With spring fast approaching, many American high school seniors are now waiting anxiously to hear whether they got into the college or university of their choice. For many students, their scores on the SAT or the ACT will play a big role in where they get in.
That's because those standardized tests remain a central part in determining which students get accepted at many schools. But a first-of-its-kind study obtained by NPR raises questions about whether those tests are becoming obsolete.
Pretty soon, going to community college in Tennessee may become absolutely free. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam unveiled the proposal in his annual State of the State address this week.
Haslam is trying to lift Tennessee's ranking as one of the least-educated states. Less than a third of residents have even a two-year degree. But a community college free-for-all has been tried elsewhere, though not sustained, and there's always a nagging question.
"So I know you're wondering," Haslam said. "How do we pay for this?"
A program being used at WKU is providing a better idea of what can be done to prevent students from leaving school before completing their degree.
The MAP-Works system helps identify at-risk students who take a voluntary survey. Students who appear to be struggling receive direct intervention by WKU faculty and staff who direct the student to programs that can help with academic, financial, or health issues.
Lindsey Gilmore, with the WKU enrollment management office, says she assumed money problems would be the top reason why students drop out. But she says MAP-Works shows that’s not the case.
"Generally, what MAP-Works does is let us see about five top issues our students are facing per classification, and lack of financial confidence is always in the top five, but it’s never number one."
Gilmore says MAP-Works shows the biggest stressors for WKU students include homesickness, test anxiety, study habits, and low peer connections.
More than 5,400 WKU students have been contacted or met with in person this academic year about their survey results. Gilmore says the school is working to get more students to take the MAP-Works survey. A little over 27 percent of WKU students completed the survey last fall.
A bill that would allow computer programming courses to count toward foreign language requirements in Kentucky schools has passed out of a Senate committee.
Republican Sen. David Givens of Greensburg sponsored the measure and told the committee it's needed to prepare Kentucky’s students for a modern economy.
“Part of the challenge goes to the fact that less than 2.4 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and the numbers continue to decline as the job opportunities increase."
Givens also says his bill would help close a knowledge gap for women and minorities, groups he says are under-represented in the fields of computer science.
The leader of Kentucky's Council on Postsecondary Education is joining others in calling for the Governor to renew funding for the state's colleges and universities.
CPE President Bob King and officials from Kentucky's postsecondary institutions have signed a newspaper op-ed pointing out that 70,000 students who qualified for need-based aid last year went without.
King says state campuses have had to take revenue from students who could pay full tuition to help fund aid programs that Pell Grants and state programs can no longer fully support.
"The aid that's being provided by the institutions means that those dollars that they are otherwise receiving in the form of tuition can't be spent to hire more faculty, or to (purchase) more computing equipment or laboratory equipment--all the things that we need to enhance the academic experience for our students," King said during a phone interview.
King's comments come ahead of Governor Beshear's budget address Tuesday evening in Frankfort.
WKU has been awarded a $150,000 grant to support early childhood education.
The funding from the PNC Foundation will be used to produce videos that will expose children to the STEM disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math. The videos will be distributed to places such as libraries, housing authorities, and preschools in Kentucky and Tennessee.
"The hardest thing about changing the number of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in Kentucky relates to the fact that unless you stimulate interest early and students are really prepared to be successful when they go to college in those areas, then it's not going to happen," said Dr. Julia Roberts, executive director of the Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at WKU.
Kentucky will need to fill 74,000 STEM jobs by 2018, yet only 12 percent of bachelor’s degrees conferred in the state are in STEM fields.
In his seventh state of the Commonwealth address, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told lawmakers that he will seek to reinvest in education, while also urging the General Assembly to reform the state's tax code.
The nearly 50-minute speech touched upon a variety of topics, including the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, gains in auto manufacturing and the implementation of new education standards.
In stressing his latest priority, Beshear said that he would make cuts to other programs in order to reinvest in education. To make up some of the funds, the governor pleaded with lawmakers to act on tax reform this year.
“I realize that tax modernization is a sensitive topic, especially in an election year. But the people elected us to tackle difficult issues. So engage with me. I ask you to engage with me on a core weakness that is keeping the Commonwealth from reaching its potential.”
Beshear offered few details on the kind of changes he wants to see in the tax code.
After the speech, Senate President Robert Stivers said he will need specifics in order to have a discussion on the issue.