Notes & Coffee: October 30 - November 5

Notes & Coffee is here to keep you informed of all the trending student affairs and higher ed news stories most critical to our field as they develop. In the age of information overload, we’re here to bring you vetted examinations of the stories that matter to our field. We invite you to brew a favorite morning beverage, kick back, relax, and catch yourself up for the week ahead with Notes & Coffee.

Free community college picks up steam – Free public high school for everyone didn’t happen overnight. It began gradually with communities and states changing expectations about high school until, eventually, every state offered it for free. Advocates of tuition-free college like to make this point – that a single state or city won’t be able to change the way people think about how we pay for college and who should attend it. Cities like Long Beach, Calif., and Detroit, and states like Tennessee and Rhode Island have created tuition-free community college programs. But this year, two of the most populous states in the country – California and New York – signed off on free college plans, and their presence in the conversation could have a big impact on efforts to increase access and alter the college-going culture.

Peer review by whom? – Science advocates are calling a proposal from Senator Rand Paul a blatant attempt to inject politics into federally funded research. Paul, a Kentucky Republican, is one of the Senate’s biggest critics of what he sees as wasteful spending by the government. His latest target is federal research he believes has little or no payoff for taxpayers -- a situation Paul would address by altering the peer-review process for evaluating grant applications at all federal agencies, including the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, as well as smaller agencies such as the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Faculty buy-in build, bit by bit: survey of faculty attitudes on technology – Professors are slowly gaining confidence in the effectiveness of online learning as more of them teach online, Inside Higher Ed's 2017 Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology reveals. While faculty members remain slightly more likely to disagree than to agree that online courses can achieve student outcomes that are as good as those of in-person courses, the proportion agreeing rose sharply this year, and the proportion strongly disagreeing dropped precipitously.

Understanding why some colleges create economic mobility – American higher education purports to be a driver of economic and social mobility, and compared to many other countries' systems, it is. Yet even today, a student whose family is in the top income quintile is five times likelier than a student from the lowest quintile to earn a bachelor's degree by the age of 24. That is a problem for several reasons, including that to meet the education-attainment goals that many believe is needed for a vibrant economy – having roughly 60 percent of citizens hold a quality postsecondary credential of some kind -– colleges and universities must enroll and graduate far larger numbers of the disadvantaged young people and adults whom they have historically struggled to serve.

IT effectiveness found lacking – Many campus investments in information technology aren't necessarily paying off, according to the National Survey of Computing, eLearning and Information Technology. The survey of IT leaders, conducted by the Campus Computing Project, found that many see only modest benefits from IT investments, and generally low satisfaction with many IT services on campus.

More Notes

Strayer and Capella announce merger

Making students’ jobs more meaningful

A data paradox

In the era of microcredentials, institutions look to blockchain to verify learning

“The Doha Experiment”