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Up Front: Fall 2011



American Families Paying Less for Higher Education
Sallie Mae’s fourth annual survey, How America Pays for College, was released in late August and shows that families— while still placing high value on the importance of a college education—are paying less for it. The survey covers the 2010–11 academic year and is produced in partnership with Ipsos Public Affairs.

This year, the average family reported paying 9 percent less than was reported in 2010, a decrease Sallie Mae attributes to a shift to lower-cost schools; an increase in the number of low-income students; and reduced out-of-pocket spending among high- and middle-income families.
Additionally, the survey reveals an increased reliance on grants and scholarships. Families surveyed reported that grants and scholarships made up 33 percent of the total funds used to pay for college, as compared to 23 percent in 2010. The proportion of families using grants also increased substantially, rising to 46 percent in 2011 from 30 percent the previous year. It is noted that the largest increase in grant usage is seen by middle-income (from 30 percent in 2010 to 49 percent in 2011) and high-income families (from 12 percent to 26 percent), while remaining stable among low-income families.
The entire report is available as a free PDF on Sallie Mae’s website,

Measuring Greatness
The recently released 2011 Great Colleges To Work For survey, produced byThe Chronicle of Higher Education, is based on responses of about 20,000 faculty members, 15,000 professional staff members, and 8,000 administrators. These nearly 44,000 respondents come from 310 institutions across the United States, though the survey is open to all colleges and universities in the country. The results have been categorized into four main groups: Leadership, Careers, Compensation, and the Workplace. There are three key factors under each heading, giving a grand total of 12 dimensions on which institutions are graded.
The survey takers were given 60 statements, and asked to respond using a five-point scale. They were also given two open ended questions, 15 demographic questions, and queried on their satisfaction with 18 benefits. Responses were compiled and institutions were ranked.

The manner of release of the results on the Chronicle’s website is what gives this survey even more clout. Instead of only listing the top institutions in each category and forcing the data to be sliced and diced by hand, the results are interactive. The “Pick Your Priorities” link allows the user to see which institutions ranked high in the categories of their choice. For example, if collaborative governance and diversity are the factors chosen, a list of institutions ranked highly in both is provided.
To see which institutions made the list, go to; a mobile version of the survey is also available.

Going Beyond the Lab Gives Rise to Diversity
While science and policy studies are usually kept separate on university campuses, a graduate program that combines the two is gaining traction at many institutions. Known as a Professional Science master’s degree (PSM), this program combines study in science and/or mathematics with coursework in management, policy, law, or related fields, and is designed to prepare graduates for careers in business, government, and non-profit organizations. The PSM initiative began in 1997 when a select number of research universities, with the support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, developed the program. It has now spread to over 110 institutions.
The Council of Graduate Schools recently released a report detailing results of its first annual survey of PSM programs, the 2010 Professional Science Master’s Enrollment and Degrees Survey. The survey looks at applicants and first-time enrollees by program area of choice as well as demographic characteristics. According to the results, this type of degree program shows promise for attracting an increasingly diverse set of students. See figure below.
For further information and to download a free copy of the report, visit