American higher education is facing twin-crises. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored existing struggles, gaps, and inequalities throughout higher education, and spurred conversations about teaching and learning. At the same time the sector is grappling with calls to increase access and equity for students of color in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the ensuing national protests. While the world hears daily updates on medical advances in the fight against COVID-19, higher education must stay focused on the new and existing challenges highlighted by the pandemic, and continue to work together to address these challenges. In this newsletter, we highlight our recent work that addresses these challenges and points to solutions.
Catharine Bond Hill
Managing Director, Ithaka S+R
Access and equity
The pandemic threatens to roll back the already insufficient progress colleges and universities have made to expand educational opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds. Through a number of initiatives, we are seeking to improve access and degree attainment for historically underserved students.
- Advancing Technological Equity for Incarcerated College Students
- FEATuring YOU: A Soft Skills Training and Assessment Program for Opportunity Youth
- Going Test Optional with Equity in Mind
- Ithaka S+R to Expand Transfer Improvement Efforts with CUNY
- Making the Case for Student Veterans
- Measuring the Whole Student: Landscape Review of Traditional and Holistic Approaches to Community College Student Success
- Policies to Ensure Equitable Access to Well-Resourced Colleges and Universities
- Solving Stranded Credits: Assessing the Scope and Effects of Transcript Withholding on Students, States, and Institutions
- Transfer Pathways to Independent Colleges
While numerous colleges and universities have enacted hiring freezes, furloughs, and layoffs as a result of economic strain caused by the pandemic, we anticipate that the financial outlook for higher education will be further affected as tax revenue declines, states cut funding, and enrollment softens. Our research explores how higher education and related sectors are navigating this environment.
- Academic Library Strategy and Budgeting During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Higher Ed’s Response to COVID-19 and Plans for Reopening
- The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Research Enterprise
- Reimagining State Higher Education Funding
- Scholarly Societies in the Age of COVID
Teaching and learning
Through several projects, we look at how students and faculty experienced the disrupted spring semester, its impact on instruction and student learning outcomes, and how to make online teaching more effective.
- Estimating the Impact of COVID-19 on Students’ Academic Outcomes
- Student Experiences During the Pandemic Pivot
- Student and Faculty Experiences with Emergency Remote Learning in Spring 2020
- Student Success, Basic Needs, and the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Teaching with Cultural Heritage Online During the Pandemic
- Transitioning to Online Introductory Math
In October, Ithaka S+R announced that we are embarking on a new project funded by Ascendium Education Group that will allow us to expand our current work on increasing access to quality educational resources for higher education in prison (HEP) programs. We recently asked Toya Wall, a senior program officer at Ascendium, about the challenges facing postsecondary education in prison and her organization’s focus on increasing access for incarcerated learners.
Could you tell us about Ascendium’s approach to addressing the barriers that incarcerated learners face in accessing high-quality postsecondary education?
Ascendium is working to change postsecondary education and workforce systems so that low-income learners, and in this case incarcerated learners, have equitable opportunities for socioeconomic mobility. Our goal is to work at a structural level—addressing the institutional budget, policy, practice and cultural dynamics that undermine educational quality as well as incarcerated student access and success.
In 2019, after a long period of listening to and learning from the field, we rolled out a strategic framework to guide our philanthropic investments in postsecondary education in prison (PEP). From our conversations with leaders in the field we learned three key things:
- Access is limited: While 64 percent of incarcerated people have at least a high school credential and are eligible for postsecondary education, less than 10 percent of degree granting colleges and universities are engaged in a college/prison partnership.
- Data is limited: There’s a lot we have yet to learn about the factors and conditions that influence incarcerated student education and career success. Additionally, there are a number of barriers to collecting, sharing and applying disaggregated student success data.
- Partnership is critical: Strategic, coordinated, multi-sector partnership is key to scaling access to high-quality postsecondary education across entire prison systems.
To address these issues, Ascendium is working to support innovative, effective, PEP delivery models. For us it’s not only an opportunity to expand access to college and career pathways, it also enables us to surface and share institutional policy and practice barriers that might have otherwise remained concealed. Typically, we are looking at projects that have systematic implication and that advance the field as a whole.
In the News
December 9, 2020
Library Leaders Brace for Budget Cuts
Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Ed
December 7, 2020
College Transfer in the COVID-19 Era: Expectations vs. Reality
Michelle Dimino, The Third Way
December 1, 2020,
Veterans and COVID-19
Madeleine St. Amour, Inside Higher Ed
December 1, 2020
Senior Research Officers Fill Growing Jobs
Emma Whitford, Inside Higher Ed
December 1, 2020
Why Senior Research Leaders Are Starting to See Themselves as ‘Chief Revenue Officers’
Lindsay Ellis, The Chronicle of Higher Education
November 23, 2020
Strategies for scaling up quality online courses in higher education
Mike Fried and Jenna Joo, Times Higher Education
November 23, 2020
Community colleges are helping students more than ever in the pandemic
Christine Wolff-Eisenberg and Michelle Dimino, The Hechinger Report
November 12, 2020
A ‘snapshot in time’: how US museum directors viewed their world before the pandemic
Nancy Kenney, The Arts Newspaper
October 22, 2020
Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe and Christine Wolff-Eisenberg on the Final Ithaka Academic Library COVID-19 Response Survey Results
Lisa Peet, Library Journal
October 21, 2020
Researcher Martin Kurzweil on Why More Data is Needed to Prevent Fraud and Confusion in the Non-Degree Credential Landscape
Laura Fay, The 74
September 29, 2020
A Framework for Measuring Liberal Arts-Ness
Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed
September 29, 2020
Does focusing on liberal arts improve labor market outcomes?
Natalie Schwartz, Education Dive