May - Return to campus, bias in recruitment, and policy changes in higher education public funding

Dr. Wendy Kilgore |
May 27, 2021
  • Office Policies, Practices and Procedures
  • Research
  • Academic Policy
  • Access and Equity
  • admissions and recruitment
  • covid-19
  • Financial Aid
  • nontraditional students
  • Organizational Structure
  • telecommuting

As I reflect on the data from the May 60-Second Survey, it struck me that much of higher education is once again in a state of significant change. Institutions are wrestling with how and when staff who switched to working from home (WFH) in response to the pandemic will return to working on campus. This switch is causing institutional leaders to once again rethink how to best serve students while simultaneously recognizing that many employees have been just as productive working from home as they were in the office (and happy to be doing so).

Institutions are facing issues of equity as they consider who must return to working on campus and how best to serve students face to face. The open-ended response data collected in this survey highlight these equity issues as well as how staff feel about returning to work on campus. It is unlikely that all institutions will go back to the way they operated pre-pandemic because of employees’ desire to have a flexible work environment and their proven ability to be productive. This is not just a shift in higher education but in the entire workforce. However, there will continue to be issues of equity with the WFH option because not everyone was given the opportunity in the first place due to the nature of their work, and not all will be able to continue to do so, also due to the nature of their work.

We will likely find that the educational attainment divide continues to influence how different groups of people are able to make a living.   

AACRAO Research Update

The May 60-Second Survey focused on institutional plans and personal sentiments about returning to campus for work among those who switched to some form of WFH during the pandemic. More than 1,400 individuals representing more than 1,000 institutions responded. Some key data points include:

  • Among those who switched to WFH, 25% will be allowed to WFH in some permutation; 37% will no longer be able to WFH; and for 38% of respondents, a determination has not yet been made.

    • 56% are happy about returning to work on campus; 21% are unhappy about doing so; and the remainder are neither happy nor unhappy.

      • Senior leaders are statistically happier about returning to campus than others.

  • 26% of respondents indicate that a plan for returning to work on campus has been executed; 47% have a plan but have not executed it yet; and 27% do not yet have a plan for when, how, or if they will return to working on campus.

    • Among those with plans to return to campus –

      • 41% have already returned

      • 33% will return starting in summer ‘21

      • 22% will return starting in fall ‘21

      • 2% will return after fall ‘21

      • 2% are unknown

  • Among those allowed to WFH in some permutation post-pandemic –

    • 5% will have no obligation to work from campus.

    • 29% will be able to WFH as many days as they wish.

    • 14% will be required to work on campus an average of 2.3 days per week.

    • 32% will have the option to WFH an average of 2.1 days per week.

    • The remaining 20% will have a WFH option not described above.

Fifteen institutions volunteered for the Lumina Foundation sponsored research on debt and equity. We are in the data collection phase of this project and anticipate starting the data crunching in mid-June. The data set will be robust, and I am looking forward to examining it for insights into this issue.

The transfer student success workgroup is wrapping up its objective and is prepared to present the draft recommendations for review during the virtual transfer convening in July.  

The Registrar Career Profile Survey will deploy on June 22 and will be open for a few weeks to accommodate the July 4 holiday week.  


Current Higher Education Research and Related Topics

A new study has found that academic writing suffers from overly complex language

A new study using text analysis of thousands of academic articles shows that academics write unclearly, and this makes it much harder for readers, even academics in the same field, to understand their work. In addition to publishing these findings, the authors also offer a website and a tutorial to help scholarly writers with their clarity. 

New research on public university admissions practices shows bias in recruiting practices

A new study published in the American Educational Research Journal looks at how public research universities recruit. The study finds that public universities make more visits to out-of-state high schools, and those visits targeted predominantly white and affluent communities. Key points include:

  • Universities made more out-of-state recruiting visits than in-state visits, sometimes to a high degree.

  • In some states, proportionally more visits were made to private high schools. 

  • The report also includes extensive state and federal policy recommendations. 

A new study published on public funding in higher education shows policy changes are needed

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association has published a new report on the effects of public funding on higher education. The report examines both direct funding to institutions as well as funding to students in the form of state financial aid. The study finds evidence that larger financial investments in these two areas are tied to student success in higher education. This is a very rich study with far too much data to cover here, but key points include:

  • Declines in state support for institutions are increasing and are largely in step with the economic cycle

  • Funding for direct student aid has increased, with both need-based and non-need-based grant aid increasing


New report shows systemic barriers to access and success in higher education

A new report from the Council for Opportunity in Education examines systemic barriers faced by low-income and nontraditional students. This is an extensive and in-depth look at issues of equity through seven indicators of equity. The equity indicators include:

  1. Who enrolls in postsecondary education?

  2. What types of postsecondary institutions do students attend?

  3. Does financial aid and differences in college cost eliminate the barriers to college equity?

  4. How do students in the United States pay for college?

  5. How do educational attainment rates and outcomes vary by student characteristics?

  6. How does educational attainment in the United States compare with other countries?

  7. The federal TRIO programs: who, what, where, when, why, and how does TRIO work?

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