AACRAO Eye on Research July 2016

by Wendy Kilgore | Jul 27, 2016

Commentary

Late June and early July was a busy time for the release of higher education related research reports from the Institute for Education Sciences (IES), the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and others.  Topics include student persistence, emergency financial support, cost of attendance, a research review process, alternative credentials and the impact of laptops and/or tablets on final exam grades.  I hope you find these reports as interesting as I did.

AACRAO Research Initiatives

60-Second Survey Changes

Our 60-Second surveys have helped us gain a renewed and expanded foundation of understanding about enrollment practices.  It is now time to reduce the frequency of these quick snapshot surveys to be able to take a more in-depth look at select practices and issues.  As such, starting in July 2016 we are moving to a once-every-other-month model for the 60-Second surveys.  I want to thank you again for your participation in these snapshots; I couldn’t have done it without you.  I hope you will continue to participate and share your topic ideas with me. 

Change in Survey Platform

Our survey platform, Fluid Surveys, has been acquired by Survey Monkey and will no longer be supported after this December.  We found that Survey Monkey does not provide the features we currently use and need in the existing platform.  As such, we will be moving to Qualtrics, a platform I am sure many of you are familiar with.  We have also acquired Tableau.  Qualtrics also recently acquired StatWing a data analysis platform that I have been using as a stand-alone product.  This transition should help AACRAO continue to provide the same type of survey and research insight you have become familiar with. 

AACRAO Research Insights

Beginning on Oct. 1, 2016, students will be able to fill out the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA) for the 2017–2018 school year. In the past, students had to wait until January 1 to do so. In addition, applicants will no longer need to estimate income and tax information and will be able to retrieve their data directly from the IRS, right from the first day the FAFSA is available.  The purpose of this survey was to gather a snapshot of perceptions about this change and if/how this change will impact admissions processes and calendars.

Although there are some international institutions who participate in the Federal Student Loan programs[1], most institutions that participate in the various Federal Student Aid programs, including loans, are in the United States.  As such we opted to send this survey only to AACRAO member institutions in the United States; 480 institutions responded.  

AACRAO is offering a free webinar, Practical Implications for the 2017-2018 FAFSA on Admission and Enrollment Management Office,” on Thursday August 25, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM ET.  If you are interested in this webinar, click here to register.

Key Findings

•Most (91%) who responded were aware of the change, and most (94%) also view the change as “good for students”.

•Nearly seven out of ten (69%) indicate that the change will not impact the undergraduate admissions calendar.•Almost all (94%) say that the change will not impact the graduate admissions calendar.

•For those who will make a change to their admissions calendar, most will move student outreach activities to an earlier date.
•Among those who had concerns about implementation, about three out of four were concerned about there being a lack of definitive Federal and/or State funding information available at the earlier date.
•Just slightly less than three out of four were concerned about their ability to package aid earlier and notify students earlier.

Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

Two Data Point Reports from IES

Persistence and Attainment Among Postsecondary Student Seeking a Certificate or Associate’s Degree

This Data Point report is based on data in the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) examining the 6-year persistence and credential attainment rate of students pursuing a certificate or associate’s degree.  Just 39% of students who sought a subbaccalaureate credential earned one within 6 years compared to those pursuing a bachelor’s degree (67%).  The study also found that the persistence and attainment rate for those pursuing an occupational field of study were not measurably different from those in other areas.
Total of all students: 65% persisted Baccalaureate:79% Subbaccalaureate: 56%

Source: Persistence and Attainment Among Postsecondary Subbaccalaureate Students – Figure 1

Career and Technical Education Coursetaking and Postsecondary Enrollment and Attainment: High School Classes of 1992 and 2004

The second Data Point report compares the postsecondary enrollment rate of public high school graduates 8 years after graduation for two cohorts (1992 and 2004).  Although the 2004 cohort enrollment rate was 5% higher than the 1992 cohort (89% vs. 83%), the postsecondary attainment rate was lower (57% vs. 61%).  The study further examined the enrollment and attainment differences between students who earned career and technical education credits (CTE) while in high school and those who did not earn any.

What Works Clearinghouse Releases a New Topic Area and Two Reports

The What Works Clearinghouse is a program within IES.  It just launched the Supporting Postsecondary Success topic area and two related intervention reports:  Summer Bridge Programs and First Year Experience Courses.

Cost of Attendance, Degrees and Awards Conferred and 12-Month Enrollment

Another just-released IES First Look report is based on preliminary data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).  This report examines data from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

Evolving the IRB: Building Robust Review for Industry Research

A recent article in the Washington and Lee Law Review Online describes Facebook’s research review process.  The author’s hope that “. . . general principles can be extracted from Facebook’s process that will inform other companies as they develop frameworks for research review that serve their needs”, and this includes academia.  This article was part of the resources provided to attendees at the recent convening at Stanford University, Asilomar II: Student Data and Records in the Digital Era.  This convening assembled a small group of academic leaders to “consider how data describing adult students might be managed in ways that enable the improvement of educational experiences, the progress of science, and the integrity of information describing human beings.”

Landscape Analysis of Emergency Aid Programs

NASPA just released the results of a study that examined the current landscape of emergency aid programs. The study finds that institutions are delivering multiple types of emergency aid to students such as: campus vouchers, emergency loans, food pantries, and completion scholarships, among others. Of the 523 institutions who offer emergency aid programs, 82 percent have offered at least one program for 3 or more years.

Two in Five Associate Degrees Led to Bachelor’s within Six Years

A June 27, 2016 report by the NSC Research Center examined associate’s degree earners and the rate in which they enroll in a four-year institution and whether they earned a bachelor’s degree. Researchers found that more than 64 percent of these students enrolled in a four-year institution, and 41 percent earned a bachelor’s degree. The report notes, “the associate-to-bachelor pathway was most frequently completed by students age 20 or under, with nearly 61 percent earning a bachelor’s degree within six years.”

Study Reveals Profiled Colleges and Universities Embrace Alternative Credentials

A study by the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), Penn State and Pearson looked at the role alternative credentialing in higher education.  For the purpose of this study, alternative credentials were defined as “Competencies, skills, and learning outcomes derived from assessment-based, non-degree activities and align to specific, timely needs in the workforce.”  Almost all of the institutions who participated in the study (94%)(n=190) offered some form of alternative credential and 20% offer digital badges.  Of the respondents, 64 percent either strongly or somewhat agreed that their institution “sees alternative credentialing as an important strategy for the future.”

The Impact of Computer Usage on Academic Performance: Evaluation from a Randomized Trial at the United States Military Academy at West Point

A working study by the United States Military Academy at West Point examined the effects of technology use in the classroom on exam scores. Three randomized groups were compiled: a control group that prohibited the use of laptops/tablets, one treatment group where students were permitted to use laptops/tablets without restrictions, and one treatment group that was only permitted to use tablets that remain flat on the table. Results show that:

Final exam grades for those allowed to use laptops or tablets in the classroom were 18 percent of a standard deviation lower than those who were not permitted to use laptops or tablets. 
Comparatively the “effect is as large as the average difference in exam scores for two students whose cumulative GPAs at the start of the semester differ by one-third of a standard deviation.”

Motivation of Adult Learners for Completing a College Degree

A 2016 study by Ruffalo Noel Levitz delved into the motivational barriers that first-year students age 25 and older may face while pursuing a college degree. A sample of more than 5,000 first-year adult learners at 50 institutions led the researchers to identify common themes. Researchers found that a vast majority (98 percent) are “determined to complete a college degree” when they first enter their respective institution. Despite such strong motivations from many, approximately 20 percent of respondents are expressed some apprehension as to whether the courses they are taking are worth all of the time, money and effort.  Researchers finally propose that administrators utilize the strong motivations many first-year adult learners have and develop academic plans that keep them on track.