Higher Education Issues to Watch
For more information: AAUW Fact Sheets and Position Papers on Affirmative Action, Athletics, Education, Managed Care Reform, Reproductive Rights, and Social Security Reform.
Video of the Research Launch: "Deeper in Debt: Women and Student Loans"
A report released by AAUW titled Women in Community Colleges: Access to Success details the financial barriers women face in accessing higher education.
11 Projects That Will Inspire You to Fight Gender Stereotypes - College students from 11 colleges came up with innovative ways to fight sexism and racism on campus this spring. The schools each earned a 2014-15 AAUW Campus Action Project grant, sponsored by Pantene, to launch their projects in the spring semester.
Updated: November 11, 2017
- Poverty Is Largely Invisible Among College Students - Since 2008, my team’s research on how students finance college has revealed that the main barrier to degree completion isn’t tuition; it’s having a place to sleep and enough food to eat. The best estimates suggest that food insecurity affects as many as 1 in 2 college students—much higher than the rate in the general population. Just as many struggle with housing insecurity, and a significant number (14 percent at community colleges) are homeless. This is a largely invisible problem. Stereotypes of Ramen-noodle diets and couch-surfing partiers prevent us from seeing it. They trick us into thinking that food insecurity is a rite of passage, that hunger and even homelessness among our students is normal. But it is time to admit that we have a serious problem in higher education.
- Helping college students with kids succeed - The number of single mothers in college more than doubled between the 1999-2000 and 2011-12 academic years, to almost 2.1 million students—or 11 percent of all undergrads—as of 2012, according to a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). That may come as a surprise to administrators, as most higher ed institutions do not ask if students have children—even though they could find out via routine student surveys, says co-author Barbara Gault, IWPR’s vice president and executive director. Colleges must be aware of this group to accurately allocate resources toward families’ needs. Community colleges, which have the biggest concentration of single student mothers, should pay particular attention to this faction of students.
- The Disappearing American Grad Student - The dearth of Americans is even more pronounced in hot STEM fields like computer science, which serve as talent pipelines for the likes of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft: About 64 percent of doctoral candidates and almost 68 percent in master’s programs last year were international students, according to an annual survey of American and Canadian universities by the Computing Research Association. In comparison, only about 9 percent of undergraduates in computer science were international students (perhaps, deans posit, because families are nervous about sending offspring who are barely adults across the ocean to study). Many factors contribute to the gap, but a major one is the booming job market in technology. For the most part, Americans don’t see the need for an advanced degree when there are so many professional opportunities waiting for them. For some, the price is just too high when they have so much student debt already.
- Why Notre Dame Reversed Course on Contraception - The Catholic university is caught between accommodating a diverse community and defending what it sees as religious freedom. Although the administration claims it reversed course out of respect for the diversity of its community, it’s not clear why it wouldn’t have taken faculty and student objections into account years ago. Meanwhile, religious-freedom advocates see the university’s move as a setback for their cause, because it potentially casts doubt on the sincerity and depth of moral objections to birth control.
- College students today value education less and money more: study - According to a paper highlighted by The British Psychology Society, millennials pursuing higher education in the U.S. are more motivated than previous generations by making money. Over eight million students in total, including millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers, were asked about their reasons for enrolling in school. About 71 percent of millennials said they felt making money was important, in contrast to only 55 percent of boomers who felt the same. Meanwhile, 68 percent of millennials said general education was important, versus 69 percent of boomers. What this indicates, researchers conclude, is that the quest for knowledge has been supplanted by more concrete motivations, like a paycheck.
- Federal data shows 3.9 million students dropped out of college with debt in 2015 and 2016 - The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard tracks the number of students who dropped out with debt for each college and university in the nation. A total of 3.9 million undergraduates with federal student loan debt dropped out during fiscal years 2015 and 2016 (from mid-2014 through mid-2016). More than 900,000 of these students dropped out of for-profit universities. That’s 23 percent of all the indebted dropouts, even though only 10 percent of all undergraduate students attend for-profit schools. The public sector’s share of dropouts exactly matches its share of the student population: 64 percent. As a whole, private nonprofit colleges seem to be doing a better job, accounting for 13 percent of the dropouts while educating a quarter of all U.S. undergraduates. However, the size of the debts of dropouts is the largest at private nonprofit colleges, with each person owing almost $10,000 on average.
- Behind the Publication Gender Gap - Study finds male Ph.D. candidates submit and publish papers at significantly higher rates than their female peers, even within the same institution. The majors drivers of that gap remain unclear, but one factor is that women teach more during their Ph.D. programs and men serve more often as research assistants.
- Republican Tax Proposal Gets Failing Grade From Higher-Ed Groups - The bill was met with immediate opposition from a number of higher-education groups, which argued that the measure would rob institutions of vital dollars and increase the price of college for debt-laden students and already-strapped families. "The House tax-reform proposal released today would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private two-year and four-year colleges and universities," said Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council on Education and under secretary of education in the Obama administration, in a written statement.
- Data on Community College Grads Who Earn Graduate Degrees - “Community college is typically viewed as a portal to the baccalaureate degree, but this study shows that it also helps many individuals access the lifelong employment benefits associated with a master’s or doctorate,” Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said in a written statement. “I hope this study will inspire new strategies for helping community college students chart a path to graduate school.”
- Racial Gaps in Belief That College is Necessary - A new poll of Californians by the Public Policy Institute of California reveals significant racial gaps in how people in the state view the importance of higher education. Two-thirds (67 percent) of Latinos said that college today is necessary. A little more than half of Asian Americans (54 percent) and African Americans (51 percent) agreed. Among white people, the figure was only 35 percent.
- When Will the ‘Harvey Effect’ Reach Academia? - In the hypercompetitive world of higher education, many academics who face sexual harassment remain silent to avoid forfeiting a promotion or research gig. A recent study of harassment complaints by graduate students against faculty members surveyed 221 reported cases at 210 institutions, the majority of which occurred since 2000, and found that the faculty harassers accused were more often accused of physical, not verbal, harassment, and that more than half of the cases studied—53 percent—involved alleged serial harassers. In the law, the humanities, and the sciences, the stories are legion. So when will colleges and universities face their #MeToo moment? Academia is particularly fertile territory for those who want to leverage their power to gain sexual favors or inflict sexual violence on vulnerable individuals. When the relationship with a mentor goes wrong, when a parent figure becomes a predator, a career can go up in flames.
- Title IX is often framed as a student issue. But female administrators face discrimination, too. - I have had female presidents tell me they've been catcalled on their own campuses, by male students who didn't realize they were in charge. I've heard others say they wear men's clothing and try to dress in ways that do not call attention to their figures when they attend board meetings, because they are often the only woman in the room. One female district leader wrote in to tell me the harassment she had received by male colleagues affected her confidence and the level of position for which she would consider applying — to go further up the ladder, she assumed, she'd face more of this type of behavior as she'd find herself more outnumbered.
- Report finds low-income enrollment decreasing at public colleges - A new report from NewAmerica found public colleges are losing ground on access — nearly 60% of public institutions admitted an average of 4.6% fewer students from the lowest income households, while nearly 66% admitted an average of 5.4% of students from households in the top income quintile between 1999 and 2013.
- But Will Her Husband Move? - Study suggests women with male partners face bias in searches for junior faculty members. The search committee chair said of a job candidate, “She seems to have the highest potential based on limited information.” The search committee members generally focused on these partner issues at a crucial stage in the search: after finalists had been selected and the panel was down to a small number of candidates.
- College Prices Rise Moderately, But Still Outstrip Student Aid - Researchers from the College Board, which issued the reports, found that higher education's published charges—the "sticker price" that doesn't include loans, grants, or tax credits—rose 2.9 percent to 3.6 percent on average between 2016-17 and 2017-18. Price increases were greater at private, four-year institutions than at public two- or four-year institutions.
- 11% of White People Say They Were Bias Victims in College - Eleven percent of white Americans believe that they personally were victims of discrimination in applying to college or while in college, according to a new poll by NPR. A larger percentage of white people (55 percent) believe that discrimination against white people exists in the United States today.
- Credentials Besides the Bachelor's That Pay Off - Many certificate and associate degree programs can be a path to the middle class, according to a new analysis from the American Enterprise Institute. The report uses state data from College Measures, which has partnered with eight states to track the earnings of graduates. The researchers found that students' choice of major has a big impact on earnings, regardless of the level of credential. Skills-oriented programs in health, engineering and other technical fields in particular tend to fare well with labor market returns.
- Betsy DeVos Is Being Sued By 17 States Over For-Profit College Rules - A group of 18 Democratic attorneys general is suing the Trump administration over its oversight of for-profit colleges, saying that the Education Department's refusal to enforce a regulation punishing predatory career programs "leaves students vulnerable to exploitation and fraud."
- College Leaders Urge ‘Legislative Fix’ for Dreamers - Nearly 800 college and university presidents signed a letter to leaders of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives calling on them to “pass a long-term legislative fix as soon as possible to protect Dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children. “Children brought to the United States at a young age did not have a choice in the matter and are today Americans in every way but immigration status,” the letter from the college presidents states. “It remains in America’s best interest to enable them to use their knowledge, skills and energy to continue to make the strongest possible contribution to our country.”
- Report Seeks Help for Low-Income Student Parents - A new report from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution calls for a new grant program to address unmet needs of low-income student parents. The report -- "Helping Women to Succeed in Higher Education: Supporting Student Parents With Child Care" -- finds that in 2011, there were more than five million students who had dependents of their own and that 3.4 million students are estimated to be mothers, of which two million are single parents.
- Student loans take a mental toll on young people - Over the last decade, college-loan balances in the United States have jumped to an all-time high of $1.4 trillion, according to a recent report by Experian. The average outstanding balance is $34,144, up 62 percent over the last 10 years. Those student loan payments have created an "unprecedented financial challenge" for borrowers, according to a new report by Gradifi, a Boston-based start-up that provides a student loan benefit platform for employers. To that point, 80 percent of working professionals with student loan debt said it is a source of "significant" or "very significant" stress, according to the survey of more than 3,000 Americans conducted online in May.
- Harassment in the Field - Study finds patterns of harassment and sexist treatment of scholars in far-flung locations that offer few of the protections of campuses. Many academics regard fieldwork -- the chance to make discoveries and come face-to-face with what they’ve spent years studying -- as a career highlight. Beyond that, it’s a crucial to career development. So a 2014 study highlighting widespread sexual harassment at academic field sites struck a chord -- or rather, was so discordant with many scientists’ perceptions of what fieldwork should be that it’s still frequently cited.
- Report outlines critical supports for part-timers - As nontraditional students and adult learners continue to comprise a larger percentage of the total higher education student population, the number of students who prefer or require a part-time postsecondary schedule is likely to grow. However, a focus on boosting college completion rates has led to a focus on assisting students to become full-time learners in their pursuit for a degree. “15 to Finish,” a national push to encourage students to take 15 credits per semester, may be perfect some students, but not necessarily for all, according to a new analysis conducted by Civitas Learning, an organization analyzing higher education outcomes. Mark David Milliron, the company’s co-founder and Chief Learning Officer, says higher ed needs to move away from a diametric “either/or” view of full-time vs. part-time.
- Latino Students Are 'Stalling' in College, Study Finds - Latino students are graduating from high school and enrolling in college at fast-improving rates, but they're stalling in college and not earning bachelor's degrees, a new study says. Their rates of enrollment in two- and four-year colleges have improved more than those of their white and African-American peers. And Latinos complete certificate programs more often than their black and white peers, too.
- Congrats, College Grads. Now Good Luck Paying Off All That Debt - As more Americans graduate from college with huge amounts of student-loan debt, they’re taking jobs that haven’t been as rewarding. The latest Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances shows the median income for heads of households who have college degrees grew just 2.1 percent between 2013 and 2016. That compares with a 6.1 percent increase in tuition, fees and room and board on average at four-year public universities over a similar period, according to College Board data. “While college is generally a good investment, it has become increasingly expensive over the last several decades to attend a four-year program, as costs have risen considerably faster than wages, especially wages for all but the very top of the income distribution,” New York Fed President William Dudley said in a speech Friday. “This means that college has become increasingly unaffordable for those families who need it most, if we are to increase social and economic mobility.”
- Certificates gaining popularity, but students struggle to pay back loans - Certificate programs have continued to see an expansion in enrollment. But, many students in these programs are still struggling to pay back education loans, with 44% of certificate students who borrowed in the 2003-04 school year having defaulted by 2015. A report this year from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce there is on average more than 30 million jobs with an annual salary around $55,000, which do not require a college degree — which highlights why that more students may be seeking alternative degree options through certificates.
- Study: Over half of for-profit students defaulted on loans - Students who attended for-profit colleges were twice as likely or more to default on their loans than students who attended public schools, according to a federal study. The report by the National Center of Education Statistics looks at students who began their undergraduate education in 2003 and defaulted on at least one loan over the next 12 years. Fifty-two percent of the students who attended for-profit schools defaulted on their loan. That's compared to 17 percent for those who attended a four-year public institution and 26 percent at community college.
- Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans - Borrowers, especially those who attend less selective institutions or who drop out, increasingly struggle to pay back loans. The report found that 12 years after first entering college, the median percentage owed on student loans by the first cohort of borrowers was 70 percent. For the second borrower cohort, that number was 78 percent. Over the same time frame, 18 percent of those in the earlier cohort had defaulted on at least one student loan, while 27 percent of the more recent cohort had done so.
- Bumps in the Road for Rural Students - Rural community colleges grapple with nonacademic barriers that hinder their students from staying and completing. The demands on rural community colleges when it comes to keeping students from dropping out extend far beyond academics. Food, transportation, housing, health care and child care insecurities and lack of access to broadband internet dominated the concerns discussed by college leaders at the Rural Community College Alliance national conference here last week.
- Ongoing Barriers to College Aid - Two new papers find application rates for federal student aid continue to lag for low-income students, and serious barriers remain for those most in need of help paying for college.
- Parents provide more college support for sons than daughters - When it comes to their parents saving for college, boys might be better off.
Comparing families in which the children were all the same gender, a study from T. Rowe Price found that parents of boys are more likely to save for their children’s college than parents of girls. "Looking at the breadth of the results, it suggests there are some antiquated viewpoints on gender out there," Roger Young, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price, told CNBC. "Just take a hard look at your level of financial commitment and make sure you're not shortchanging your girls."
- The $833 billion albatross around the necks of women with college degrees - The burden of student debt is having an outsize impact on women who now hold nearly two thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding education loans, according to a report released by the American Association of University Women.
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