Here are three reports you should know about this month.
- Twenty-three states now allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees. There are many benefits to this, including meeting workforce demands and addressing college affordability. A policy brief from the Education Commission of the States looks at arguments for and against community college bachelor’s degree programs and state policy activity. The brief also takes a close look at Florida and Washington – states that have scaled community college bachelor’s programs more than any other state – and includes considerations for state policymakers, including financial implications and faculty and capacity considerations.
- Nearly three years ago, Achieving the Dream launched an initiative focused on developing academic pathways for courses that use open education resources (OER). A new study shows promising results for the programs, but they also face challenges in continuing. The study, by SRI Education and the rpg Group, examined the academic and economic effect of the OER Degree Initiative on the 38 participating community colleges and their students. Over the course of the initiative, nearly 2,000 instructors offered more than 6,600 OER course sections, reaching 160,000 students. The effort did save money for students (about $65 per student, per course), improved their learning experience and was cost-effective for the colleges, the study says. Students who took multiple OER courses, on average earned more college credits over time than similar students who didn’t take OER courses, it says. However, researchers say that they weren’t able to determine the factors for that, citing the sample of 11 colleges that fit the parameters to study this was possibly not large enough.
- Minnesota ranks third in the nation for higher education degree attainment, yet there are “persistent and troubling racial disparities between POCI [People of Color and American Indian and/or Indigenous] students and their White peers,” according to researchers with Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP). The non-profit released a brief on reducing racial disparities in college completion that examines Minnesota’s higher education finance system. Part of the problem is a continued reduction in state aid for students while tuition prices continue to rise. Under current state law, all college students applying for a Minnesota State Grant are required to contribute 50 percent of the total costs of college, which “may be unreasonable for students at lower incomes,” the researchers say. Other limitations for college students include the high cost of living, inadequate work-study programs and the complexity of the FAFSA program. Consequences for these limitations include limited enrollment choices and increasing loan debt for POCI students. The brief also includes policy recommendations, including reducing student responsibility for the Minnesota state grant and extending the state grant eligibility to the equivalent of 10 full-time semesters.