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And the price tag-about $20,000 per degree for in-state students, about $38,000 for out-of-state-can be prohibitive. Isbell, a professor and senior associate dean, helped create Georgia Tech's online master's in computer science to solve both problems. Produced in partnership with the for-profit ed tech company Udacity, and with funding from AT&T, the online program allows students to get the same degree awarded to on-campus students for the eyepoppingly low average price of about $7,000. Isbell devised the idea along with Zvi Galil, dean of Georgia Tech's college of computing, and Sebastian Thrun, the CEO of Udacity. Now he both oversees the program and teaches an online machine-learning course. What excites him most about the online degree is the fact that it draws thousands of qualified students who, because of price or geography, weren't applying to the on-campus program. Without the physical constraints of classroom size and Charles Isbell teacher availability, a class that traditionally held 300 students can instead reach 3,000. And while the in-person program overwhelmingly attracts students from India and other Asian countries, the online degree enrolls mostly U.S. citizens. "It turns out we're accessing a whole set of students who can succeed but otherwise would not have the opportunity," says Isbell, an Atlantaarea native who talks faster than the average New Yorker. He's not stopping there: recently, he's been traveling to Kenya to set up partnerships with African universities. His goal? To become, in a few years, "the largest single producer of graduate IT talent in Sub-Saharan Africa." Courtesy of GT College of Computing; Courtesy of Franklin & Marshall College; Courtesy of University of Hawai'i News DAN PORTERFIELD Franklin & Marshall College Can a selective liberal arts college triple its share of lowincome students in a few years without sacrificing academic quality? The example of Franklin & Marshall suggests that the answer is yes. Since Porterfield became president in 2011, Pell-eligible students have gone from 5 percent of the student body to 19 percent. That's one result of the ambitious Next Generation Initiative, a multipronged effort to boost Franklin & Marshall's socioeconomic, racial, and geographic diversity. The college has eliminated Dan Porterfield so-called merit aid, which overwhelmingly goes to students who can afford tuition, and doubled its spending on need-based aid. It hosts a three- week summer prep program for high-achieving, low-income high school seniors from urban charter networks and rural Pennsylvania schools. And each year the school accepts two ten-student cohorts from the Posse Foundation, a nonprofit focused on college access. Porterfield is especially proud that these students are actually improving the academic environment. First-generation students and Pell Grant recipients have the same average grades as the overall student body, and students who get need-based aid are graduating at a higher rate, with higher GPAs, than the school as a whole. The college says it has gotten more selective, not less, since it started the initiative. To Porterfield, that makes it an obvious win-win. "I wish I could tell you that I was facing competition from ten other top schools," he says. "But the reality is, these students are under-recruited." Once on campus, they raise the bar for everyone. "Education is one endeavor where everybody wins if you give low-income kids an opportunity." LINDA JOHNSRUD University of Texas at Arlington A few years ago, when she was provost and vice president for academic affairs in the University of Hawaii system, Linda Johnsrud crunched some numbers and found that students were taking 5.8 years on average to earn a four-year degree. That extra time to graduate, she recognized, imposed considerable costs on those students. It meant more out-of-pocket tuition and living expenses, higher debt burdens, and lower lifetime income (by delaying their entrance into post-college careers). Perhaps worst of all, it increased the risk that students wouldn't graduate at all. Upon further examination, Johnsrud found that one of the main reasons students were putting themselves on five- or six-year tracks was that they were taking fewer than fifteen credits per semester, often at their advisers' encouragement. In 2012, Johnsrud developed an aggressive advertising campaign called "15-to-Finish," inLinda Johnsrud tended to "change the norm to full-time [meaning] 15 credits, not 12," according to the program's proposal, and in effect to help students accrue far less debt and actually attain a degree. When 15-to-Finish started, 49 percent of students were completing at least fifteen credits in their freshman year. That number is now 55 percent. Meanwhile, Hawaii's four-year graduation rate rose from 20 percent in 2012 to 28 percent last year. The campaign was so effective that fifteen states have followed Hawaii's lead changing financial aid structures to encourage students to up their enrollment intensity. Johnsrud is now interim vice provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas at ArWashington Monthly 61

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2016

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