The Friday Letter Archive

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Friday Letter 2016-01-15:
Making the Grade on the College Scorecard

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January 15, 2016

Dear Friends,
Many of you have likely witnessed the proliferation of yearly college rankings, ratings and lists, all purporting to add information and insight. Instead of clarification, however, confusion is often the result. Why is an institution ranked in the top 50 of one list, but not in the top 50 of another, similar list? What methodologies are being employed, and how do they differ from list to list? What metrics are valuable for which user? As a student or parent, you’d almost have to make a part time job of sorting out and verifying competing claims and distinctions.

That shouldn’t be the case, and it doesn’t have to be. I have found that the federal government’s new College Scorecard (link) report offers clarity, based on credible data, about three critical measures: affordability for students and families, graduation rates, and earnings after college. The first measure, affordability, indicates the degree of access to a transformative education. The second and third measures, graduation rates and earnings, highlight two of the most important outcomes of a college experience.

For students, for families, and for taxpaying citizens of the state of Idaho, these three measures get to the heart of the matter: Are we serving students and our public well? At the University of Idaho, the answer is a resounding yes. Look at the public, four-year universities in Idaho. UI’s average net cost is the lowest in the state, with the lowest net cost among all four-year public institutions for families with annual income under $48,000 per year. Our six-year graduation rate is the highest in the state. And for a UI graduate, earnings 10 years after graduation are much higher than other institutions. (UI fares similarly well when compared with private institutions.) In each measure, we outperform the national average.

These easy-to-read charts showcase UI’s delivery of an excellent education at an affordable price – a value for our students and for our state.

Beyond those comparisons, the scorecard offers a breakdown of University of Idaho performance on a number of valuable measures. Interested in freshman-to-sophomore retention as an indicator of “fit” and student support? Our retention rate is 79 percent, above the national average. (For Fall 2015, our data shows an increase to 80 percent.) Concerned about debt after college? UI students who take on debt successfully pay it down at rates well above the national average. I encourage students and families to explore the site, make comparisons, and assess what’s important for their individual and family circumstances. We welcome the scrutiny.

Importantly, the data are based on students who received federal financial aid. That means those students who need and receive support in attaining a college degree – including many first-generation college attendees and students from rural areas – receive an outstanding return on their investment from UI. These students will experience firsthand how UI contributes to social mobility (link) . They will go on to lives with greater financial stability, with greater satisfaction (link) at work and in their personal endeavors, and with stronger rates of civic engagement. They will, in short, be on a pathway to realizing the American Dream.

The College Scorecard showcases how the University of Idaho is focused on making an outstanding education accessible to more Idaho students. For other Idaho citizens, UI supporters and education professionals, insight into how their state’s leading, national research university is performing with taxpayer dollars is a down payment toward credibility and confidence. For affordability, for graduation rates and for success after college, UI stands out in Idaho and across the region.

Go Vandals!

Chuck Staben
P.S.: This semester the President’s Office has joined Facebook! (link) Follow me there for updates about the success of our students and faculty members, the progress of initiatives and programs, and the trends that impact higher education and Idaho.


Supporting the UI through the VSF

Studies have shown that successful athletic programs lead to enrollment growth, positive student experiences, and higher levels of alumni involvement. Attorney and alumnus Robie G. Russell ’78 of Bainbridge Island, Washington, aims to help the University of Idaho’s athletic programs achieve success through his support of the Vandal Scholarship Fund (link) . Russell gives $10,000 annually to the VSF, which pays the tuition costs for student-athletes. “College sports provide a valuable marketing tool for the university,” said Russell. “I feel a sense of duty and obligation to give back to my alma mater, so that others may experience what I did here.” In addition to his financial contributions, Russell has also donated countless hours serving as a member and past president of the VSF national board, member and past president of Ada County VSF, member of the Latah County VSF, and current member of the Puget Sound VSF. For more information on giving to the VSF, contact Tim Mooney at (208) 885-0258 or (link) .

McClure Center Study Examines Go-On Rate

Results of a new University of Idaho study shed light on why nearly half of Idaho’s high school graduates do not go immediately on to postsecondary education. The statewide survey, “Life after High School,” (link) will help higher education leaders across the state better understand why Idaho continues to fall at or near the bottom of all states for college “go on” rates. The study demonstrates the university’s mission to understand and meet the needs of the state’s residents. “This new study is a valuable resource that will help our state understand the challenges we face in promoting postsecondary attendance,” Staben said. “We are deeply invested in addressing this issue, and this study gives us up-to-date information to create effective policy and guide decision-making, as one key part of continuing to build an educated and prosperous Idaho.”

UI Opens New Cybersecurity Training Center

It sounds like a state-of-the-art burrow in a Tom Clancy techno thriller – the Cybersecurity Training and Operations Center. Instead, it’s a new extension of the University of Idaho inside the college’s Post Falls research park. Here, aspiring computer security experts can prepare and test for their professional certifications, and employees in the field can pursue on-the-job training. In addition, a laboratory will use simulated cyberattacks as a training tool, and area businesses can learn how vulnerable they are to a security breach and what to do about it.

“It’s like a command center, an air traffic control room,” said Karen Thurston, the center’s director and head of Emerging Technology Business Development at UI. The professional development and technical education program is a response to the escalation of cybercrime targeting companies and organizations, and a growing demand for cybersecurity experts. Read the full story (link) in the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

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