Planning Technologies, Wage Data and Picking a Major; The Week in LINKS

Congratulations SMC faculty and staff!

You survived week three of the sure-doesnt-feel-like-fall semester. For those of you in some of our older buildings, the ones with #Suboptimal AC, we salute you!


Here are some education and research related links for the week:

"IPAS tools allow students to develop clearer pathways through college, and enable faculty and advisers to monitor and reach out to individual students who get off track. They hold the promise of improving student retention rates, persistence and completion. But ongoing research into IPAS implementation and use indicates that most colleges have not spent sufficient time envisioning what they hope to achieve with the technology, and how exactly they hope to achieve it.”

-Making the Most of Advising and Planning Technologies

"Just because they don’t require a particular SAT score for admission does not mean that classes aren’t hard or that getting a degree isn’t going to take a tremendous amount of effort and sacrifice."

-The Biggest Misconception About Community College

"The forthcoming study by Di Xu and Madeline Trimble, both of whom are researchers at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, measured the wages of former students who earned short-term certificates from community colleges in Virginia and North Carolina.

“We see positive, significant returns,” said Trimble.”

-Wage Data Done Right

"The Census Bureau released new data Tuesday on the pay gap between men and women, showing a statistically insignificant increase. But the news is better than it might seem."

-Pay Gap Is Smaller Than Ever, and Still Stubbornly Large

"The link between education and earnings is notoriously fraught, with cause and effect often difficult to disentangle. But a look at detailed data on college graduates by major reveals some clear messages: Don’t be pre-med if you aren’t planning to go to medical school; don’t assume that all “STEM” — science, technology, engineering and math — majors are the same; and if you study drama, be prepared to wait tables."

-The Economic Guide To Picking A College Major

Making 15 Units Full-Time Status

While federal financial aid standards require students to enroll in 12 units to be considered full time,students actually need to be enrolled in 15 units in order to complete 60 units in two academic years (excluding summer/winter sessions, of course).

The CCRC recently released a new paper on the movement towards redefining full time status as enrolling in 15 units a term. They note that research has shown that:

"High enrollment intensity…and high enrollment continuity…are strongly correlated with college success for students at both two- and four-year institutions…The more courses students take (and pass) and the sooner they do so, the more likely they are to graduate"

With that in mind, they provide an overview of strategies to promote enrollment in 15 credit per term. They fall under three broader categories:

  • Tying state or institutional financial aid to 15 credits per semester. Or alternatively 30 credits per year.
  • Public awareness campaigns that promote the importance of 15 credits. This includes the University of Hawaii’s “15 to Finish” initiative.
  • Creating credit caps, such as limiting associate degrees to 60 units.

The authors do note that these policies do have a few unintended consequences, particularly for students working 30 or more hours a week. Additionally they may require colleges and universities to increase investments in existing support programs, or create new ones.

You can download the full paper here.


About four-in-ten of those younger than 30 (43%) say there are plenty of jobs in their local communities, but just 27% say good jobs are plentiful. Among older age groups, there is less of a disparity in views of the availability of jobs generally and good jobs.


About four-in-ten of those younger than 30 (43%) say there are plenty of jobs in their local communities, but just 27% say good jobs are plentiful. Among older age groups, there is less of a disparity in views of the availability of jobs generally and good jobs.

Welcome Back! Here are some LINKS:

"With this challenge in mind, the California Community Colleges Board of Governors has set an ambitious goal to help California meet its workforce needs: Community colleges will seek to increase the number of students earning certificates, degrees, or transferring to four-year institutions by 227,250 by the time the next 10 incoming freshman classes, including those arriving at our campuses this month, are finished."

- Community College Have Ambitious Goal to Boost State’s Workforce

A series of federal surveys of selective colleges found virtually no change from the 1990s to 2012 in enrollment of students who are less well off — less than 15 percent by some measures — even though there was a huge increase over that time in the number of such students going to college. Similar studies looking at a narrower range of top wealthy universities back those findings. With race-based affirmative action losing both judicial and public support, many have urged selective colleges to shift more focus to economic diversity.”

-Generation Later, Poor Are Still Rare at Elite Colleges 

(You can see our previous post on this topic, with research from the Brooking’s Institute here)

study of first-year students at the Air Force Academy found that students who weren’t assigned to 8 a.m. classes had higher grades across the board than students who took earlier classes.Research in Chicago Public Schools found that the later in the day students studied English and math, the higher they scored on standardized tests at the end of the year. After controlling for various characteristics, test scores went up in North Carolina’s Wake County School District when middle school started an hour later.”

- The Case for Letting High School Students Sleep In

ICYMI: We have a series of posts on Institutional Research’s role in SMC’s accreditation self-study. You can find the links here.

Letting the LINKS do the talking…

"Intermediate algebra is linked with college and career success simply because colleges have long made it an entrance requirement. There is no empirical evidence directly linking intermediate algebra to career success – outside of science and technology fields that are rooted in calculus (to which intermediate algebra is a stepping stone).

- How Redesigning Math Education Might Produce More College Grads  

via @MSCollegeOps


In Florida this fall, a new law will force all of the state’s public colleges and universities to presume that all students who graduated from a Florida public high school after 2004 are academically prepared for college. Public colleges in Florida will have the option of assessing a student’s academic standing using tests, high school GPAs, and other measures—and they may advise students with limited skills to take remedial classes. In the end, though, students themselves will decide whether they want to enroll in remedial classes or enter directly into introductory courses.”

- Why Florida is Ending Remedial Education for College Students

via @CommunityCCRC


The Tennessee law will enable students to attend the state’s 13 community colleges and 27 technical schools tuition-free in hopes of raising the number of college graduates in the state from 32 to 55 percent by 2025. (The national average is now 42 percent.) The program will be funded largely by lottery money and will also somewhat reduce scholarships at the state’s four-year institutions. If a trade-off has to be made, this one may be worth it to upgrade a workforce judged in one survey to be of low quality. Other states—and the private sector—are watching closely. Oregon has plans to make community college free, and Mississippi may try again after the death of a bill this year. These efforts should be viewed as models for other states to emulate. “

- Why Community College Should be Free

via @jjHetts

CUNY designed a research project to track how 717 students with remedial needs progressed through three different math courses. One group of students took the noncredit remedial algebra course. Another took the same course but also participated in an additional weekly workshop. The third group took introductory statistics with a weekly workshop.

The statistics course had the highest pass rate, at 56 percent. The remedial course with the workshop was next with a 45 percent pass rate. That same course minus the workshop came in at 39 percent.

"Sabermetrics Get Soft"

While this article from Grantland is not about education research or policy, we thought this passage, focusing on changes being made by baseball’s Houston Astros, interesting: 

Last year, the Astros hired a new bench coach, Eduardo Perez, who was receptive to front-office recommendations. With Perez (who’s now an ESPN analyst) on hand to help corral rebellious players, the Astros shifted 96 times in April. Then, Luhnow said, “The complaints started to come from the pitchers, from some of the infielders, from the media, from basically anybody out there, and sure enough, as the season wore on, we found more and more reasons not to do the shift.” The Astros’ shift totals fell to 33 in May and 32 in June (though their rate rebounded later in the year, particularly in September).

As a result, Luhnow said, the Astros realized that in order to make an experiment stick, “You’ve got to market it to the people that are involved.”This spring, the Astros spent an hour explaining the thought process behind the shift to the team’s pitching staff, building a tool to display evidence that would answer any questions the players might ask. “I think they weren’t completely satisfied, but I think they felt like we had at least given them a lot more information, and this year we haven’t had anywhere near the pushback from our pitching staff that we did last year,” Luhnow said. Houston also started shifting in the minor leagues to ease the adjustment to the majors. This year, the Astros are leading the majors in shifts by a wide margin, and their monthly totals tell a more consistent story: 272, 263, 208, and 216, with a pace that would put them close to 300 in August.

Does this process sound familiar to the institutional researchers out there? 

On related notes, Leonhardt repeats his errors in over-stating the resources available to the middle-class, and in failing to recognize the role that government-financed aid plays in keeping college prices down. Given its endowment of more than $1.8 billion, taxpayers could reasonably ask why Amherst should be allowed to benefit from funds provided by the federal Pell Grant and federally-backed student loans? Those funds help the school first and foremost, and leave students and families far short of what they need to actually afford such a pricey institution.

That question is a major theme of a 213-page report released on Monday by a committee at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology exploring how the 153-year-old engineering powerhouse should innovate to adapt to new technologies and new student expectations.

“The very notion of a ‘class’ may be outdated,” the report argues. That line appears in the context of online courses, but one of the report’s authors, Sanjay Sarma, who leads MIT’s experiments with massive open online courses, said in an email interview that the sentiment could apply to in-person settings as well.

(Source: pewresearch)

"Actually, because I enjoy this type of thing – I could make a pretty strong argument that achievement of these outcomes will get better under the revised structured pathways model.  At the moment, under the traditional model, it’s up to the student to arrange the 10-14 courses from the long lists of possibilities, and we make the assumption that somehow – magically – they will do so in a way that will arrange 10-14 courses that produce a high level of achievement of the general education outcomes.  I have to say, this seems an odd argument to me – and the evidence from industry suggests it may not be working as well as we might like.  It also seems that if we empower the subject matter experts – discipline faculty in the fields in which students are graduating – to do as Sinclair CC in Ohio did under CBD, and have each discipline’s faculty suggest a short list of general education electives that would be best for students who graduate in their disciplines, that we will have a much better sense of how the combination of classes arrange for each student.   Ultimately, our ability to monitor and improve students’ achievement of these general education outcomes – the hallmark of a liberal arts education – seems likely to improve under a structured pathways approach.”

-Rob Johnstone, Founder & President at the National Center for Inquiry & Improvement .