If and When Money Matters: The Relationships among Educational Expenditures, Student Engagement, and Students' Learning Outcomes
Issue/Topic: Finance--Does Money Matter?; Postsecondary Finance--Efficiency/Performance-Based Funding
Author(s): Ethington, Corinna; Kuh, George; McCormick, Alexander; Pike, Gary; Smart, John
Organization(s): Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis; University of Indiana; University of Memphis
Publication: Research in Higher Education
Published On: 9/18/2010
Past research on expenditures and college outcomes has been characterized by weak and contradictory findings. Surprising little is known about whether and how "money matters" to desired outcomes of college. It seems reasonable to expect that combined expenditures for instruction, academic support, student services, and institution support would be positively and directly related to student engagement, but indirectly related to student learning.
To examine the relationships among educational expenditures, student engagement and learning outcomes for first-year students and seniors.
- Expenditures were significantly and positively related to...first-year students' self-reported cognitive outcomes (in areas such as general education, writing and speaking effectively, quantitative analysis, and critical thinking).
- Expenditures were not significantly related to first-year students' non-cognitive development (as measured by responses to questions concerning self-understanding, working with others, developing ethical standards, and civic/community engagement).
- For a wider range of learning objectives (e.g., academic challenge, collaborative learning, educational enrichment), the relationship between expenditures and outcomes was indirect and mediated by student engagement variables.
- Between-institution differences were very small compared to the differences among students within institutions.
- All of the engagement measures were significantly and positively related to cognitive gains of first-year students. The strongest relationships were found for the academic challenge and supportive campus environment measures.
- Lack of variance in outcome and engagement measures at the institution level sounds a cautionary note about placing too much weight on these measures in accountability reporting systems.
- Strong relationships between expenditures and outcomes for first-year students most likely reflect the fact that expenditures are targeted toward first-year students.
- Greatest gains in student learning...flow from institutional policies and practices that improve student engagement scores across multiple dimensions (academic challenge; active and collaborative learning; student-faculty collaboration; enriching educational experiences; and supportive campus environment).
For full study: http://www.springerlink.com/content/k525r83351p722g4/
Data from the 2004 administration of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), institutional data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the College Board.
34,823 first-year students and 34,606 seniors attending 171 public colleges and universities
Year data is from:
Data Collection and Analysis:
Self-reports form the basis for many of the measures used in this research. Student learning outcomes were represented by two scales: cognitive gains and non-cognitive gains.
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