Environmental Scanning

Online Education's Reputation Jumps, Survey Says

For six years New America has been collecting data on Americans’ views about higher education for its Varying Degrees survey. Surprisingly, despite significant social, cultural, political, and economic changes, there was remarkably little change in views on the value and opportunities provided by higher education. One area that did change was the perception of online education.

Under Audit: Equity Audits in State Higher Education Finance

MDRC published a policy brief titled Under Audit: Equity Audits in State Higher Education Finance in June 2022. This brief discusses the potential use of equity audits to identify and address inequities in the distribution of state funds to public institutions of higher learning. Community colleges and other broad access public institutions disproportionately enroll students from underserved populations and rely more heavily on state funds.

Skills Gaps: A Review of Underlying Concepts and Evidence

Employers have long cited an inadequately skilled workforce as the primary reason jobs go unfilled. However, there is considerable debate over whether a mismatch truly exists between workers' skills and employers' needs. A report from the Congressional Research Service, Skills Gaps: A Review of Underlying Concepts and Evidence, notes the possibility of other contributing factors such as:

Colleges Scramble to Recruit Students as Enrollment Plunges

The Washington Post recently reported that enrollment at colleges nationwide "has shrunk more than five percent since 2019." However, the impact has been greater on regional colleges and universities that serve disadvantaged students. For example, institutions in the western region of Pennsylvania have been affected by stagnant population growth, the pandemic, and increasing wages that make working a more appealing option than studying.

First-Generation College Graduates Lag Behind Peers

Numerous studies have correlated educational attainment with wealth attainment. Earning at least a bachelor's degree is associated with better economic outcomes, including higher wages and lower rates of unemployment. However, a study by Pew Research Center revealed an economic disparity between first generation college graduates versus those who had at least one college-educated parent.

Higher Education R&D Increase in FY20 is the Lowest since FY15

The National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics released a report, Higher Education R&D Increase of 3.3% in FY 2020 is the Lowest since FY 2015. From FY 2019 to FY 2020, research and development spending by academic institutions experienced the slowest growth since the four years of decreasing federal funding from FY 2012 to FY 2015.