AACRAO Eye on Research July 2017

by Wendy Kilgore | Jul 27, 2017


Freelancing as a “surrogate” student

While reading an online article completely unrelated to work I fell down the web-click rabbit hole and stumbled across something that surprised me.  I landed on one of the many freelance-for-hire websites, fiverr, and found people openly advertising to serve as a “surrogate” student in their online class.  More specifically to take online quizzes and tests and to provide discussion posts.  Some set minimum grade guarantee limits and one was even offering to do this for nursing courses!   I was further astounded by the number of reviewers who openly acknowledge purchasing these services and then rate the service online.  I was vaguely aware that this type of activity occurred on Craigslist but never thought I would run across it on a more formally organized freelance-for-hire site.  It made me wonder how prevalent this service and the cheating is for online courses and how in the world would institutions monitor for this type of activity?  One would need to run all of the discussion posts through some discussion post aggregating site similar to what turnitin does for course papers. I realize there are some technology checks and balances for online test taking to help ensure that measures are in place to minimize this activity but the application of said technology is far from universally applied.  One would hope that the ingenuity and time spent by students seeking out these resources would instead be spent on learning the content for themselves.  The nursing posting in particular disturbed me because of the possible negative consequences for patients if the licensing exam does not have a means to identify the particular gaps in patient care knowledge that likely exist now for the nursing students who are choosing to cheat.

I’m curious, has anyone else noticed these types of service postings and has it been an item of discussion on your campus?  If you have something you’d like to share on the topic, please email me directly (wendyk@aacrao.org) and I will amend the blog with any comments I receive.  On that note, we hope to have the ability for direct online comments in the next iteration of the AACRAO website.

Parents Completing College Applications for Many

Ruffalo Noel-Levitz partnered with NRCCUA, CollegeWeekLive and OmniUpdate to surveyed “thousands of students and parents” through the MyCollegeOptions program about electronic communication/digital marketing preferences and usage.  They posted an infographic with early insight into the data.  The full eExpectations report was released at the National Conference for Student Recruitment, Marketing and Retention on July 27th.  Among the findings - almost two-thirds of parents of seniors indicated they completed the application for admission on behalf of their student!  

Reading this made my eyebrows go up and for me to think, “How in the world do colleges that rely even partially on student essays for the admissions process deal with this?”  How would you even know if the essay was written by the parent?  This is not some small reported percentage, it’s more than half in this sample.  Again, I’d enjoy hearing back from our experts in the field (aka our members) if and how this is anything you have considered to be an issue and if so how you are trying to address it.


Invitation to Participate 


The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (Canada) is conducting a survey on the experiences of postsecondary institutions with predictive modelling for student retention. We are looking to gather information on what types of institutions have implemented predictive modelling for student retention, what groups of students they are targeting, what interventions have been designed and used with predictive modelling, and what effects those interventions have had on student retention. Plaid Consulting has been contracted to administer this survey.

The survey should be completed by persons who are able to comment on your postsecondary institution’s experience with predictive modelling for student retention. If this is not you, we ask that you please forward this invitation to that person. The survey is open until September 8, 2017 and can be completed here. The survey should take approximately 20-25 minutes of your time to complete, depending on the length of your answers.

Your participation is voluntary. Neither you nor your institution will be identified in the report and all of the information that you share will remain anonymous for the final report. This means that only researchers at Plaid Consulting and HEQCO will have access to identifying information in connection with survey findings, but that identifying information will be aggregated or anonymized prior to publication. More information on the privacy policy can be found at http://plaid.is/privacy.html. Any feedback that you provide will remain confidential in accordance with Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Pat Lougheed, Partner & Co-Founder, Plaid Consulting, info@plaid.is or +1-416-212-3881. If you have any questions about the project, please contact Kaitlyn Blair, Researcher at HEQCO, at kblair@heqco.ca or +1-416-212-3881. 

Thank you in advance for your participation.

AACRAO Research Updates

This month’s 60-Second Survey examines the institutional practice of monitoring the social media posts of prospects, and/or applicants and/or admitted students for inappropriate remarks.  This topic came about because of the recent incident at Harvard University the institution revoked the offer of admission for several students who were found to have posted topics that were deemed inappropriate.  Key findings include: 
  • Collectively, almost three-quarters either monitor social media as part of the admissions decision making or will review social media brought to their attention.
  • In the aggregate of those who monitor social media at all, nearly one-quarter monitor both the institution-sponsored social media and the personal social media of applicants. Facebook is the most monitored.
  • Among those who monitor social media, eleven percent (11%) have denied admission based on social media content; seven percent (7%) have rescinded an offer of admission; and half monitor the social media of admitted students.
  • About one-in-ten who monitor social media have a formal policy on how to do so.
The full report can be accessed here.
We will distribute the Chief Enrollment Management Career Profile survey in the next couple of weeks.  We identified recipients through an extract from the higher education directory and from our membership based on position titles.  The first of this series was produced in 2014.  If you would like to ensure that your name is on this distribution list, please let me know as soon as possible by emailing me at wendyk@aacrao.org.

Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

Attitudes and Perceptions of University Applicants may not match reality

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Unite Students conducted a survey of over 2,000 university applicants in the United Kingdom. Among others, the key findings included: 
  • “60% of university applicants expect to spend more time in lectures than they do in school lessons, yet only 19% of students find this happens.”
  • “Only 37% of applicants with a mental health condition have declared, or intend to declare it, with their prospective university.”
  • “While most applicants (62%) believe they have a good grip on money matters, only 43% are confident about paying a bill and only 41% feel they understand student finances, with many under-estimating essential expenses.”
  • “Almost half (47%) of all applicants feel unprepared for living with people they have never met before, with gay, lesbian, bisexual and other sexuality applicants less confident about making friends (58%) than heterosexual applicants (74%).”
  • The report also discusses pre-arrival communication strategies and other improvements that higher education could use to address these issues.

Free Digital Financial Literacy Game created for young adults

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and the Ad Council have released a game entitled “Yesterday’s Tomorrow” to help young adults to understand the long-term impact of financial decisions on their future finances. The game is part of the “Feed the Pig” campaign, designed to “educate and support young adults ages 25-34 to help them develop better money habits.” 

Recent Survey Data Outlines Shift in the “Typical” College Student

An article in eCampus News highlights several recent surveys identifying the changes in the nature of “typical” college students. Data points to changes like an older college population, increases in first generation students, and fewer graduating within six years. The article’s key conclusions are:
  • “The ‘Traditional’ 4-Year Experience is Rare for Most” due to changes in student demographics and level of preparation.
  • “Common Challenges Occur Due to Too Much of Everything” including the rapid pace of technology change, time demands, and information overload.
  • “Online Learning Influences Most Learning” through the growth in its popularity, and new ways educational technology is being used including app-based learning, gamification of learning, and virtual/augmented reality tools.

New Project to help address “Too Much Data” in decision-making

A recent article in Campus Technology describes a project at Indiana University (IU) intended to help academic decision makers use data more effectively in decision-making. IU’s Chief Data Architect notes in the article” "If you ask how many people work at the university, well, depending on who you ask and how you ask the question and what time of year you ask the question, you may get different results…” The project addresses this problem by standardizing data, and putting it into visual forms for users. The article also describes how IU adapted business processes to make this project successful.

New Report on Three-Year study of Consumer Information in Higher Education

A new report from the Urban Institute examines the effects of enhanced consumer information on student decision-making. The results generally concluded that “simply publishing and marketing earnings data on a website is unlikely to change the behavior of prospective college students.” 

Language a barrier in marketing free tuition program

An article in Inside Higher Ed outlines how a two-year public engagement program intended to increase the diversity of the students in a program has found discrepancies in awareness of the program. The Long Beach College Promise program offers a year of free tuition and is intended to help increase access to higher education. Surveys found that while most Long Beach school district parents were aware of the program, that percentage dropped significantly in some minority households. Additionally, the location within the community had a strong effect on awareness of the program.

Multiple methods of student engagement lead to greater student response

The 2017 results from the Harvard Enrollment Study have been released and they “reiterate the importance of repetition and variety in successful student search campaigns.” The article’s key conclusions are that the most effective student campaigns do the following:

  • Use multiple channels to enhance campaigns
  • Use multiple list sources
  • Contact students across multiple class years
  • Search for students multiple times a year

New Georgetown University Report Calls for Greater Transparency around College and Careers

A new report suggests that the value of a higher education should be made more transparent by connecting college to careers. The report suggests that the increasing complexity of both higher education and the job market call for increase information about the value of degrees in the workforce. The lead author of the report states: “Learners and workers need a modern guidance system with clear and comprehensive consumer information that will help them make good college and career decisions.” The report also highlights some state efforts to provide better information.

New Study Examines effects of Mandatory and Free College Entrance exams 

An article in Education Finance and Policy “examines the effects of requiring and paying for all public high school students to take a college entrance exam”. The article’s key findings include:
  • Without this kind of policy “for every ten poor students who score college-ready on the ACT or SAT, there are an additional five poor students who would score college-ready but who take neither exam.”
  • This policy generated small increases in enrollment at four-year institutions. “The effects are concentrated among students less likely to take a college entrance exam in the absence of the policy and students in the poorest high schools.”
  • “The students induced by the policy to enroll persist through college at approximately the same rate as their inframarginal peers.”
  • “The policy is more cost-effective than traditional student aid at boosting postsecondary attainment.”

Article Compares High School Exit Exams in Top Educational Systems

An article from the National Center On Education and the Economy calls for greater rigor in high-school exit examinations, so they measure real-world skills. The article looks at six high-school exit examinations. Four from top-performing international jurisdictions, and two top-performing U.S. states. Each exam was examined for percentage of questions in Long-form, short answer, and multiple choice categories.

New Report on U.S. Students Challenges due to Race and Ethnicity

A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics examines 28 indicators of educational progress and challenges for minority students. In addition to describing the growing diversity in public schools, some of the key findings include:
  • “In 2014, the percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty based on the official poverty measure was highest for Black children (37 percent), followed by Hispanic children (31 percent), and White and Asian children (12 percent each)”
  • “In 2014, about 4.7 million public school students participated in English language learner (ELL) programs. Hispanic students made up the majority of this group (78 percent), with around 3.6 million participating in ELL programs”
  • “From 1990 to 2015, the high school status completion rate for 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 59 percent to 88 percent for Hispanic students, from 83 percent to 92 percent for Black students; and from 90 percent to 95 percent for White students. Despite this progress, the completion rates for Hispanic and Black 18- to 24-year-olds remained lower than the White rate in 2015”
  • “The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanic students more than doubled between 2003–04 and 2013–14. During the same period, the number of degrees awarded also increased for Black (by 46 percent), Asian/Pacific Islander (by 43 percent), and White (by 19 percent) students; and Asian (7 percent) adults.”

Latest Postsecondary Institutional Data Now Available

The National Center for Education Statistics has released its “First Look” report on 2016-2017 cost of attendance, degrees and awards, and 12-month enrollment. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) collects institution-level data from postsecondary institutions in the United States and
other U.S. jurisdictions. “First Look” presents findings from the preliminary data of the IPEDS fall 2016 data collection.

Survey of How to Engage College Bound Students and Their Parents

Ruffalo Noel-Levitz partnered with NRCCUA, CollegWeekLive and OmniUpdate to survey high school students and their parents through the MyCollegeOptions program about electronic communication/digital marketing preferences and usage.  They posted an infographic early insight into the data which will be released in full in the Fall through their eExpectations report.  The early findings include:
  • Most parents and students are open to text messaging.
  • Students prefer to learn about college through Facebook and use the college’s website to find the social media connection.
  • Almost two-thirds of parents of seniors indicated they completed the application for admission on behalf of their student.