• Study on Majors Misses the Big Picture

    Posted January 7, 2015

    Lately, there has been a lot of debate and research on the earnings of various majors. Thus far, the only reliable conclusion that could be made is that engineers make good starting salaries. Nevertheless, many think tanks and op-eds treat this data as a referendum on the liberal arts.

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  • Substance-Based Market Positioning is Needed Now More than Ever

    Posted December 11, 2014

    Over the past decade, College applications have steadily increased, according to annual studies published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling. One factor in this increase is greater use of the common application. Another possible reason is general anxiety regarding increasing selectivity of top institutions. But as the above New York Times article points out, this anxiety is mostly based on shaky foundations; while many elite institutions like Harvard and Stanford have acceptance rates that hover around 5 and 7 percent, today's top students apply to such a wide range of these institutions that 80 percent get accepted to at least one of them, according to data from the website Parchment.com.

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  • Improving Accessibility Through Simplifying Financial Aid

    Posted November 14, 2014

    There has been a lot of debate around the direction public institutions should take to keep college affordable for middle and low SES populations. Given the current state of funding for public institutions, however, maybe we’re asking the wrong questions. Instead of forcing these institutions to adopt increasingly untenable models in the face of sustained state disinvestment, perhaps we should focus on making Net Price Calculators and the financial aid process itself more simple and accessible for low-income students. Many then, middle-and-low SES applicants might discover that in a surprising number of cases, private institutions will be more affordable than publics.

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  • A Primer for the 2014 College Board Forum

    Posted October 24, 2014

    As a firm, we have been committed to a few core ideas consistently over the years. You have might have read on this very blognumerous times – that institutions must cultivate differentiated programs to compete in the marketplace. You might also have read from us that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to pricing and tuition, and that successful pricing strategies often depend on a thorough understanding of an individual institution’s market position and value proposition. And although we have made the following point less often, we continually urge institutions to provide easily accessible and simple information on cost and financial aid to prospective students, especially those from low-income backgrounds.

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  • For Struggling Private Colleges, Program Differentiation is Essential

    Posted October 16, 2014

    One of our most consistent findings from past studentPOLL issues shows the willingness of students to stretch financially to attend institutions of particular quality. Both our 2012 and 2010 issues – published during worse economic times than present day –revealed that at least three-quarters of students would consider a school they thought too expensive because it offered “strong academics in a particular field of study,” or the school was “a place where you can fit in and feel comfortable,” or it had a “prestigious academic reputation.”

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  • Use Non-Official Data Aggregators at your Own Peril

    Posted October 1, 2014

    It started innocuously enough: we wanted to compile data on net prices at flagship public institutions and compare them to the top rated private college in their respective states. But since IPEDS only tracks net price data for in-state students receiving Title IV aid, we needed information on the total number of in-state students receiving aid in order to conduct accurate comparisons on the affordability of these institutions. IPEDS doesn’t provide these data, but several non-official information aggregation sites do. We looked at two of these sites, collegedata.com and collegefactual.com.

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  • The Limits of Logos

    Posted September 10, 2014

    Is there a safe way for a university or college to change their logo? The answer isn’t really “yes” or “no” but rather, “who cares?” For example, major institutions unveiled overhauled logos this summer to grumbling and complaints while four others made logotype changes with little to no fanfare.

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  • Another Look at Reducing Tuition

    Posted August 14, 2014

    Would colleges and universities be better off cutting or freezing tuition? Given the vigorous debate over higher education costs, one would think it would be a no brainer. Look no further than the controversy that occurs whenever somebody suggests that student debt and and/or college costs aren’t so bad. Two recent articles from the New York Times’ David Leonhardt illustrate this controversy: In one piece, Leonhardt argued that the government exaggerates the cost of college, and that net prices on a whole do not indicate that college is unaffordable. In Lenoardt’s second article, he used Amherst college as an example of how institutions use tuition discounting to help lower-income families overcome exorbitant sticker prices.

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  • Assigning Blame for State Higher Education Disinvestment

    Posted July 31, 2014

    Last week, the United States Senate conducted a hearing on state-level college affordability. Senator Lamar Alexander argued that the sustained decline of state higher education funding could be attributed to rising Medicaid costs:

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  • Public Universities, Statehouses, and Leverage: an Examination of the Texas Controversy

    Posted July 15, 2014

    Recently, long-simmering tension between University of Texas President William C. Powers and Governor Rick Perry reached a boiling point, with the system chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa and the Governor both calling for Powers’ resignation. As soon as this news broke, an outpouring of support for Powers - including an 14,000 person online petition and rebukes from prominent lawyers – led to Texas system chancellor Cigarroa withdrawing his demand for Powers’ resignation. It was a major victory for the University of Texas, and the second instance over the past year or so of a state higher education board reneging on its to decision to remove a president of a prominent flagship, with Theresa Sullivan’s reinstatement at University of Virginia being the other example.

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  • The Illusion of Recovery Continued

    Posted June 20, 2014

    After a long period of stagnation and decline, state funding of higher education is starting to increase again: overall state funding went from $81.1 billion in 2012 to $81.6 billion in 2013, according to a recent report released by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association. Despite this increased funding, however, tuition as a percentage of net revenue for public institutions is still rising. A recent article from USA Today portrays this as an unexpected development:

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  • The College Recruitment Blindspot

    Posted June 4, 2014

    In Spring of 2013, researchers Caroline Hoxby and Christopher Avery released a paper that revealed a major flaw in the college recruitment process. This paper, “Missing “One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low-Income Students,” revealed that a significant portion of high-achieving, low-income students do not apply to a single selective institution. Hoxby and Avery argued that the primary reason these students do not apply is that they lack traditional resources that encourage them to, and that the typical college recruitment process – which targets clusters of high-achieving, low-income students that are concentrated in major metropolitan areas – overlooks the portion of students that are from smaller cities and rural areas.

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  • Tuition Sustainability Revisited

    Posted April 30, 2014

    A few months ago, we raised objections to the assumption that higher education costs had reached a tipping point. We noted that the typical argument – that tuition has increased 600 percent since the 1980s –is a misleading number, and that yearly, inflation-adjusted percentage increases in price and grants is a better metric to gauge the cost of higher education. In essence, the rise in net cost is more important, and these increases were much more modest over the past two decades compared to overall tuition. Furthermore, analyzing averages itself does not tell the whole story: the sheer amount of institutions and their own distinctive approach to pricing ensures a wide range of net costs for the average student.

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  • The of Value Social Media isn't a Mystery

    Posted April 16, 2014

    This past week, Joshua Kim from Inside Higher Ed published a rather bizarre piece titled “Charles Barkley Doesn’t Tweet” about the limitations of using social media in higher education. Basically, Kim relates a story about how during the halftime show of the NCAA tournament, TNT scrolled Barkley’s Twitter handle at the same time Barkley informed viewers that he does not, in fact, use Twitter at all. Kim thinks this should serve as a referendum for higher education administrators using social media as a communications strategy:

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  • Two Over-Discussed Topics in Higher Education

    Posted April 8, 2014

    Recently, Payscale.com published a database that documents the specific Return On Investment (ROI) for a wide variety of four-year institutions. While we have recently warned that the prolonged economic slump is beginning to effect student enrollment decisions, this database shows that it’s still way too early to sound the panic alarm on higher education: for the great majority of institutions, no matter what the concentration, higher education is still a great investment. It’s worth noting that the Payscale analysis comes with a number of caveats: many institutions only had a few respondents, and the survey results were self-reported; this critique from aroundlearning.com covers some of the issues with it. Nevertheless, a lot of the data about majors cross-references well with other recent studies about the earnings of graduates over time.

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  • Changing The Expected Family Contribution Won't Be Enough

    Posted March 25, 2014

    There’s been a lot of discussion about how to maintain the affordability of higher education. As the debate gets broader and broader, however, we are spiraling away from obvious problems that need addressing: 1. Funding of public universities continues to decline, and 2. Incomes of middle and low SES Americans continue to stagnate. Any solution that avoids these central problems is a distraction. Take, for example, the recent New York Times op-ed from Steve Cohen urging for the federal government to adjust the Expected Family Contribution formula. This article is the latest to get widespread attention within the higher education debate about affordability, but it’s a roundabout way to prescribe solutions to escalating problems.

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  • CIRP Report Indicates New Reality for Incoming Students

    Posted March 17, 2014

    In our StudentPOLL publication, we’ve continually surveyed incoming college students regarding their willingness to stretch financially to attend their favored institutions. Overall, we’ve found consistent answers: more than two-thirds are willing to aim for schools considered “too expensive” because of their perceived quality and strengths. Recent results from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program’s (CIRP) annual Freshman Survey, however, indicate that once accepted, fewer students are willing to enroll in these first-choice institutions than before, primarily due to financial reasons.

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  • The Influence of Disruptive Innovation

    Posted March 4, 2014

    On February 25th, The New York Times published an article titled “The Bane and the Boon of For-Profit Colleges,” which took a decidedly defensive stance toward for-profit college. Despite a fairly abysmal track record of graduating students and funneling them into careers, author Eduardo Porter argues that for-profits are being unfairly targeted by the Education Department, and that the “goal should be to improve the sector, not shrink it”:

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  • The Importance of Yield Rate

    Posted February 11, 2014

    Recently, we were reading the blog of higher education admissions officer Jon Boeckenstedt and came across an interesting post that illuminated the problems faced by admissions offices regarding both demographic changes and the influence of US News rankings. Boeckenstedt describes a response he gave to a commenter on Facebook regarding the importance of yield. This commenter asked: if the US News rankings recently downgraded yield as a metric in their rankings, why is it still important? Boeckenstedt explains:

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  • Making the Economic Case for the Liberal Arts

    Posted January 29, 2014

    It seems we are trapped in a media carousel regarding college majors that we can’t get off. Post-Great Recession, we’ve seen the following narrative repeated ad-nauseam: Liberal arts are in a crisis. Graduates don’t get jobs. STEM is a better investment for long-term earnings and employment.

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  • The Conflict Between Diversity and Prestige

    Posted January 10, 2014

    What happens when a commitment to socioeconomic and racial diversity collides head first with student, administrative, alumni interests in maintaining US News & World Report rankings? The higher education world is seeing this issue play out currently at Syracuse University, where there is speculation that incoming Chancellor Kent Syverud will roll back the reforms that increased diversity over the past decade, reforms that many believe negatively impacted the university’s US News rankings during this period.

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  • State House Demands vs. Realistic Expectations: a Look at South Dakota

    Posted January 3, 2014

    On Christmas Eve, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard published an editorial in the Vermillion Plain Talk emphasizing the need to freeze tuition for the state’s public universities. Given the numbers we have available regarding South Dakota’s state funding of higher education and the grant dollars available to the average student, we are assuming that this editorial was published on Christmas Eve in the hopes that nobody would read it and point out the reality of South Dakota’s current situation.

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  • A Study Without a Methodology Presents a Dubious Narrative

    Posted December 20, 2013

    At this point in time, there might be more studies on millennial behavior than there are Buzzworthy lists. Our most recent example comes from Bentley University, and this study concerns millennials in the workplace. The findings, as reported by Forbes, paint a negative picture: 59 percent of “business decision makers” and 62 percent of “higher education influentials” give recent college graduates a C grade or lower for preparedness in their first jobs. 68 percent of corporate recruiters say it is difficult for their organizations to manage millennials. 74 percent agree that businesses must partner with colleges and universities that better train millennials to be prepared in the workplace.

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  • Public Funding of Higher Education: No Easy Categorization

    Posted December 11, 2013

    A recent debate has emerged among political commentators regarding the role of government in public higher education spending. It appears that state subsidization of public universities, once thought to be a given for maintaining access for all members of socioeconomic spectrum, is being disputed as a “regressive” taxation by certain experts, particularly Demos writer Matt Bruenig. Bruenig has repeatedly pointed out that majority of students at public universities do not come from lower income backgrounds, and that escalating public funding of higher education “does not ever serve even the majority of the public who do not attend any four year college.”

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  • Maintaining Engagement: An Analysis of NSSE Findings

    Posted November 25, 2013

    We’ve argued many times on this blog for the necessity of maintaining access for low-income and first generation students in higher education, but what happens when they actually get on campus? We’ve done many retention studies in our work, and we’ve found that it’s essential to engage first-generation students once they get through the door. Close academic advising, early warning systems for identifying and reaching out to struggling students, committees to address retention issues, etc. are all essential approaches that have been used effectively before.

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  • Pay-It-Forward Revisited

    Posted November 8, 2013

    Almost a half-year since its announcement, Oregon’s Pay-It-Forward initiative has few allies. In fact, almost every education organization concerned with college affordability and access has denounced the plan. In addition, Education Trust Director Kati Haycock recently wrote an editorial criticizing the design of PIF and warning of the negative consequences the initiative would have on students of all stripes.

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  • The False STEM vs. Liberal Arts Dichotomy

    Posted October 30, 2013

    A recent study published by Michigan State University revealed that childhood participation in arts and crafts leads to more patents generated and businesses launched in the STEM fields as an adult. This study found that a cohort of MSU Honors College graduates in STEM fields had a higher than average involvement in the visual arts, acting, dance and creative writing, and very high involvement (93 percent of those studied) in musical training.

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  • Lessons to be Learned from StudentPOLL Findings

    Posted October 22, 2013
    Scott Hesel

    Over the past month, we’ve published two separate StudentPOLL issues detailing two important factors in student decision-making: social media and college rankings. Both mediums have grown in influence since we last conducted polls on either subject. Institutions have a reasonable amount of power to influence their perception via social media, because students use it to determine the quality of student life and the extent to which they are likely to “fit in” to a particular campus culture. On the other hand, institutions don’t have a lot of power to change their US News & World Report ranking. Unfortunately, some institutions get caught up in trying to change the latter.

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  • Examining the Growth of Administrative Costs in Higher Education

    Posted October 14, 2013
    Scott Hesel

    Is “administrative bloat” contributing to the higher cost of education? There are several think tanks and editorials that have argued this point, such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Goldwater Institute. Outside of anecdotal examples, however, there is simply not enough convincing evidence to draw this conclusion. One of the only comprehensive studies of the issue, undertaken by the College Board, reveals that the growth of administrative positions over time has not been significant.

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  • No Simple Answer in the Debate Over Higher Education Costs

    Posted September 30, 2013
    Craig Goebel and Jamie Ealy

    The rising cost of higher education is getting a lot of attention in the media, but we urge people to understand these costs categorically – and within context – before drawing the conclusion that higher education costs are “unsustainable.” This is the crux of the argument we made at our recent presentation at National Association of College Admissions Counselors’ (NACAC), annual conference last week. Both Inside Higher Education and the Chronicle of Higher Education covered the main points of this session, and we wanted to follow-up with a few specific details that underscore how the issue is more complicated than focusing on general trends or just published tuition numbers. Namely, the rate of inflation-adjusted tuition increases over the past 30 years, the contrast between sticker price and net price, and idiosyncratic market demands of each institution reveal that higher education may be more affordable than what popular notions are leading you to believe.

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  • Want to Utilize Social Media? Promote the Student Life Experience

    Posted September 23, 2013
    Scott Hesel

    Our latest issue of StudentPOLL chronicled the growth of social media’s place in the college search process for prospective students: 44 percent of our survey group reported using social media to gather impressions about the institutions they were interested in. The question, then, is how to productively utilize social media to create the best impression for prospective students? Judging from this latest issue of StudentPOLL, most likely answer would be to create content to spotlight the type of student that attends your institution and the social life they enjoy.

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  • The Effects of Tuition Reduction: a Report

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Over the past few years, there’s been a maelstrom of debate regarding the price of tuition at public and private universities. State houses across the country are working to institute tuition freezes. Respected foundations are publishing papers admonishing our private and public institutions for not providing enough access to low-income students. And major news magazines are making bold proclamations that the “high tuition, high aid” model flat-out doesn’t work.

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  • The Justice Department, higher education, and inconsistency

    Posted August 23, 2013

    Controlling merit spending among institutions is a violation of anti-trust laws, according to the Justice Department. If that's the case, then why isn't the Division I football scholarship system in jeopardy?

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  • Hiding in plain sight: the problem of athletics spending

    Posted August 9, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Why aren't we holding athletic departments accountable?

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  • Access: quality vs quantity

    Posted August 2, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Yes, enrolling low-income students correlates to lower graduation rates. Now let's talk solutions

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  • The illusion of recovery

    Posted July 25, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    State funding is of higher education is returning, but at paltry levels with conditions attached.

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  • Addressing the Pay-it-Forward Detractors

    Posted July 15, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Arguments from the left and right fail to build a convincing case against Oregon's innovative plan.

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  • College is not K-12

    Posted July 5, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Accountability standards in higher education are looking more and more like NCLB retreads.

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  • Branding Madness: New Hampshire Edition

    Posted June 6, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    A logo threatens to sink a campaign before it even gets off ground.

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  • Pell Continued: The Hierarchy of Access

    Posted May 28, 2013
    by Scott Hesel, Editor

    After our detailed response to the New America Foundation from last week, we wanted to follow up and raise some general questions about the impact of Pell grants at the state level and net price. The first question is similar to one we raised last week: is it better to serve a large number of Pell students at a moderate-to-high net price, or a lower number of Pell students at a low net price? We ask this question because there is a bizarre contrast in several states, where the top-ranked private is less expensive for low-income students than the public flagship. See the first chart in the following link.

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  • Questioning the New America Foundation Report

    Posted May 17, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    A recent study on Pell Grants and net prices draws a few suspect conclusions in regards to the effectiveness of both state and institutional-level efforts. Last week, the New America Foundation published a paper titled “Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind.” This paper took both private and public institutions to task for not providing sufficient access to poor students. The central thesis argued that the proliferation of merit aid to maintain both revenue and “prestige” has come at the expense of enrollment of Pell Grant recipients and relatively high net costs for low-income students.

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  • The Public University Crisis

    Posted May 8, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Financial constraints are leading us to re-examine the modern-day mission of public institutions. Public universities are held accountable for maintaining access. They are often taken to task for any of the following: raising tuition, not providing enough financial aid, overcharging out-of-state students, bloated administrative costs, etc. Increasingly, they are being put in an untenable position. How are they supposed to maintain access when resources are increasingly scarce, owing largely to declines in state support coupled with politically driven constraints on pricing? How can they contain out-of-state tuition when it’s one of the few sources of revenue keeping them afloat, and their prospective students are willing to pay it?

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  • Three Pitfalls of Higher Education Branding

    Posted April 18, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Contradictory messaging and surface level indentities can sink your campaign. If there were two words that sum up the worst ideas of higher education branding, it would probably be logos and platitudes. Despite this, institutions continue to lean on design schemes and slogans to drive their marketing campaigns.

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  • Understanding the Merit Versus Need Debate

    Posted April 8, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    The aid types can complement each other well, but a lack of balance often causes things to go awry. In this blog, as well our StudentPOLL publication, it’s not uncommon for us to paint merit aid proliferation in a less-than-positive light. Past issues of StudentPOLL have revealed that merit aid expectations among prospective students have grown to levels of unrealistic entitlement. In addition, we’ve often argued for a greater focus on need-based aid to offset the current national trends toward merit-aid escalation.

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  • A Commitment to Access: Two Case Examples

    Posted March 29, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    The Nevada General Assembly and Vanderbilt University are finding ways to preserve need-based aid. There was a lot of discouraging news regarding state disinvestment in higher education last week, so we wanted to take a moment to spotlight some positive developments regarding institutions and governments that are working to maintain access. In particular, the introduction of a bill in Nevada’s General Assembly that would take revenue from sold abandoned properties and place it in a need-based fund, and Vanderbilt University’s commitment to using endowment funds for need-based aid, reveal that commitment of resources to the goal of access can still be a possibility in today’s climate, as long as a few sacrifices are made.

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  • News Roundup 3/22: Board of Regents Edition

    Posted March 22, 2013

    Political tensions at the state-level heighten as funding continues to dwindle.

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  • The Team Logo Straitjacket

    Posted March 21, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Michigan State put a lot of research into their current branding campaign, but does the Spartan imagery obscure the message?

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  • The Accountability Problem

    Posted March 15, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    The Department of Ed needs to clarify its plan for higher education.

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  • Round up of studentPOLL Coverage, Week of March 4

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Major publications focus on net-price calculators, sticker cost.

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  • EmploymentMismatch Represents Opportunity for the Liberal Arts & Humanities

    Posted March 7, 2013
    Scott Hesel, Editor

    Now is the time to test experiential programs.

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