Cost Estimates for Providing Learning Assistance

The following is an excerpt from my book, "Access at the crossroads" described in the left-hand column. 

It is clear that a large percentage of students use learning assistance services every year. Some policymakers perceive this high volume of participation and wide range of activities as too expensive. Recent studies disprove this view. As pervasive as learning assistance has become, it consumes a minor amount of a given institution’s budget. The most recent national study (Phipps, 1998) estimates its cost at less than $1 billion of $115 billion in the public higher education annual budget. This amount includes spending on developmental credit courses and noncredit services (tutoring, drop-in learning centers) that a wide variety of students of varying academic preparation levels use. Saxon and Boylan (2001) confirmed this finding through analysis of other similar studies. Additional analysis by Phipps (1998) found the unit cost of remedial or developmental courses was less than other academic content areas such as English, mathematics, or business. Classes were smaller than for most core academic subjects but cost less. It may be because faculty members who teach developmental courses are paid less compared with faculty members who teach other courses. It may also reflect the heavy use of adjunct and part-time instructors for these courses at public two-year institutions, the primary providers of these courses (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).

Others advocates (Phipps, 1998; McCabe and Day, 1998; Wilson and Justiz, 1988) argue learning assistance is essential for economic reasons because of the costs to society and the economic level of students who do not complete their college degrees because sufficient learning assistance was lacking. The United States risks development of “an educational and economic under-class whose contributions to society will be limited and whose dependency on others will grow. The risk increases for creating a culture and economy that ignores the talents of a large number of citizens” (Wilson and Justiz, 1988, pp. 9–10). McCabe and Day (1998) estimate that 2 million students each year will drop out of postsecondary education because they did not participate in learning assistance, which will negatively affect their own lives as well as the national economy. Alphen (2009) conducted a multicountry study of the impact of not completing an undergraduate college degree. Controlling for country-level variables, the findings confirmed the negative economic impact of people not obtaining at least an undergraduate degree compared with the cost of providing postsecondary education.

Funded by the Lumina and Wal-Mart foundations, a national study investigated the costs and returns of providing academic support programs and the net impact on revenue at the institution. Institutions were two-year and four-year, public and private, of various sizes, and geographically dispersed throughout the United States. The study found that learning assistance was positively related to higher student persistence and increased revenue above the cost of providing academic support services (Delta Project, 2009). Another study focused on the Community College of Denver concerned the cost-effectiveness of learning assistance. Net revenue generated through higher rates of student persistence were significantly higher than the cost of the learning assistance services (Corash and Baker, 2009).

Important New Book on Developmental Education Policy and Practice

The State of Developmental Education captures the current condition of state developmental education policy as it is implemented in higher education institutions. Few studies have examined the role that policy plays in the implementation and execution of developmental education on campuses, particularly at four-year institutions. Parker, Bustillos, and Barrett examine state developmental education policies of five states by exploring the impact these policies have on institutions and documenting how institutional actors respond to these policies. If states and indeed the nation are to meet the educational attainment goals, particularly bachelor's degree attainment, it is important that both four- and two-year colleges and universities share in the responsibility of educating students.

I found the book through Amazon and Barnes&Noble online for $85.  I had a chance to review the original manuscript and found it really informative.  Just so you know, I didn't get paid to do an endorsement.  In fact, I need to order my own copy.  But I think it is worth it.



From Teachers College Record: "BYOD: Re-Examining the Issue of Digital Equity"

by Rae L. Mancilla — August 08, 2014

This commentary questions whether the implementation of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in American schools is a way of bridging or deepening the digital divide amongst students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds. It argues that that digital equity with mobile devices cannot be achieved without individual ownership of mobile technologies and concludes by posing a series of potential means of working toward the goal of ownership in schools.

The digital divide between technology haves and have-nots has been a persistent problem for education recognized on both national and international levels. On the wrong side of the divide are typically minority and low-income students, as well as urban residents who lack access to what are now commonplace technologies (e.g., internet) (Servon, 2002). Achieving equitable physical access to technology is seen as just a starting point in addressing the many disparities that emanate from the digital divide and that pervade students’ technology use, training, and learning outcomes once initial access has been granted (Warschauer & Matuchniak, 2010).


Educators and administrators are increasingly turning to mobile devices as a means of closing this digital gap because they are cost-effective and widely used, especially by students between the ages of 12-17. (Madden, Lenhart, Duggan, Cortesi & Gasser, 2013). Although these figures are somewhat lower for low-income students, the overwhelming growth of student ownership of mobile devices has fueled policies such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) in schools, with the underlying goal of helping schools manage budget cuts while still preparing digitally literate 21st century learners (Dixon &Tierney, 2012).


The trade-off of shifting the financial responsibility from schools to students to provide their own devices for learning may seem financially advantageous; however, from the standpoint of digital equity, it is not. Digital equity means, “ensuring that every student […] has equitable access to advanced technologies, communication and information resources, and the learning experiences they provide (Solomon, Allen, and Resta, 2003, p. xiii). Ensuring equity for students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds under BYOD is complex and problematic on multiple levels.


Very basically, students of low socioeconomic status are not often owners of mobile devices, or bring nonequivalent technologies to school. Given the varied nature of mobile devices, it is difficult to equate the capabilities of one device with another. A case in point is comparing a mobile phone (the most commonly owned device) to an iPad; can the learning experiences with these devices ever be approximated? Many schools have also attempted to troubleshoot the non-ownership of devices by allowing students to borrow or rent school-owned devices (Chadband, 2012). However, lending students devices for limited periods of time or only for use throughout the school day denies them the fullness of the mobile learning experience and contradicts the very purpose of mobile learning: mobility.


Research now shows that the use of mobile devices is related to changes in students’ cognition, affecting essentially how they learn (Kukulska-Hulme, 2009). Given that the way students access, process, and interact with educational content is shaped by the technology they have available to them, it is necessary to ensure that all students have the same toolbox to work with. This begs the question: how is it possible for all students to share an equivalent learning experience when owners have unlimited access to tools that borrowers do not?


Finally, individual ownership of mobile devices is a prerequisite when considering the affective (i.e., emotional/relational) dimension of mobile learning. For example, studies on mobile phones show that people develop a relationship with their phones and an emotional attachment that stems from the extensive time shared with them (Vincent, 2006). Therefore, a key element in students’ learning experience with mobile technology is the growth of a mobile identity that occurs over time. This is impossible to achieve when students are required to borrow and return school-owned devices.


Using ownership as the most fundamental and necessary criteria for establishing equity, how then can equitable access be practically leveraged to borrowers in schools? Currently, few models exist to tackle the obstacle of funding one-to-one mobile technology initiatives, with laptops being one of the only examples of how schools have provided access to individual computing in the past. Most of these efforts have been backed by large federal and state monies, such as 21st Century Community Learning Center grants and State Educational Technology grants associated with the Race to the Top Initiative (2009), but have not yet trickled down into mobile devices.


Besides government funding, there are several potential pathways for funding a BYOD program. These include partnering with local businesses to refurbish their used devices, allowing students to lease school-owned devices (e.g., semester or yearly basis), and providing financing plans for families who cannot afford to purchase a device (e.g., layaway) (Intel Education, 2013). Expanding on these alternatives, I call for the development of a sliding scale for families of low to mid-income students to subsidize the purchase of a personal device based on family size and income. This is necessary for students of mid-income families who may not completely qualify for a school-purchased device, but still have a substantial economic need. Additionally, why not consider partnering with nationally-established businesses in the private sector to launch or expand programs such as the Broadband Adoption Challenge (2010), which currently offers eligible families affordable home internet and computer access through participating providers such as Comcast, Time Warner, and many others? Although this program does not cover vouchers for purchasing mobile devices, this option needs to be added for interested families to help bridge the new mobile divide.


In sum, while mobile devices have been foregrounded as a means of bridging the digital divide between technology haves and have-nots, the birth of the BYOD movement in schools is deepening these tensions under a new guise of owners versus borrowers. The issue of digital equity must move beyond providing physical access to technology through schools’ lending libraries of mobile devices. Achieving an equitable mobile learning experience requires unrestricted access to mobile devices (i.e., device ownership) that facilitates the development of a relationship with the device itself and a customized and transportable learning experience across educational contexts. The personal nature of mobile devices sets them apart from conventional computing and requires the re-thinking of how to be equitable with BYOD through creative models that blend federal, state, and local support for leveraging mobile technologies in schools.



  •  Chadband, E. (2012, July 19). Should schools embrace “Bring Your Own Device”?. NEA Today. Retrieved from http://neatoday.org/2012/07/19/should-schools-embrace-bring-your-own-device/
  • Dixon, B., & Tierney, S. (2012). Bring your own device to school. Retrieved from http://blogs. msdn. com/b/education/archive/2012/08/15/microsoft-bring-your-own-device-in-schoolswhitepaper. aspx.
  • Intel Education (2013). K-12 Blueprint: Funding a BYOD (bring your own device) program. Retrieved from http://www.k12blueprint.com/funding
  • Kukulska-Hulme, A. (2009). Will mobile learning change language learning. ReCALL, 21(2), 157–165.
  • Madden, M., Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Cortesi, S., & Gasser, U. (2013). Teens and technology 2013. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
  • Servon, L. (2002). Bridging the digital divide: Technology, community and public policy. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.
  • Solomon, G., Allen, N., & Resta, P. (2003). Toward digital equity: Bridging the divide in education. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Vincent, J. (2006). Emotional attachment and mobile phones. Knowledge, Technology & Policy, 19(1), 39–44.
  • Warschauer, M., & Matuchniak, T. (2010). New technology and digital worlds: Analyzing evidence of equity in access, use, and outcomes. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 179–225.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 08, 2014
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17639, Date Accessed: 8/19/2014 2:12:11 PM

California’s College Stopouts: The Significance of Financial Barriers to Continous School Enrollment

<Click on this link to download the report.>

By Veronica Terriquez, Oded Gurantz, and Ana Gomez.  In California, the majority of four-year and community college students do not complete their intended degrees and certificates on time (Chronicle of Higher Education, 2013; Fain, 2013). Many of these students “stop out”—that is, they leave college with the intention of returning later. Discontinuous enrollment is highest for students with lower academic preparation and lower socioeconomic status (Ewert, 2010; Goldrick-Rab, 2006). This is particularly troubling in light of the recent economic recession and the rising cost of higher education, which have both made paying for college more difficult. Students from lowincome backgrounds in particular may find they need to take time off from school to save money or to help their families pay their bills. Unfortunately, college students with discontinuous enrollment have significantly reduced likelihood of ever completing their degrees (Cabrera, Burkum, La Nasa, & Bibo, 2012), making this an urgent problem for higher education researchers and policymakers. In this policy brief, we describe the range of influences on the attendance patterns of California’s college students, focusing in particular on economic factors. Drawing from the mixed-methods California Young Adult Study (CYAS), we classify stopouts as students who enrolled in public or private community or four-year colleges and took a break from school for a term (quarter or semester) or more, not including summer, with the intention of returning. We include individuals who were on break from school but still planned to pursue postsecondary degrees, as well as those who had previously taken time off and successfully re-enrolled in postsecondary institutions. Who stops out of higher education? Over one third of students—and more men than women—stopped out of college. Overall, 37% of CYAS survey respondents who attended college reported stopping out at some point (Figure 1). Male students were more likely to stop out than female students (42% compared to 31%, respectively). Some students of color and those from low-income backgrounds were more likely than others to stop out. For example, 44% of Latino youth stopped out, compared to 34% of white youth. Results further suggest that African Americans exhibited high stopout rates, while Asian Americans exhibited comparatively low stopout rates.

<Click on this link to download the report.>

High School Coursework and Postsecondary Education Trajectories: Disparities between Youth Who Grow Up In and Out of Poverty

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By Leticia Oseguera.  One of the most direct ways schools can positively affect students’ college going trajectories is to ensure access to a rigorous college preparatory curriculum (Adelman, 2006). Students who complete gateway mathematics courses like algebra and pre-calculus, for example, are more likely to succeed in four-year postsecondary institutions (Swail, Cabrera, Lee, & Williams, 2005). Similarly, some researchers have found that enrollment in advanced placement (AP) courses can increase students’ likelihood of eventually completing college (McCauley, 2007). Although students who satisfy a college preparatory curriculum while in high school do have a greater array of college choices available to them, access to this type of coursework is often stratified by socioeconomic status and race (McDonough, 1997; Walpole, 2007). It is essential that we develop a greater understanding of the effects of the high school curriculum on postsecondary outcomes for students from varied socioeconomic backgrounds so  at these differences can be addressed. This brief draws on a study of a national cohort of students to explore how socioeconomic status (SES) and high school coursework intersect to influence
educational pathways. A deeper understanding of how academic course-taking in high school affects post-secondary education outcomes can help guide policy aimed at identifying and closing gaps in the college access pipeline. In particular, a more nuanced portrait of how these factors come into play for students in poverty and for their more affluent counterparts will allow for informed policy and research recommendations that can improve educational outcomes for all students. A National Study of Students’ Educational Pathways The data presented in this brief were drawn from the 2002–2006 panel of the Education Longitudinal Study (ELS), conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NCES surveyed 15,441 tenth graders at the end of the 2001–2002 academic year, and again in spring 2004 (when the students were asked to report their intended high school graduation status), and in spring 2006 (two years post-high school, assuming a traditional high school path).2 Data collection at these key points in time allowed us not only to compare students’ high school experiences, but also to better understand how those experiences relate to their options and choices after
high school.

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Addition by Subtraction: The Relation Between Dropout Rates and School-Level Academic Achievement

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Background/Context: Efforts to improve student achievement should increase graduation rates. However, work investigating the effects of student-level accountability has consistently demonstrated that increases in the standards for high school graduation are correlated with increases in dropout rates. The most favored explanation for this finding is that high-stakes testing policies that mandate grade repetition and high school exit exams may be the tipping point for students who are already struggling academically. These extra demands may, in fact, push students out of school.

Purpose/Objective/Focus: This article examines two hypotheses regarding the relation between school-level accountability and dropout rates. The first posits that improvements in school performance lead to improved success for everyone. If school-level accountability systems improve a school for all students, then the proportion of students performing at grade level increases, and the dropout rate decreases. The second hypothesis posits that schools facing pressure to improve their overall accountability score may pursue this increase at the cost of other student outcomes, including dropout rate.

Research Design: Our approach focuses on the dynamic relation between school-level academic achievement and dropout rates over time—that is, between one year’s achievement and the subsequent year’s dropout rate, and vice versa. This article employs longitudinal data of records on all students in North Carolina public schools over an 8-year period. Analyses employ fixed-effects models clustering schools and districts within years and controls each year for school size, percentage of students who were free/reduced-price lunch eligible, percentage of students who are ethnic minorities, and locale.

Findings/Results: This study finds partial evidence that improvements in school-level academic performance will lead to improvements (i.e., decreases) in school-level dropout rates. Schools with improved performance saw decreased dropout rates following these successes. However, we find more evidence of a negative side of the quest for improved academic performance. When dropout rates increase, the performance composites in subsequent years increase.

Conclusions/recommendations: Accountability systems need to remove any indirect benefit a school may receive from increasing its dropout rate. Schools should be held accountable for those who drop out of school. Given the personal and social costs of dropping out, accountability systems need to place more emphasis on dropout prevention. Such an emphasis could encompass increasing the dropout age and having the school’s performance composite include scores of zero on end-of-grade tests for those who leave school.

Push to Reform Remedial Education Raises Difficult Questions for Colleges

By Katherine Mangan  As the pressure on community colleges to accelerate or even eliminate remedial-education requirements intensifies, vexing questions are being asked about the impact such a shift could have on low-income and minority students.  Those who are the least prepared for college stand the most to lose from policies that push students quickly into college-level classes, according to some of the educators gathered here for the annual meeting of the American Association of Community Colleges. And those students tend, disproportionately, to be minority and poor.

But others argue that struggling students are ill served when they have to pass through a lengthy series of remedial courses before they can start earning college credit. Too often, they get discouraged and drop out before earning a single credit.  “For many of these students, a remedial course is their first college experience, as well as their last,” Stan Jones, president of the nonprofit advocacy group Complete College America, said on Monday during a session that delved into the politics behind developmental-education reform.  Community colleges have done a great job of diversifying their first-year classes, he said. “But if you fast-forward to graduation day and look at who’s on the stage, they’ve lost a lot of that representation.”

Mr. Jones, whose group is working with 32 states and the District of Columbia to advance its college-completion goals, added that there are “no good answers” to what happens to the least-prepared students “when they insist on wanting an academic program.” Many could benefit, he said, by enrolling in a short-term certificate program that offers job training, with remediation built in.  That sounds like tracking to some educators who remember the days when minority students were routinely routed to vocational courses. But with so many employers lining up to hire students with technical skills in fields like manufacturing and welding, “voc-ed” doesn’t carry the stigma it once did.

The session served as a sparring match of sorts between Mr. Jones and one of his most persistent critics, who says Complete College America exaggerates the shortcomings of remedial education and pushes simplistic solutions for complex problems.  The tone on Monday, however, was polite as the two, meeting for the first time, agreed on one key point: that most stand-alone remedial courses, by themselves, aren’t serving students well.  Hunter R. Boylan, director of the National Center for Developmental Education and a professor of higher education at Appalachian State University, said that if state legislators enacted one-size-fits-all models for streamlining remedial education, “there could be a lot of collateral damage” to minority and low-income students.  “If you don’t pilot innovations before mandating them statewide, the unintended consequences will come up and bite you,” he said. “If you pilot an innovation, you can work the bugs out before everybody has to live with it.”

‘Legislators Are Getting Anxious’
So why all the focus now on fixing remedial education? Several factors have created a “sense of urgency,” according to Matt Gianneschi, vice president for policy and programs at the Education Commission of the States, a national nonprofit group that tracks state policy trends.  The Common Core State Standards, a set of benchmarks that have been adopted by 45 states, will create a “common exit point and common entry point that has never existed before,” he said. The benchmarks will sharply delineate who is and isn’t ready for college, he said, and are likely to show that even fewer students are prepared.  That’s the last thing that two-year colleges want to hear at a time when President Obama and major foundations are calling for double-digit increases in their completion rates.  “It’s creating real urgency, and legislators are getting anxious,” said Mr. Gianneschi. As a result, many are no longer content to defer to faculty members on academic matters. “Many legislatures are now looking at ways they can force their priorities on the academy to get them to move in new directions.”

In Florida, they’re making remediation optional for most high-school graduates. In Connecticut, they’re limiting it to one semester, unless it’s embedded in a college-credit course. And in statehouses across the country, groups like Complete College America are urging lawmakers to replace stand-alone remedial courses with models that are offered either alongside or as part of college-credit classes.  In Texas, lawmakers seeking to cut remediation costs and put more students directly into college classes passed legislation, taking effect next year, that will bump many of the least-prepared students from remedial education to adult basic education.  Karen Laljiani, associate vice president of Cedar Valley College, said her college would be able to offer only two levels of remedial mathematics instead of four. Those at the upper end of the cutoff will be accelerated into credit courses, which has some faculty members worried about an influx of unprepared students.

Helping the Least-Prepared
The big question, though, is what will happen to students who used to place into the lowest levels of remedial math, some of whom might test at third-grade levels. Some might qualify for short-term, noncredit certificate programs that provide training for blue-collar jobs. And in some cases, remediation could be built right into the course.  The college may have to refer others to community groups that handle literacy and job training—a prospect that many community-college educators see as abandoning their open-door mission. Colleges that are already struggling with reduced enrollment also worry about the additional tuition revenue they’ll lose when students are moved into adult basic education, for which they typically don’t receive any state funds.

Among the questions that the changes are raising: What responsibility do community colleges have to educate students who are so far behind that they would struggle even in remedial classes? How do they structure those courses at a time when the emphasis is on accelerating students into college-level classes?  The head of the National Association for Developmental Education said her group was worried that colleges would start turning those least-prepared students away as pressure to push students through to completion intensified.  “If open-access institutions are forced to shut that door, it would be a dark day," said Patti Levine-Brown, a professor of communications at Florida State College at Jacksonville and former president of the National Association for Developmental Education. "It would go against everything we were created to do.”