Blog posts tagged in Presidents Blog

Two weeks ago, I shared the results of a recent study by the Pew Charitable Trust entitled, “How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates.” This study focuses on the practical issues of finding a job and earning money.

It is not an opinion piece.  Rather, the study provides a series of analyses drawn from the data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 2003-2011.  The CPS is administered monthly and sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The Pew study focused on recent college graduates (aged 21 to 24).  And the data is clear … a college degree is still the best investment for career opportunity and the best protection from a downturn in the economy.  It is clear that all young workers were impacted by the recession with fewer jobs and lower wages.  But what this study reveals is that the declines for college graduates were far less severe than those without this level of education.

Here are some of the conclusions taken from the report:

Before the recession, just over half (55 percent) of young adults with a high school degree (HS) were employed, compared with almost two-thirds (64 percent) of those with an associate's degree (AA) and 7 in 10 (69 percent) of those with a bachelor’s degree (BA).

Job losses during the recession made existing employment gaps even worse.  The employment declines for those with HS and AA degrees were 16 and 11 percent, respectively, compared with seven percent for those with BA degrees.

Before the recession, BA graduates had more than twice as many college-level jobs as AA graduates and more than four times as many college-level jobs as HS graduates. This advantage did not deteriorate during the recession.  Six percent of the HS and AA groups lost college-level jobs compared with only three percent of BA graduates.

Although wages decreased for all education groups, the decrease was less pronounced for recent four-year college graduates. The decline in weekly wages was only five percent for BA graduates, whereas the corresponding declines were as high as 12 and 10 percent for AA and HS graduates, respectively.

During the recession, the non-working population increased in size for all three education groups, but the share of that population attending school did not increase.  Approximately two-thirds of all non-working graduates were attending school, a proportion that did not differ much by degree type.

The proportion of BA degree-holders who made the transition from being excluded from the labor market (i.e., not working or in school) to employment barely changed during the recession.

By contrast, the proportions of HS and AA graduates who found employment declined significantly with the recession—by approximately 10 percent for those with AA degrees and eight percent for those with HS degrees.

The findings show that the deteriorating market situation of recent college graduates, while real and troubling, is nonetheless less extreme than that experienced by less-educated groups.

There is no doubt that the end of the recession and economic growth will benefit everyone.  But this study provides some good news for those working on their degrees.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Last week I attended the annual CIC (Council of Independent Colleges) Meeting.  I serve on the Board of Directors of this international organization.  CIC is an association of nonprofit independent colleges and universities that has worked since 1956  "to support college and university leadership; advance institutional excellence; and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society.”  There are over 600 member institutions.

This annual meeting is for presidents only. And while the sessions and presentations are valuable, the real benefit is in the time spent speaking with my colleagues and learning about strategies and successes that may help our institution.  A central refrain during this meeting was the concern about the consistent questioning of the value of a college degree … especially at a private, independent college where tuition is relatively high.  There have been media stories and anecdotes galore regarding the challenges of the current recession and job market and the waste of time and money in attending college.

At the CIC Meeting, our focus was a discussion of the inherent value of education, and especially a liberal arts education, which is at the center of the educational experience at most independent colleges.  I agree with this and have written about liberal education many times.  But upon my return to the office, I was pleased to find a new report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.  This report, entitled, “How Much Protection Does A College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates,” focuses on the practical issues of finding a job and earning money.

Historically, study after study has demonstrated clearly that a college degree “not only increases the chances of upward mobility” (job opportunity, higher pay, career advancement), “but also reduces the chances of downward mobility” (unemployment, job loss, stagnant income).  However, in these challenging economic times, there is a perception that the “labor market is beginning to unravel for recent graduates.”  And these perceptions have led to a number of featured articles and stories (not research) about the high levels of debt, the limited job opportunity, and the lack of value of a college degree (in other words, why do you need a college degree if you are going to end up living in your parents’ basement!).

The Pew study focused on recent college graduates (aged 21 to 24). And the data is clear … a college degree is still the best investment for career opportunity and the best protection from a downturn in the economy.

The study provides a series of analyses drawn from the data collected in the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 2003-2011. The CPS is administered monthly and sponsored jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). It is “the primary source of labor force statistics for the population of the United States.  The CPS is the source of numerous high-profile economic statistics, including the national unemployment rate, and provides data on a wide range of issues relating to employment and earnings.  The CPS also collects extensive demographic data that complement and enhance our understanding of labor market conditions in the nation overall, among many different population groups, in the states and in sub-state areas.”

The samples analyzed included graduates between the ages of 21 and 24 in the pre-recession period, the time of recession, and in the post-recession period (as defined by the Bureau of Labor).  The analyses compared those with a high school degree, a two-year degree, and a four-year degree.  Next week I will share a more detailed summary of the results.

But in the meantime, let’s get our children back to campus … it really is a good investment!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

During the late Fall, I devoted a number of blogs to the ideas generated through a series in The Chronicle of Higher Education that suggested ways to reinvent college.  I shared and commented on some of the ideas proposed by writers for The Chronicle, and shared some of my own ideas as well.

As I described then, readers were invited to formally propose their own ideas … and a winner was chosen in late December.  There were a number of finalists identified:

      Costco University – Faculty own the institution, and administrators work for the faculty.

      Let's Go Monk! The 21st-Century Monastery, Reinvented – Move higher ed back 800 years and everyone is a monk.

      The Mobile University – College is not a specific place, but every student has four mentors.

      Reinvention Poem – Multiple ideas put to rhyme.

But the best idea, according to The Chronicle, was described as “The College of the Global Village.”  Here’s the concept: “With an emphasis on experiential learning through a multidisciplinary investigation of varied meanings and practices of the good life; an immersion into the experience of new languages, including those of literature, the visual and performing arts, and the STEM disciplines; and the acquisition of an additional spoken and written language through living and learning in a culture where that language is primary, it is the objective of the College of the Global Village, through disciplined engagement, to strive to refocus learning on depth of experience rather than breadth of knowledge.”

Specifically, students would participate during the first year in “four immersive blocks of study,” each block lasting eight weeks. Blocks would include the arts and the humanities or a STEM discipline, Science and Ecology, “the great books,” and language immersion. Emphasis would be on research and writing.

During the second and third years, students would participate in eight additional learning blocks, which are multidisciplinary in their approach.  Examples would include blocks like, "A Guided Inquiry into the Role of Museums and Concert Halls in Civil Society" and "The Transformation of the World from Nation-States to Global Networks.”

The final year provides the opportunity for a “guided internship.”  Students would also participate in “a weekly integrative seminar” in which they would share their various learning experiences.

I must admit that none of these final proposals, including the winning entry, are especially impressive to me.  While both the “Global Village” and the “Mobile University” ideas address current issues in pedagogy, neither seems particularly innovative.  In fact, many of these ideas are already being used in various ways and date back to the educational philosophies of Maria Montessori and John Dewey.

While we can always improve the educational experience … and should … these ideas provide little new thinking regarding access and affordability.  Hopefully, the higher ed community will be even more creative in these areas.  And we can do it in prose and without a visit to the monastery.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)


This will be my last blog entry for 2012.  I plan to take the next two weeks off from writing, but will return in January 2013.  I want to wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah and a special holiday season.  I hope that we will all have a wonderful and peace-filled 2013.

I also want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog and to engage in both reflection and dialogue about the issues that are raised.  People regularly ask me the same questions about this blog.  Here are some answers: 

Question: Who writes your blog?

Answer: I write the blog each and every week by myself.  From time to time, people suggest topics.  But in the end, I choose           topics that relate to higher education and society, and topics that I believe will be of interest to you, as well as to me.  I do have people who help with the editing process.  But for better or worse, the blog is all mine.

Question: Why do you write a weekly blog?

Answer: I write it for you … but I also write it for me.  For you, I hope the blog provides information, as well as ideas that are thought-provoking.  I am amazed at how many people regularly read the blog and take the time to respond either by e-mail or in person.  But I also write the blog for me.  The commitment to write a weekly blog requires me to take time every week to read, reflect and write.  Like all of us, schedules become ever-demanding.  As a member of the academic community, I value my own scholarship, research and writing.  The blog helps me to be true to my profession.

Question: Do readers respond to your blog?

        Answer: I receive many responses each week.  For some reason, very few people want their comments posted on the website. More typically, I receive e-mails, phone calls or direct comments from people at the events and meetings I attend on and off campus. Responses to the blog fall into three general categories.  There are some people who seem to agree with almost everything I write and regularly express appreciation and support.  Thank you!  There is a second group who assess each blog entry individually.  These readers sometimes agree, sometimes disagree, but almost always add ideas or information to the conversation.  Thank you as well! Finally, there are readers who only contact me when they disagree with what I write.  While sometimes painful, these responses are particularly valuable when their criticism includes a different perspective or analysis.  I value and appreciate the intellectual dialogue and learn a great deal from these readers!

Finally, let me share a few somewhat random thoughts about higher education.  The challenges for the future are enormous.  I have written repeatedly about the issues of access, affordability, quality improvement, assessment, integrity, performance, global competitiveness, etc.  At times it is at best ironic and at worst extremely frustrating that the very storehouses of so much intellectual capital and ability are so resistant to and slow to respond to the necessary changes of the future.  Higher education needs a radical transformation.  There is some evidence of innovative curriculum models, but still too little willingness to examine ways to collaborate and create economic efficiencies.  And these changes need to come from within higher ed, not from Washington, DC or external groups.  I hope that in 2013, we, the higher education community, will show more evidence and increased progress in reforming higher ed to meet the needs of our current and future generations of students.

And to understand why this is so important, one needs only to spend some time with today’s students.  In the past two weeks, I have concluded my Fall semester conversations with every freshman, and joined our students at multiple celebrations (Kwanzaa, Christmas Concert, Christmas Dinner).  These experiences provide graphic and palpable evidence of the potential, the hopes, and the dreams of these women and men.  And the key to all of this is a great education.

Long ago I stopped making New Year’s resolutions.  Rather, the transition to a new year is an opportunity to reaffirm some long standing values and commitments.  For me, providing quality higher education for first generation college students and students/families of limited means is a noble cause.  I hope to do it better in 2013.  And I thank you for your continued interest in and support of higher education.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

As the president of a sectarian college and a former Theology professor, I am interested in observing how people define religiousness.  On a college campus, for example, it is fairly common for students to see “being religious” as a synonym for being involved in service or in helping others in the community.  They do not necessarily relate religion with formal worship or explicit moral/ethical positions.

Last week, a book entitled, God Is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America, was released.  Written by Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief of Gallup, this book reflects the findings from a large public opinion survey.  Gallup has conducted an annual survey on the topic of religion since 2008.  This book reflects the analysis of over 1 million Gallup interviews over the past four years.

While I await the arrival of the book, I have read several excerpts and the results of the recently released 2012 Gallup poll on religion.  This past year’s poll reflects data from 326,761 telephone interviews with adults, 18 years or older, in every state.  The results are very interesting:

  •  69% of adults self-report that they are very (40%) or moderately (29%) religious
  • Being religious is defined as agreeing that religion is part of a person’s daily life and regular attendance at a church, synagogue or mosque
  •  Religiousness increases with age … least religious at age 23 and most religious at age 80
  • Women are significantly more religious than men regardless of age, race or ethnic group
  • Blacks are the most religious race or ethnic group
  • Mormons are the most religious group, Jews are the least
  • Religiousness is highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast
  • The higher the education level and income, the lower the religiousness
  • Republicans are more religious than Democrats or independents
  • 77% of Americans identify themselves as Christians

One of Newport’s contentions in his book is that the importance of religion will remain high or even increase in the future if only because of the rise in the population of people over 65.  But as I read these data and portions of Newport’s study, the question that remained for me was, what does being religious really mean?

One could argue that attending religious services regularly is a good sign of religiousness.  It is interesting to note, however, that the self-report of those interviewed every year by Gallup does not correlate with the church attendance figures released by almost every religious denomination and group.  Most religious groups report declining attendance in services and programs.

Does Gallup’s second criterion, “religion is involved in a person’s daily life,” mean that religion is more evident in the way people act and think?  Do you see evidence of this in the world today?  While we often see random acts of kindness and charity, we also see regular and ongoing evidence of illegal and immoral behavior.

Even more concerning is the way in which religion divides us more often than unites us.  Specific church teachings of any religion can be used as weapons against the common beliefs of all religions related to peace, justice and charity.  One would hope that the 69% of Americans who self-report the importance of religion would find common ground for advancing human rights and a moral/ethical society that serves the Common Good.

During this special time of the year for Christians and Jews, I will continue to look for signs of religiousness… in myself and in others.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)