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The Intersection of Pell and Other Stuff

by Tod Massa 25. September 2015 22:34

First off, I presented the enrollment projections for discussion, not action, this week. We felt that the Council should have a bit more opportunity to suggest direction after considering the final projections. So, final action will be at the October meeting.


Second, we updated the reports on graduate debt yesterday, so the 2013-14 data are now available. I will be writing something up about that next week.

Third, there was another report on Pell graduation rates released, this one by the Education Trust. It has data on 1,500 four-year colleges and universities, but doesn't tell us anything new. Especially for Virginia.

In a nutshell, we know:

  • At the state level, disparities are greater in grad rates for Pell, and non-Pell. 
  • At the institution-level, the disparities tend to be much less.
  • Institutional differences: resources and student body makeup affect student outcomes.
  • There are similar difference in graduation rates by family income at entry, by levels of unmet financial need, and a host of other factors.
We know these things and so we are trying to take action. The Virginia Plan for Higher Education (which is part of this presentation) has this as a Goal: Optimize Student Success for Work and Life
  • Strengthen curricular options to ensure that graduates are prepared with the competencies necessary for employment and civic engagement
  • Provide effective academic and student services infrastructures focused on persistence and completion
  • Increase on-time completion of certificates and degrees
  • Engage adults and veterans in certificate and degree completion and lifelong learning
Our measure for this goal is to close the gap in student success between traditionally under-represented student populations and traditional populations by 2030. It is a big lift and may take every one of the intervening years to do so.
As I think about this goal, I begin to wonder what the next stories are. It is not just the presence or absence of Pell that defines the outcome, Pell is simply a marker for relative wealth (and preparation, experiences, and all the things that wealth helps make possible). Pell is used because Pell graduation rates have been required since 2008 and the passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act to reauthorize Title IV and all the other federal higher ed programs. 
Also, not everyone else has the data we have.
So, I think about what else we need to know, what interactions we need to know more about, what we need to uncover.
Because of Twitter and the way I use it as a news dashboard and as crash courses in number of academic fields I of which lack adequate knowledge, I end up reading lot. A recent article in the Washington Post on "Intersectionality" and its companion piece are helpful in approaching this from different angles of race and gender.
This blog post, "College Degrees or College Education," is also helpful as it reminds us, not only to be mindful of the tension between education and credential-seeking, but that the easily measured is often not the most important thing, it may simply be the available thing. It may also reflect what we actually believe, but have not yet admitted to ourselves.


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