased from 79 percent to 84 percent. According to the NCAA, these developments overall indicate that 16,565 more athletes have received college degrees.

Expectations for Trustees rise 

In the past, trustees have been known to financially support an institution’s programs, services, and tuition of students. According to a recent article in the New York Times, the expectations of a trustee today extend beyond simply writing a check as a financial contribution. Instead, almunae and other donors are also expected to offer time and work commitments that are specific to their skills. These changing demands have also forced college advisory boards to carefully consider who becomes a member, and more importantly, whether they can commit to attending the board meetings as well as contribute their expertise to the college. Because advisory boards generally administer the way an institution is run, college leaders claim it is vital that the board consists of individuals diverse in gender, cultural background and job expertise. In a report from the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, only 12 percent of the board members were female and one percent were black in 1969. In 2010, these numbers have increased to over 30 percent female and 7.4 percent black. Wellesley’s own board of trustees consists of diverse members from a variety of occupational and cultural backgrounds, including individuals – both male and female – from New Delhi, Honolulu, London as well as Boston.

Student debt and college tuition have now leveled out since 2008 recession

During the 2008 economic recession, many students saw their college tuition prices and loans increase sharply. According to Inside Higher Ed, these two expenses have now declined and statistics indicate that they are at their lowest levels since the 1970s. In 2014, the average undergraduate student who took out a loan from the Stafford Subsidized Loan Program borrowed 9 percent less than in 2010. Administrators say that the reason for this decline in debts is because college enrollment decreased slightly during the recession. During this economic downfall, there was a lack of students who went to college because they couldn’t find  employment elsewhere. Community colleges also saw a decline in enrollment, although much less than that of private institutions. Between 2010 and 2013, postsecondary enrollment also declined by three percent. Additionally, college tuition has been steadily rising over the past few years, although the increases are less than in past years. In the last 10 years, public colleges and universities increased their average annual tuition by 3.4 percent, and private institutions by 2.4 percent.

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