After a Brief Hiatus…

June 16th, 2020
2023 Amber Roman Headshot(1)
Amber Roman
Director of Strategic Communications

June 18, 2020

It’s been a minute…not gonna lie, I’ve struggled to make progress on my reading list these last few weeks. I am grateful for you all, and for those seventeen subscription TV services that have provided me with endless content to binge when I haven’t felt like nerding out.

Last week, the Campaign released an update to our signature report Left Out: California’s Higher Education Governing Boards Do Not Reflect the Racial and Gender Diversity of California and its Student Body. I would encourage folks to take a look at the breakdowns within the full report, but here are some highlights.

Governor Newsom:

Bright Spots of Inclusion:

Challenges to Inclusivity:

Clearly we have a lot of work to do. But our state’s students deserve leaders who reflect California’s remarkable population. This isn’t solely about the implications for policymaking. Our students should be able to look at the governing boards of their colleges and systems and find role models among their leaders.

There has been no shortage of education research content, as well, so here are a few highlights from the past few weeks.

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) has published a few studies that are worth highlighting. We’ve long talked about the importance of the teacher in the classroom, but this paper looks to measure the impacts of certain types of instructor-outreach to students. The authors look at a strategy of sending strategically timed emails to students with advice on how to succeed in the course, their current standing, and reminders of the professor’s availability. They find that the strategy improved perceptions of the instructor among students, but did not, on average, have much impact on outcomes. When they look beyond the averages, though, they do find evidence that this strategy actually did improve outcomes among first-year students who were under-represented minorities. In terms of cost, this one is relatively low. Faculty and instructor time is valuable, though, so an approach that targets the intervention towards this set of students seems like a sound one to me!

A study published this week looked at students enrolling in college-level courses in Florida after the state’s policy change allowed students with high school diplomas to bypass developmental coursework. The upshot? Following the reforms, students were more likely to take and pass college-level courses in their first year of studies. And the gains were bigger for Black and Latinx students. More evidence that supports giving students a chance to succeed.

An interesting working paper/white paper/paper I came across a few weeks ago finds a link between noise and cognitive function. I’m tempted to let the lawnmowers and leaf blowers of the amazing grounds crew here take the blame for the aforementioned decline in my reading volume, but I think the more important things to consider are what we do for students who are in schools near a major freeway or airport. Just some food for thought.

This study about the Economic Impact of Access to Four-Years is also from NBER. I like this piece for two reasons. First, the University of Georgia has a minimum SAT score for admissions. I do NOT like that policy, but this allows the researchers to use a “regression discontinuity design” (see previous blog posts about quasi-experimental methods for more, but the gist is that there really isn’t much difference between students just above and students just below the cut-score – this being particularly true for a blunt instrument like the SAT. As such, they can compare students who were admitted to those who didn’t qualify). They find that, by age 30, students who had access to the university out-earned their peers by 20 percent. The gains were higher for students from low-income families.

The Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice put out this report on basic needs insecurity among students who themselves are parents. The report details that around 20% of college students today are responsible for the care of a child. Among this set, more than half reported food insecurity within the prior month, and almost one in five reported being homeless in the prior year. Aside from the basic humanity of supporting students with children, there is the reality that mothers with degrees contribute more tax dollars to the state and use less in public assistance over their lifetimes than mothers without college degrees. The report is worth a look.

Stay strong!

Vikash Reddy

Vikash Reddy, Senior Director of Policy Research

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