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The Landscape

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"Old Questions, New Concerns: Access and Affordability in an Age of Markets"

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In a world of markets, in which public funding will continue to substantially underwrite the cost of the enterprise, how can public agencies in general and state governments in particular ensure that a college education remains affordable and the institutions that serve the market and receive public funding remain accountable? In Pennsylvania, especially, these issues and questions have taken on increased importance as the state prepares for a systematic review of its policies toward and investments in higher education.

A group of researchers were asked to document the state of higher education in the Commonwealth, addressing all of the key national trends that are also present in Pennsylvania: a shift to markets funding institutions of higher education; the new importance of a college education as a consumer necessity; the use of market mechanisms to distribute public funds for higher education; and the blurring of those distinctions that once neatly arrayed individual institutions into well-defined categories. The analyses presented in this issue of The Landscape represent the group’s initial findings, which offer a remarkably productive way to examine key issues of real importance to public policy makers at the state level.

 

"Who's On The Line? Gauging the Most Pressing Issues Facing Higher Education"
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Unlike their counterparts in private industry, higher education’s institutional leaders are not so lucky when it comes to finding the help they need to answer the pressing questions of the day. Before 2002, when the University of Pennsylvania launched The Learning Alliance for Higher Education, many institutions were left with a nagging sense that they couldn’t afford, either financially or politically, the help they needed most. What higher education really needed was a way to strike the balance between academic pursuits and the realities of the market—in large measure by coupling the leadership skills the academy has traditionally valued with the kind of expertise that focuses on markets, technology, and management practices.

Such was the logic underlying the launching of The Learning Alliance for Higher Education as the successor to Penn’s Institute for Research on Higher Education, the Pew Higher Education Roundtable, and the Knight Collaborative. Drawing on the experience garnered by those organizations over the last two decades, The Learning Alliance is becoming higher education’s decision-making hot line for higher education executives—a number they can call to work through their most pressing problems. This issue of the Landscape draws upon the substance of those phone calls and the titles of the callers, as a gauge indicating where higher education is most likely to need help and who is most likely to ask.

 

"Mixed Skies Ahead: What Happened to e-Learning and Why"
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To the dismay of many, e-learning’s reality never matched its promise—by a long shot. There has been no pedagogical revolution or financial windfall. Fathom and NYOnline are gone; Cardean U and UNext are continuing to undergo makeovers. There has been no real burgeoning of distance education—emerging successes have been limited and owe more to their past market triumphs than to the new technologies. What happened to e-learning’s potential? While all innovations make exaggerated claims, why was the forecast for e-learning so far off the mark? This issue of The Landscape sets out to address this question, using research conducted by The Weatherstation Project, a collaborative effort to provide a practical way of estimating e-learning’s current and future trajectory.

 

"Best in Show: Rethinking the Rankings Game"
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U.S. News produced its first national rankings in 1983, basing its results on the composite scores of an opinion survey of college and university presidents. Over the next two decades, the magazine both refined and made more complex its methodology, adding “quantifiable” variables and shifting the weights assigned to items, ostensibly to fine-tune its process of assessing institutional quality. The resulting methodology all but ensures that a system characterized by glacial change will seem volatile enough to have a shake-up in the ordering of institutions every year. That reshuffling has included wide swings—variations that ultimately raise the question, “What exactly is it that the U.S. News rankings are measuring?”

U.S. News’ own answer is simple and direct: the rankings identify America’s best colleges and universities by measuring quality. Researchers at The Learning Alliance of the University of Pennsylvania have an alternate answer, arguing that what the rankings actually measure are the shape and preferences of the higher education market. In this issue of The Landscape, their taxonomy segmenting the collegiate marketplace goes head-to-head with U.S. News rankings. The results indicate what the rankings game ultimately captures, as well as how institutions’ standings compare to their ordering in the market taxonomy.

 

"An Integral Part: Placing the Two-Year College in the Higher Education Market."
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Because of their traditionally unique role within the higher education enterprise, two-year institutions have always been considered in some way distinct from their four-year counterparts. However, because of the magnitude of two-year institutions, as well as their increasingly important role in higher education, many have begun to rethink their importance in the market. This issue of The Landscape informs that thinking, reporting on an analysis by the Institute for Research on Higher Education that proves the two-year market is not so distinct from its four-year counterpart.

 

"Shopping for the Right Fit: Patterns of College Choice in Postsecondary Education"
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In developing its market taxonomy for postsecondary education and Collegiate Results Survey (CRS), IRHE categorized colleges and universities according to the type of education they provided and the students they served. This retrospective framework allowed for the classification of differences and the gauging of norms, as well as the ability to compare student characteristics across the various higher- education market segments. However, the perspectives in the study were limited to those of alumni.

This Landscape reports on an effort to examine the predilections of those still "shopping" for an appropriate school to see if the educational aspirations and institutional choices of college applicants indeed mirrored those of graduates from the same market segments. The data set used by IRHE for this analysis was the Peterson's BestCollegePicks.com Web site, which uses a modified version of the CRS to match college applicants various criteria to appropriate institutions.

 

"Report to Stakeholders on the Condition and Effectiveness of Postsecondary Education, Part Three: If It Ain't Broke. . ."
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In the current economy, the nation has accepted the notion that a college degree is a necessary key to greater opportunity and financial stability. But in the past, employers have criticized American educational institutions, highlighting their inability to prepare students for the world of work.

This final installment of A Report to Stakeholders describes the perspectives of a nationally representative sample of employers on postsecondary institutions and the U.S. educational system. It shows that employers share the generally positive perception of higher education held by graduates, faculty, and the general public, preferring college-educated workers whenever possible and citing graduates' preparation for the workforce as unilaterally above-average.

 

"Sizing Up the Competition: Contours of For-Profit Higher Education"
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As for-profit colleges obtain accreditation and greater access to government-funded student aid, they are also acquiring greater legitimacy—and generating anxiety among their public and nonprofit peers. While for-profits maintain an emphasis on applied education for career preparation, they are increasingly adopting features of traditional institutions, and the financial and educational distinctions between the two sectors are increasingly blurred.

NCPI executive director Patricia Gumport and researchers Thomas Bailey and Norena Badway have culled much-needed systemic information about this sector of the postsecondary enterprise. Using national data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) and qualitative case studies, they provide preliminary answers to questions about for-profit institutions. This issue of The Landscape describes their findings on areas such as enrollment, costs, degrees offered, student characteristics, growth relative to more traditional institutions, and their potential threat to community colleges.

 

"A Report to Stakeholders on the Condition and Effectiveness of Postsecondary Education, Part Two: The Public—"A Respectable B"
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The second installment of A Report to Stakeholders gauges public opinion er education through a systematic polling of the general public as one group of postecondary stakeholders. It serves as an important tool for documenting how t the American public views a wide range of issues important to higher education, the quality of American colleges and universities, whether they are efficient or wasteful; and the extent to which minority communities have truly equal access to educational opportunities. The report was derived from results of The Household Survey, designed by Public Agenda in conjunction with the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement (NCPI), the National Center on Public Polic and Higher Education, and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE)

 

"A Report to Stakeholders on the Condition and Effectiveness of Postsecondary Education, Part One: The Recent College Graduate"
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This expanded edition of The Landscape presents the first of three reports developed by the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement that reflect the perspectives of a different group of stakeholders—recent college graduates, employers, and the general public—on the utility and value of the postsecondary enterprise. The intention of the data, concepts, and language in these reports is to assist stakeholders as they reflect on the value added that a higher education imparts. The series is intended to serve as a distinctive set of navigational soundings, proving useful in the same way that sonar assists vessels traversing difficult seas.

This first installment focuses on the outcomes of a higher education for recent college graduates—the men and women who obtained their bachelor's degrees between 1991 and 1994. The basic question asked of these graduates was, "What did you learn, and how confident do you feel about doing the things a college education is supposed to prepare you to do?" Their answers were captured by the Collegiate Results Survey (CRS), developed by NCPI researchers Robert Zemsky and Susan Shaman, in collaboration with Ann Duffield of the Knight Higher Education Collaborative. Administered in the beginning of the fall of 1999, the CRS queried graduates of 80 baccalaureate-granting colleges and universities, gathering information on their occupations, skills used in the workplace, educational activities since graduation, and current activities.

 

"Resurveying the Terrain: Refining the Taxonomy for the Postsecondary Market"
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In the three years since IRHE published a taxonomy describing the market for higher education (The Landscape, Change, November/December 1997) it has worked with a wide range of colleges and universities both to test the taxonomy's mettle and to explore how it might be used in institutional settings. The IRHE team reran its basic analysis, asking this time what proportion of the variance in the tuition charged by individual institutions could be explained by differences in five-year graduation rates. Based on this second look, IRHE recast the taxonomy itself in three fundamental ways: five-year graduation rates became taxonomy's fundamental organizing principle; a better measure of price was introduced to account for financial aid and the role of public appropriation; and slightly different segment boundaries were used to delineate public and private institutions. This issue of The Landscape reports on the broad outlines of this resurvey.

 

"Practicing What You Preach: Gauging the Civic Engagement of College Graduates"
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This issue of The Landscape transforms impressions about civic commitment—in this case, the engagement of college alumni—into facts. It answers the question, "To what extent does the pursuit of civic and volunteer activities play a major role in the lives of college graduates?" These measures represent first results from the Collegiate Results Instrument (CRI), a new national survey of college alumni derived from the work of IRHE researchers Robert Zemsky and Susan Shaman that details, among other aspects of their lives, how graduates of the 1990s feel bout civic engagement, as well as how often they do—or do not—participate in civic activity.

 

"You Can't Get There From Here: Gauging the Demand for Education and Teaching by High-Tech Employers"
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In this installment of The Landscape, Institute for Research on Higher Education (IRHE) researchers Robert Zemsky and Ricki Gever Eisenstein report on their analysis of data from the National Employer Survey (NES) on the demand for training and education among employers who differ in their use of technology in the workplace.

 

"Coming to Market: A Growing Reliance on Student-Supplied Revenue"
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The dominant fact of postsecondary finance today is that colleges and universities of every stripe are increasingly on their own; even public institutions must now rely on the market to fund their aspirations and operate their educational programs. This issue of The Landscape presents a new analysis from researcher Robert Zemsky that indicates how, in the revenue game, most institutions have benefited—though clearly some classes of campuses more than others.

 

"When the Customer is Right: Market-Driven Accountability in Postsecondary Education"
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In this issue of The Landscape, new research from the Institute for Research on Higher Education (IRHE) answers basic but important questions about trends in institutions' responsiveness to stakeholders both on and beyond their campuses: What are the characteristics of those institutions reporting increased accountability to their various consumers and stakeholders? What institutional characteristics are associated with increased accountability and which are not?

 

"Why Is Research the Rule? The Impact of Incentive Systems on Faculty Behavior"
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In this issue, The Landscape provides critical, once-missing evidence regarding the impact of incentives and rewards on faculty behavior, using data from a new study of faculty conducted by researchers William Massy and Andrea Wilger. In answering questions about what incentives and reward systems faculty believe are important—as well as what consequences those incentives have on their professional lives—these faculty members provide one of the first empirical glimpses into the motivations and environments that influence their behavior.

 

"Through a Different Lens: A New Angle on the Price Spiral in Higher Education"
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In this issue of The Landscape, a group of researchers from the Institute for Research on Higher Education (IRHE) at the University of Pennsylvania paints a different picture of higher education's development over the last half-century from the perspective of market behavior: when the focus is on markets and prices, the result is a much more consistent and less cadenced account of higher education finance.

 

"Looking Back at Revenue and Expenditure Trends: Are We Privatizing Public Higher Education?"
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In the renewed demands for financial accountability that are refocusing attention on how public institutions acquire and spend their funds, a fundamental question has been raised: Is a mix of market forces and shifts in public priorities privatizing public higher education? This issue of The Landscape, which reports on new research by Patricia Gumport and John D. Jennings of Stanford University examining financial trends over the last 20 years, provides an unexpected answer to the question of privatization.

 

"Revolution or Evolution? Gauging the Impact of Instructional Student-Assessment Strategies"
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Given the lack of quantitative information on the use and impact of student assessment strategies, many in higher education assume that the heralded revolution in gauging student performance has become, as a matter of course, widespread and innovative institutional policies within colleges and universities. This issue of The Landscape fill the empirical gap, using work by NCPI researcher Marvin Peterson on a new national survey—the first of its kind to examine the nature, extent, and impact of student assessment strategies. Although these efforts do hold great promise, what the survey suggests is that student assessment does not yet constitute a revolution, but an evolution in how institutions go about improving educational processes and outcomes.

 

"Grading Skills by Discipline: A Comparison of Faculty Instructional Goals"
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This Landscape continues the analysis of the March/April 1999 issue, reporting on a second set of instructional issues reflected in the faculty survey. While the last article asked, in essence, "Does selectivity matter?" the question now being asked is, "When does discipline matter?" Specifically, how do the learning goals that faculty set for the courses they teach vary by discipline?

 

"Telling Time: Comparing Faculty Instructional Practices at Three Types of Institutions"
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Using the research of William Massy of Stanford University and Robert Zemsky of the University of Pennsylvania, this issue of the Landscape compares the amount of time faculty at highly selective institutions spend on course-related activities and on interaction with students outside of the classroom, as compared with faculty on less selective campuses. The analysis is based on a new survey of faculty that provides a rich source of information on how they organize their teaching, how they spend their teaching time, what they expect of their students, and what kinds of learning goals they set for themselves, as well as their students.

 

"From Remediation to Acceleration: Raising the Bar in Developmental Education."
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This issue of The Landscape reports on a recent effort by Henry Levin and Bill Koski of Stanford University to establish two baselines for remedial education: first, an account of its contours, content, and consequences; and, second, an identification of program characteristics that provide alternatives to traditional conceptions of remedial programs.

 

"Casting New Light on Old Notions: a Changing Understanding of Community College Facility."
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Based on the work of Mary Taylor Huber at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (CFAT), this issue of The Landscape dispels stereotypes about community college faculty, using comparative responses of faculty from both two- and four-year institutions to a national survey conducted by CFAT. Not only do faculty at two-year institutions share many of the same values as their colleagues elsewhere, they also have taken the lead in areas identified as the future directions of reform efforts for all of postsecondary education.

 

"The Choice-Income Squeeze: How Do Costs and Discounts Affect Institutional Choice?"
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This article expands on the May/June 1997 issue of The Landscape, which documented the "price-income squeeze" in higher education, to ask a question about price and choice: As tuition has risen substantially faster than inflation, has there been a redistribution of enrollment associated with price hikes? The article reports on research by Michael McPherson of Macalester College and Morton Schapiro of the University of Southern California, that examines the relationship between financial aid; the average net tuitions that low-, middle-, and upper-income students are expected to pay at both public and private institutions; and shifts in enrollment that may be associated with family income.

 

"Are the Doors Closing? Assessing Affirmative Action at Selective Colleges and Universities"
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Based on the work of Michael Nettles, executive director of the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of the United Negro College Fund, this issue of The Landscape identifies the stake that college and universities have in maintaining affirmative action policies. The article explores evidence that represents both progress and regress in the affirmative action debate: the role these programs have played in expanding minority student entry to selective institutions and the effects of recent challenges in dramatically decreasing that access.

 

"Toward Clearer Connections: Understanding Employers’ Perceptions of College Graduates"
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This issue of The Landscape explores the question: What ought to be the connection between the worlds of work and education? While few educators understand the role that work might play in transforming education, employers complicate the matter by sending contradictory signals to schools and students about what they expect. Based on an analysis of the National Employer Survey, this issue helps to clear up some of the static by presenting the factors that influence employers' perception of the work-readiness of college graduates.

 

"Tracking a Subtle Storm: Assessment Policies in Higher Education"
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Little systemic knowledge is available to measure the extent and scope of publicly mandated outcomes assessment at the postsecondary level. By focusing on the work of Michael Nettles, John Cole, and Sally Sharp of the University of Michigan, this issue of The Landscape supplies a foundation for renewed discussion of this topic. State-level policies in all 50 states are surveyed, compared, and categorized—affording a comprehensive look at trends in current assessment practice.

 

"The User-Friendly Terrain: Defining the Market Taxonomy for Two-Year Institutions"
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Having previously described the structure of the market for baccalaureate education (November/December 1997), this Landscape asks: "Is there a similarly segmented structure to the market for two-year programs?" The answer is yes—although the differences between market segments are more muted than in the market for baccalaureate education, based more on the extent to which an institution's focus is on providing a broad range of courses or degrees and certificates.

 

"In Search of Strategic Perspective: A Tool for Mapping the Market in Postsecondary Education"
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Higher education often sees itself as an enterprise so unabashedly complex that it can't be sorted, classified, or pigeonholed. In actuality, 20 years of public policy based on the precept "student choice shall rule" has created a market for postsecondary education that can be readily described, even quantified. The research presented in this issue by the Institute for Research on Higher Education provides a tool that institutions can use to describe that market, find their places within it, and identify what they need to do in the future. This article also marks the first issue of The Landscape as a forum for research sponsored by the National Center for Postsecondary Improvement (NCPI).

 

"The Heart of the Matter: What Really Drives the Cost of an Undergraduate Education"
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What are our tuition dollars actually paying for? The research presented in this issue is based on the work of a team of graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education: Greg Dubrow, Steven Feld, Jennifer Giancola, Shaio-Rei Pan, and Weibin Xu. In an attempt to understand how colleges and universities operate within constrained budgets, these students examined institutional data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) to determine how a by number of private liberal arts colleges spend their discretionary revenue.

 

"Adding It Up: The Price-Income Squeeze in Higher Education"
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For higher education, the days of low cost (in terms of tuition) and high return (in terms of future income) have been replaced with the paradoxical sense that a college degree, while increasingly necessary, is also necessarily less rewarding. Developed as a part of the Knight Higher Education Collaborative's Executive Education Program for higher education senior administrators, the analysis presented in this issue of The Landscape examines the changing economic benefits of a college education.

 

"Where the Dollars Are: The Market for Employer-Paid Continuing Education"
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This issue of The Landscape presents a basic analysis of the continuing education market, using newly collected data drawn from the National Employer Survey. It describes the market's basic contours: who is buying and for which employees; where opportunities for inroads can be found; and how higher education can better compete with other vendors for employers' continuing education dollars.

 

"Finding Proof in the Pudding: The Viability of Reform in Higher Education"
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This issue of The Landscape focuses on the characteristics and achievements of colleges and universities nominated in 1996 for the Pew Leadership Award for the Renewal of Undergraduate Education, as well as the changes implemented by three award-winning institutions. More than simply changing curricula and administrative structures, what the winners shared most was success in changing their campus cultures without distorting their missions.

 

"A Tale of Two Cities: Perspectives on Local Education and Labor Markets"
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This issue of The Landscape examines the local conditions that shape the opportunities for young graduates to find interesting, as well as sustained, employment. Using data from the National Employer Survey, the analysis compares and contrasts the demographic, educational, and industrial profiles of five metropolitan labor markets, along with the educational preparation and perceptions of some of their young workers.

 

"Leaving Hats at the Door: Themes from the Pew Campus Roundtables"
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Probably the best documented faculty-administration conversations across the full range of colleges and universities are the campus roundtables that have been conducted by the Pew Higher Education Roundtable program. A careful read of the documentation from these roundtables provides a useful perspective for defining the range and intensity of concerns finding voice on college and university campuses. This Landscape explores some of the key themes that have emerged.

 

"Don’t Forget the Fodor’s: The Educational Journey of Transfer Students"
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Using data from the Curriculum Assessment Service (CAS) National Database, this Landscape provides insight into the academic careers of transfer students. CAS, composed of the transcripts drawn from a national sample of students who earned bachelor's degrees in the spring of 1991, includes data on course and major selections, grades, gender, and ethnicity.

 

"Graduates’ Ball and Chain: Does the Burden of Debt Limit Choices?"
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As student debt levels continue to rise, college administrators now routinely ask: "Will today’s college graduates, saddled with the weight of increased debt incurred to meet rising expenses, find their options limited?" In this Landscape, the Institute for Research on Higher Education poses a similar question. Given the experience of recent college graduates, what is the evidence that student debt constraints career and other life choices?

 

"Climbing the Ladder of Success: Post-High School Performance in the Labor Market"
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This inaugural issue of The Landscape traces one of the major changes that has occurred in higher education over the last 30 years: who goes to college, as well as when, how, and why students enroll in higher education courses.