Tag Archives: college costs

Community College Developments

Community colleges made the news several times this week for reasons associated with budget, but with two very different outcomes. In Arizona, USA Today reports the approach of a mainly online community college that has revamped its course texts in “Arizona college cuts textbook costs the old-fashioned way.” Rather than shifting to ebooks to save students from expensive textbooks, Rio Salado College allowed its 26 full-time, on-campus faculty to designate one text for all sections of a course, even those sections taught by the over 1000 off-campus faculty, who have no voice in the matter.

Because of the large numbers of identical books ordered, the college is able to cut a deal with a publisher—in this case Pearson—that saves students a lot of money.

Off campus instructors, all adjuncts, are able to personalize their sections of courses to a certain degree using the course learning management system, but there are serious limitations to this. However, with the change, students still have a physical book and it is estimated that they have saved $6 million in textbook expenses in the 2 1/2 years since the approach began.

It is worth noting that other colleges are moving entirely to ebooks (full disclosure: I’m trained as a reading clinician, and I find that approach problematic), and that the other colleges taking this approach are largely for-profits.

Community colleges are also the subject of a New York Times article “Community Colleges Cutting Back on Open Access.” This article reports on the over-enrollment and underfunding of community colleges that is leaving students who have begun a program—whether to achieve vocational goals or to complete enough courses to transfer into a 4-year program—stopped in their tracks. Course cuts have eliminated some courses that students need, and sometimes there isn’t room in the classes that are offered.

In short, the reality of the community college as an open access institution is failing.

But there are those ready to fill the gap, if they can. The New York Times also reported in “For-Profit Colleges Find New Market Niche” that Kaplan University, a for-profit, is offering those students who want to go to a California community college but have been wait-listed for admission or a class, a chance to take Kaplan online courses with a tuition discount…. a discount that means that the course only costs nearly 10 times as much as it would cost at a California community college. Princeton Review has a similar relationship with a Massachusetts community college, but charges only double the community college rate.

The faculty of the California college voted in the spring to urge that the understanding with Kaplan be withdrawn.

For background on community colleges, we invite you to check out our article “University vs. Community College.”

Federal Student Aid Rules Rollout

On June 16, the US Department of Education issues a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) dealing with higher education. Thirteen of fourteen issues under consideration were announced, with the fourteenth being taken under advisement. These proposals are shaped by testimony and subject to public comment. Here’s a round-up of the proposed reforms:

Student Eligibility for Federal Funding

• In the face of an increasing number of high school “diploma mills” (organizations that grant diplomas that do not represent the legitimate of a legitimate secondary school course of study) Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) and postsecondary vocational schools must find a way to validate diplomas that are in doubt.

• Students without a (valid) high school diploma would become eligible for federal student aid if and when they complete 6 credits of college credit.

• IHEs and postsecondary vocational schools must implement “satisfactory academic progress policies” (the policies that determine if—by the institution’s standards, students are eligible for financial aid; moreover, they must abide by them.

• The process for verification of information reported by students (and parents) on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will be streamlined, reducing—for some students—the amount of additional information they will have to supply.

Consumer Protection

• The USDOE’s authority to act against IHE’s and postsecondary vocational schools that deceive students in advertising, sales, and/or marketing is strengthened.

• Changes to the rules about admissions recruiters compensations intended to help discourage recruiting practices in which students were pushed towards programs were a bad fit for them, either because the financing was beyond their likely means to repay, they were not qualified for the program, or they were unlikely to succeed in it.

• States—some of which have not satisfactorily establish an approval and monitoring process for IHE’s and postsecondary vocational schools—must now do so.

Course Eligibility for Federal Funding

• A new definition of a credit hour, which has here-to-fore not been standardized, and new procedures for accrediting agencies to determine if IHEs and postsecondary vocational schools are using the assignment of credit hours appropriately.

• New regulations on the amount of a program in one IHE or postsecondary vocational schools that can be delivered by another institution, and eligibility requirements for all bodies involved.

• New rules for counting repeated coursework towards eligibility for full-time standing.

• Closing loopholes in the student withdrawal from studies process so that unused funds are properly returned to the USDOE.

• Changes in disbursement to rectify the situation in which students who need their federal funding before the start of school (e.g., to purchase books) will receive it earlier.

For Profits

• In the proposal that is being held, the USDOE is considering requiring for-profit IHEs and postsecondary vocational schools

a) to disclose the program’s graduation rate and job placement rate to prospective students;

b) to disclose information so that the USDOE can calculate student debt and income after completing programs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the for-profit schools were very pleased that the final NPRM was held for reconsideration because according to industry lobbyists, it could have a profoundly negative effect on the for-profit schools

More Information

You can find more information about the process here.

You can find a Microsoft Word version of the complete NPRM in the small “Related Resources” section to the right of the first paragraph of the press release here.



Three Ways the Oil Spill Affects Education

When the terms “oil spill” and “education” are mentioned in the same sentence, the first and most obvious connection most people make is likely to be to teaching children about the oil spill. How does one convey to them the importance and impact of the situation in an age appropriate way. I have made an attempt to help educators do this with a video “Thoughts on the Oil Spill—There Is Only One Water,” which uses clips of the oil spill combined with a song from my opera Kiravanu that talks in very simple terms about the water cycle, the problem that pollution in one spot affects everyone, and the importance of stewardship.

The copyrighted words are sung by children in Kindergarten through fourth grade who are playing the roles of the Elements—Fire, Earth, Water, Air, and Wood—asking humanity to steward resources thoughtfully:

There is only one water
Only one Earth and one air.
If people pollute, it spreads to others,
Though that really isn’t fair.

Only so much water.
Only so many trees.
If folks use them up, then the whole world has less,
So please pay attention, please!

We must be true to our natures:
We cannot act as we choose,
So while we burn or flow, erupt or blow
Please go give people the news:

There is only one water.

© 2008 James Humberstone and Mary Elizabeth For question, comments, republication, or performance permissions, please contact

There are several other important connections between the oil spill and education. One that has come to the forefront through a speech last week by the Alabama State Superintendent of Education Joe Morton is that when a state has an Education Trust Fund (ETF) funded by a variety of taxes, a catastrophe that impacts those taxes—whether through loss of general sales, loss of tourism, etc.—will impact education funding of public education in that state.

An interview in the Salt Lake Tribune with a Utah resident—formerly an Alaskan fisherman, whose career in that line of work was ended by the Exxon Valdez tanker incident in the 1980s—brings out another way in which the future of education is connected to the oil spill. This article points out that with the cap that Congress put on compensation in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and the way that the award from the Exxon Valdez spill dragged through the courts, parents’ ability to finance their children’s college educations was impacted.