A Compendium of Recent Research and Books of Interest to Higher Education Professionals



Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education Financing

Sandy Baum
(Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)
One of the nation’s leading experts on college finance delves into a topic that is on many minds during this election season—student debt in America. Sandy Baum, senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, combines data, research, and analysis to illustrate how the widely accepted narrative on student debt in America obscures serious problems, risks misdirecting taxpayer dollars, and can deprive Americans of the educational opportunities they deserve. She articulates the impact of student debt while putting the student debt “crisis” story into perspective. The book’s policy recommendations help provide a basis for a new and more constructive national agenda to make paying for college more manageable.

The Faculty Factor: Reassessing the American Academy in a Turbulent Era

Martin J. Finkelstein, Valerie Martin Conley, and Jack H. Schuster
(Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)
Extending Jack H. Schuster and Martin J. Finkelstein’s detailed classic, The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers, this new book documents the transformation of the American faculty into a diversified and internally stratified professional workforce. The Faculty Factor draws on previously unpublished data to provide a comprehensive contemporary depiction of the changing nature of academic work and what it means to be a college or university faculty member today. Written for professors, adjuncts, graduate students, and academic, political, business, and nonprofit leaders, the study offers a balanced assessment of the risks and opportunities posed for the American faculty by economic, market-driven forces beyond their control. The authors propose strategic policy recommendations to enhance the strengths of American higher education to retain leadership in the global economy.


How College Affects Students: 21st Century Evidence That Higher Education Works, Volume 3

Matthew J. Mayhew, Alyssa N. Rockenbach, Nicholas A. Bowman, et al.
(Jossey-Bass, 2016)
How College Affects Students summarizes data from more than 1,800 research investigations to reveal how the undergraduate experience affects students on college campuses nationwide. Volume 3 contains findings accumulated from 2002 to 2013 and covers the diverse aspects of college impact—including cognitive and intellectual development; attitudes and values; educational attainment; and economic, career, and quality-of-life outcomes after college. This book compares current findings with those in Volumes 1 and 2 (covering 1967 to 2001) and highlights research findings over the past 45 years. The work is a useful resource for administrators, faculty members, policymakers, and student affairs practitioners and provides insight into the impact of their work.

Improving Quality in American Higher Education: Learning Outcomes and Assessments for the 21st Century

Richard Arum, Josipa Roksa, and Amanda Cook, editors
(Jossey-Bass, 2016)
Written by faculty and association leaders across six disciplines, this book focuses on the fundamental concepts and competencies society demands from today’s college graduates and provides a vision to serve them better. Based on a national, multidisciplinary effort to define and measure learning outcomes—the Measuring College Learning project—the book identifies “essential concepts and competencies” for six disciplines—biology, business, communication, economics, history, and sociology—which account for nearly 40 percent of undergraduate majors in the United States. Contributions from thought leaders in higher education offer expert perspectives and persuasive arguments for the need for greater clarity, intentionality, and quality in U.S. higher education.

Well-Being and Higher Education: A Strategy for Change and the Realization of Education’s Greater Purposes

Donald W. Harward, editor
(Bringing Theory to Practice, 2016)
This book explores the multiple connections of well-being to higher education and why those connections matter—for the individual lives of students and those who teach, for the institution, and for the promise of higher education to a democratic society. The book’s 35 essays and “provocations” by respected voices within and beyond the academy address theoretical underpinnings and practical expressions of these connections. Essays range from examining what well-being means, to how well-being is linked to the core purposes of an institution of higher education, to how campuses can facilitate and manifest this connection in concrete ways. The book’s publisher, Bringing Theory to Practice, is an independent project in partnership with the Association of American Colleges and Universities; it encourages colleges and universities to assert their core purposes as educational institutions to advance learning and discovery, the potential and well-being of each student, and education as a public good.

Understanding and Using Social Media on College Campuses: A Practical Guide for Higher Education Professionals

Brandon C. Waite and Darren A. Wheeler
(Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016)
The authors—both associate professors of political science at Ball State University—penned this guide to help higher education professionals strategically approach social media initiatives. The book presents a framework for how higher education professionals should consider the internet technology environments (ITEs) of areas where they work. Brandon C. Waite and Darren A. Wheeler argue that, instead of using a one-size-fits-all social media approach throughout a campus, academic departments within each university may need to design social media initiatives for their unique campus environment. The book highlights the approaches faculty and staff members might take when designing and implementing social media initiatives and introduces strategies these administrators can use to strengthen their ITEs, ultimately facilitating the successful incorporation of social media technology into campus communications.

Becoming a Student-Ready College: A New Culture of Leadership for Student Success

Tia Brown McNair, Susan Albertine, and Michelle Asha Cooper, et al.
(Jossey-Bass, 2016)
Instead of focusing on whether students are prepared for college, this book asks more pragmatic questions: What are colleges and universities doing to prepare for the students who are entering their institutions? What must change in an institution’s policies, practices, and culture in order to be student-ready? The book provides practical strategies to achieve student success goals, and the authors’ ideas for redesigning practices and policies offer a framework for institutional change. The authors explain how educators can acknowledge their own biases and assumptions about underserved students in order to allow for change; new ways to advance student learning and success; how to develop and value student assets and social capital; and approaches for creating a new student-focused culture of leadership.

There Is Life after College: What Parents and Students Should Know about Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Jeffrey J. Selingo
(HarperCollins, 2016)
For his latest book, author, columnist, and former editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education Jeffrey J. Selingo commissioned a survey of 752 young adults, which he then categorized into three groups of roughly equal size: “sprinters,” “wanderers,” and “stragglers.” Sprinters pursue lucrative jobs immediately after graduating from college, wanderers experiment with multiple fields and take longer to find a suitable career path, and stragglers either do not finish or take much longer to graduate from college and have trouble finding higher-paid work. Although Selingo argues that liberal arts education is the best preparation for future jobs, he underscores the importance of developing industry-specific skills. He touts the value of tech-training programs, community college and two-year degrees, as well as gap years.

The Future of University Credentials: New Developments at the Intersection of Higher Education and Hiring

Sean R. Gallagher
(Harvard Education Press, 2016)
Sean R. Gallagher, chief strategy officer for Northeastern University’s Global Network and a nationally recognized higher education expert, provides an extensive overview of the expanding world of university degrees and credentials. He describes the entire spectrum of credentials—including universities and colleges, employers, government agencies, and policy makers—and the students whose futures are affected by the certifications. The book examines where university credentials might be headed—as educational institutions seek to better serve students and employers in a rapidly changing world—as well as future challenges and opportunities for this emerging field. Diana G. Oblinger, president emeritus of EDUCAUSE, wrote the book’s foreword.



First Destinations for the College Class of 2015

National Association of Colleges and Employers
(NACE, June 2016)
NACE’s first-destination survey focuses on how college graduates fare in their careers in the first six months after graduation. These findings cover students who have received degrees from the associate to doctoral level. Public university career outcomes are consistently below those of private nonprofit institutions. For example, 91 percent of private college students find jobs six months after graduation, compared to 81 percent of public college students (see figure 1 below). A new focus for NACE was first-destination outcomes for students graduating with an advanced degree. The survey is intended to inform the discussion about the value of higher education. Access the full report.

Next-Generation CBE: Designing Competency-Based Education for Underprepared College Learners

Jobs for the Future
(July 2016)
Competency-based education (CBE) is widely viewed as an innovative alternative to traditional higher education (see CIC’s Research Brief 1: Competency-Based Education). Yet most programs serve only a small percentage of the postsecondary population, and few programs are designed for adults who need to boost basic skills in order to succeed in college. This report emphasizes that if designed with the needs of a broad range of learners in mind, CBE could be an important piece of the national movement to increase educational access, equity, and credential attainment. The report is the first in a series that will examine how to adapt CBE in order to expand access and increase success for this expanding group. Access the full report.

Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2016

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics
(August 2016)

This report examines the educational progress and challenges students face in the United States by race and ethnicity. It summarizes data on topics such as demographics; preprimary, elementary, and secondary participation; student achievement; student behaviors and persistence in education; postsecondary education; and outcomes of education. The report shows that over time, students in the racial/ethnic groups of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Two or More Races have completed high school and continued their education in college in increasing numbers. Despite these gains, the rate of progress has varied among these racial/ethnic groups, and differences by race/ethnicity persist in terms of increases in attainment and progress on key indicators of educational performance. In one example, the report indicates that the White-Hispanic gap in the total college enrollment rate narrowed between 2003 and 2013 (from 18 to 8 percentage points); however, the White-Black gap in the total college enrollment rate did not change measurably during this period. Download a PDF of the report.

The 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers

Gallup and Inside Higher Ed
(July 2016)

The sixth annual survey of college and university business officers provides insight into how these leaders view fiscal issues facing their institutions and U.S. higher education. Conducted by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed, the survey drew responses from chief business officers at 386 public and private institutions. The results show a steep rise in the proportion of business officers agreeing with the idea that higher education is in the middle of a financial crisis; 63 percent of chief business officers believe that media reports of a financial crisis for higher education are accurate. The survey also reveals chief business officers’ opinion on instititional debt: 72 percent of chief business officers believe that their college has an appropriate amount of debt, while 14 percent say their college is carrying too much debt. In assessing their institutions’ financial health, most officers indicate that their institutions use an agreed-upon set of indicators and are aware of the intitution’s financial challenges (see figures 2 and 3 below). For the report, visit. Visit Inside Higher Ed for the full report.



FIGURE 1: Report Assesses Career and Employment Outcomes of Graduates

Outcome rates for graduates of private colleges are better than rates of those from public institutions.

Charts: Private, nonprofit 4-year: $52,574 mean starting salary; Public 4-year: $48,292 mean starting salary. Private, nonprofit 4-year: 91.4% of collge students finding job six months after graduation; Public 4-year: 80.9% of collge students finding job six months after graduation.  

Source: “First Destinations for the College Class of 2015” (2016). National Association of Colleges and Employers. Figure prepared by the Council of Independent Colleges.

FIGURE 2: Business Officers Rate Institutions’ Awareness of Financial Health

Private college chief business officers are more likely than their public sector peers to say their college relies on a standard set of metrics to gauge their financial situation.

Charts: Does your institution have an agreed-upon set of indicators that it uses internally to guage its financial health? Public: 67% Yes, 33% No; Private: 84% Yes, 16% No.  

Source: “The 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers” (2016). Gallup and Inside Higher Ed. Figures prepared by the Council of Independent Colleges.

FIGURE 3: Business Officers Agree that Senior Administrators Understand Financial Challenges

Chief business officers of private institutions are slightly more likely to say that senior administrators are aware of and understand the financial challenges their institutions face.

Chart: Senior administrators are aware of and understand the financial challenges confronting my institution. Private Nonprofit: 89% Agree or Strongly Agree, 3% Disagree or Strongly Disagree; Public: 82% Agree or Strongly Agree, 7% Disagree or Strongly Disagree. 

Source: “The 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Business Officers” (2016). Gallup and Inside Higher Ed. Figures prepared by the Council of Independent Colleges.