Tag Archives: Higher Education

University of Texas Austin study: Small words in college essay can predict college success

11 Feb

This is an absolutely jaw-dropping statistic. According the article, Opinion Brief: Detroit’s ‘shocking’ 47 percent illiteracy rate which was posted at The Week:

More than 200,000 Detroit residents — 47 percent of Motor City adults — are “functionally illiterate,” according to a new report released by the Detroit Regional Workforce Fund. That means they can’t fill out basic forms, read a prescription, or handle other tasks most Americans take for granted, according to the fund’s director, Karen Tyler-Ruiz, as quoted by CBS Detroit. Her organization’s study also found that the education and training aimed at overcoming these problems “is inadequate at best,” says Jackie Headapohl at Michigan Live. http://theweek.com/article/index/215055/detroits-shocking-47-percent-illiteracy-rate

Illiteracy is a global problem, with some geographic areas and populations suffering more from illiteracy than others.

Education Portal defines illiteracy in the article, Illiteracy: The Downfall of American Society.

Most people think of literacy as a simple question of being able to read. But while a young child who can work her way through a basic picture book is considered to have age-appropriate literacy levels, an adult who can only read at the most fundamental level is still functionally illiterate.

The world requires that adults not only be able to read and understand basic texts, but also be able to function in the workplace, pay bills, understand legal and financial documents and navigate technology – not to mention the advanced reading comprehension skills required to pursue postsecondary education and the opportunities that come with it.

As a result, when we talk about the effects of illiteracy on society, we’re talking primarily about what happens when you have a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that childhood illiteracy is, of course, directly correlated to adult illiteracy.                                                                                                     http://education-portal.com/articles/Illiteracy_The_Downfall_of_American_Society.html

The key concept is the individual cannot adequately function in the society in which they live. That means that tasks necessary to provide a satisfactory life are difficult because they cannot read and/or comprehend what they read. Reading and literacy are important for writing and the ability for an individual to express their ideas.

Scott Jaschik wrote in the Inside Higher Education article, Analyzing Application Essays:

Admissions essays are thought of by many as less scientific than other parts of the college application process — a chance to share a personal story, to inject personality into the process, to become more than just a grade-point average or test score.

But it may be that statistical analysis can be applied to application essays — and that some words and some topics correlate with better performance in college. That’s the conclusion of a new study published in PLOS One that analyzes the words used in application essays with grades earned once enrolled.

The study found that the essays that predicted the most academic success demonstrated “categorical thinking,” which involves writing that categorizes things, and that connects concepts and ideas. Generally, writing with categorical thinking uses many articles such as “the” and prepositions such as “on” and “of.”

Essays that show “dynamic thinking,” in contrast, predict lower G.P.A.s in college. This writing tends to use pronouns such as “I” and “they” and to rely on personal narratives.

The authors of the paper — all at the University of Texas at Austin — are James Pennebaker, a psychology professor, David Beaver, professor in of linguistics; Gary Lavergne, program manager in the Office of Admissions; Cindy Chung, psychology postdoctoral fellow; and Joey Frazee, a linguistics graduate student.

The analysis is based on data from 50,000 essays from 25,975 applicants who, after being accepted, enrolled at “a large state university” from 2004 through 2007, and were then tracked for their grades. The study does not explicitly state that the students are at UT Austin, and the researchers declined to name the institution. But the size of the university seems to match UT, and the Institutional Review Board that reviewed the project was at that university….

Generally, those applicants who, compared to the average applicant, used greater numbers of long words (6 letters or more) than others, used more complicated sentences, and wrote longer essays all ended up with slightly higher GPAs than did other admitted students…. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/01/08/new-study-links-certain-application-essays-and-college-success

Citation:

Article Source: When Small Words Foretell Academic Success: The Case of College Admissions Essays

Pennebaker JW, Chung CK, Frazee J, Lavergne GM, Beaver DI (2014) When Small Words Foretell Academic Success: The Case of College Admissions Essays. PLoS ONE 9(12): e115844. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115844

Abstract

The smallest and most commonly used words in English are pronouns, articles, and other function words. Almost invisible to the reader or writer, function words can reveal ways people think and approach topics. A computerized text analysis of over 50,000 college admissions essays from more than 25,000 entering students found a coherent dimension of language use based on eight standard function word categories. The dimension, which reflected the degree students used categorical versus dynamic language, was analyzed to track college grades over students’ four years of college. Higher grades were associated with greater article and preposition use, indicating categorical language (i.e., references to complexly organized objects and concepts). Lower grades were associated with greater use of auxiliary verbs, pronouns, adverbs, conjunctions, and negations, indicating more dynamic language (i.e., personal narratives). The links between the categorical-dynamic index (CDI) and academic performance hint at the cognitive styles rewarded by higher education institutions.

http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0115844

Here is the press release from the University of Texas:

Short Words Predict Academic Success

Jan. 7, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas — The smallest, most forgettable words in admissions essays can tell us in advance how students will perform in college, a new study by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin reveals.

Common sense suggests that academic potential is shown by use of long complicated words. The new research shows, on the contrary, that common, easily overlooked words — such as the, a, to, I and they — matter. These short words provide a better yardstick than long words for measuring a person’s potential.

The new study used 50,000 admissions essays written by prospective college students, enabling the researchers to connect language use to later college performance. It turned out that how students use small words is related to subsequent GPA. For example, students who heavily use the word I tend to do worse in class, and students who heavily use the words the and a do better.

“Function words allow us to assess how people are thinking more than what they are thinking about,” said James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at The University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the paper. “In the growing age of big data, we can now begin to identify the potential thinking patterns of individuals, groups and perhaps even cultures for whom there exist language records.”

The UT Austin team used computerized text analysis to show that college performance is tied to a new measure that they call the Categorical Dynamic Index (CDI). This measure is calculated from a simple combination of the frequencies of common words. Categorical thinking involves categorizing things into kinds and connecting objects and concepts in a sophisticated way. Categorical thinking is reflected by use of articles such as the and prepositions such as on and of.

The new research shows that people who think categorically do better in college than those who don’t. On the other hand, dynamic thinkers see the world in terms of narratives, typically personal and subjective. Dynamic thinkers use more pronouns such as I and they and more auxiliary verbs such as will and had, and these applicants ended up, on average, with lower GPAs in the study.

The paper, titled “When Small Words Foretell Academic Success,” appeared in the Dec. 31 online edition of the journal PLOS ONE. In addition to Pennebaker, the interdisciplinary team of researchers includes David Beaver, professor in the Department of Linguistics; Gary Lavergne, program manager in the Office of Admissions; Cindy Chung, psychology postdoctoral fellow; and Joey Frazee, a linguistics graduate student.

The surprising finding that small words are tied to academic success could, of course, be used by admissions officers. But the researchers caution against the simple use of word counts in admissions decisions.

“The results could be interpreted not as a failure of dynamic thinkers to do well in college,” said Beaver, “but as a failure of college to help students add categorical thinking to their arsenal.”

For more information, contact: David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts, 512 626 0788;  David Beaver, Department of Linguistics, College of Liberal Arts, ;  James Pennebaker, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, 512-232-2781.

K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.”

Related:

Helping community college students to graduate                                          https://drwilda.com/2012/02/08/helping-community-college-students-to-graduate/

The digital divide affects the college application process                                 https://drwilda.com/2012/12/08/the-digital-divide-affects-the-college-application-process/

College readiness: What are ‘soft skills’                                                                       https://drwilda.com/2012/11/14/college-readiness-what-are-soft-skills/

Colleges rethinking who may need remedial education                                       https://drwilda.com/2012/10/24/colleges-rethinking-who-may-need-remedial-education/

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American Association of Community Colleges report: Community colleges are an education bargain

22 Feb

Going to a community college is one way to reduce the cost of college. The Lumina Foundation provides the following statistics:

◦ Forty-six percent are 25 or older, and 32 percent are at least 30 years old. The average age is 29.
◦ Fifty-eight percent are women.
◦ Twenty-nine percent have annual household incomes less than $20,000.
◦ Eighty-five percent balance studies with full-time or part-time work. More than half (54 percent) have full-time jobs.
◦ Thirty percent of those who work full time also attend classes full time (12 or more credit hours). Among students 30-39 years old, the rate climbs to 41 percent.
◦ Minority students constitute 30 percent of community college enrollments nationally, with Latino students representing the fastest-growing racial/ethnic population.
Source: The American Association of Community Colleges, based on material in the National Profile of Community Colleges:Trends & Statistics, Phillippe & Patton, 2000.

Many of those attending community college will need a variety of assistance to be successful in their academic career

Tyler Kingkade reported in the Huffington Post article, Community College Pays Off Too, Report Shows:

For every dollar a student spends on community college, they can expect a cumulative $4.80 back in higher future wages, according to a recent report.
The report, by the American Association of Community Colleges, concluded every tax dollar that goes into a community college education, yields a cumulative return of $6.80 over the course of students’ careers. Federal, state, and local governments will collect an additional $285.7 billion in higher tax receipts, and tax payers will save $19.2 billion over the course of students’ careers because their better lifestyles will lead to lower health care costs, reduced crime and lower need for safety net programs.
Community colleges served 11.6 million students in 2012, the year of data this report reviewed, representing 42 percent of the American collegiate population.
Although the report was released by a group representing community colleges, it falls in line with other recent studies showing associate’s degrees do pay off in the long run. According to an analysis by Hamilton Place Strategies, it will be “more attractive to get an associate’s degree, rather than a bachelor’s degree, in 2065,” if current cost trends continue….
The report was prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International, and based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau, outputs of EMSI’s Social Accounting Matrix model. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/20/community-college-pays-off-report_n_4818845.html?utm_hp_ref=email_share

Here is the press release from the American Association of Community Colleges:

Report: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges
Community Colleges Contributed $809 Billion to Economy in 2012
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) released a report, “Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges,” showing that community colleges are a boon to the American economy at large and to the individual student.
In 2012 alone, the net total impact of community colleges on the U.S. economy was $809 billion in added income, equal to 5.4 percent of GDP. Over time, the U.S. economy will see even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion dollars in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer safety net services, experience better health, and lower rates of crime.
Students also see a significant economic benefit. For every one dollar a student spends on his or her community college education, he or she sees an ROI of $3.80.
Please access the links below to read more:
Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (Full Report) http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_MainReport_Final_021114.pdf
Where Value Meets Values: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (Executive Summary) http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_ExecSum_Final_021114.pdf
Economic Impact Study Fact Sheet http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_FactSheet_Final_021114.pdf
Return on Investment: Social http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_Social_Final_021114.pdf
Return on Investment: Student http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_Student_Final_021114.pdf
Return on Investment: Taxpayer http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_Taxpayer_Final_021114.pdf
The study was compiled by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., (EMSI). EMSI turns labor market data into useful information that helps organizations understand the connection between economies, people, and work. Read more about EMSI.

Here is a portion of the executive summary which deals with the economic impact of community colleges:

The economic impact analysis examines the impact of America’s commu¬nity colleges and their students on the national economy in 2012. Results are measured in terms of added income and are organized according to the following effects:
1. Impact of the increased productivity of former community college students employed in the U.S. workforce, and;
2. Impact of international student spending.

IMPACT OF STUDENT PRODUCTIVITY
The greatest impact of America’s community colleges results from the education and training they provide to U.S. residents. Since the colleges were established, students have studied at the colleges and entered the workforce with new skills. Today millions of former students are employed in the U.S workforce.
During the analysis year, former students of America’s community col¬leges generated $806.4 billion in added income in the U.S. economy. This figure represents the higher wages that students earned during the year,
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
IMPACT OF STUDENT PRODUCTIVITY
The greatest impact of America’s community colleges results from the education and training they provide to U.S. residents. Since the colleges were established, students have studied at the colleges and entered the workforce with new skills. Today millions of former students are employed in the U.S workforce.
During the analysis year, former students of America’s community col¬leges generated $806.4 billion in added income in the U.S. economy. This figure represents the higher wages that students earned during the year, the increased output of the businesses that employed the students, and the multiplier effects that occurred as students and their employers spent money at other businesses.
IMPACT OF INTERNATIONAL STUDENT SPENDING
Approximately 1.3% of students attending America’s community colleges in 2012 were international students. These students paid approximately $1.2 billion to the community colleges to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and supplies. The colleges in turn injected these monies into the U.S. economy through their payroll and purchases. The net impact of these transactions was $1.5 billion in new income added to the U.S. economy.
The living expenses of international students also supported U.S. businesses. In 2012, international students spent $1.2 billion to purchase groceries, rent accommodation, pay for transportation, and so on. The net impact of these expenses was $1.1 billion in added income.
Altogether, international student spending added a total of $2.6 billion in income to the U.S. economy.
TOTAL IMPACT
The overall effect of America’s community colleges on the national economy in 2012 amounted to $809 billion, equal to the sum of the stu¬dent productivity effect and the international student spending effect. This added income is equal to approximately 5.4% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product…. http://www.aacc.nche.edu/About/Documents/USA_AGG_ExecSum_Final_021114.pdf
Ashley Marchand writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about strategies which can help community college students succeed.
In 6 Strategies Can Help Entering Community-College Students Succeed, Marchand reports:
The six benchmarks listed in the report offer staff members and administrators ideas about how to help more students stay in college and graduate or transfer. They are fostering “college readiness” programs for high-school students, connecting early with students, encouraging faculty and staff members to have high expectations for students, providing a clear academic path, engaging students in the learning process, and maintaining an academic and social-support network. http://chronicle.com/article/6-Strategies-Can-Help-Entering/64871/
In the article, Community Colleges Address Financial Barriers to Success For Low-income Students which was published in the Sacramento Bee, student challenges were addressed :
Of the close to 8 million credit students annually attending community colleges, 46% currently receive some form of financial aid (state, federal, or institutional). The additional benefits the students might access through BACC include a range of federal programs, such as those that provide health insurance, food, and child care. Such support services are especially critical for community college students, many of whom juggle work, studies, and family responsibilities. http://www.sacbee.com/2012/02/08/4248177/community-colleges-address-financial.html

Given the numbers of students attending community college and the population demographic, more must be done to help this students graduate.

Related:

Helping community college students to graduate https://drwilda.com/2012/02/08/helping-community-college-students-to-graduate/

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