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UW’s Hillman co-authors post examining importance of ‘place’ in college choice

June 06, 2016

UW-Madison’s Nicholas Hillman co-authored a recent blog post headlined, “The Accountability Movement, College Choice and the Importance of Place.”

In it, Hillman and co-author Jonathan Turk discuss the importance of “place” when addressing college choice process and policy.

The post begins: “Since taking office in 2009, expanding college access has been a major goal of the Obama administration. While there has been a multifaceted approach to increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential, a key focus has been on informing the college choice process. Specifically, the administration has sought to ensure better information about colleges and universities is reaching students and their families — the most recent example being the 2015 relaunch of the College Scorecard — while also holding institutions more accountable for student outcomes.”

Nicholas Hillman
Hillman and Turk continue: “We agree generally that the college choice process can be aided by accessible and meaningful data on institutions. But for many students, the decision of whether to attend college, let alone which college, is likely determined more by where they live than by graduation rates, programs offered or even salary after completion. The importance of place therefore needs to be emphasized not only in the college choice process, but also in the greater discussion of higher education accountability as well.”

The post appears on the Higher Education Today blog from the American Council on Education (ACE).

Hillman is an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis and is an affiliate of the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE).  Turk is a policy research analyst for ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy.

Hillman and Turk conclude their post by writing: “Efforts to provide students and families with new and meaningful data to inform college choice are admirable. However, if policymakers want to improve postsecondary attainment levels and strengthen institutions, simply trying to nudge students to make ‘better choices’ about where to attend is not sufficient. Policymakers also need to consider the supply and capacity of colleges and universities — where they are located, whether they are serving their local communities and the role geography and place has in shaping students’ choices.”

To learn more about this nuanced and important topic, check out the entire blog post for free on the Higher Education Today blog.
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