Apparently, two blogs are better than one!

Some of you already know, but please keep your eye out for TuitionFit (, the new platform that allows prospective students and parents to solve the college price transparency problem.  How, you might ask?  Well, check out the site and subscribe so you can be the first to know when it goes live.

And while you’re at it, check out the TuitionFit blog, including the latest post:

The #1 Reason Why Where You Go To College Doesn’t Really Matter

Make it a good day,


When presumptions about going to college while working a job collide

The results of a recent large-scale study of college students found that, on average college students spend more time during college working paid jobs than they spend going to class and studying (see one of many news reports about these findings here).  Depending on the news outlet, reports of these findings are followed by either:

  1. These findings are further proof that cost of college is so high that students have to work most of the time just to afford it.  Tuition is too damn high . . . blah blah blah . . .
  2. These findings are further proof that college’s academic requirements have gone horribly soft.  Back in my day . . . blah blah blah . . .

For the sake of argument, let’s say that both points are true.  I think there is a third point to be made that might be more important than all the rest.  The narrative about college graduates that we keep hearing argues that colleges don’t teach enough of the skills required to succeed in the world of work (have a look at one such news story here).  But if college students are spending more than half of their time working in paid jobs, then maybe the alleged skills gap (some folks make at least a partially reasonable argument that the whole claim is crap, like this opinion piece here) shouldn’t be laid at the feet of the colleges at all.

Maybe those who hire college students for all those paying jobs ought to shoulder some of the blame.  Especially if the majority of working college students are employed in the retail, restaurant, or hospitality sectors (a reasonable supposition, I think), then those students are actually working for a much larger corporations that are certainly hiring many of those college graduates.

It seems that maybe the employers who blame colleges for a perceived skills gap ought to take a look in the collective mirror.  And the pundits who use these findings to drive home a pre-determined agenda that college is supposed to produce young adults perfectly ready for everything that the world of work might throw at them . . . you might reconsider your premise.

A simple college pricing question

If you could see the prices that every other college charged a student similar to yours (i.e., students with similar academic accomplishments and similar financial need), and all you had to do to see that information was share an anonymized copy of your own child’s financial aid award letter, would you do it?

(If you have a child that has already gone to college, please try answer this question retrospectively. If you have a child that won’t go to college for a few years yet, please try to speculate.)

Please post your answer and anything you’d like to add as a comment below.


You need a laugh today? Let’s go!

Even us emotionally stunted numbers-nerds get bogged down by rainy April days. So I thought I’d share a quick video lesson on predictive analytics that I hope will make you smile (while educating in the most high minded fashion, of course!).

Predict This!

Of course, if you’re in the kind of curmudgeonly mood that is way beyond laughter, try out this Mountain Goats song and belt out the chorus at the top of your lungs.

Make it a good day,


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

A short post for a short week . . .

We talk a lot about the number of students at Augustana who have multiple talents and seem like they will succeed in life no matter what they choose to do.  So many of them seem to qualify as “MultiPotentialites”.

Although it makes sense that we would first see this phenomenon among our students, I think we might be missing another group of particularly gifted folks all around us.  So many of you, the Augustana faculty and staff, have unique talents, insightful perspectives, and unparalleled interpersonal skills that make us good at what we do. Almost every day I see someone step into a gap and fill a need that just needs to get done. Maybe we are just Midwestern humble or maybe we are just so busy scrambling to put out one fire after another that we never really get the chance to pause and see the talent we all bring to this community.

So I want to make sure that I thank all of you.  I know this might sound hokey.  Maybe it is.

So what.

Make it a good Thanksgiving weekend.


What’s all this talk about big data?

Maybe it hasn’t popped up on your radar yet, but it seems like everywhere one turns these days there’s another perfectly coiffed Nostradamus-impersonator lauding the inevitable big data revolution that’s just around the corner for higher education.

In case you’re wondering what I think about big data and all of the hubbub about it, I’ve shared a link to something I wrote for the Chronicle of Higher Education recently that they titled, “Big Data, Scant Evidence.” If you can’t access the it from where you are reading this post but really want to read the piece, send me a note and I’ll try to get an unlocked copy to you. My article is part of a larger supplement published last week about the big data trend in higher education. You might find some of the other articles interesting, although it’s hard to read some of this stuff and not think, “Isn’t this what we’ve been doing at Augustana for a while now?” Well . . . yes. Except that we aren’t necessarily a big enough place to produce big data. So what do we call our data? Diminutive? Pocket-sized? Lean?

Whatever you want to call it, we seem to be pretty good at improving based upon solid information.

Make it a good day,


A Shameless Plea

First or all, I owe you all a hearty heap of thanks for your patience this spring. For a couple of reasons, some of which can be chalked up to coincidence and some of which can be blamed squarely on me, we are participating in more than the usual number of surveys this spring.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about the awesome data that we will have at the end of this term and how much it will likely inform the ways that we keep trying to improve our campus. But you’ve heard all that from me before, and by now you either believe me or you don’t.

Nonetheless . . .

We really need your help in getting first year students to respond to our End of the First Year survey. It’s especially important because we’ve been paying close attention to the experience of various subgroups of students (i.e., African-American students, Hispanic students, first-generation students, students coming from particularly low income families, etc.) that have historically not succeeded at the same rates as more affluent white students. In order to have the most robust data from these students, we need to do everything in our power to encourage participation.

And this leads me to my shameless plea.

Please, please, please: if you interact with first year students or have the wherewithal to communicate with first year students, would you please take 30 seconds to make a personal plea on behalf of the college and encourage them to complete the first year survey? All first year students received an email earlier today inviting them to take the survey. I’ll send a link to anyone who would like so that they can include it on their course’s Moodle site or web page.

Thanks very much. It really does make a difference.

Make it a good day,


And it’s down to three . . .

Good morning everyone!

It’s not every week that you get to see three pretty smart people talk about the way that they might approach a leadership role as provost at Augustana College.  So if you can find a way to be there, I hope you’ll come to see each of the provost candidates present this week.

Each of them will be presenting at 11 AM and at 3 PM on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively. They will each be giving the same presentation in the afternoon that they gave in the morning, so you can come to one or the other.

Your participation in this process matters for several reasons.

  1. The more feedback the better for the search committee after all three finalists have been to campus.
  2. The more questions asked of the candidates the more everyone in attendance gets a sense of each candidate’s approach to public communication.
  3. The more people in attendance at these presentations the more we communicate to each candidate our investment in our provost and the college.

So come on down to the Wilson Center as often as you can make it.

Make it a good day,


What do you do when change finds you?

Welcome back from the short holiday break. Don’t tell the wellness folks, but I hope you got to eat all the pumpkin pie and whipped cream you could stand!

But just in case you thought that you were going to ease your way back into the comforting routine of winter term, I thought that now would be the perfect time to tell you about a nifty change that is coming down the pike.

What if you could see your IDEA feedback summary and student comments as soon as you submitted your grades for the term? It seems to me like that would be pretty awesome.

And what if you could get real-time IDEA feedback from your students in the middle of the term so that you could adjust on the fly? It seems to me like that would be pretty cool, too.

Remember a year or two ago when I reported that IDEA was going to phase out their paper forms some time in the next several years? Well, I’ve been informed that the paper forms will breathe their last collective breath in the spring of 2018. That means that, unless we want to go out onto the market and audition all of the other players in the course feedback survey industry (from whom I get phone calls or emails at least twice a week about their “exciting fully customizable online format”) or take on the monumental task of building a homegrown course feedback system, we need to plan on moving to a paperless IDEA system in the fall of 2018.

To be honest, I may have oversold this change a bit. In reality, it’s not going to change the daily life of an instructor much. You’ll still choose your learning objectives at the beginning of the term, and the students still complete the same set of items (albeit with some improvements that actually align better with our own college outcomes) at the end of the term. In many cases, you’ll likely opt to use class time for students to enter their responses on their phones, tablets, or laptops instead of coloring in little circles on a piece of paper. Solving the potential problem that some students won’t have a device that can access the survey is probably a pretty simple one (one possibility would be to borrow a neighbor’s phone or laptop).

Now I suspect that some of you have questions about how this is going to work. And we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t wonder about all of the ways that the paperless process could go horribly awry. But after quizzing the IDEA consultant, it seems as if they’ve found a myriad of ways to avoid the obstacles we most often worry about (e.g., low response rates, satisficing, etc.).

Nonetheless, we will host plenty of opportunities to answer questions about the details of this change – both in person and online. So what do we do when change finds us? Put your arms out wide and embrace the possibilities!

Seriously, what else are you going to do?

Make it a good day,



Reading my way out of a sleepless weekend

Good morning, everybody!

That greeting is intentionally more peppy than I feel today.  Sometimes I have to try to con myself into a better place.  Although I’m not sure what to do with the fact that this approach actually works for me, today I don’t have the energy to quibble with the ends justifying the means.

The past few weeks at Augustana have been hard to watch. Getting ourselves to a deeper understanding of difference and how to communicate with each other despite those differences sometimes seems simultaneous deceptively obvious and painfully impossible.  I’d love to whip out some perfect data point and, with an magician’s “abracadabra,” cast a healing rainbow of glitter across the campus. But reality is never presto-change-o with a dollop of whip cream.

So instead, I’m going to share links to a couple of articles that gave me just a little bit of an uplift this morning.  I think there is something in both pieces that is worth pondering. Each of these articles were in the Chronicle of Higher Education – the first one just today and the second one earlier in the summer.

A Gorilla-Masked Student’s Attempt to Provoke is Met with Peace

Talking Over the Racial Divide

Sometimes you gotta “make it a good day,”