News in Brief

By Madeline Taub    //    Volume 28,  Number 2   //    March/April 2020

Pennsylvania Grants $1 million to 36 Colleges to Combat Sexual Assault

Pennsylvania governor Thomas Wolf created the “It’s On Us PA” campaign four years ago to help promote safety on college campuses. As part of this campaign, Wolf announced in January that they are using almost $1 million in grants to combat campus sexual assault at 36 colleges and universities. These 36 colleges and universities include public and private institutions all over the state.

“Through Governor Wolf’s continued commitment to this important initiative, we are implementing strategies that elevate awareness, engage communities, and improve institutional campus climates,” said Pennsylvania Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera in the announcement.

The colleges and universities that receive these grants use them to implement programs such as training for students, faculty, and staff, and raising awareness of the various resources that are available to survivors of sexual assault on campus.

In July 2019, Governor Wolf signed legislation that makes it mandatory for higher education institutions in Pennsylvania to have an anonymous, online way for students to report instances of sexual assault. The money from these grants will also go into implementing this new requirement.

Senator Lisa Baker was one of the proponents of this legislation that will make it easier for students to report sexual violence. “These grants show an increasing commitment to protecting students against unconscionable emotional and physical abuse and to promptly investigating complaints and appropriately sanctioning perpetrators,” Senator Baker said in a statement.

New Statement of Ethical Principles Guiding the Use of Data in Higher Education

The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) published the AIR Statement of Ethical Principles on January 21, 2020. This statement is, “an expression of integrity, professionalism, and fairness intended to guide the use of data in decision-making within higher education,” according to AIR.

This statement serves as a way for higher education’s professional community to view the use of data in the field. Michelle Appel, the AIR president when these new principles were approved, explains the importance of this work: “I am so proud that the board took on this task, and of the collaboration that created these new principles, which will serve as a compass for our actions as we work to bolster student success and support higher education.”

The report is important because it guides professionals in the field through the challenges of working with data in higher education. It informs ethical principles as well as expectations that are carried with the use of data in the field. To help further present these principles, AIR created “hypothetical scenarios from the data community that feature examples of how the ethical principles can be applied.” To read these scenarios, go to

Bipartisan Bill for Rural Students Aims to Improve Access to Education and Employment

In early January, Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine, and Senator Maggie Hassan, a Democrat from New Hampshire, introduced a bill, The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act of 2020, to help encourage students in rural communities to pursue higher education and find employment. The bill would authorize $60 million per year for six years, beginning in 2021.

Rural students tend to graduate from high school at higher rates than their peers in urban districts, and at about the same rate as their suburban peers; however, only 59 percent of rural graduates go straight to college, whereas 62 percent of urban graduates and 67 percent of suburban graduates do so.

“Investing in the educational aspirations of rural students not only helps them to achieve their personal and career goals, but also contributes to the success of our communities,” said Senator Collins in a statement. “Our bipartisan bill encourages schools and employers to forge partnerships that will put students on pathways to the high-need jobs available where they live.”

The bill aims to encourage students in rural communities to attend a higher education institution and help build growth in rural communities by encouraging these same students to return to their home communities when entering the workforce.

The bill would smooth the path to higher education for many rural students by providing better access to college programs and providing resources to increase the financial aid being given to students in these communities. The bill would also encourage partnerships with local employers in rural areas to help rural college graduates find employment post-graduation in their communities.

The Return on Investment of a Liberal Arts Degree Grows over Time

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce published a study about the value of a liberal arts education, ROI of Liberal Arts Colleges: Value Adds Up over Time. There is an assumption that liberal arts degrees aren’t necessarily worth the cost, but this study proves otherwise. While there may not always be an immediate return on investment (ROI) on a liberal arts degree, the study finds that over time, the ROI increases—and it can be substantial. The study reports that the median ROI of liberal arts colleges is nearly $200,000 higher than the median for all colleges. Further, the 40-year median ROI of liberal arts institutions ($918,000) is close to those of four-year engineering and technology-related schools ($917,000), and four-year business and management schools ($913,000).

Various factors affect the ROI at liberal arts institutions. The report also found the following:

  • The ROI at liberal arts institutions is the third highest among the 14 different types of four-year institutions.
  • Higher graduation rates are strongly correlated with higher ROI at liberal arts colleges.
  • The share of students who are from low-income families is correlated with lower ROI at liberal arts institutions.
  • The share of students in different majors at liberal arts colleges, particularly students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), can affect ROI.
  • ROI at liberal arts institutions is also influenced by external factors such as regional per capita income.

Only About A Quarter of U.S. Adults Think College Is Affordable

More than 50 percent of adults in the United States believe that higher education is available to everyone and about 25 percent say that higher education is affordable, according to a recent poll by Gallup. These views on the affordability and availability of higher education have remained unchanged in the past five years.

Generationally, the findings showed that young adults (ages 18–29) are more pessimistic about the availability of higher education than older generations. Affordability does not follow this same split in belief generationally.

Gallup explains how these findings may seem good in terms of showing that despite Americans having less confidence in higher education, their beliefs on affordability and availability have remained stable. In an opposite way, they may also show that despite growing online and degree-alternative options in the higher education field, the American perception of access to higher education has remained the same as before the creation of these programs. To learn more about this Gallup poll, go to:


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