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May 15, 2019

What Can We Learn from Publicly Available Data on College Students’ Income Distribution?

In January 2017 researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project—now called Opportunity Insights—released detailed data on the financial circumstances of undergraduate students at each of the vast majority of American colleges and universities. Covering students born between 1980 and 1991, and relying on tax records held by the Internal Revenue Service, the publicly available Opportunity Insights data provided a nuanced look at the family income distribution as well as subsequent earnings of a generation of college-goers. The Opportunity Insights dataset…
March 21, 2019

Understanding the Value of the Liberal Arts

Last year, Catharine Bond Hill and Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta undertook a study on the economic benefits and costs of a liberal arts education on behalf of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. As they note in the report, critics claim that the value of a liberal arts education–in terms of both the increasing costs to delivering higher education and in students’ diminished earnings–is limited, especially compared to alternative…
December 17, 2018

American Talent Initiative Publishes First Public Report on Progress

In December 2016, 30 leading colleges and universities joined forces to address a persistent problem: Too few talented, low- and moderate-income students from across the country were enrolled at the U.S. colleges and universities with the highest graduation rates. By joining the American Talent Initiative (ATI), an initiative co-managed by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, these colleges and universities committed to work together to change this reality. Specifically, these colleges and universities set a…
October 22, 2018

Martin Kurzweil in Change Magazine

Alternative Postsecondary Pathways: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and Why It Matters

Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning recently published its 50th anniversary issue, featuring invited essays offering insights on a wide range of higher education’s most pressing issues. Drawing on his prior research on the subject for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education, Ithaka S+R’s Martin Kurzweil contributed a piece discussing “Alternative Postsecondary Pathways: What We Know, What We Don’t Know, and Why It Matters.” As Change Editor David Paris…
October 3, 2018

Assessing the Impact of State Policies on Higher Education Attainment

Ithaka S+R Launches New Research Project in Partnership with the Joyce Foundation

While aspirations to attend college are now more common among high school students, the opportunity to pursue higher education and complete a degree in order to enjoy the lifelong benefits of a college education varies widely by students’ race and socioeconomic background. Through financial support of public institutions, tax benefits for private institutions, student financial aid, and regulation of the higher education marketplace, state governments have the potential to mitigate these inequities for their residents. Yet with wide…
April 18, 2018

American Talent Initiative Reaches 100 Schools Committed to Expanding Opportunity for More High-Achieving, Low-and Moderate-Income Students

We’re happy to share the news that the American Talent Initiative now includes 100 institutions committed to expanding opportunity for more high-achieving, low- and moderate-income students. The full press release about reaching this milestone is below.   In just over a year, ATI has grown from 30 to 100 institutions working to attract, enroll, and graduate high-achieving, low- and moderate-income college students The American Talent Initiative (ATI), a Bloomberg Philanthropies initiative led by the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence…
March 2, 2018

Invest in Talent to Move the Dial on Socioeconomic Diversity on Nation’s College Campuses

Invest in talented young adults, and they will help us solve the world’s problems. That was the charge of Dan Porterfield, president of Franklin & Marshall College and incoming president of the Aspen Institute, to college and university presidents who gathered February 22-23 in New York City for the American Talent Initiative annual presidential summit. The effort, funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and co-led by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program and Ithaka S+R, has an ambitious goal: attract, enroll and…
February 28, 2018

Insights from the William G. Bowen Colloquium on Higher Education Leadership

Last November, we held the inaugural William G. Bowen Colloquium on Higher Education Leadership. Named for our late, founding board chair and president emeritus of Princeton University and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the event brought together 50 higher education leaders and experts to discuss several contemporary challenges including diversity and inclusiveness, free speech and student activism, and the role of technology in higher education. Today, Kevin Guthrie, Cappy Hill, and I are publishing three papers…
January 29, 2018

Facing Declining Enrollment, Liberal Arts Colleges Turn to New Modes of Instruction

Lessons from a Teagle Grant Program

Over each of the past five years, the total number of undergraduate students in the United States has declined. There are multiple potential reasons for this trend: rising tuition, questions about the value of a postsecondary education, and shifting demographics have all likely contributed. While the impact of this trend has been felt across higher education institutions, private liberal arts colleges have been hit particularly hard, as have liberal arts programs offered at public institutions, marked by a…
October 31, 2017

In New Survey, Higher Ed Insiders Share Concerns about Impact of Federal Policy Changes under President Trump

In May and June of 2017, we surveyed the Ithaka S+R Higher Ed Insights panel—164 senior leaders and experts at colleges and universities, associations, research groups, and philanthropies—about the state of higher education and the likely impact of recent events and trends. (You can learn more about our Higher Ed Insights Project here.) Today, in “Higher Ed Insights: Results of the Spring 2017 Survey,” Rayane Alamuddin, Daniel Rossman, and I report the findings of that survey. While respondents…
September 19, 2017

Evaluating Online Instruction

CIC Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction II

Since 2014, the Council of Independent Colleges, with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, has organized a consortium of faculty and administrators from its member institutions who design and teach online courses in humanities. The members of the Consortium for Online Humanities Instruction first offer the course to students from their own institutions and then to students from any of the Consortium institutions. The second two-year Consortium cohort just completed its first year of work, designing and teaching…
July 19, 2017

Alternative Postsecondary Pathways

Millions of Americans receive postsecondary training through programs that don’t lead to an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. What do these programs offer?  Who enrolls in them?  How do the students who complete these programs fare? These are some of the questions Jessie Brown and I sought to answer when we embarked on a research project for the Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The resulting paper, “The Complex Universe…
June 8, 2017

How to Assure Quality in Higher Education?

Focus on Innovation, Minimum Standards, and Continuous Improvement

The U.S. quality assurance system—focused mainly on accreditation as a threshold for federal financial aid eligibility—has done a poor job of assuring quality. Barely 60 percent of first-time students complete a bachelor’s degree and 40 percent complete an associate’s degree at the institution where they started. These overall results mask a wide range of outcomes across institutions. As a result, many students, parents, and policymakers question the value of their massive investment in postsecondary education. Can the accreditation process be…
March 13, 2017

Can an Investment in Instruction Improve a College’s Bottom Line?

Colleges and universities are under increasing pressure to simultaneously cut costs and improve student learning outcomes. There is a perceived tension between these goals: the conventional wisdom is that increasing instructional quality is not possible without increasing expenditures, but colleges and universities have limited resources to spend on improving instructional quality. But what if the relationship between institutional finances and instructional quality were more complex than that? In Instructional Quality, Student Outcomes, and Institutional Finances, a new white paper…
February 15, 2017

Finding Funds to Support Student Access and Success

Ithaka S+R’s First Strategy Paper for the American Talent Initiative

There is ample evidence that low- and moderate-income students with the talent to earn admission thrive at top institutions when their financial needs are met, and graduate at higher rates than they do at less competitive schools. Yet, most top-performing colleges and universities consider students’ ability to pay in admissions decisions, at times accepting less talented full-pay students in order to meet revenue targets. For those lower-income applicants who are admitted, many institutions struggle to meet their full financial need.
December 13, 2016

Joining Together to Expand Access and Opportunity

Introducing the American Talent Initiative

Thirty of the nation’s most respected colleges and universities today announced a new venture to substantially expand the number of talented low- and moderate-income students at America’s undergraduate institutions with the highest graduation rates. Coordinated by Ithaka S+R and the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program and supported by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the American Talent Initiative (ATI) brings together a diverse set of public and private institutions to ensure that talented young people from every zip code…
October 20, 2016

Four Strategic Essentials for Institution-Wide Improvement in Student Success

Over the past decade, colleges and universities have faced increasing pressure to improve degree completion rates and demonstrate their value to students. At the same time, evidence has accumulated about efficacy of a number of structural and pedagogical changes institutions can make to help students succeed. Tactics including remedial course redesign, proactive advising and coaching, active learning pedagogies incorporating technology, and guided pathways now have a solid research base. Yet despite this great motivation and the availability of evidence-supported practices,…
October 6, 2016

From Learning Science to Learning Engineering

Kaplan University’s Systematic Improvement Process

Facilitated by growth in the availability of data about learners, scholars in cognitive science, psychology, computer science, and other disciplines have developed sophisticated insights about how people learn and succeed in academic contexts. Yet, growth in the field of “learning science” has far outpaced higher education institutions’ efforts to apply its insights to their students’ experience. Leaders at Kaplan, Inc., a company serving over a million learners in various programs, believe that a practical corollary to learning science is needed.
September 29, 2016

The Three Greatest Obstacles to Improving Student Success?

Higher Ed Insiders Cite State Funding, Faculty Incentives, and Administrative Silos

A diverse group of 85 higher education leaders and experts identified insufficient state funding of public institutions of higher education as the most significant obstacle to improving American students’ postsecondary outcomes. But aside from the shortfall in that critical public investment, respondents to the Spring 2016 Ithaka S+R Higher Ed Insights Survey flagged institutional policies, practices, and culture as the greatest impediments to improving student success. The most promising solutions to those obstacles, according to respondents, are greater incentives for…
September 6, 2016

Stanford and Ithaka S+R Project on Responsible Use of Student Data in Higher Education

Newly available student data are making it possible to understand, improve, and represent student postsecondary learning and other outcomes in profoundly different ways. Yet the potential of these new uses remains under-realized. In addition to technical and coordination challenges, researchers, administrators, and instructors are facing complex questions about how to use these data responsibly. Ithaka S+R and Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Research through Online Learning (CAROL) have partnered on a new initiative to catalyze discussion, create resources, and…