U.S. Department of Education sent this bulletin at 01/30/2014 01:01 PM EST
OCTAE Connection - Issue 181 - January 30, 2014
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Is College Worth It for Adults? How Could They Know?
As many U.S. students of all ages struggle to prepare themselves for the workforce of the 21st century, and as many employers search for well-qualified candidates to fill current vacancies, the usefulness of a college education for individuals and for the economy as a whole continues to be a contested issue. A recent publication from Public Agenda addressed this topic. Is College Worth It For Me? How Adults Without Degrees Think About Going (Back) to School examines what adults ages 18 to 55, who are considering pursuing postsecondary credentials want, need, and expect from a school, and if these students know how to find the best institution to meet their needs. Public Agenda is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that works to “help diverse leaders and citizens navigate divisive, complex issues and work together to find sustainable solutions.” The study was funded with support from the Kresge Foundation.
While a main priority of the prospective students in the study was to gain knowledge and skills that are directly relevant to employment and while all of them said it was likely that they would enroll in school within the next two years, only 49 percent knew what they wanted to study and 21 percent said they would determine their course of study after enrollment. In addition, many of these students did not know what school they wanted to attend or how to access and take advantage of available information. As a consequence, they did not have or know how to use the information necessary to make well-informed decisions about their futures. According to Public Agenda, “Without better knowledge about their future educations and schools, adult students may not be selecting institutions or programs of study that best fits their academic, financial, professional and social needs.”
The study found that those adults interviewed cited education costs as their primary concern about returning to school. Balancing the demands of school with family and work responsibilities ranked second. And the third greatest concern was keeping up academically, a concern of over half the potential students surveyed. Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed did not think they were academically prepared for college, as indicated by their expectation that they would need to enroll in remediation. Staying motivated and focused on school work was also a concern of more than half of the survey participants. Yet, only 30 percent of the survey participants said they were concerned with dropping out. By contrast, data show that 54 percent of those who started school at age 25 or later drop out within six years of their start dates.
Public Agenda contends that better information would improve these adults’ chances of success, that good information is available, and that these prospective students should be guided to and through the available information so they may make more informed decisions about their futures.
First Five Promise Zones to Help Improve Local Communities Announced
The Promise Zones Initiative of the Obama administration is intended to “create partnerships between local communities and businesses that will work together to create jobs, increase economic security, expand educational opportunities, increase access to quality, affordable housing, and improve public safety.” This work is designed to counter some of the hard economic effects of job losses.
As a first step of the initiative, which began a year ago, the administration recently named the first five of 20 Promise Zonesthat will be announced over the next three years. It is designed to counter some of the hard economic effects of job losses. These zones are San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Southeastern Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Each area has presented a plan detailing how it will work with local business and community leaders to make investments “that reward hard work and expand opportunity.” In turn, each of these recipients will receive the resources and flexibility needed to achieve their goals. The resulting partnerships will support local goals and strategies with accountability for clear goals, intensive federal involvement, assistance in accessing resources, and investments in effective programs.
The Department’s Promise Neighborhoods program will play a key role as one of the community tools resulting from the administration’s place-based investments. The purpose of the Promise Neighborhoods program is to improve significantly the educational and developmental outcomes of children and youths in the most distressed communities, prepare them to transition successfully to college and careers, and transform those communities. In Los Angeles, for example, the Promise Neighborhoods initiative will be instrumental in expanding a full-service community schools model from seven schools to all 45 Promise Zone schools by 2019. San Antonio and Southeastern Kentucky have other Promise Neighborhoods awards that will play integral roles in the new zones.
NSF Announces New Program for Undergraduate STEM Education
The National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) has announced the call for proposals for Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE). This new program, housed in EHR’s Division of Undergraduate Education, will provide funding for projects that address challenges and opportunities confronting undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.
The IUSE program is open to unsolicited proposals covering all topics and fields bearing on undergraduate STEM education. In addition, proposals that anticipate new structures and developments in the functioning of the undergraduate STEM education will be accepted for review. The full proposal target date is Feb. 4, 2014.
There is also an opportunity to participate in the first phase of three different Ideas Labs aimed at incubating innovative approaches for advancing undergraduate STEM education in three disciplines (biology, engineering, and the geosciences). These “IUSE Phase I Ideas Labs” will bring together relevant disciplinary and education research expertise to produce research agendas that address discipline-specific workforce development needs.
Please visit the link in the article to submit a proposal or for more information about the program.