Higher Education

What Will Obama’s Legacy be when it Comes to Diversity on College Campuses?

With less than two years left in office, President Barack Obama still has a lofty agenda when it comes to education in America. From supporting wider access to universal Pre-K all the way up to a proposal for two free years of community college for everyone, President Obama has taken an immersive approach to education that challenges the status quo. When it is all said and done, what will President Obama’s college diversity legacy look like?

More people of color in college leadership positions

Though he has not introduced any official legislation that demands more people of color in leadership spots, the President’s mere presence in the nation’s highest position has paved the way for others to step up in their own industries. I predict a steep rise in minority faculty members, deans and college presidents in the coming decade due indirectly to the example set by this President. His push for more minority graduates will also mean more minority college leaders being fed into university systems.

More minorities graduating from college

The rate of students entering colleges across the nation was already at a record-high when President Obama took office, but so was college debt. Between unchecked student loan interest rates and for-profit universities recruiting non-traditional and minority students without the right support programs in place for those students to graduate, the college landscape had become ineffective for many of the nation’s students. In his tenure, President Obama has worked hard to make the cost of college more affordable, through more federal Pell grants and more federally-backed student loans, as well as loan repayment programs that offer caps on income or loan forgiveness clauses. This has helped all students but an argument can be made that making college more affordable will prove a long-term improvement when it comes to minority graduates who were deterred by the high cost in the first place.

Specifically, President Obama has put minority-friendly programs in place like My Brother’s Keeper that address the specific problems that particular groups face when it comes to obtaining an education. He has also made K-12 schools more accountable for getting their students college-ready with federally-funded incentives like Race to the Top, which focuses on closing the achievement gap between white and minority students. In order to feed colleges more minority students who are ready for the tasks, the grades that come before the college years must be considered – and the President seems get that, and to have a good grasp of the bigger picture of what a college education means for minorities.

More high-skilled minorities in the workforce

With his proposal for tuition-free community college for the first two years for all students, President Obama is ensuring that this next generation of high school graduates will be able to elevate their educations beyond the K-12 years. This applies to all students, but here again is a point where minorities will benefit most. By essentially making the first two years of a college education an extension of the high school years, with some performance requirements attached, minorities will not face the financial roadblock that often accompanies entering college right after high school. Perhaps the area where minorities will see the biggest boost if this proposal becomes law is in the portion that will allow older students who never completed college right after high school to go back to school too. Non-traditional minority students will not have to go the for-profit college route to return to school or find a way to carve out tuition to community colleges from household budgets.

President Obama has always been outspoken about his goals of breaking down barriers in the way of minorities who want to obtain a college education, particularly young men of color. As he completes his term in office, I expect to see him confront these initiatives with even more aggression to cement his legacy as a President that worked hard to improve the diversity on American college campuses.

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Reflections of a black female scholar: I know what it feels like to be invisible

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

Cherise Smith, University of Texas at Austin

A new insurance commercial shows comedian Mindy Kaling embracing what it means to be invisible: As Kaling walks down the grocery aisle messily eating ice cream, she uses her “cloak” of invisibility to feel up the muscles of a handsome basketball player.

Kaling, who is of South Asian descent, successfully makes the point of how people look through her, until the punchline arrives: Nationwide Insurance sees her and will take care of her.

As a black female academic, I know only too well what it feels like to have people look right though you. Let me give one instance – from just a few weeks ago, when I felt unrecognized for who I am.

I approached the podium of the lecture hall at the university at which I am a tenured professor. It was the first day of class and the instructor of the previous course was still around, talking informally with her students. Looking around the podium, I noticed that the classroom was not equipped with a computer.

I asked my colleague, whom I did not know, if there was a computer hidden in the cabinet. She proceeded to instruct me: “faculty are provided computers, they bring their computers, and use a dongle to project on the screen.”

Her words told me she didn’t recognize me as faculty; she did not see me as professor.

So, I responded: “This faculty was provided a computer which she has brought. This faculty has not taught in a classroom that is not equipped with a computer before today.”

Without missing a beat, she said, “When the professor arrives, she’ll have the right set up. Are you the teaching assistant?” “I’m the professor,” I told her emphatically. She gave me a confused and befuddled look, before saying “Oh.”

Black academics are almost invisible

What’s the point of this anecdotal evidence, and does it have anything to do with race and gender? I bring this up to illustrate a larger problem which is a huge topic of conversation among black academics and other professionals across the country.

Actor David Oyelowo expressed a larger sentiment, when analyzing the “Selma” Oscar snub (in which only the film’s song won an award but its director and actors were not even nominated) recently, he said:

“We, as black people, have been celebrated more for when we are subservient; when we are not being leaders or kings or being in the center of our own narrative, driving it forward.”

Let me first put things in perspective: a recent American Association of University Professors (AAUP) study shows that around 25% of professors at doctoral degree granting universities are women.

However, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, at that same level of research institution, African Americans make up less than 5% of faculty and fewer than half of those professors are women.

The small number of African-American women academics makes us mostly invisible: if you can’t see us, you don’t have to engage with us or with our perspectives.

Such episodes have longer term consequences

While episodes of “misrecognition,” as the one that I experienced, may seem harmless, they are actually not so. Psychologists call them acts of “micro aggression.”

Micro aggression sends out messages that have serious long-term consequences
Fist image via www shutterstock.com

Micro aggression is the name given to behaviors that are a result of biases against marginalized groups. Such behaviors often leave people feeling uncomfortable or insulted.

One study states that “micro aggressions result in high degrees of stress for blacks because of denigrating messages: ‘You do not belong,’ ‘You are abnormal,’ ‘You are intellectually inferior,’ ‘You cannot be trusted,’ and ‘You are all the same.’”

The authors conclude that “feelings of powerlessness, invisibility, forced compliance and loss of integrity, as well as pressure to represent one’s group are some of the consequences.”

My colleague’s refusal to “see” me smacked of racial bias, conveyed through an act of micro aggression. My physical package as a middle-aged, professionally dressed black woman did not correspond with her idea of what a professor looks like.

She couldn’t see me as the leader of the class and couldn’t recognize me as a professional equal.

With a few short sentences, and, I assume, without malice, that colleague dismissed my experience, education, and training at the same time that she undermined my authority in front of 60 students.

Ignorance is not an excuse

Often such incidents get attributed to a youthful appearance. Upon hearing the story, my husband tried to point out how the “confusion” happened. Generally a pessimist, he is forever an optimist when it comes to matters of race – likely due to his own Anglo-Saxon background.

“Sweetie, you referred to yourself in the third person rather than in the first person,” he reasoned. “You confused her.” “Besides,” he continued, “you look young.” “Maybe you should take it as a compliment,” he suggested.

The course’s teaching assistant, having watched the entire episode, expressed somewhat similar sentiments. “That happens to me all the time,” she said and suggested her Latina background and youthful appearance, as an explanation.

That I was “misrecognized” might be a function of my outfit and my youthful appearance, she ventured.

I understand that none of us — neither Oyelowo, the Latina graduate student, nor I — is the victim of lynching or Jim Crow-era discrimination. Oyelowo starred in a well-received movie in a lead role.

My colleague was astute enough to see I was part of the university community, albeit as a graduate student rather than as tenured faculty. There was no harm done, and there was no foul play. Right?

Not exactly.

The consequences of such micro aggressions add up: they equal “death by a thousand cuts,” as one colleague calls them. They result in diminished mental and physical well-being, and they are shown to “increase the risk of stress, depression, the common cold, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, and mortality.”

What in academic language is called micro aggression, is, in fact, experienced as “aggression.” This aggressive tendency comes from a shared experience among dominant white culture, namely, a refusal to see the import and impact of racism, as described by Jessica Nelson, Glenn Adams and Phia S Salter, researchers at the University of Kansas and Texas A&M University.

“Although popular and scientific understandings tend to portray ignorance as a lack of knowledge,” the researchers say, “this work emphasizes that ignorance itself is a form of knowledge that makes it possible to ignore or remain unaware of things that might otherwise be obvious.”

As with the law, ignorance is no excuse. Not then. Not now. Not ever.


The ConversationCherise Smith is Associate Professor of Art History at University of Texas at Austin.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article.

Diverse Conversations: The Difference Between Diversity and Equity

The nature of higher education is changing and the student population is changing at colleges and universities across the country. With luck, the promotion of equality in higher education will continue to engender equality in education – not only in terms of student access, actually, but in terms of employment. But how does diversity and equity work out in education – in the practice of teaching in higher education? Given the issues of equality and diversity within education, how, in today’s changing context, can we move on and teach these principles effectively?

To grapple with this issue, I spoke to Dr. Adriel A. Hilton, Director, College Student Personnel Program & Assistant Professor of College Student Personnel at Western Carolina University. Dr. Hilton served as past director for the Center for African American Research and Policy as well as Assistant Vice President for Inclusion Initiatives at Grand Valley State University. He also served as chief diversity officer and executive assistant to the President & Assistant Secretary to the Board of Trustees at Upper Iowa University.

Q: Concentrating on this issue of equality and diversity, first, let’s talk about how they are related. How do you see the relationship between equality and diversity in higher education?

A: I find it interesting that two words with contrasting meanings are used jointly as a way to improve higher education. Equality is synonymous with likeness, uniformity, fairness, and homology; while diversity, on the other hand, means unlikeness, variance, mixed, and heterogeneity. Yet, when the words are synced with higher education, they become mutually beneficial, having a powerful impact.

Much research has been done on the effects of diversity in higher education, concluding it has very positive effects on students. Exposure to diversity—whether it be cultural, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or those with disabilities—provides students the opportunity to learn about and from each other, resulting in cognitive growth and citizenship.

The equality factor in higher education is to assure all students legally start off on a level playing field. Equity policies have evolved over the years—from the first affirmative action laws in the 60s to the One Florida Initiative of the late 90s to the Student Non-Discrimination Act of 2013. These laws were not intended to give preferential treatment, but are an effort to break down the barriers that discourage underrepresented populations from enrolling in college and suffering injustices in the workplace. These efforts are still widely debated, particularly quotas, but with colleges today focusing on promoting diversity, having some sort of equality policies in place on campus set expectations for students, faculty, and staff. They set standards of respect and call for all students to view each other as equals and for faculty and staff to treat each student, regardless of his or her differences, the same.

Q: Do you think higher education institutions are sufficiently aware of the difference and if not, why not?

A: I would like to think that anyone employed in higher education appreciates equality and diversity and acts accordingly, but I am not that naive—hence the need for equality regulations and policies. Personal experience has proved that people in higher education are human first, with learned prejudices that have been passed down through the generations and of which are hard to let go. It is only through knowledge of and exposure to people of different races, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and those with disabilities, that insight is gained about another person’s lived experiences. Without this knowledge, any degree of empathy, respect, or joy about any person who is unlike us is impossible to understand. When no conscious effort is made to learn about diversity and equality, progress is impeded.

Q: Explain why you feel it is imperative that courses in diversity and equality are included in college curricula.

A: The obvious answer is knowledge about diversity equips our graduates with the tools needed to effectively cope in today’s diverse workplace and global society. We now live in an age where technology has allowed us to easily connect with all types of people from around the world. Sensitivity toward a person’s culture, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and disability is an absolute must.

Community service is another motivation for colleges to offer diversity and equality courses. Who better to pass on the importance of a college education to underrepresented teens than someone who has been through the process? When college students serve as role models through partnership programs with local public schools, it can be very fulfilling and even lead to a lifelong passion for community service.

However, the main reason diversity and equality should be taught at the college level is that it helps to develop empathetic, socially conscious individuals. I think former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is a good example of a college-educated, empathetic, and socially conscious, wealthy white male.

According to the NCSL (National Council of State Legislatures) website, when Governor Bush issued the One Florida Initiative in 1999, his intent was to reform college preparation in Florida public schools (P-12) for all students, regardless of race or ethnicity, and to do away with race-based college admissions. He stated in a press release, “With my One Florida Initiative, we can increase opportunity and diversity in the state universities and state contracting without using policies that discriminate or pit one racial group against another.”

According to the Foundation for Excellence in Education (Bush is founder and board chairman of FEE) website “…during his two terms, Bush championed major reform of education in Florida, raised academic standards, required accountability in public schools …created the most ambitious school choice program in the nation …progress is measurable …more high school seniors are earning a diploma …fewer students are dropping out …third through 10th grade students are outscoring 60-70 percent of their peers in all other states in both reading and math.”

Bush recognized a problem, developed a solution, and put it into action. In my opinion, without a strong conviction toward diversity and equity, Bush would not have seen the potential in all students, no matter their class, race, gender, religion, or disability, nor would he have been empathetic or cared enough to want to help the under-served population so they too had a chance to be successful.

Q: What advice would you give to fellow academics and administrators looking to teach diversity and equality and promote it?

A: Be objective. Teach from diverse perspectives – the first-generation Black male, the low-income Hispanic teen, women, disabled Veterans. Tell people’s stories, past and present. Bring in experts to speak. But most importantly, have your students be a part of the discussion by honestly sharing their own experiences, asking hard questions, and having healthy debates so that they become personally vested in the learning process. Finally, initiate community service programs that partner with local schools to get students involved. It is through service that they will be able to see first-hand what a positive impact they can have on the lives of others. Remember, as instructors, our job is to plant the seed. It is the student’s responsibility to take that seed (knowledge) and, hopefully, choose to nurture it and make it grow.

We would like to thank Dr. Hilton for taking time out of his busy schedule to meet with us.





Are Historically Black Colleges and Universities Worth Saving?

If you haven’t been paying much attention to the debate concerning the relevance and effectiveness of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), now is the time to sit up and take notice. If you don’t, there is a chance it could soon be too late. Over the last two decades, we have seen the number of HBCUs in the United States sharply decline and this greatly concerns me. Those who believe in the benefits of HBCUs need to stand up and let their voices be heard, before these important institutions are gone forever.

HBCUs are coming under fire for everything from not improving their failing infrastructures to producing lower graduation rates, and more. But we need to take a moment to look at why people should pull together, rally around them, and help them make it through turbulent economic times. HBCUs have helped to educate some of the most prominent African American figures in this country’s history, including Jesse Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, and Thurgood Marshall, among many others.

HBCUs provide cultural benefits, as well as providing an affordable education. This cultural foundation has been important to the African American community for over a century. Our HBCUs were there, supporting the community and educating our people, long before other colleges would even let them through the door. So are we saying that, just because mainstream American colleges will now let black students in, we should abandon the institutions that supported us and helped us get to where we are today?

HBCUs are a part of African American tradition, going back generations. They were not only there during the struggle; they helped our people get through it! We owe them our support and respect. They were there for us, and it is time, right now, for us to be there for them.

The biggest reason that HBCUs are fading is because they are often lack sufficient funding, which makes it difficult for them to survive. Without adequate funding, they will end up deteriorating and are apt to become a thing of the past. The low completion rate at HBCUs has also been a contributing factor to their demise. But I believe that it is the other way around: the lack of funding has contributed to the lower graduation rates. HBCUs have to deal with the fact that many of their academically eligible students drop out of college each year because their financial needs cannot be met with Pell Grants and other aid. A large portion of HBCUs have small endowments, so there isn’t a huge rainy day fund to tap into when financial challenges arise.

In my home state of Mississippi, I grew up attending athletic and cultural functions at Tougaloo College, Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University. These universities are sources of great pride and a part of the African American intellectual tradition. Now is the time when people who support HBUCs, including advocates, organizations, faculty, students and alumni, need to rally together to help save this historical piece of African American history. If these groups come together and make their voices heard, we will be able to save these institutions. But make no mistake, if there is no rally, if there is no coming together to let the powers-that-be know that we want them saved, then I predict that they will be gone in 50 or so years. And they will not return. Nobody is going to turn back the hands of time and open another historically black college or university, because it wouldn’t be historic. Right now, they are historic, and they need our support and rescue!

Many people are currently asking whether HBCUs are worth saving in the first place. I ask, how can these historical institutions, which represent African American culture, tradition and struggle for educational equality, not be considered worth saving? If they are not worth saving, then it makes it very difficult to find any other piece of African American heritage that is worth saving. These educational institutions are symbols of our people that must not be ignored.

I urge those who care about these institutions to speak out, show your support, and demand that adequate funding be provided to them, so that they can make it through these turbulent economic times. It’s not just about saving a college or university. This is a metaphor for saving ourselves! With proper funding, these schools will thrive, carrying on our culture and traditions as they were meant to do.

In the words of the great Eldridge Cleaver, “You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” Which will you be?

Read all of our posts about HBCUs by clicking here.

Colleges Seek New Revenue Streams, As Students Push Back Over Tuition Increases

It’s been said that death and taxes are the only two guarantees in life, but there may be a third one: rising college tuition costs.

The rising cost of tuition has not exceeded annual inflation costs, but rates continue to rise. Colleges are being forced to seek new revenue streams, as students push back over tuition increases.

Universities are finding new sources of income from surprising and creative sources.

Generate more green with gardening

Universities seek unusual ways to supplement their endowments to stabilize tuition costs and prevent them from skyrocketing. That may mean franchising merchandise and finding other creative ways to generate more income.

Unity College in Maine, for example, sells produce from its greenhouses. They also sell gardening implements, outdoor decorations, and offer community workshops – for a fee.

Provide professional development services

Who better to turn to for corporate training than universities known for their outstanding executive education programs? Schools like Harvard University are marketing their services exclusively to multimillionaires, and other universities are finding local training opportunities of their own.

By offering professional development services that enhance and accelerate careers, colleges can generate new income streams.

Capitalize on what matters most to your fans

Fans take football and other athletic games seriously at some universities, and missing a game means missing out one the best plays. University of Texas-Austin fans will never have to miss another moment of important games because they can purchase an annual subscription that allows them to see the game, highlights, and press conferences.

The school launched a partnership with a cable company to provide the subscriptions, and the university collects revenue for each subscription.

Receptive to new ideas

University leaders are welcoming diverse opportunities that will help them secure new funding sources. Alternative sources of revenue may include:

  • Seniors’ marketing programs (weekend retreats, destination travel led by faculty members, retire communities)
  • Banking services (campus banks, loyalty programs, insurance and retirement programs)
  • Consulting and outsourcing services (education, nursing, technology, business, and marketing)

Also, universities are seeking ways to increase their brand by offering décor, license plates and designer labels on everything from clothing to wine.

Discount rates

 Universities are also hoping to lure bargain shoppers to their schools.

By offering discounted rates for tuition, universities have hoped to increase their enrollments. The idea is that more students will mean more revenue, even if these students aren’t paying full price for their degrees. In 2016-2017, discounted tuition rates reached 49.1%, the highest it’s ever been.

Generous financial aid packages may attract students, but will likely not be sustainable long-term.

Applying resets

Some colleges and universities have tried tuition resets, which is another way to discount the cost of a college education. They reset the price of tuition to what it had been several years ago, in the hopes that students will feel as though they are getting a good deal on tuition costs.

A reset gives an arbitrary picture of tuition costs. In reality, some students may be paying more for tuition after a reset because other students at the same school are given deep discounts that exceed the benefits of a reset. The actual cost of a degree at the same university can vary widely between students enrolled in the same program, leaving students who pay the reset price to pay a higher price in tuition.

Graduate school

Encouraging students to continue their studies may be one of the best revenue-generating strategies universities have in their financial war-chests. Tuition paid for graduate studies is filling the sinking coffers of undergraduate tuition costs. Online graduate degree programs, with their greater flexibility, are helping to generate revenue quickly.

Simmons College, for example, has doubled its tuition revenue as a result of increasing their graduate school programs and attracting more students to them.

Diversified income sources are becoming more common as nontraditional ways to generate revenue. As students continue to push back over tuition increases, universities will explore more strategies to keep their schools open.

How the Pathway to the College Presidency is Changing

Leadership in higher education can be a challenge, but aspiring college presidents aren’t letting obstacles get in their way when it comes to assuming the reins of a university.

At one time, the traditional trajectory to the college presidency was to become a dean and then a provost, among other roles.

Now, however, the pathway to the college presidency is changing.

The Office of Provost

College deans today have discovered that they no longer must include a term as provost to secure the top position in a college or university. Many deans are making the transition to the president’s office without having ever been a provost.

A globalized community and integrated technologies have made campus leadership more dynamic. As a result, colleges have discovered that there’s more than one way to acquire the experience necessary for higher education leadership.

Interestingly, more men than women skip the position of provost before becoming a college president. Nowhere is this truer than at smaller colleges and universities.

Talent Incubators

You may be wondering where to go for the experience you need. A handful of universities in the country will prepare you with the hands-on experience you need, although it won’t come from the provost’s office. Some of them include:

  • Arizona State University
  • Brown University
  • Johns Hopkins University
  • Georgia State University
  • Harvard University
  • Texas A&M University
  • Yale University

Bringing Business Acumen

Colleges and universities are also looking beyond the ivory tower for their next presidents. Leaders with business backgrounds lend a different skill set to the job than academic candidates. Non-traditional college leaders with a business background have a different perspective on the role and can lead the campus in the right direction.

According to the Education Advisory Board (EAB), non-traditional business leaders

  • Have skills that apply in a variety of situations,
  • Demonstrate excellent communication skills, and
  • Are engaged with the community.

They bring fresh eyes to the challenges the school has been facing.

As the role of the university president continues to change, the pathway to landing this position is changing, too. Provosts tend to turn their immediate attention inward to the campus, faculty, and students, whereas presidents look out to the horizon at what the future may hold for the school.

As the role of the president metamorphoses, the pathway to this position will continue to change.

Which Universities Have the Highest Dropout Rates?

Would it surprise you to know that more than of half of students attending a university dropout without finishing their degree?

While some schools like Columbia University and Yale have high graduation rates (99%), other universities have low graduation rates. By checking your university’s freshmen retention rates (how many freshman come back for their sophomore year), you’ll have a good idea whether your school will help you make it to graduation.

Which universities have the highest dropout rates? Let’s take a look at five low-performing schools.

Southern New Hampshire University: 61% retention rate

This university has made a tremendous comeback in the last decade, with its intense focus on getting their students graduated. Although their retention rate is low, they respond quickly to inquiries and provide standardized instruction at reduced costs. By doing so, they’ve been called the Amazon of higher ed.

If students at SNHU enroll for their sophomore year of college, their chance of graduating on time is 12.3% better than the national average.

University of Charleston: 66% retention rate

Located in Charleston, SC, this university’s first-time freshmen comprise 18% of the total freshman class. The college offers low-cost tuition, and there’s plenty to do in Charleston for entertainment when studying is over. That may not be enough, however, to keep, a significant portion of freshmen in school and on track for graduation.

Southeastern University: 67% retention rate

Although their enrollment is up, Southeastern has a 39% graduation rate and falls under the national average for retention. The low retention rate may be due to a high number of part-time students.

Brigham Young University – Idaho: 68% retention rate

Affiliated with the Church of Latter Day Saints, BYU-Idaho offers low tuition costs for a private university. Nearly 60% of the students here are part-time, which means that the workforce lures students away before they graduate. Others transfer to another university.

Southern Wesleyan University: 69% retention rate

Another private Christian school, SWU in Central, South Carolina is affordable. This university also offers an online program for undergrads. Less than 15% of the students at this university are first-time college applicants, so retention rates for various sub-populations of students may be a more appropriate indicator of college satisfaction.

Why are students dropping out?

The average retention rate for freshmen at American universities is 71.2%. A number of factors can entice students to drop out of college. In fact, students with a 2.2-3.0 GPA are the most likely to drop out of college.

Ultimately, other demands on freshmen may be forcing them to drop out of school, especially if they are not a first-time freshman. Some students find they need to join the workforce fulltime. They leave their studies, hoping to return one day.

Until that time, universities must continuously work on reducing their high retention rates.



Is Algebra Really Necessary to Earn a College Degree?

If you said racism or gender identity is the hottest topic at colleges today, you’d be wrong. One of the most disputed issues in college isn’t about equality. It’s about whether the schools should make intermediate level algebra a requirement for earning a bachelor’s degree.

Many people are debating the necessity of algebra to earn a college degree.

What is college algebra?

College Algebra in college is a step above high school’s Algebra II. Students should expect to graph linear equations, solve word problems that include fractions, and simplify radicals, to name a few topics of study.

The material covered is similar to content learned in high school, but with more rigor.

Why is algebra a necessity?

The algebra requirement was a response to the Soviet satellite Sputnik, which was launched in 1957. Afraid to be left behind in science and math, the United States embarked on a singular focus that demanded more rigorous courses be taught in colleges.

For decades, algebra has been considered the standard math course for earning a college degree. Professors have continued the tradition because it’s always been that way.

You’ve seen the memes that state, “Another day has gone by, and I still haven’t used any algebra.” They may be right because 95% of jobs today do not require the use of algebra.

An algebra requirement sounds like a good idea, right?

In theory, yes.

What reason could someone possibly have to veto teaching students higher level quantitative reasoning skills? As it turns out, there are several reasons to nix an algebra requirement in college.

The first reason to skip algebra altogether is that other courses in mathematics, such as computer science or statistics, may be more appropriate for some degrees. Humanities majors may not need algebra in their careers but would benefit from a different math course. Algebra is not the only math course requiring higher order thinking skills. It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer to developing higher level quantitative reasoning skills.

Another reason to avoid an intermediate level algebra requirement to earn a degree is because of the time and cost involved. Already universities provide extensive remedial instruction to teach what students should have mastered in high school. Students and parents concerned about college expenses want to avoid remedial courses because they are not accepted for credit toward earning a degree.

In summary

The answer to the question, “Is algebra really necessary to earn a college degree?” is maybe.

Depending on the student’s course of study, algebra may be the right choice or another mathematics class might be better. The department awarding the major should determine which quantitative reasoning course will best prepare graduates for their futures.


What Community Colleges Do that Universities Won’t

Community colleges once were considered the step-child of higher education.

Academics looked down at coursework taken at a two-year college, considering it to be a weak bridge between high school and a university. That perception has changed drastically in the last decade.

A two-year school is a valid option for many students because community colleges do what universities won’t do.

Provide excellent instruction in a flexible environment

Classes at a two-year college are comparable to those at a four-year university.

The professors at community colleges have master’s degrees, and most have a doctorate. Their classes are every bit as rigorous as a university class. University professors are often engaged in research, leaving instruction to inexperienced teaching assistants. Community colleges, on the other hand, assure that the professor will be your teacher.

Also, community colleges have the flexibility to hire subject matter experts from industry, especially science and business. These professionals offer student insight that professors cannot. Community colleges can create authentic learning experiences for their students by helping them build tangible products and create personal meaning.

Smaller class sizes and lower tuition costs

Smaller class size means better student engagement. Attending lecture-style classes at the university along with hundreds of peers can make students feel disconnected from the instruction as well as their university experience. Two-year colleges, however, are more likely to encourage student participation in class because smaller class sizes permit it.

One of the top reasons for attending a community college is the cost. Not only is tuition more affordable, but many students live at home because the community college is often closer, which saves more money. The cost difference per year between a two-year and a four-year university can be as much as $20,000.

Community colleges can keep their expenses down because they have fewer extracurriculars, such as athletics teams.

Partner with the workforce

When industry tells schools exactly what they are looking for in employees, and colleges produce candidates with those skills, it’s a win for everyone.

Students with associates degrees are finding work in their chosen fields, and the community colleges are doing an excellent job helping them prepare for their careers.  Almost 35 million grads with associate degrees are employed, and their number is steadily rising.

Community colleges are doing what universities won’t do, and they are doing it successfully.

All About Accreditation: How It Works, Who to Trust, and More

 It doesn’t matter whether you are researching for your first-ever college program or hunting for a practical advanced degree; there is one piece of advice that always rings true: Look for accreditation.

Because higher education in America is such a profitable enterprise, there are thousands of schools trying to convince you to enroll, and accreditation helps you sort the institutions providing high-quality educations from those just after your money. Yet, even as most prospective students recognize the need for accreditation, many don’t understand how the process works. Thus, plenty of students accept any and all accreditations without a second thought.

The accreditation process is a rigorous test for universities looking to be branded as legitimate institutions of higher learning. To help you find the best possible school where you can gain the best possible degree, this guide should tell you all you need to know about accreditation.

What Is Accreditation?

At its simplest, accreditation is recognition that a school’s programs contain valid education fit for preparing students for professional practice or else admission into other reputable institutions of learning. Organizations that evaluating universities and colleges are working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, endorsing credentials based on national standards.

As there are different types of education, there are different types of accreditation. Institutional accreditation recognizes an entire university or educational organization, asserting that each of the institution’s parts contributes effectively to the qualitative achievement of that institution’s goals. For example, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) — one of the more common U.S. accrediting agencies — provides institutional accreditation.

Additionally, organizations can award specialized accreditation, which recognizes individual programs, departments, or schools within a broader institution of learning. For example, you might find an AACSB-accredited online MBA program, which is at a business school that has received international recognition for specialized quality. This often applies to programs that require licensing or certification on a state or national basis, but some programs receive specialized accreditation to make distinct their high quality within their field.

Who Does the Accrediting?

Accrediting agencies are private associations dedicated to the enhancement of education. While the standards they set and the types of institutions they accredit are their decision, they ultimately report to the Department of Education (DOE), which can choose to accept or reject their reviews. There is also a private, non-governmental organization, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), that distinguishes legitimate accreditation agencies. The difference between the DOE and CHEA is that the DOE limits official recognition to agencies reviewing schools that participate in federal programs, like the Federal Student Financial Aid Program.

Few accrediting agencies are familiar enough with all industries to provide reliable ratings for all programs. Therefore, individual agencies tend to be expert in precise areas of learning. For example, there are national agencies specializing in trade and technical colleges and religious colleges and there are regional agencies that review all colleges within a certain boundary. As a result, there are dozens of accrediting agencies active in the United States, and you might find it difficult to keep legitimate organizations straight.

Fortunately, both the DOE and CHEA offer online lists of accreditation agencies to help you parse the respectable from the disreputable. Because their recognition can change from year to year, it is wise to check this list every time you apply to a new school or enroll in a new program.

How Do Schools Become Accredited?

The path to accreditation isn’t easy, but it is relatively straightforward. Before an institution is considered for evaluation, it must submit to a candidacy period, during which time, the agency will observe the instruction and determine whether it is eligible for accreditation. The candidacy period typically lasts four years, and it must prove itself eager to comply with the agency’s standards before the true evaluation may begin.

Though the precise accreditation process will vary from agency to agency, there are a few steps that are similar throughout the industry. For example, schools typically must prove that they are financially sound and that they plan to continue operating continuously into the future. Additionally, schools must submit to on-site assessments of courses and curricula, which will primarily influence most agencies’ criteria for accreditation. Often, the results of an accreditation evaluation will be made public, so you can learn whether a potential program has failed accreditation efforts in the past.

Accreditation matters, but who provides what accreditation matters more. Before you start paying tuition to any institution, you must research that school’s accreditations thoroughly to ensure you are getting the education you deserve.