Fiona Deller – Need to Read: Gender, grad employment and grants vs loans

Sharing the best in postsecondary news and commentary

I do appreciate a good longitudinal/historical critique. This recent meta-analysis by researchers at UNB looks at Gender Differences in Scholastic Achievement over 100 years (since 1914) and concludes that females have always done better than males and that all the recent talk of a crisis in boys’ education is therefore overblown.

Speaking of history, this book just came out: Universities 2030: Learning from the Past to Anticipate the Future. It is a series of nine articles from international education historians. If you want to get a taste, this excellent summary from Inside Higher Ed is worth reading.

Statistics Canada recently released two reports on long-term employment for university graduates (by the same authors: Sharanjit Uppal and Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté). The authors conclude that that between 1991 and 2011, the share of young people with a university degree increased significantly, as did the share of young workers employed in professional occupations. However the authors also note that many young university degree holders could still be considered ‘overqualified’—working in occupations requiring lower levels of education. The authors also examine long-term changes in the occupation profiles of young men and women, for those who did and did not have a university degree.

Always have a feeling that grants were better than loans in encouraging retention and graduation of low-income students? Well, this study agrees. Released at AERA last week, it found that need-based grants from all sources increase chances to complete a degree within six years, whereas unsubsidized loans are found to drastically lower chances to obtain a degree.

Competency-based education is in its infancy (with some notable exceptions), but seemingly gaining ground. One clear signal that people are taking CBE seriously is when reports start coming out that look at ways it can be integrated into the current system. This American report looks at how student aid can be changed to accommodate students in CBE programs.

On his blog, Lloyd Armstrong has some perspectives on the signalling power of a degree. He explores the idea that the signalling power of degrees is waning; on the rise is the signalling power of what a graduate can do (skills) and how we find that out (badges, social networks, etc.). What I particularly like about Armstrong’s posts is that he references other articles and studies and you can easily follow some of his idea threads.

Finally, this series from the McKinsey Center for Government, titled “Education to Employment,” looks interesting. If you aren’t ready for a full commitment, read this summary essay in Inside Higher Ed.

Happy reading.

-Fiona Deller, Executive Director, Policy & Partnerships

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