Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Real Increase in College Tuition and Fees

The College Board has done a nice job of compiling and analyzing data on charged college tuition and fees; alas, as I've said before, they, like NCES, put their data in tables that are summarized and formatted for people who want to print them out.  It's good information, but hard to extract any insight.

Go ahead and download the spreadsheet in the right-hand column from this link, and then go to table 5.  Do you see any patterns?

It's why I like data visualization tools like Tableau Software: Not only does it make it easy to turn rows of data into something visual that tells a story; it makes it easy for me to allow you to see what you want.

This shows average tuition charges for public two-year and four-year, as well as private, four-year institutions by state, from 2004 to 2013.  The charge is weighted by enrollment, so it shows what the average student was charged at those institutions.  It's gross charges, before net price.

As you can see by playing with this, increases vary pretty dramatically by type, control, and region.  The bottom chart shows percent change since the first year shown (you can start with any year by using the filter). And you can choose to show nominal dollars or inflation adjusted dollars.  As you like it.



Friday, November 22, 2013

Does Where You Live Matter?

Well, of course it does.

I remember my first professional conference in 1985: AACRAO in Cincinnati. Fred Hargadon, who was then the former dean of admissions at Stanford (before he became the dean at Princeton) was filling in for someone else at the last minute.  I was impressed by how eloquent he was on a moment's notice, but mostly I remember a few things he said, most notably (from memory):

"In all my years of doing this work, I've learned only two things: First, that if you had to choose the worst time for someone to pick a college, it would be age 17, and second, the block on which you are born has more to do with where you end up in life than any other single factor."

It appears he was right, expect this shows states, and where the students who were scheduled to graduate in the class of 2008 ended up.  You can choose what you want to look at and the map will update the color of the state to show that value. Don't try to add up the numbers to 100, as they're not discrete. The values show:


  • Percentage of HS grads going to college.  This uses HS grads as the denominator
  • HS Grads but not going to college + not completing HS + percent of all going to college = 100% and use as a denominator those who were eligible to graduate in 2008.  In other words, you either enrolled, did not enroll, or dropped out
  • Percent with BA shows the percentage of those who went to college who earned a degree in four years


Monday, November 18, 2013

Educational Attainment by Ethnicity and Gender, 1973 to 2012

The College Board's Education Pays series has some interesting data in in, but much of it is in Excel spreadsheets formatted for printing.  You need to do a little work to extract the specific insight you want.

My last post had to do with "Who's Going to College," by income group.  It's probably no surprise to anyone that students from high-income families go to college at greater rates than those from low-income families.

This data shows actual attainment: Who graduated high school; who attended at least some college, and who has at least a bachelor's degree, by gender and ethnicity.  Interesting patterns, of course, but in some sense, given the distribution of wealth in America, they tell the same story.



Friday, November 15, 2013

Who's Going to College?

We hear a lot about college attendance, and how we should encourage low-income students to go to college.  And I agree.  Look at my previous post, and you might understand why more don't: Family income has stayed stagnant for years while college costs have risen dramatically.

Here is a hot-off-the-presses report from the NCES Digest of Education Statistics, 2013.  It shows college attendance rates by income since 1975.  There is some good news and some not-so-good news: While all income levels have shown increases in college attendance rates, low-income students still go to college at a rate far below average, and far below students from middle- and high-income families.

In fact, students from low-income families today go to college at a rate lower than students from high-income families in 1975.

PS: If you happen to know anyone at NCES, could you ask them to put their data in a better format?  It was great to format Excel sheets for report-printing 15 years ago, but the world has moved on...



Monday, November 11, 2013

The Real Reason Poor Kids Don't Go To College

Go ahead and Google "Low-income students and why they don't go to college."  Or just click on that link. Come back when you think you know the answer.

I suspect you'll find lots of stuff about culture, lack of information, parental support, weak schools, or no college guidance.

But what if it's something else, like--I don't know--the perceived ability to pay?

Take a look at this Census Bureau data.  It shows changes in family income by quintile since 1967.  On the top is dollars (current or nominal) and the bottom is percent change since the first year shown.

You'll see that the lowest 20% and the lowest 40% haven't seen much growth in income over that time, compared to the top 5%.  (In case you don't know, 2012 dollars means everything is adjusted for inflation so you can compare a dollar today vs. a dollar at a time in the past.  Nominal dollars are not adjusted for inflation, but a "dollar" in 1973 is worth more than a "dollar" in 2012 due to inflation.)

But this is a long view; since 1967 things have gotten better, for the most part, for every group.  But try this: Set the filter to "2012 Dollars," then pull the filter slider to show a smaller window: For instance 1999 to 2012.  You'll see that family incomes on the top chart appear to be fairly flat compared to the longer view; but on the bottom, which is more granular, you can see that income for all bands has actually gone down. This is an extraordinarily post-WWII run for America.  And what's worse is that incomes have fallen faster for the lowest income families in the country.

What's happened to college tuition since then?  Private college tuition has risen by about 20%; public universities by 40% in constant dollars.  Federal aid has not kept pace; nor has state aid in most states.

So, maybe Occam's Razor, anyone?



Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Future of America, in Visualizations

Someone once joked that no industry has a longer view of its future than higher education.  In some sense, this is true; if students weren't born 17 years ago, they almost certainly are not going to enroll next fall.  The only exception, I pointed out, was the funeral industry, which knows about 80 years ahead of time what its market will look like.

Via the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) we now have a compelling and interesting look at the future.  Their series, "Knocking at the College Door," has, for a long time, provided a glimpse of the future of public school enrollments.  Thus, in a very real way, we're seeing a glimpse of the future of America.

This visualization shows three different views of the data: A total with ethnicity breakouts; a comparison of regions; and a simple bar chart showing percent of total.  If you're interested in a zoomed view, you can filter to any region or state on the first and third.

Note: For some reason, the filters are not formatting correctly.  If you'd like to see it work correctly click here.

And now, the future: