Here are some new resources and news for the field of higher education.

Creating a Thriving Postsecondary Education Data Ecosystem  Leveraging data reported regularly by colleges and universities into useful information is critical to ensuring that more students have access to and succeed in higher education. However, the needs of the higher education community—from state and federal policymakers, to faculty and staff at institutions, to students themselves—are evolving and growing in complexity. The current national postsecondary data
infrastructure, with its component systems built for different purposes and owned and operated by different entities using different data definitions, is increasingly inadequate to meet those needs. This paper frames the work of national experts and makes the case for engaging in this conversation now. Improvements to which data we collect from colleges and universities, how they are collected, where they are aggregated and stored, how they can be linked to other existing data, and how they are disseminated to the public are all within reach.

50-State Comparison: Need- and Merit-Based Financial Aid  States collectively invest over $12 billion a year to support over 4.5 million students through financial aid programs. Most states disburse aid based on students’ financial need or a measure of their ability to pay for postsecondary education. Some states also use merit criteria, which focuses aid on students matriculating directly from high school who meet GPA and/or test score requirements.

The Impact of State Cuts  A new study finds that states that cut appropriations for higher education see declines in the numbers of bachelor’s and doctoral degrees — with a negative impact on the state’s workforce. The study, according to Braga, found that a 10 percent decrease in state appropriations over time at a public research institution leads to a 3.6 percent decrease in bachelor’s degrees awarded. A 10 percent decrease in state appropriations also lead to a 7.2 percent decrease in Ph.D. degrees completed

New Tool From Accreditor on Health of Colleges   The New England Commission on Higher Education, a regional accreditor, last week announced plans to create a tool to gauge the financial health of colleges. The Boston Globe reported that the “early warning dashboard” is designed to help avoid sudden college closures, several of which have occurred recently in New England. All 72 private colleges located in Massachusetts will participate in the one-year project, which is slated to begin in December. Two for-profits in the state also will participate, the newspaper reported. The tool will use budgetary information that is similar to what bond ratings agencies use to evaluate the finances of colleges. (Source: Inside Higher Ed)

Is College Worth It? Yes   Amid constant discussion of whether college is “worth it” or whether new models will displace the bachelor’s degree, new research shows that there is a clear economic edge for those who earn bachelor’s degrees over those with a high school diploma. And the research shows that the rate of return on the investment of paying for college is high enough to make the decision to go to college a wise one for most students. The new research notes the constant questioning of the economic value of earning a bachelor’s degree, particularly with many students taking on debt to pay for college. The research, by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, acknowledges some fluctuations in the wage premium for bachelor’s degree holders and their economic return on paying for college. But it says that there is no doubt about the economic value of earning a bachelor’s degree.

More Money, More MAP Grants  Low-income college students in Illinois got some good news today. The state’s Monetary Award Program — which provides MAP grants to help pay for tuition — will be able to give more grants with more money, thanks to the largest appropriation in the fund’s history. Lynne Baker, with the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says the agency approved a new formula that will boost grants by an average of $220 and cover at least 6,700 more students.

New Wyoming program will help adults pay for college   A statewide education group introduced a program Thursday that will help adult students in Wyoming learn skills that lead to secure employment. The program will be called Wyoming Works, the Wyoming Education Attainment Council Executive Committee announced. “We are not only advancing our post-secondary attainment goals but also ensuring Wyoming citizens have high-quality credentials to be competitive in the workforce,” said Stefani Hicswa, executive committee co-chair and president of Northwest College.

Illinois weighs how to rebuild child care program that saw exodus of children, caregivers  One of the tasks facing Gov. J.B. Pritzker is how to rebuild a state program that helps pay for child care so that low-income parents and college students can work or attend school. The program saw a dramatic drop in the number of participating children and providers under the administration of Pritzker’s predecessor, Gov. Bruce Rauner. On Monday, an influential council of early learning policymakers got a glimpse of how the new governor’s team plans to build it back.