Commentary: “Alexa, define student success”
I ran across two articles recently, one in Inside Higher Ed
and another by Northeastern University
, both talking about how some universities are giving students an Amazon Echo Dot as part of their student package. Some of these devices come with an app produced by a Northeastern University spin-off, n-Powered
. This app is tied to the specific university and can enable Alexa to answer common student questions by pulling data from various campus resources, including questions like “Who is my academic advisor?” and “What is the status of my financial aid?”
I am torn as to whether or not this is a good idea. On one hand, if this product is answering the questions that most often drive students to call various offices on campus and/or try to find on the web themselves, this is a good thing. On the other, are students being taught to be overly reliant on electronic assistants and possibly missing out on learning how to navigate complex systems by having this information at their beck and call, literally? If they are losing out on gaining this skill at this particular juncture in their lives, does it matter? I find myself saying “Ok Google” several times a day now, but I contend that I learned how to navigate complex systems while at college primarily, and that skill has helped me both personally and professionally. I am personally “geeking out” thinking about the research to come that will examine the relationship between student success and Alexa (or other similar interface) users to non-users.
AACRAO Research Update
The September 60-Second survey on program completion time limits highlighted again the wide variety of policy and practice amongst institutions. On the aggregate, however:
- Most (68%) institutions set program completion time limits;
- Nearly three quarters (74%) set the program completion time limit the same for all programs, degrees, majors, and student levels;
- Seventy-three percent (73%) set program completion time limits by credential level exclusively (e.g., certificate, associate’s, bachelors); and
- Eighty-seven percent (87%) allow students to apply for a program time limit extension.
Additional details and institutional descriptions of their own variance in practice can be viewed in the report.
We are working on a survey with AICE on credential evaluation standards. This survey will be distributed to the primary contact at each of our member institutions in October.
Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics
Contract Cheating in Higher Education
A recent study synthesized the findings from other research on contract cheating in higher education - paying for someone else to complete coursework for you. The author found that it appears that contract cheating has increased over time with an average of 3.52% of students self-reporting that they’ve engaged in contract cheating (see the figure from the report below). According to the author, the data suggests that since 2014, an average of 31 31 million (out of a total of 200 million students annually enrolled in higher education) use contract cheating
Self-reports of commercial contract cheating have increased over time
(A) The plots show the percentage of respondents, in individual samples, who answered “yes” to having paid a third party to undertake assignments for them, ±95%CI. (B) The percentage of participants answering yes to engaging in the most commonly reported form of misconduct in the sample. These have also increased over time, ± 95%CI.
Major and Type of Institution Matters for Earnings and Employment
Analysts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York explored a data set that matched earning and employment data of college cohorts. They found that both a student’s major and the type of institution they attended influences medium-term earnings and employment six years after enrollment (see figure below). Findings include:
- Selective college attendees have a medium-term earnings premium of 11 percent; after 10 years, this increases to 20 percent
- For-profit college attendees have 17 percent lower medium-term earnings compared to private-not-for-profit attendees; after 10 years, this increases to 18 percent
- STEM and business majors have the highest earning premiums
- Selective college attendees have a modest 1 percent higher employment than nonselective
Framework for Equitable Free College Programs
The Education Trust used an eight-part equity rubric to examine 15 statewide programs and 16 proposed programs. They found that none of the programs met all eight parts of the quality rubric and, on average, met just half. The eight parts of the rubric are:
- Helps low-income students cover living (i.e., non-tuition) costs
- Covers the cost of fees (in addition to the cost of tuition)
- Covers the cost of tuition for at least four years of college
- Covers the cost of tuition for bachelor’s degree programs at four-year institutions
- Provides benefits for adult and returning students
- Does not impose GPA requirements beyond what is needed to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid
- Does not impose enrollment intensity or credit accumulation requirements beyond what is needed to maintain eligibility for federal financial aid
- Does not demand the repayment of aid
2018 Education at a Glance Report
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released the 2018 Education at a Glance report. This is an almost 500 page report summarizing key educational statistics for 35 countries. Key statistics/facts for the United States include:
- The percentage of 25-34 year olds with a tertiary degree has increased by 7 percent since 2007 (48%)
- Tertiary educational attainment varies more by state than by country of birth or parents’ education attainment.
Half of young adults are expected to enroll in tertiary education – less than the 58% average across OECD countries
Student Debt and the Class of 2017
- The Institute for College Access and Success released the 13th version of their student debt report. The report includes data by state, trends in student debt, debt a graduation and other related statistics. Some data facts include:
- The average student debt of graduating seniors at 4-year colleges is $29,650, a one percent increase over 2016.
- Connecticut had the highest at $38,510
- Utah had the lowest at $18,838
- Bachelor’s degree recipients who also received Pell grants are more than five times as likely to default that others.
- The rate of default within 12 years varies by institutional type
- 30% at for-profit colleges
- 4% at public colleges
- 5% at nonprofit colleges
The figure below from the report highlights the percentage of private loan borrowers by Federal loan usage.