More Nuggets from the Higher Ed Summit

The 2017 Virginia Summit on Higher Education and Economic Competitiveness covered a wider range of topics than I could possibly pack into the one article I filed yesterday. Here are some other noteworthy factoids and observations that came out of that meeting:

Internships to Jobs. A major theme of the summit was the need for more “experiential” training — internships, apprenticeships and other bridges between educational institutions and the workplace. In making the case for internships, Radford University President Brian Hemphill stated that employers convert 60% of their interns into full-time employees. Radford is making internships a centerpiece of its educational program, making the commitment to have 75% of its graduates to have internships by 2020.

The five-year retention rate of employees hired straight out of college forĀ Dominion Virginia Energy is about 33%, said Paul Koonce, executive vice president of the energy giant. For students who had interned with the company two or more years, the retention rate is 100%. The company employs 300 to 400 interns across 17 states.

To graduate on time, try taking a full course load. Virginia higher-ed institutions stand out in the percentage of students who graduate “on time,” that is, within six years. But there’s still plenty of room for improvement. At Radford, said Hemphill, 83% of the students are taking 15 course credits or more each semester. But that means 17% are taking lighter course loads. Said Hemphill: “We need to get that to 100%.”

The community college path to a B.A. degree. One of Virginia’s main strategies to bring down the cost of a four-year degree is to encourage students to study in community college for two years and then transfer to a four-year college to take more advanced courses in fulfillment of a major. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Hemphill again: On average students lose 13 credits (almost an entire semester) when they transfer.

Want efficiency? Try stable funding. Another common theme was the need for more stable state funding for higher education. Frequently mentioned was the idea of establishing a reserve fund for higher education to buffer institutions from backtracking on promised support. Del. Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights, next in line to be Speaker of the House, quoted Richmond businessman and former University of Virginia Rector Bill Goodwin as saying, if the state wants universities to be more efficient, the state needs to stabilize funding. Volatile state funding creates uncertainty. Faced with uncertainty, colleges hedge their bets. Hedging bets is the enemy of efficiency.

Physician, educate thyself! Democratic candidate for Governor Ralph Northam, a physician, worries that Virginia isn’t producing enough doctors. Virginia has four medical schools, but doctors don’t go from medical school directly into the workforce. They must undergo training in residencies — and Virginia doesn’t not have enough. As I understand it, though, residency funding comes from Medicare, so I’m not sure there’s much that Virginia can do about it.

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One response to “More Nuggets from the Higher Ed Summit

  1. A few thoughts that came to mind.
    Internships to Jobs:
    Assumes your major actually has a career path that might offer an internship. I’ll leave it to the imagination but we’ve all seen some of the odd majors out there. Are there enough non-profits to go around?
    To graduate on time, try taking a full course load:
    Since when did the time to completion for an undergraduate degree go from four to six years? Perhaps the clubmed campus model is having an effect here? Why be in a rush when campus living approximates a Caribbean destination and is better than home?
    The community college path to a B.A. degree: This makes complete sense and should be rewarded with incentives (guaranteed credit transfer, discounted tuition, special scholarships, etc.)
    Want efficiency? Try stable funding: Right, as soon as someone pulls the plug on the federal student loan gravy train. Better yet, get state schools back to the no-frills German model.

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