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Synthesis 2013

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Advanced Placement, Not Credit

This article covers Dartmouth’s recent decision to no longer grant students course credit for high AP test scores. Dartmouth students in the Class of 2018 on will not receive credit toward a degree for high AP scores but will still be able to place out of introductory courses or be exempt from certain requirements. The policy change was informed by a study done by Dartmouth’s Psychological & Brain Sciences Department that appeared to prove that AP exams do not predict academic success, at least in introductory psychology courses taught at Dartmouth. The article contrasts the findings of that study with research published by College Board in 2007 showing that students who pass an AP course do better in the second-level course of that subject in college than their non-AP peers. Tilsley, Alexandra. “Advanced Placement, Not Credit.” Inside Higher Ed, 18 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Spoiled Children

A new study titled “More is More or More is Less?” might have parents thinking twice about paying for their kids’ college tuition. The study found that the more money parents provided for their kids’ higher education, the poorer their children’s grades were – with the worst grades often coming from students whose parents essentially wrote them blank checks for college expenses. The findings suggest the presence of a moral hazard, in which a party (student) tends to take risks (performing poorly academically) because another party (parent) will incur the costs. A caveat of the study is that the lack of discussion about student responsibilities that is sometimes coupled with increased parental contributions may be the actual cause of poor student performance, not the contributions alone. Jaschik, Scott. “Spoiled Children.” Inside Higher Ed, 14 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Benefits of College Degree in Recession Are Outlined

College graduates weathered the economic recession far better than those who had high school or associate levels of education, according to a study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Of the three groups of 21-24 year-olds, college graduates experienced the least decline in employment and wages during and after the recession. Results of the study illustrate a stepwise drop in employment that corresponds to education level. Says Diana Elliot, research manager for Pew’s Economic Mobility Project, “…any amount of post-secondary education does improve the labor market outcomes for those recent graduates.” The Pew study also found that the overall rate of college enrollment declined slightly in the time during and after the recession. Perez-Pena, Richard. “Benefits of College Degree in Recession Are Outlined.” The New York Times, 9 Jan. 2013. Read article »

eCornell Offers a MOOC That Steers Students to a For-Credit Follow-Up

eCornell, a venture of Cornell University that has been offering tuition-based online courses since 2002, will launch its first official MOOC today. The one-month marketing course “will include videos of experts in the industry, discussion boards, and 24-hour access to an ‘academic support team’—eCornell staff members who will answer questions and review discussions on the site.” While this course is technically free, graduates of the first month of classes will be encouraged to stay in the course for three additional months at a cost of $3,300 to receive certification for completion from Cornell. Mangan, Katherine. “eCornell Offers a MOOC..." The Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 Jan. 2013. Read article »

The Fiscal Cliff Deal and Fund-Raising

A proposed cap on the amount of tax a donor can deduct for charitable giving was left out of the last-minute compromise to avert the fiscal cliff Congress, but one provision of the agreement does still threaten to reduce tax deductions for charitable giving, including to colleges. “The package Congress voted on last Tuesday reinstates the Pease Amendment, which reduces the value of tax deductions for wealthy households. The value of deductions is reduced by 3 percent of a taxpayer's income over a certain threshold -- $300,000 for taxpayers married and filing jointly, $150,000 for married taxpayers filing separately and $250,000 for unmarried individuals.” “The Fiscal Cliff Deal and Fund-Raising.” Inside Higher Ed, 4 Jan. 2013. Read article »

Tests With and Without Motivation

The extent to which a student is personally motivated to do well on tests that measure learning outcomes can significantly skew a college’s “value-added” score, or the difference between entering and graduating students’ performance at a given school. In a study conducted by ETS researchers, students exhibited greater learning gains when they were told before testing that their scores might be released to faculty or potential employees. These results suggest that the findings presented in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses might be inaccurate, since the book’s authors based their research on scores from the Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), a learning outcomes test that most schools have not incentivized for their students. Jaschik, Scott. “Tests With and Without Motivation.” Inside Higher Ed, 2 Jan. 2012. Read article »

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We want to scour the world to try to find those things that strike us as truly forward-looking. President Jim Yong Kim