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From: Goldie Blumenstyk
Subject: Fresh Ideas to Help Adult Learners Succeed
I’m Goldie Blumenstyk, a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education covering innovation in and around academe. For more than two years, I’ve been curating this weekly Re:Learning newsletter. Now I’ll be using it to share my observations on the people and ideas reshaping the higher-education landscape.
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I’m Goldie Blumenstyk, a senior writer at The Chronicle of Higher Education covering innovation in and around academe. For more than two years, I’ve been curating this weekly Re:Learning newsletter. Now I’ll be using it to share my observations on the people and ideas reshaping the higher-education landscape. Subscribe here. Here’s what’s on my mind this week:
“27 is the new 18.”
Most colleges still get it wrong when it comes to recruiting adult students. Rather than offering them another chance, says the University of Louisville’s Matt Bergman, “we’ve got to flip that and say, ‘Give us another chance.’”
As often as I’ve heard (and written about and discussed) how much messaging matters for adults, I give credit to Bergman, an assistant professor of educational leadership, for summing up that important notion in such a pithy phrase.
Of course, messages like that will backfire unless colleges also make themselves more accessible to adults. Bergman’s big on offering credit-based assessments of students’ prior learning, an idea that’s been around for a while but has yet to become routine on most campuses. But he sees hope for prior-learning assessment in projects like the new Northeast Regional PLA Network, a consortium of more than a dozen institutions working to develop standard operating procedures for awarding credit and agreeing to accept such credit for transfer. (Bergman’s so hot on the idea, he got Louisville into the consortium even though it’s not in the Northeast.)
Bergman was a panelist in a discussion of adult students that I helped facilitate last week at the Education Commission of States’ National Forum, here in D.C. Bergman’s ideas were among several good ones I heard during the “27 is the new 18" session.
Another came from Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success and no piker herself when it comes to pithiness. She suggested ways to make it easier for adults to use public-benefits programs while they attend college.
With so many adult students who are also parents, “we need to be adopting more of a two-generational approach,” putting more emphasis on things like support for evening child care, said Duke-Benfield. Such care, she noted, is “often more expensive than tuition.”
She also highlighted ways states and colleges can make it easier for students to qualify for federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. (As I recently wrote, a proposed farm bill still kicking around in Congress would make it harder for students to qualify for SNAP but would leave intact exceptions that can make work-study and other students eligible.)
The key, said Duke-Benfield, is for education-policy makers to communicate with other state officials. Your state may have adopted a goal of getting more students to finish college, but officials in the agencies running the benefits programs “probably don’t know that you have a completion goal.”
In some states, particularly red ones, expanding the use of public benefits could be dicey. Two Missourians were at my table, and when I asked them how those ideas would fly in their state, both said the political winds would be against them.
Grand Canyon Education makes it official.
On Monday, the publicly traded company Grand Canyon Education finalized its spin-off of Grand Canyon University. Read my take on this unusual deal, which also involved converting the Christian-oriented university into a nonprofit institution. The change could create a new model for outsourcing in higher education.
What to measure about colleges.
Last month I invited readers to suggest what colleges could measure and talk about, beyond familiar notions, to prove their value to the public for the world we face today. Could it be that there’s not much new to suggest? Some responses revisited the lament that colleges rely too heavily on stats that play well in legislatures, like graduation rates, rather than harder-to-quantify measures of deep learning. Others made the case for e-portfolios, and for measures of grit, but those are more designed to reflect individual students’ personal accomplishments.
One idea that seemed to resonate with the times came from a continuing-education dean at Muhlenberg College, Jane Hudak, who’d love to find some new ways to collect and report data on adults, transfer students, and military veterans. It also happens to jibe with one of the “agenda” items I identified in the “The Adult Student” report. But that’s not the only reason I’m highlighting it.
As Hudak put it, “we need to find new ways to capture their information and better tell the story to our communities of how colleges support the economic health and work-force development of our regions in manifold ways.”
Quote of the week.
“Though today’s student-loan crisis is in many ways another consequence of the soft corruption within our government by those who can buy influence, it also points to a key vulnerability for the policy and advocacy community.”
— From a critique of the student-loan system that contends industry insiders have rigged it, by Julie Margetta Morgan of the Roosevelt Institute
I’m a child of immigrants, and Independence Day is the one day a year I remember my dad always putting up the flag outside our house. Later we’d gather for a picnic and fireworks with other families of Holocaust survivors, all of whom had come to America to rebuild their lives. These have been a tough few weeks for immigrants -- and for journalists. So tomorrow I’ll be taking some time to think about the values that have made the United States a beacon of hope for so many around the world, and what we all owe one another as fellow Americans to ensure it remains so. Before you dig into your hot dog, feel free to join me in that endeavor. Happy July 4th.
Got a tip you’d like to share or a question you’d like me to answer? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.