Spring 2004 Journal: Trends & Indicators 2004

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BOSTON—New England’s total college enrollment has grown to a record 849,000, despite rising college prices, according to the Spring 2004 “Trends & Indicators” issue of Connection: The Journal of the New England Board of Higher Education.

However, the number of people graduating from colleges with associate and bachelor’s degrees is growing much more slowly in New England than elsewhere, according to an exclusive Connection analysis by Northeastern University economists Neeta P. Fogg and Paul E. Harrington.

Between 1990 and 2002, the number of bachelor’s degrees granted grew by 23 percent nationally, but by just 2 percent in New England. During the same period, the number of associate degrees granted shot up by 30 percent nationally but shrank by 9 percent in New England.

Connection is the journal of the nonprofit New England Board of Higher Education—and America’s only regional journal on higher education and the economy.

In addition to Fogg and Harrington’s analysis, the Spring 2004 Connection features more than 60 tables and charts exploring New England’s changing demography, college enrollment, graduation rates, degrees granted, higher education finance and university research.

The Spring 2004 Connection also features articles by noted educational demographer Harold “Bud” Hodgkinson, college pricing expert Sandy Baum,Blenda J. Wilson and Jay Sherwin of theNellie Mae Education Foundation, and Colleen J. Quint, executive director of Maine’s Sen. George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute.

Among the data reported in the Spring 2004 Connection‘s Trends & Indicators feature:

  • New England colleges and universities enrolled 849,335 full- and part-time students in 2002, up from about 795,000 in the mid-1990s.
  • Private colleges account for a larger share of enrollment in New England than in any other region. But public enrollment has grown faster than private enrollment since the mid-1990s.
  • Women account for 487,000 New England college students; men account for 362,000.
  • Boston University leads all New England colleges in total enrollment with 28,982 students. The University of Connecticut ranks second with 25,373.
  • Fully 73 percent of students at New England’s private four-year colleges graduate within six years of starting, but only 64 percent of New England public land grant university students do, and only 44 percent of other public four-year college students do.
  • Average tuition and mandatory fees (not counting room and board) at New England’s private, four-year colleges reached $25,093 in academic year 2003-04—more than $5,000 higher than the national average. Average tuition and mandatory fees for state residents at New England’s public four-year colleges hit $6,035, compared with $4,694 nationally. Average tuition and fees at New England community colleges reached $2,936—about $1,000 above the national figure.
  • New England state legislatures appropriated $163 per capita to support higher education operating expenses in fiscal 2004, compared with $211 per capita nationally.
  • New England universities conduct more research and development (R&D) than their counterparts nationally, spending $182 per capita on R&D, compared with $114 per capita nationally.

Following is a summary of articles that appear in the Spring 2004 Connection:

Tunnel Vision • “New England is a region with very low birth rates and large numbers of people leaving. Many of New England’s low-income and minority citizens are not participating in the American Dream, and the number of college-goers in the region known around the world as a center of higher education is lower than one would expect, especially in Vermont,” writes leading educational demographerHarold “Bud” Hodgkinson . “You might think that New England—and especially the leaders of its educational systems, preschool to graduate school—would be thinking of some major changes in plans,” he continues. “But they are not.”

Taking Diversity to a Higher Level • Nellie Mae Education Foundation President Blenda J. Wilson and colleague Jay Sherwin explain why the admissions process is the first step, not the last, for colleges committed to educating and graduating a diverse population of future leaders. “Even those talented minority students who gain admission to competitive colleges face daunting challenges once they arrive on campus,” Wilson and Sherwin write. “Many have received inadequate high school preparation. Others have distracting family responsibilities or financial hardships. And many students of color feel unwelcome in the privileged confines or small town surroundings of New England college campuses.”

All Net • Skidmore College economics professor Sandy Baum warns that proposed restrictions on tuition growth would hurt lower-income students by reducing the revenue colleges use to fund grants and scholarships for needy students. “Increasing need-based aid is a more effective way to make college affordable for low-income students than is moderating tuition growth,” writes Baum, a national authority on the economics of college tuition.

Matter of Degrees • Most regions substantially expanded the number of associate degrees they granted during the 1990s. The major exception was New England, write Northeastern University economistsNeeta P. Fogg and Paul E. Harrington . Meanwhile, nearly 53,000 Hispanic and black young adults in New England are disconnected—jobless and not enrolled in school, according to Fogg and Harrington. They explain how undergraduate college degree completions are shaping New England’s labor supply.

Widening the Funnel • Fully 87 percent of Maine high school freshmen graduate from high school in four years, but just 55 percent enroll in college the following fall, and only 23 percent of the state’s adults have bachelor’s degrees.Colleen J. Quint , executive director of Maine’s Sen. George J. Mitchell Scholarship Research Institute, describes a set of novel initiatives aimed at widening the “educational funnel” and putting more Maine students on the path to college.

Books • Former Massachusetts Secretary of Education and Bentley College President Joseph M. Cronin reviews two new books on higher education: “Catholic Higher Education in Protestant America” and “Refinancing the College Dream”.


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