Raising Degree Productivity by Spending Wisely

The nation is consumed by the quest to grant more college degrees. A new report by Douglas Harris and Sara Goldrick-Rab if the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers a look at how to do that cost-effectively.

“The (Un)Productivity of American Higher Education: From Cost Disease to Cost-Effectiveness” compares several practices to see which are cost-effective for producing more degrees. The practices include programs such as GEAR UP, Upward Bound, call centers for colleges, reducing student-faculty ratios, and hiring more full-time instructors.

The findings support the common wisdom that outreach programs such as GEAR UP and Upward Bound are relatively expensive.

But they also support the notions that adding full-time faculty is more cost-effective than adding adjuncts and that running campus call-centers to contact students who miss class or fail to register can be cost-effective measures in producing more degrees. At the Des Moines Area Community College, student persistence is between 2 and 15 percentage points higher when the call center actually makes contact with the student.


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