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Updates: ROI of Higher Ed in CT, and Right to Read Implementation

Update: ROI of Higher Ed in CT

"A growing number of Americans are questioning the value of going to college," reads an NPR headline from yesterday. The story cites a new poll that shows a decline in the perception among Americans that higher education has a positive impact on the country. On Friday, the CT Mirror also reported on a new policy report from Third Way that suggests the return on investment (ROI) for colleges and universities in Connecticut is falling short. Unlike traditional methods for ranking colleges based on factors like test scores and selectivity, this new report uses an "economic mobility index" to suggest whether students wind up in a better position after graduating. It also looks at how well institutions serve low-income populations. By those measures, the majority of Connecticut institutions ranked in the bottom 40% of all schools nationwide.

In 2019, our affiliate released a report called “Less for More,” which got at ROI through a different approach: looked at the rates at which Connecticut colleges graduate their student populations, and comparing those to costs. Four schools stood out as “double offenders”combining low graduation rates and high prices, clearly a poor ROI for enrolled students: Southern Connecticut State University, University of Bridgeport, University of Hartford, and Western Connecticut State University. This week, we’ve checked in on those four Connecticut “double offender” schools to see how their graduation rates and costs have progressed in recent years.

The graphs below highlight data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which show that racial gaps in graduation rates between white, Black, and Hispanic populations have remained wide at these institutions. Moreover–aside from a couple of years at Western–graduation rates for Black and Hispanic students have consistently been below 50%.

Nevertheless, as the charts below demonstrate, the costs of these schools have risen quite steadily–despite lagging completion rates.

Whatever metric you use, it’s clear that Connecticut’s higher education sector has work to do if it is to improve its value to students.

Update: Right to Read Implementation

At yesterday’s fifth meeting of the Reading Leadership Implementation Council, it was announced that Education Commissioner Charlene Russell Tucker has appointed Dr. Melissa Hickey to the role of Interim Director of the state’s Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success. Already the Reading Director for the Connecticut State Department of Education, Dr. Hickey has been steering the Center through the initial phases of implementing Connecticut’s Right to Read legislation. As the meeting covered, the Center is actively reviewing scientifically-based early literacy curricula and determining which will be authorized for use in the state’s public school districts. Dr. Hickey announced that this effort is moving forward–only slightly behind its July 1st deadline, and not a moment too soon.

New Havena district that has fiercely pushed back against the statewide shift towards the science of readingrecently released numbers indicating that up to 84% of third graders are reading below grade level. Go ahead and read that stat over again, because it’s staggering. The New Haven Independent and New Haven Register each referred to this state of affairs alternately as an “emergency” and a “crisis.” Some New Haven teachers have called for moving towards structured literacy and away from the discredited "balanced literacy approach," but district leadership has remained resistant. Lucy Calkinswhose curriculum epitomizes the debunked balanced literacy philosophyhas made national headlines frequently over the past year. In May, the New York Times (NYT) covered her long-overdue back-peddling on the topic and concession that it's finally time to update her literacy curriculum. On Thursday, however, the NYT reported that production of Calkins’ new curriculum has been halted due to debates about how to address race, gender, and other hot-button issues in conservative states.

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