New this morning: The Common App released its latest report on application trends for the 2021-22 admissions cycle, and application inflation shows no immediate signs of abating.
More than 6.5 million applications have been submitted to the 900+ Common App schools through February 15.
The number of applications so far is up 9% over last year’s tally, which was up 10% over the previous year.
Applicants are also applying to more schools, on average, this year than they did before the pandemic (5.6 applications per student vs. 5.28 applications).
—In a perhaps a sign of demographic trends to come, states in the Northeast are experiencing anemic growth in applications submitted by their residents—single-digit percentage growth, or in a few cases, declines. Most states are seeing 10-20% growth. Texas is up 40%. South Carolina 61%.
The rich among colleges, at least when it comes to applications, keep getting richer. Application volume is up 7% over last year—and 25% since 2019—at selective colleges that admit fewer than 50% who apply.
—Students submitting test scores is up slightly over last year (48% vs. 44%), but much lower than pre-pandemic (76%) before hundreds of colleges made test scores optional in applications.
One interesting trend to explore: what appears to be the emergence of a gender divide in who is submitting scores this year. In the application cycle before the pandemic, male and female students submitted scores in almost equal proportions. But now in a test-optional era, a larger percentage of male students (53%) than female students (44%) are sending in their scores.
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Tuesday, March 15, at 2 p.m. ET, is the Next Office Hour. Our topic: how colleges can sustain the innovative mindset from the pandemic to shape the future of their institutions.
Joining me will be Michelle Marks, chancellor of the University of Colorado at Denver, Ryan Ruda, president of Garden City Community College in Kansas, Kristen Eshleman, vice president for library and information technology services at Trinity College, and Viji Sathy, associate dean of evaluation and assessment and professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Future U. is hitting the road. We’re taking the podcast on a campus tour. First stop: Northeastern University on February 28, where we’ll be recording an episode in a town hall format with President Joseph Aoun plus a panel featuring the provost, faculty, and a student. If you’re at Northeastern, sign up for free tickets to be part of the live audience.
Later this year, we’ll be visiting UCLA, Georgia Tech, and Howard University.
The Death of Degrees?
The credentialing ecosystem for a 21st century economy was born at the start of the 20th century.
Is the college degree the new high school diploma?
It’s one of the many questions Sean Gallagher answered about what’s happening with the credential market on a special episode this week of Future U. It was part of our Higher Ed 101 series where we focus on an issue—in this case the rise of new kinds of credentials—to try to make sense of what’s happening.
Background: Surveys of college freshmen and their families these days usually find that the No. 1 reason they’re going to college is to get a job. Given how much a college degree is seen as a signal in the job market, it’s surprising how little colleges thought about credentialing in the very beginning. Indeed, at the birth of many American colleges at the founding of the country, degrees were rarely conferred.
By the turn of the 20th century, standardization of the core degrees we have today—associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D.—started to happen, Gallagher explained.
“The system we have today is really 125-plus years old,” he said.
Today, the bachelor’s degree is associated with 50% of job openings, although only around 40% of the population has one.
The rise of the bachelor’s degree as a minimum ticket to ride in the job market is a notable development over the past 80 years given only 25% of the American population had completed high school in 1940.
Driving the news: So much of the conversation in recent years was about free community college and the need to get more Americans at least a two-year associate’s degree.
The initial idea of the associate’s degree was to “segment the market,” Gallagher said, so community colleges would do the first two years of college and then give way to comprehensive universities that awarded bachelor’s degrees.
But today, “we have lots of overlap with community colleges awarding bachelor’s degrees in many states,” Gallagher noted.
Meanwhile, the associate’s degree often sends mixed signals because it’s both a transfer credential and a degree that can get you a job. “Outside of a few fields, like in allied health and manufacturing, an associate’s degree is not valued much as a terminal degree,” Gallagher said. “It’s very unique that it is serving two purposes, but the return on investment can be unclear.”
—Up until the 1970s, the master’s degree was seen as a “consolation prize” on the way to the Ph.D. Now, the master’s degree is associated with part-time, professional, and specialized learning, which has led to its extraordinary growth in recent decades.
Today, the percentage of the U.S. population with a graduate degree is equal to that who had a bachelor’s degree as recently as 1980.
Specialization in many career fields has led to an explosion in new master’s degrees. One example: analytics/data science. Master’s programs didn’t even exist in that field as recently as 2010. Today, there are 350 programs with some 50,000 graduates, according to Gallagher.
Online education also helped grow demand for master’s degrees. The majority of master’s degrees right now are earned online or in hybrid format.
What’s next: Certificates are “absolutely booming,” Gallagher said, but mostly those that are awarded with a bachelor’s degree or after the bachelor’s degree—the “post-baccalaureate” level—but not certificates at the “sub-baccalaureate” level.
The problem is, as Gallagher outlined it, certificates “can be anything,” so they are often hard for hiring managers to sort out.
—Also, the terms “certificate” and “certification” are conflated all the time. Whereas a certificate documents the completion of a course or program, certifications are based on an assessment.
“The future—and the threat and opportunity for higher ed—is we’re moving toward much more certification and assessment rather than just reflecting who sat in a seat and completed a program,” Gallagher said.
My co-host, Michael Horn, and I also talked with Gallagher about rise of microdegrees, nanodegrees, and what blockchain might mean for verification of credentials in the future.
Bucknell University completed its move to “the cloud” in 2018. Freed from worrying about critical updates to systems, the campus technology staff estimates it found 40% more time to work on strategic projects with faculty and students, such as expanding the use of geospatial technologies in teaching and research as well as visualizing and analyzing data for students in different majors. Read how Bucknell and other colleges are embedding technology in every aspect of campus life in this new report.
Admit Rates to Colleges Increased in ’20
College applications are up in the pandemic, but so too are admit rates. In 2020, 60.4% of applications to four-year colleges led to admits, according to James S. Murphy’s analysis of federal education data. See more in this Twitter thread.
UC-Berkeley might have to cut 3,000 seats from its incoming class this fall because of a lawsuit brought by neighbors. “Berkeley NIMBYs have hit the absolute zenith of town-gown conflict by fighting not against megadorms or sports stadiums but the very presence of students themselves,” writes Alissa Walker in New York magazine.
More than 60 private college and university presidents earned more than $1 million in total compensation in 2019, according to the latest executive compensation study by The Chronicle of Higher Education. The highest paid private college president in 2019 was the Savannah College of Art and Design’s Paula Wallace. Total compensation: $5.037 million, including $2.35 in base pay.
A new study looks at the effects of gifted programs in high schools, this one from Israel. It found students study more math, computer, and physical sciences but less engineering in college. Also, a much higher share graduate with two STEM majors and they are more likely to get a Ph.D. But the study also found a tiny impact on academic achievements in high school, no net effect on earning STEM degrees in college, and no effect on employment and earnings.