By Matt Reed

Looking for conditions that promote the unity for the common good.

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By Matthew Reisz for Times Higher Education

From Afghanistan to Bahrain, Colombia to Zimbabwe, universities, their staff and students have come under attack in the past few years.

In its 2014 report “Education Under Attack,” the Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack documented examples of higher education institutions attacked (or turned over to military use) in 28 countries between 2009 and 2012, including 17 where buildings were damaged or destroyed.

As a result, it consulted widely with international higher education networks to understand the causes and consequences of such attacks and develop measures to increase protection. It has now set out its suggestions in a report titled “Guide to Implementing the Principles of State Responsibility to Protect Higher Education From Attack.”

The prime responsibility, it asserts, lies with states to “abstain from direct or complicit involvement in attacks on higher education,” for example by avoiding “ideological or partisan uses of higher education facilities, which might foster a perception of the university as a politicized agent.”

They must try to protect institutions from attack by “safeguarding the civilian character of universities” and by limiting “the use of higher education facilities for military purposes, so as to avoid converting universities into military objectives and exposing them to attack by other parties to conflict.”

Where attacks do occur, the report goes on, states must obviously provide “physical assistance to victims,” but also the kind of “psychosocial programs” that can play “a key role in encouraging academic staff to continue their research and teaching, and in preventing dropout and low levels of attendance among university students.”

Furthermore, through “responsible, timely and thorough investigation of attacks,” they can “send a positive message to the higher education sector and the public about the importance of higher education. Investigations and appropriate prosecution and sentencing of perpetrators after fair and impartial proceedings demonstrate that such acts will not be tolerated, which can help to deter future attacks.”

Yet in a world where universities are regularly “targeted, burned and shelled by state forces and armed rebel groups” or “used for military purposes … as bases, barracks, weapons caches and detention centers,” it is also essential for those working within the sector to play their part in promoting the GCPEA’s core principles.

Along with lobbying and producing relevant research, it is partly up to higher education stakeholders, the report says, to “assist states in reviewing national policies and laws, with due respect for the values essential to quality higher education … to ensure that higher education communities are physically secure and free from intimidation and improper external influence.”

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By Kristine Maloney

How and why media relations pros need to step up.

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By Rick Seltzer

Middlebury College says it has become carbon neutral, meeting an aggressive goal set last decade and becoming one of just a handful of institutions to reach the sought-after sustainability status.

Its path, however, was not easy or without dispute.

The private liberal arts college in Vermont is today officially announcing it met its target to become carbon neutral by 2016. President Laurie Patton was expected to tell alumni about the milestone at a New York City holiday party Wednesday night. Trustees in 2007 adopted the goal, which does not call for the elimination of all carbon emissions. Instead, carbon neutrality means the campus balances the amount of carbon emissions it releases by offsetting or sequestering equivalent amounts.

Although only a few campuses have reported reaching carbon-neutral status — among them the College of the Atlantic, Green Mountain College and Colby College — Middlebury is perhaps the largest in the country to do so. At about 2,500 undergraduate students, Middlebury is not a huge institution, but it still had to sink significant time and resources into changing the way it uses energy. The carbon-neutral status covers Middlebury’s main campus, nearby Bread Loaf Mountain Campus and a nearby ski area, but not its California campus.

The college pumped $1.5 million into efficiency upgrades. In 2009 it built a $12 million heating facility burning gas from wood biomass that cut millions of gallons of fuel oil being burned. It also invested in solar-energy projects.

In addition, officials hoped to be able to count on a project to turn cow manure into fuel, but it has yet to materialize. So to cross the carbon-neutral finish line, the college is using carbon credits from preserving thousands of acres Middlebury owns at the Bread Loaf Mountain campus.

That move could provoke some debate on campus, as students have questioned the use of credits in the past. It wouldn’t be the only debate over carbon neutrality. A pipeline project tied into a biomethane gas project has sparked fierce debate, and students have scrutinized everything from the existing biomass plant to student engagement in carbon neutrality.

Leaders say the preserved forest captures carbon and that they’re protecting it from future development. They add that it allows them to avoid purchasing carbon credits from elsewhere.

The resolution trustees passed called for reaching carbon neutrality by changing the way Middlebury operates, said Jack Byrne, its director of sustainability integration. Offsets were intended as a last resort.

“We did our best to avoid having to buy other people’s offsets,” Byrne said. “And I think we’re really pleased that we were able to create our own internal offsets, in effect, through conservation of this land. We can look at this as something we generated by our own actions, by conserving these lands.”

Middlebury announced a deal in 2014 backed by a preservation fund to conserve 2,100 acres of Bread Loaf land in perpetuity. At the time, the preservation wasn’t linked to carbon credits.

An argument can be made that Middlebury didn’t actually change its practices by taking credit for preserving undeveloped Bread Loaf land. It’s an argument that’s already been talked about on campus, said David Allen, an assistant professor of biology who co-chairs Middlebury’s Environmental Council, a student, staff and faculty body.

“I think the students will pick up on it,” he said. “Some of them did mention it, even in the environmental council.”

Students may feel that Middlebury did not exhaust every last feasible option for cutting its carbon footprint, Allen said. The council has debated whether credits generated at Middlebury are better than ones that would be purchased on a carbon credit market.

Still, there are indications that many students may not see the move as gaming the system. Michael Shrader, a junior studying economics and environmental studies who is the director of environmental affairs for Middlebury’s Student Government Association, cautioned against seeing carbon neutrality as a clear-cut end goal. Middlebury appears to be meeting its goal using standard practices, he said.

“Obviously it would be much better if perhaps an institution was able to meet a goal like that without offsets or whatever questionable calculations,” Shrader said. “But that’s sort of unprecedented for an institution like Middlebury. We’re going to keep working. Carbon neutrality is not an end.”

Using land that the institution owns is different than simply gaming carbon credits, argued Nan Jenks-Jay, dean of environmental affairs. It shows a difference in the way the institution thinks about its land and a greater future commitment to environmental stewardship, she said.

Middlebury has restricted its future financial options by pledging to conserve the land. Real estate has value and can provide a boost in tight financial times.

“Colleges and universities tend to think about land as an asset,” Jenks-Jay said. “They tend not to protect it, because it has value and trustees have fiduciary responsibility.”

Middlebury’s experience going carbon neutral also represents a study in timing. When the institution said it would pursue the goal in 2007, many other institutions were making similar pledges. Hundreds of campuses adopted the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in June of that year, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By the next year, many institutions had already fallen behind in work under that commitment, missing a deadline for baseline reports on emissions.

Many other institutions laid out later timelines for carbon neutrality, setting goals in 2020 or 2050, Jenks-Jay said. Middlebury, with its nine-year timeline, was forced to move more quickly. It was also forced to put in consistent effort.

“I think the Middlebury experience shows something about the ability to sustain the commitment,” Jenks-Jay said. “The piece that might be important is the ability to sustain the enthusiasm.”

Every college pursuing carbon neutrality has followed a different path, said Janna Cohen-Rosenthal, climate programs director for Second Nature, a Boston-based nonprofit organization of which the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment is a part. The commitment is now called the Climate Leadership Commitment.

The different paths included varying timelines and strategies for tackling carbon emissions. Few institutions set aggressive short-term targets like Middlebury did, Cohen-Rosenthal said. Some set ambitious targets to cut or offset emissions by a certain percentage over the short term but did not commit as strongly to a long-term path for reaching full neutrality.

Middlebury’s size makes it an interesting study in institutionwide change. It faced both challenges and advantages.

“From my perspective, it’s maybe easier for a small school to get some behavioral changes passed,” Cohen-Rosenthal said. “But to address how they buy and use energy can be challenging. They’re not as in control about it, and they don’t have as much of a say in the market.”

It’s also worth noting that Middlebury’s efforts to cut its carbon footprint predate the presidents’ climate commitments and even its own current president’s tenure. The college traced interest in carbon neutrality back to 2001 when it drew up an environmental report recommending a carbon neutrality goal. The next year, Middlebury’s environmental council plotted a carbon reduction initiative that resulted in a recommended reduction of greenhouse gas emissions of 8 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Students sought to go further, pushing for a carbon-neutral goal. The president at the time, Ron Liebowitz, listened to them and brought the idea before trustees.

Jon Isham, a professor of economics and environmental studies, taught courses in the early 2000s that helped lay the groundwork for the proposal that’s credited with convincing the board to commit to carbon neutrality by 2016. Isham emphasized that the plan was led by students, while also giving Liebowitz credit for pushing the initiative.

Ultimately, though, students had to show that the idea was feasible and could make financial sense, posting a good internal rate of return.

“I think the truth is, when you crunched the numbers and compared the projected costs associated with fuel oil and wood chips, the IRR looked awfully good,” Isham said. “The board wasn’t going to end up spending without thinking they were making smart financial decisions.”

Isham acknowledged that reaching carbon-neutral status does not make Middlebury perfect. Still, it created a better carbon footprint by burning wood instead of fuel oil, he said. Middlebury argues burning locally sourced wood chips can contribute to carbon-neutral status because forests supplying the wood grow faster than wood is harvested — absorbing more carbon than is emitted by burning.

The institution has also acknowledged the financial case behind the move. The energy-efficiency upgrades it made save 4.52 million kilowatt-hours per year, which would cost about $636,000 annually. The biomass plant that burns wood chips has been saving about $1 million or $2 million per year and has been operating long enough that it is approaching the break-even point, said Byrne, director of sustainability implementation.

The solar projects Middlebury invested in are also producing revenue, Byrne said. And the Bread Loaf forest preservation will produce enough carbon credits that it will be cash positive.

The campus has more to do even after the carbon-neutrality goal has been reached, according to Byrne. He plans to discuss future goals with faculty, staff and students.

“There are plenty of other challenges,” Byrne said. “We hope to have more of a ripple effect beyond the campus.”

Administration and Finance
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Solar projects helped Middlebury reach a goal of carbon neutrality.
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By Colleen Flaherty

Lots of the talk about reforming graduate education centers on the Ph.D., namely, making it more innovative and compatible with a variety of possible career paths. But the overwhelming majority of graduate degrees conferred are master’s, which tend to have the opposite problem, if it can be called a problem at all: they’ve become so diverse it’s hard to know what exactly the degree means these days.

“The Emerging Master’s Degree” is a topic of conversation (and a panel) today at the annual meeting of the Council of Graduate Schools in Washington. A deans’ working group has proposed a framework for defining the master’s degree as shaped by demand, defined by competencies, distinguished by metrics and determined by the intersection of those elements. The idea isn’t to stall innovation: the council just wants to help its member institutions continue to evolve their program offerings within a more defined concept of what constitutes the contemporary master’s degree.

The group of 18 graduate school deans from a variety of institution types last year agreed to study the master’s degree, in all its forms, to develop a guide for their peers, explained Bob Augustine, dean of the Graduate School at Eastern Illinois University and senior vice president at CGS. “Demand for the master’s continues to be strong, and we wanted to make sure that deans have the tools they need to guide master’s degree development. … There hasn’t been a strong, comprehensive study of master’s programs for a long time.”

Yet growth of jobs requiring a master’s is only expected to grow through 2022, according to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Source: CGS

Paul Gemperline, a dean of the Graduate School at East Carolina University who is also involved in the CGS initiative, said, “Thirty years ago, the master’s degree was kind of monolithic as an institution, with a few exceptions.” Yet over the last several decades, he said, “market demands on the degree have led it to evolve on many divergent paths. It’s evolved from, say, a thesis requirement to programs with capstone projects, comprehensive exams and internships to stackable graduate credentials.”

Such adaptations tend to arise from the niche needs of employment markets relevant to each degree, he said, and the competencies faculty members instill in students must evolve, as well. Those include disciplinary and interdisciplinary competencies, foundational and transferable skills (think communication or leadership), and professional competencies — such as the ability to work with patients in a health care program.

Research competencies are crucial, as well, as they signal that the student has moved beyond the undergraduate-level expectation of consuming knowledge to the graduate-level expectation of producing it, Gemperline said. That’s not just for traditional research-based fields, either. So someone in a health care field might consider how to use research methodologies to improve the standard of patient care.

“There’s an evolution that we’re seeing, and these are guiding principles,” he added.

Dennis Grady, dean of the College of Graduate and Professional Studies at Radford University, who’s worked with CGS on the emerging master’s degree, agreed with Gemperline that it used to be “pretty clear how things worked — it was 30-36 hours of classes and at the end of those classes you got your credential and walked away.” But now institutions such as Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University have moved away from classroom seat time as a way of measuring one’s progress, he said. Indeed, one of Western Governors’ sayings is “Show us what you know, not how long you’ve been there.”

While change is good, Grady said, it hasn’t always happened in a “deliberate and thoughtful way.” Acknowledging that 36 hours is an “unsatisfying way” to define the master’s degree, he added, “We’re starting to get a handle on the basic elements or aspects of the master’s degree to be able to differentiate it from the certificates and other types of credentials out on the marketplace now.”

Augustine said the framework the group has developed so far is one of “alignment,” since deans need to align key features in order to develop strong degree programs. Alignment ideally will drive responsiveness, harness innovation and motivate distinctiveness. Here’s a working model of the framework:

Demands come from the learner, the work force and economy, and disciplinary evolution. Metrics include those pertaining to the faculty in a program, students, the curriculum, research, the profession and resources. Degree requirements concern courses, applied experiences and capstones.

Looking to the future, questions for the initiative include how new technologies and methodologies will affect what different competencies will be required of master’s degrees; how innovation can be stimulated among the faculty in developing master’s degrees to meet new competencies; and how degrees incorporate or do not incorporate competency-based education as part of their curricula.

Possible next steps for the council include creating a database of competencies for master’s degrees. The Lumina Foundation has done some work in this area, through its Degree Qualifications Profile, a learning-centered framework for what college graduates should know and be able to do to earn an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree.

The profile organizes learning outcomes of degrees into five broad, interrelated categories: specialized knowledge, broad and integrative knowledge, intellectual skills, applied and collaborative learning, and civic and global learning. Regarding specialized knowledge, for example, someone who earns a master’s degree can:

  • Elucidate the major theories, research methods and approaches to inquiry and schools of practice in the field of study, articulate their sources and illustrate both their applications and their relationships to allied fields of study.
  • Assess the contributions of major figures and organizations in the field of study, describe its major methodologies and practices, and illustrate them through projects, papers, exhibits or performances.
  • Articulate significant challenges involved in practicing the field of study, elucidate its leading edges and explore the current limits of theory, knowledge and practice through a project that lies outside conventional boundaries.

Part of the profile’s appeal, according to Lumina, is that it “recognizes and accommodates an increasing variety of higher education providers and modes of delivery,” offering “a perspective on proficiencies that transcends providers and learning contexts. The [profile] is as applicable to learning assessed outside the framework of courses as it is to traditional, course-based degree programs.”

Some faculty members view designing degree programs around competencies or market demands articulated by someone outside their campus with skepticism, since professors possess disciplinary expertise. But even beyond those disciplines that face external competency expectations from accreditors, such as engineering or nursing, there is some sense that degrees should better reflect students’ needs.

A 2011 report from the Modern Language Association on the master’s degree, for example, found a “gap between students’ aspirations and employment outcomes on the one hand and [master’s] programs’ stated goals and curricular requirements on the other. What, for example, should be the role of literary history and study of specific authors, pedagogy, foreign language and linguistics requirements, training in reading instruction, capstones and theses? Many [master’s] programs in English may not have thoroughly, or recently, considered how graduates use their degrees and what current or future master’s students may need.”

Regarding possible skepticism of a framework centered on demand, competencies and metrics, Augustine said it was an opportunity to encourage more innovation, not yoke it. “This is a flexible framework and institutions can decide what fits.” He said the group’s work thus far has revealed that master’s programs are sometimes constrained by a focus on minimum requirements, not maximum potential. So a framework and additional design tools should help foster more innovation, not less.

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By Paul Fain

The national college completion agenda has reached an inflection point.

Republican control of the White House, U.S. Congress and most state capitols likely means less focus on the production of higher education credentials, at least those earned at traditional, four-year colleges.

Job training almost certainly will get more attention than college completion in coming years. But those two goals can be compatible. And the completion push already has begun to include looking at what happens to students after they graduate.

Inside Higher Ed spoke with 20 experts who work on college completion from a wide range of perspectives (they are listed below). Some common themes emerged.

The movement and its message have evolved during the seven or so years since the Obama administration joined with the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to go all in on a broad effort to increase the proportion of Americans who hold a meaningful postsecondary credential.

The White House at times appeared to focus on the bachelor’s degree in its completion push, particularly early on. But certificates and associate degrees got more attention from Washington in recent years. And this administration did more to elevate community colleges than any previous one, even proposing a national free community college plan based on Tennessee’s completion and work force development-grounded free community college scholarship.

“The job of the community college is going to be more important in the new administration … The administration is going to challenge us to be better connected to the economy and work force needs. But that’s something we’re doing already.”
— Eloy Ortiz Oakley, president of Long Beach Community College and incoming chancellor of California’s community college system

Likewise, in 2014 Lumina added “high-quality” certificates to its annual tabulation of progress toward the foundation’s national goal for 60 percent of Americans to hold a college credential by 2025.

That goal, which mirrors one set by the White House, is likely out of reach. In 2014, 45.3 percent of working-age adults held a degree or a job-earning certificate, according to the most recent data from Lumina.

In 2008, Lumina’s metric showed 37.9 percent of Americans holding at least an associate degree, meaning degree attainment is up 2.5 percent during the last six years (4.9 percent of Americans held a high-quality certificate in 2014).

College completion rates have begun to climb after a two-year slide. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center this month said the six-year completion rate grew to 54.8 percent, an increase of roughly two percentage points over the previous year.

While those tepid improvements aren’t all that exciting, the numbers are moving in the right direction as college enrollments have slid, largely due to the collapse of for-profit higher education and the gradual economic recovery since the recession. College enrollments typically go down when the job market improves.

“The question nobody seems to be able to answer is what is the ‘right’ graduation rate, and I would argue that the answer is ‘it depends.’ There is no single right or wrong rate, since college completion is influenced by a multitude of factors in addition to quality. At what point do we compromise quality or access in the name of higher completion rates? At what point do we drive the cost so high in order to solve one problem that we end up creating another problem?”
Diane Auer Jones, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and former Education Department official during the George W. Bush administration

The completion agenda also has taken root across much of the academy, adding completion to student access as primary goals for higher education.

Many say helping ensure that more students get to graduation was not in the past viewed as central to the jobs of faculty members or even college administrators. That view has changed to a substantial extent (at times provoking worries about a cheapening of college credentials to meet completion demands). Hence the demise of the old trope “look to your left, look to your right, because one of you won’t be here by the end of the year.”

Meanwhile, there’s a growing feeling among higher education experts and policy makers of both major political parties that a singular goal of having more Americans earn college credentials isn’t enough.

For one thing, achievement gaps between wealthier white students and their lower-income, more diverse peers have persisted. Academic quality remains a variable, raising the question of what, exactly, students are completing. And increasingly, higher education is under pressure to demonstrate the value of college credentials in the job market.

The Obama administration tried unsuccessfully to link federal financial aid availability to how colleges stack up on student outcomes, including completion rates and graduates’ earnings data. And the White House was able to push through regulations that would sanction for-profits and vocational, nondegree programs at community colleges that fail to meet thresholds for graduates’ ability to repay their loans.

The so-called gainful employment rule probably won’t be the last attempt by the feds to hold colleges accountable for their affordability and for the job-market value of the credentials they issue. Meanwhile, performance-based funding formulas — some of which include data on graduates’ wages — are on the books in more than 30 states.

“There are fairly clear biases [among Republicans] about moving beyond completion, moving beyond higher education’s comfort zone.”
Tony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce

Yet support for the college completion agenda could wane if, as many suspect, an administration led by Donald J. Trump were to say that too many people are attending college. Experts say big spending on infrastructure, which the president-elect’s team has discussed, could be heavily focused on jobs for people with high school diplomas, not college credentials — a substantial portion of Trump voters.

Equally challenging is the general public’s loss of confidence in the value of higher education. While data show that college degrees are increasingly the ticket to the middle class, just 42 percent of Americans say college is necessary for success in the work force, a 13 percent drop since 2009, according to polling by Public Agenda.

Whether or not the college completion momentum continues could depend on how “college” is defined. One-year certificates earned at a community college or for-profit institution count as “college,” too.

Leaders at the Gates and Lumina Foundations say they are undeterred about the completion agenda.

“We’re doubling down,” said Dan Greenstein, director of education and postsecondary success at Gates. He cited “unassailable facts” that “educational attainment tracks directly with earnings.”

Messaging on College Completion Is Shifting

College affordability, student debt and the likelihood of getting a well-paying job after graduation have dominated conversations about higher education in recent years.

Those measures of student success and accountability, particularly with an emphasis on a credential’s value in the labor market, will need to be at the core of the completion agenda for it to remain relevant.

“One of the most important ways to have good relationships with employers is to have direct personal relationships between faculty members and employers. The businesses don’t have any other way to communicate to the world about what they need besides platitudes and gross generalizations.”
– Steven L. Johnson, president of Sinclair Community College

In addition, the push for more students to complete college is a comfortable reform focus for the higher education industry, said Tony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“This is the kind of problem you want to have,” he said of the higher education industry, arguing that completion also misses the larger concern about value. He calls the push “industrial hygiene,” an attempt to clean up a self-serving issue.

The next iteration of the completion agenda, according to Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, the for-profit sector’s primary trade group, includes a longer list of imperatives: retention, completion, employment, repayment and student satisfaction.

And the word “college” more often than not should be replaced by “postsecondary skills,” he said.

At the same, time, some observers say higher education has yet to adequately resolve even first-order questions about how its access and student success missions should fit together. As budgets tighten, particularly at public universities and small private colleges, there often are trade-offs between the two and tough decisions to make. Legitimate concerns about the completion push often are conflated with just hewing to the status quo.

Meanwhile, the nation’s widening political divisions haven’t helped advance the crucial discussion about the purpose of college.

“Strident partisanship on the left and right is a tremendous obstacle. We have lost our appetite in this country to understand across boundaries.”
–Alison Kadlec, senior vice president and director of higher education and work force programs at Public Agenda

State and Local Governments Will Continue the Completion Push, as Will Colleges Themselves

College completion is a big part of the growing interest in performance-based funding at the state level, particularly in red states like Tennessee, which has perhaps the nation’s most robust completion policies.

Lawmakers in many of these states view college completion as a work force issue. Employers need more skilled workers, and for now, skills are represented by credentials. There also is bipartisan agreement that college outcomes need to improve, including along equity lines. That’s unlikely to change, given worries about the skills gap, job creation and income inequality.

“Postsecondary learning is more important than ever before,” said Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation.

Lumina has shifted its approach to more directly address the work force side of completion. For example, the foundation’s new strategic plan focuses on how to reach adults who hold some college credits but no credential, as well as people who have no higher education experience. To meet its completion goal, Lumina will need to increase attainment in the former group by 6.1 million and 5.1 million in the latter.

“Higher education continues to be a path into the middle class. … I don’t know how we do that without education.”
– Dan Greenstein, director of education and postsecondary success for the Gates Foundation

Likewise, Tennessee has expanded its free community college program to include slots for returning adult students.

And while free college for all (with annual family income of up to $125,000) is on hold for now, with the defeat of the presidential candidate who championed it, Hillary Clinton, college promise programs like Tennessee’s are spreading to other states and many local communities.

As the college completion agenda matures, several experts said it will move toward a focus on jobs and on the nitty-gritty of implementing the next phases of reforms that began years ago.

For example, as colleges sought to improve graduation rates during the last eight years, they were actually looking at student progression and retention, said Ellen Wagner, vice president of research for Hobsons, a company that works on student success, including the use of data analytics.

“The completion agenda is deeply ingrained in the operating systems of our institutions.”
– David Baime, senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis for the American Association of Community Colleges

That work has a financial benefit for colleges, because each student retained means one more who doesn’t need to be recruited, which can be expensive. Quitting that effort would be counterproductive.

One way to view the completion agenda, Wagner said, is an effort to “reduce friction” and barriers as students move through a P-20 education system. That’s a big job, she said. “We’re never going to be done with this.”

Don’t expect the federal government to drop its interest in completion, either.

It’s a safe bet that congressional Republicans, who may well be the driving force in federal higher education policy for the next four years if a Trump administration focuses on other topics, will seek a smaller role for the feds. But Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, who will lead the two congressional education committees, are both supportive of the value of higher education and of college completion. (Foxx, though, recently told Inside Higher Ed that she didn’t know what the Obama administration’s completion agenda was.)

“Congress really does hold the cards in terms of how the issues get framed.”
– Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation

Common Ground on Alternatives to the Traditional College Pathway

The incoming Trump administration has floated the idea of an infrastructure improvement program with a $1 trillion price tag. According to Carnevale, 70 percent of the jobs created by such spending would require only a high school diploma.

Even so, some of that money would almost certainly be used for job training at colleges, particularly two-year institutions. If the funding actually happens — a big if at this point — it would dwarf the Obama administration’s $2 billion work force program that was aimed at community colleges.

A focus on high school training would also have a higher education component. That’s because of growing interest in dual and concurrent enrollment programs, which Republicans in particular tend to favor.

More than 10 percent of high school students are taking college courses, according to the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. About one-third of dual enrollments are in career and technical education courses, the alliance said, with particular growth in rural schools and those where a majority of students are ethnic or racial minorities.

Likewise, apprenticeships are growing in popularity, with bipartisan support. And supporters say apprenticeships should expand beyond technical jobs.

“The election has opened up space to talk about high-quality alternatives to the four-year degree.”
— Mary Alice McCarthy, director of the Center on Education and Skills with the education policy program at New America

A career and vocational focus earlier in the education pipeline is a form of “tracking,” which is more common in Europe. Tracking tends to freak out Americans, particularly when it is seen to diminish educational opportunity and if it is imposed on students, giving up on them too early.

Yet tracking, when done well, shares some common philosophies and goals with the degree “pathways” approach Gates is leading. The foundation is spending $5.2 million to help 30 community colleges in 17 states “design and implement structured academic and career pathways at scale, for all of their students.”

Free community college programs in some ways also bring together high schools and two-year colleges. Tennessee’s government, for example, says it is the “first state in the nation to have a fully funded K-14 public education.” Talking about K-14 is major shift, and one that mirrors what the Obama administration was trying to accomplish with its free community college proposal.

Other postsecondary alternatives that sit somewhere between high school and traditional college are expanding and enjoy bipartisan support. Those approaches include competency-based education programs, skills boot camps and employer certifications.

Some community colleges have begun offering competency-based credentials, through the federal government’s $2 billion work force grant and in partnerships with Western Governors University. Several two-year-college leaders said competency-based programs would expand in the sector.

Some of these emerging players offer “bite-size, high-value” credentials, said Carnevale. “The labor market and costs are melting the system.”

“We need to expand the pathways. … We’re going to have a bigger tent, with different providers.”
– Jason Tyszko, executive director of the Center for Education and Workforce at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Another rare spot of agreement between Republicans and Democrats is that the accreditation process should be reformed, albeit in different ways.

The Obama administration and Senate Democrats have pushed accreditors to scrutinize student outcomes, including completion rates and employment outcomes.

Republicans seem less likely than Democrats to prod accreditors to set “bright lines” for graduation rates. And some conservatives say too much of a push on completion rates can lead to unintended consequences, including a weakening of academic standards. Faculty unions and many professors agree.

“We need educated people to fuel economic growth. … In a knowledge economy, a college education is the way to bridge the gap.”
– Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program

Yet members of both parties have sought to create alternative accreditation pathways for noncollege providers, including Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican.

Lumina also has been active in exploring new forms of credentialing, with an eye toward completion and job training. If those efforts take hold, they could feature different approaches to quality control.

Deregulation, For-Profit Colleges and Open-Access Admissions

It’s been a rough five years for the for-profit sector, which has seen aggressive scrutiny, high-profile collapses, sliding enrollments and hemorrhaging revenue.

While experts disagree about the role of federal regulation in the sector’s decline, the U.S. Department of Education has been tougher with the industry in recent years, and contributed to the demise of Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, among others.

The decline of for-profits has slowed the country’s overall postsecondary attainment rates. That’s not a bad thing, according to the industry’s critics, who say for-profit-issued credentials too often lack value in the job market.

Congressional Republicans plan to roll back federal regulations aimed at for-profits, including gainful employment. The Trump administration likely would back that move.

Some community colleges are worried that a major recovery by for-profits would increase competition and cut into their enrollments. “There is a palpable sense of fear” on community college campuses about for-profits rising again, said Josh Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program.

Yet for-profits have sustained potentially lasting damage. Many players in the industry also face structural challenges, including a price point that is a tougher sell and a stigma around the term “for-profit.”

Gunderson said the shift in Washington is an “opportunity for us to reproduce ourselves.”

But he said for-profits are unlikely to again seek to enroll large numbers of students who are unprepared for college and face low odds of completing.

“This sector is not going back to where it was in 2010 when it focused on open access,” said Gunderson. “We cannot ever endure the experience we have had over the last eight years.”

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By Ashley A. Smith

After months of review, the U.S. Department of Education on Wednesday approved the proposed $1.14 billion sale of Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, to a group of three private equity firms.

But the approval of the deal comes with a number of strict conditions.

The department’s letter to the company means the country’s largest for-profit university is one step closer to going private if the new owners agree to the department’s conditions. Apollo’s shareholders voted for the sale in May.

“Apollo Education Group can confirm that we have received the letter and are evaluating it,” a spokesperson for the company said in an email.

The Education Department is requiring the company to submit a letter of credit valued at 25 percent of its institutions’ federal funding allocation, or about $386 million, as a condition of approving the change in ownership. The letter of credit is designed to protect students and taxpayers and is used as collateral if the company is unable or unwilling to pay the department back. The department is also requiring that Phoenix and Western International University, which is also owned by Apollo, not change any educational programs or add any new programs or locations until June 30, 2018, when the agreement ends. Both institutions will also be required to maintain enrollment levels at or below their current levels.

The department would also monitor the institutions’ financial stability, graduation, retention, recruitment and monthly enrollments.

Critics of for-profit institutions viewed the news as a good sign that the department is continuing to push regulatory pressure on the sector even in its final days in office before the new Donald J. Trump administration begins.

In the past few months, congressional Republicans have questioned the deal, especially since Marty Nesbitt, who runs one of the three private equity firms, the Vistria Group, is a close friend of President Obama. Vistria’s co-founder and chief operating officer is Tony Miller, who served as deputy secretary of education from 2009 to 2013. The other firms in the consortium are Apollo Global Management, which has no relation to Apollo Education Group, and the Najafi Companies.

“It’s entirely reasonable to ensure that an ownership group with no prior experience running a college of any sort should abide by certain restrictions,” said Ben Miller, senior director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. “It’s very clear the department is taking a real risk that Tony Miller and others who have no experience in running a college will be able to do so successfully.”

Department officials could also be making sure that they “aren’t being taken for a ride” by putting these conditions in place, said Rohit Chopra, a former assistant director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in an email, adding that these conditions could also give the private equity buyers an opportunity to walk away from the deal.

“If Tony and others are serious about the changes and improvements to Phoenix they want to make, they will abide by what’s in this document regardless of what administration is around when it becomes binding,” Ben Miller said.

Trace Urdan, who analyzes the for-profit higher ed industry for Credit Suisse, said it wouldn’t be surprising if the new owners try to appeal the department’s conditions.

“I look at these conditions and I see them as onerous,” Urdan said. “This is another situation where the department will be putting this company in further financial risk by imposing an additional letter of credit on a company they’re acknowledging is in decline and only exacerbates that risk.”

Phoenix has long been the 800-pound gorilla in for-profit higher education. Its enrollment stood at approximately 460,000 students in 2010, but it has decreased significantly as the for-profit sector’s reputation has taken a hit and regulations have increased. Enrollment now stands at about 175,000. This fiscal year the company’s net revenue is $2.1 billion, and Apollo shares were trading at $9.51 by Wednesday evening.

“It’s not unheard-of for the department to impose restrictions on growth or new programs for a period of time on new ownership,” Urdan said. “A letter of credit is not unheard-of, but 20 percent is usually the biggest number I’ve heard of, and they’re usually imposed when a lot of debt is placed on the transaction. That’s not the situation here. There’s no additional financial risk in place here.”

Urdan said other conditions like monthly enrollment reporting and monitoring the number of times the institutions contact students sound more like punishment.

The new buyers could wait to see what a Trump administration, with Betsy DeVos as the prospective new education secretary, has in store for the for-profit sector, but that may be a risk. The new owners also have until Feb. 1 to walk away from the deal without facing repercussions.

“We’ve also seen a lot of skepticism from others on the Hill about this purchase, so there is a very real risk in waiting as well,” Ben Miller said, adding that these restrictions are a way of giving the new owners a chance to demonstrate that they want to run a quality education service and not turn a profit and run. “If the goal is to wait this out just to avoid the type of sensible restrictions put in place to protect students and consumers, then that says a lot about the motivations of the purchase.”

If the new owners agree to the department’s conditions, the next step will be awaiting word from the Higher Learning Commission, Phoenix’s accreditor, as that agency reviews the deal.

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By Joshua Kim

Can Clay Christensen move beyond disruption theory and The Innovators Dilemma?

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By Kenneth C. Green

Colleges and universities lose talented people because, increasingly, campus opportunities are not competitive with options elsewhere.

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By Chrystina Russell

Creating a university in a refugee camp was wrought with challenges: unreliable electricity and internet connectivity, lack of technological infrastructure, language gaps, skill gaps, security concerns, more.

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By Laura Tropp

Important decisions — sometimes in the public eye.

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A public high school administrator recounts the moment she recognized that her teachers disciplined black and white students differently.

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By Andrew Kreighbaum

An injunction issued just before Thanksgiving blocked a Department of Labor rule that would require overtime pay for millions of additional American workers. But some college employees will see raises nonetheless.

The final overtime rule, issued in May, would raise the salary threshold under which employees are eligible for overtime pay to $47,476 from $23,660. Congressional Budget Office report found that the injunction would mean $470 million in lost earnings in 2017 for those workers, including many employees of colleges and universities. The final rule included a teaching exemption but covered nonfaculty employees and postdoctoral fellows whose duties primarily focus on research. Many officials in college admissions, counseling centers and other parts of higher education also predicted that their units would have many employees newly eligible for overtime.

Many colleges and universities have indicated they plan to go ahead with salary changes that were already planned in response to the rule. Other institutions have said they will hit pause on salary changes following the injunction. And higher ed policy groups say they can’t provide an estimate of how many universities will move ahead or scrap plans made in response to the rule.

For those institutions moving ahead, however, the work they have already done was too significant to reverse course in light of the ruling.

“The injunction came very late for us. We’d already implemented almost everything we were going to implement,” said Cindy Matern, associate vice president for human resources at the University of Puget Sound. “The employee relations nightmare of backing out of that — I wouldn’t ever want to do that to our staff.”

Matern said the university spent the last year working on changes in payroll in response to the overtime rule. Some employees had salaries raised to move them above the new threshold and make them exempt from overtime. Others were moved from exempt to nonexempt positions.

The University of Kentucky will also go forward with salary changes planned for the past year.

“We felt like we had already made that commitment to our employees and that — certainly for us to be able to uphold our commitments — we needed to be able to move forward,” said Kim Wilson, the university’s vice president for human resources.

Making those changes will entail costs of about $2 million for the university, although not all of them will be recurring costs. For example, Kentucky helped some departments increase the salaries of postdoctoral fellows whose positions were funded by grants. In future years, the amount of the new salary will be written into grant applications.

The decision to go ahead with planned changes hasn’t been a straightforward one for every campus.

Andy Brantley, president and CEO of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, said the group would have welcomed an injunction on the rule if it had happened six months ago. CUPA-HR said the new overtime threshold under the Department of Labor rule — more than twice the current number — moved too high too fast. But the group moved quickly to helping member institutions come into compliance before the rule went into effect Dec. 1. The injunction issued on the eve of that compliance deadline left schools scrambling to assess their options, Brantley said.

“If you’ve already communicated and given salary increase to employees, pulling those back at this point would have major ramifications not only in terms of process but also employee morale,” Brantley said.

He said it was difficult to give a firm number of how many colleges or universities would go forward or halt payroll changes but said based on communication with members that it was about a 50-50 split. Whether a college or university moved forward with implementation of the new overtime standards after the injunction depended to a large degree on how much work they had already done. Smaller institutions in particular may seriously consider taking more time to decide how they will approach the rules after the injunction because the impact on their budgets could be much greater, Brantley said.

Because Judge Amos Mazzant issued a temporary injunction, CUPA-HR is advising member institutions that they should prepare for the possibility that the rule goes into effect at some point.

It also remains unclear what the ultimate fate of the overtime rule will be, although Republican Donald Trump’s surprise presidential victory means its chance of survival is likely very slim. Republicans in Congress have promised to change the law, in addition to a number of other Obama administration regulations, but that could take time.

The Department of Labor said last week it would appeal Mazzant’s decision to block the rule. But the Fifth Circuit court that will hear the appeal rarely overturns injunctions like the one issued to halt the overtime rule. If the legal fight drags past Jan. 20, the Trump administration could take a different position on the regulation.

“That’s a challenging position to operate under,” said Steven Bloom, director of government relations at the American Council on Education.

Some institutions are going ahead with salary increases for certain employees even as they drop plans to provide new overtime pay to others. Case Western University is moving ahead with salary increases for employees who are currently below the minimum threshold under the new rule. But administrators are taking the additional time allowed by the injunction to review classification decisions for overtime pay in more detail, said university spokesman William Lubinger.

Purdue University told about 600 employees that they would not receive expected raises for now and another 600 that they would remain in exempt positions. The university said in a press release last week that the decision was in line with those of other Big Ten universities. But the university said work undertaken to comply with the overtime rule showed that “whether or not there is a government-mandated change in pay, the compensation levels for Purdue postdoctoral employees are in need of a detailed review.”

Julie Fabsik-Swarts, executive director of the National Postdoctoral Association, said it appeared that postdocs at many universities would see an increase in the average stipend.

“In general universities really stepped up in a very admirable way. We are very supportive and appreciate that for postdocs,” she said.

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By Doug Lederman

Who says accreditors too rarely punish the colleges they oversee?

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools emerged from its biennial meeting this month by placing 10 colleges and universities on probation, including the University of Louisville, which has endured a monumental governance fight, and the University of Texas’s new campus in the Rio Grande Valley, which was cited for an unusually long list of shortcomings as it sought accreditation for the first time.

Eight other colleges — including three colleges in the for-profit Art Institutes chain and two historically black institutions — also were placed or continued on probation, mostly for financial problems. One of them, Bennett College for Women, has bounced on and off probation for more than a decade.

Louisville is by far the highest-profile institution sanctioned by SACS, though the action was hardly surprising given the turmoil that has enveloped the university in the last year. In fact, the accrediting agency warned in August that the move last summer by Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin to abolish and replace Louisville’s Board of Trustees threatened to put the university out of compliance with the agency’s standards governing external influence, due process for dismissing board members and selection of a president.

A state judge in September blocked Bevin’s attempt to reconstitute the board, saying it violated state law designed to insulate public institutions from partisan politics. But blocking that move did not appear to resolve the accreditor’s worries about Louisville’s governance woes, which predated and extended beyond Bevin’s intervention. The Republican governor acted amid intense division within Louisville’s board over the fate of then President James Ramsey, whose long tenure had devolved into a series of controversies.

In placing the university on probation for a year (with a possible one-year extension), the Southern commission said Louisville had violated its requirements and standards concerning proper functioning of a governing board, evaluation and selection of the chief executive officer, external influence, and board dismissal. A statement from the university said that upon receiving explicit guidance from SACS in January about how it fell short of the accreditor’s standards, the university would take steps to reassure the commission that it had addressed “the concerns that have been raised.”

Officials from Louisville said they could not comment further on the accreditor’s action.

Trouble in Texas

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is a major experiment — an effort to merge multiple institutions on Texas’ southern border to try to better serve residents of one of the state’s most underprivileged regions. But to judge by SACS’s laundry list of areas in which the new institution is falling short of the accreditor’s requirements and standards, UT Rio Grande Valley appears to be a work in progress.

A spokeswoman for SACS cited a full 10 major areas in which the new Texas campus had faltered, including such basic things as assuring that it “operates with integrity in all areas.” Other areas of difficulty included complying with federal financial aid audits and ensuring that the institution’s degrees are based on instruction it offers itself (rather than by other institutions).

A statement from the university attributed the accrediting problems to “timing issues” in the “complex process” that led to the university’s creation, which required the merger of two institutions and the dissolution of a partnership between a two-year and four-year institution that made up one of the merged universities. “The latter created issues in meeting the transition timeline set forth in the legislation that created UTRGV,” Guy Bailey, president of the Rio Grande campus, said in the statement.

The other colleges placed on probation by SACS this week, and the reasons for the probation, are:

  • Art Institute of Atlanta (finances)
  • Art Institute of Houston (finances)
  • Bennett College for Women (finances and governing board issues)
  • Bethel University (definition of the credit hour)
  • Miami International University of Art and Design (finances)
  • St. Augustine College (finances)
  • South University (finances)
  • Spring Hill College (finances)

The Southern association also removed two institutions from probation: Kentucky Wesleyan College and the University of Tennessee at Martin.

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By Kasia Kovacs

College students today are increasingly different from those of previous generations. They are less likely to be white and more likely to be the first in their families to go to college. Professors who would like to guide these first-generation college students in adjusting to higher education may come across their own challenges. Communicating with people from different cultural backgrounds can become a barrier unto itself.

In her new book, Breakthrough Strategies: Classroom-Based Practices to Support New Majority Students (Harvard Education Press), Sister Kathleen Ross, director of the Institute of Student Identity and Success at Heritage University and founding president of the university, outlines various approaches for professors to connect with and teach first-generation, underrepresented students — or “new majority students,” as Ross calls them.

These strategies cover the gamut, from introducing the students to unfamiliar college concepts on day one (such as defining “syllabus”) to thinking about the classroom as a community where students help each other rather than attempt to parade their individual successes. Ross conducted her research at Heritage, a small university in rural Washington that enrolls many minority students, as well as Yakima Valley Community College in Washington and Holy Names University in California.

Ross answered questions about her book by email. Her comments have been lightly edited for clarity.

Q: Your book centers on strategies to support “new majority” students. How do you define such students?

A: I use “new majority” to refer to students coming from non-college-going families, most of whom are low income. The main reason this group of students is becoming a larger percentage of the college-aged population — and will probably become the majority within the next 10 years — is simply that they are from the families who have been having more children during the past 20-plus years than the families where college going has been a part of their lives for the past 20-plus years. Consequently, the cohort of college-aged persons nationally contains a larger percentage of first-generation college students than 25 years ago. The growing proportion of the population from first- or second-generation immigrant families is also part of the explanation.

Q: Many of the experiences that you write about are based on your research at Heritage University, a liberal arts university that serves about 1,200 students, most of them nontraditional. How do the challenges of new majority students attending larger, more traditional universities differ from those at your institution?

A: The ways in which the challenges are the same in both types of institutions are based on the reality that virtually all four-year institutions of higher education have a dominant way of doing things and interacting on a day-to-day basis that could be called “the culture of academia.” It is this reality that is an especially challenging mystery to be deciphered and adapted to by first-generation-to-college students. New majority students attending larger, more traditional universities probably often find this challenge more problematic, because they have fewer fellow students facing the same conundrums to help them understand and adapt.

They also are less apt to comment on or ask about these barriers because they don’t want to be seen as “dumb” and they have observed other students dealing with these situations as if they were not a problem. The dropout rates for first-generation students are significantly higher than those of continuing-generation students who have the same entering aptitude scores and grades, which is at least partially due to not learning to adapt to the culture of academia. This problem would seem to be more problematic in an institution where the first-generation student population is a smaller percentage of the student body (say, under 25 percent).

Q: You discuss several strategies for professors to connect with nontraditional students, but many of your examples involving group work and class discussion assume that the professor is teaching relatively small classes. Can professors with large classes (more than 100 students) incorporate these strategies, and if so, how might they approach the strategies differently?

A: Larger classes can still experience most of the strategies, if the professor uses a little creativity in adapting the ideas to a larger class setting. Most of the adaptations involve developing a way for small groups to work with each other, and these can be set up even within larger classrooms with immovable rows of seats by having four or five students who are sitting near one another form a group. The professor can have those groups report back in some creative way that keeps everyone involved (like randomly calling on groups in different parts of the room so they don’t know who will be called on next, or having a group indicate their group response in a simple format on a piece of paper large enough to be read across the room and held up by a group member, or other creative ways to increase active involvement during the class).

Q: The majority of your book outlines various strategies and tactics for faculty members. What changes should be made at the institutional level to support new majority students? In other words, what policies should be put into place by administrators?

A: My work has focused on what professors and teaching assistants should do within the classroom, because there are a number of books, articles and other resources already available that address issues at the university administration level (including financial aid, tutoring and academic skills centers, faculty development and support services, learning communities, involving families in campus activities wherever possible, etc.). There are many fewer resources available that suggest what faculty across the campus can do inside their classrooms to help new majority students, which is why I am focused on this work.

Q: Since Heritage has a large Hispanic and Native American population, you write about how these students tend to value community above their own success, and how they revere elders. Every culture has different behaviors and traditions, and students growing up in similar cultures have different learned behaviors from their families, too. How can professors identify all of these nuanced cultural differences in their students?

A: This is a very important question. If a university has a center for teaching excellence that focuses on providing faculty assistance, I would encourage faculty to ask them to help answer the question you pose for their institution. The center can conduct some informal practical research among students to find answers to questions such as “What motivates you to continue in your college studies, even when it gets hard?” Or “What do your parents and grandparents say about you attending college?” Or “What have you found the hardest to adjust to in college?” Or “What are the two things that have surprised you the most in being a student at college?”

By analyzing the answers to questions like these, the significant characteristics of the home cultures of students will begin to emerge. Also, an individual faculty member could conduct this same kind of research by asking students to answer these or similar questions, individually or in groups or via email to the professor, or by posing these questions for students to answer in the journaling assigned as part of a class. If several faculty members gather this information from their classes, they can then share the results with each other and together begin to get a better picture of the attitudes and values that motivate their students and shape their expectations of classroom experiences.

Q: Heritage students are all commuter; none live on campus. But campus living is a big part of students’ lives at other colleges and universities. What challenges do new majority students face by living away from home for the first time, and what can institutions do to help this transition?

A: This could be the subject of an entirely new research project and book! In general, the approach would need to be one that devotes significant attention to observing when resident students are distressed or not functioning well, finding ways to bring them together in support groups with experienced counselors or older peer support students, and listening carefully to learn what is at the basis of the problems resident students are experiencing. Assistance is most effective when it flows directly from a clear understanding of what and where the distress is coming from for students. Asking probing questions in a very supportive way is a key skill needed by staff who are trying to deal with problems of first-generation resident students who are on the verge of dropping out.

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By Jake New

William

Twenty-five years ago, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released its initial report, called Keeping Faith With the Student-Athlete. Widely considered groundbreaking at the time, the report urged the National Collegiate Athletic Association and college leaders to overhaul how college sports were run. Presidents, not athletic directors, should be in charge, the commission argued, and they should focus on three goals: academic integrity, financial integrity and independent certification.

Founded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in 1989, the group brought together some influential leaders in higher education and college sports. Members in those early years included the highly esteemed presidents of the Universities of North Carolina and Notre Dame, William C. Friday and the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, who led the panel; the then presidents of Southern Methodist University and Michigan State Universities, A. Kenneth Pye and John A. DiBiaggio; and future Secretaries of Education and Health and Human Services Lamar Alexander and Donna E. Shalala. Four years after that first report, the NCAA restructured, handing the association’s governance over to college presidents, just as the commission had recommended.

In October, signs of the commission’s influence surfaced anew when the NCAA agreed to alter its formula for distributing television revenues to members to account for the academic performance of their athletes — an approach the Knight panel had advocated. A changing of the guard at the commission, prompted by the recent retirement of its longtime co-chairman, William (Brit) Kirwan, offers a logical time to assess its impact on the college sports landscape.

While the panel has had successes, many observers agree that its overall influence has been limited, largely overwhelmed by the growing commercialization of the college sports complex and the forces arrayed in support of it.

“The notion that the Knight Commission will lead the reform is probably no longer viable, since the real powerful drivers of change are likely to come from the financial side, related to the continuing growth of football revenue at the top end of the spectrum,” said John V. Lombardi, former president of the University of Florida and the Louisiana State University system. “The Knight Commission is mostly just one of many voices crying for reform. Money will be much more important in determining what happens to college sports than the principled voices of the endless crowd of critics.”

Reading the rhetoric surrounding the creation of the Knight panel in 1989 offers an overpowering sense of déjà vu.

At a news conference announcing the commission’s creation, Hesburgh described the “crisis” that was facing big-time college athletics surrounding financial greed and the routine firing of coaches who develop young people but don’t win enough to satisfy boosters. “Worst of all, and this is the ultimate in hypocrisy,” he said, “is promising young people an education and then not giving them one …. The educational integrity that is squandered in this process is one of the greatest sins in higher education today.”

Friday and Hesburgh noted at that opening event that a similar commission established by the Carnegie Foundation in 1929 had identified a similar state of affairs. “If we can persuade people that there are serious problems, then we can do something,” said Father Hesburgh. “If we can’t, you can write [the commission] off like all of the others before us.”

The panel’s early work — and the NCAA’s 1995 decision in response to it — offered some hope that it might have more influence than those before it, said Allen Sack, a professor of sports management at the University of New Haven who has studied and argued for reforming college sports for decades. About three-quarters of the recommendations in that first report came to pass, in some form or another, the commission stated in a second report in 2001. At the same time, that report noted, “the problems of big-time college sports have grown rather than diminished” in the intervening years.

Sack considered the Knight panel’s first report “revolutionary,” but the second one showed just how limited its influence might be, he recalls.

“I thought, ‘All of that money, all those trips, all those luncheons in all those big places in Washington, D.C., to bring people to these conferences, just to say things have gotten worse,’” he said. “That’s really something.”

The 2001 report, however, also included two more major recommendations that were (eventually) adopted in broad terms. In that report, the commission argued that the NCAA should bar from postseason competition any teams whose graduation rate is 50 percent or less. Three years later, the NCAA created a metric for measuring how many athletes are on track to graduate, called the academic progress rate. An APR of 1,000 means that a team is graduating — or is on track to graduate — all of its players. An APR of 930 means a team is graduating about half of its athletes.

In 2011, a decade after the commission first suggested the rule and a year after it reiterated the recommendation in a third report, the NCAA voted to adopt a new rule that restricted postseason participation to teams whose APR was 930 or higher.

In its 2001 and 2010 reports, the Knight Commission also recommended that the NCAA distribute some of its revenue to institutions based on academic performance. In October, the NCAA announced that it will do just that. Beginning in 2019, it will distribute millions of dollars in revenue to member institutions based on the academic performance of their athletes. The money will come from the association’s new $1.1 billion multimedia rights deal for the NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament. Colleges will be awarded the funds by earning “academic units” based on the academic performance of their teams, similar to how programs earn units based on how far they advance in the tournament.

The change came 15 years after the commission first suggested it.

Knight Commission members have expressed frustration about the slow pace of change. In a recent essay, Kirwan and former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who joined the commission last year and is now its co-chairman (with Carol Cartwright, former president of Kent State and Bowling Green State Universities), urged Division I leaders to “move with a greater sense of urgency.” In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Amy Perko, the commission’s executive director, said, “Clearly the commission would have liked to have seen quicker action on some” of its recommendations.

Still, Perko said, she believes the commission “feels like things are moving in a good direction.”

“We’re certainly encouraged by the influence the commission’s been able to have,” she said. “Within the past five years, the commission has directly influenced changes that better align college sports with educational values. It’s rewarding to see that there has been some action on a couple of those priorities.”

While its members are influential, the Knight Commission as an organization has no power over how college sports are governed. Furthermore, the commission is almost entirely focused on Division I college athletics, specifically the big-money sports of men’s basketball and football — a space that is dominated by highly paid coaches participating in high-stakes competition, who have little incentive to listen to a group of academics and former athletes who are concerned with “de-escalating the athletics arms race.”

Writing for the journal On Sport and Society in 2001, Richard Crepeau, a sports historian who was at the time a professor at the University of Central Florida, wrote that the Knight Commission was “no match for the powers that be, which include boosters, alumni, television, sponsors, elected officials, trustees, students, some faculty and many university administrators” who are rewarded by big-time sports’ “highly commercialized nature.”

Cartwright, the commission’s other new co-chair (pictured above with Kirwan), said she is intensely aware of how difficult it sometimes is for the committee to actually be heard.

“Change is very difficult, and we don’t have the authority to just make something happen,” she said. “We have to lead through persuasion and we have to be as creative as can be. And we see it paying off, though it takes more time than we’d like it to take. Even as we take some pride in the impact we have had, there’s work to be done.”

David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University and president of the Drake Group, an organization pushing for more emphasis on academics in college sports, said he believes the Knight Commission has had a “profound impact” on intercollegiate athletics. Calling the group’s first report “seminal stuff,” Ridpath said that for a committee that can only serve in an advisory role, it’s impressive that NCAA has listened to the commission as much as it has.

How colleges and the NCAA have implemented some of those changes, however, has been “a mixed bag,” he said.

“The devil is in the details,” said Ridpath, who has long been an outspoken critic of the NCAA’s academic metrics. “Academic integrity sounds great on paper, but the NCAA’s metric leaves the system open for manipulation, as colleges are chasing a number and not focused on measuring actual learning. Putting college presidents in control of college sports seemed like a good idea, but some would say college presidents have ruined college sports. They’re in charge but don’t seem to be in control.”

At Kirwan’s final meeting as the Knight Commission’s chair Oct. 24, he expressed concern about “out of control” spending among the NCAA’s top conferences.

The expenditures, Kirwan said, are creating a financial divide that is making the Football Bowl Subdivision unstable and could eventually force out all but the wealthiest institutions. During the meeting, the Power Five leagues — the 65 wealthiest programs, which gained the ability to create their own rules in 2014 — received most of the blame for driving the increase in spending. In 2005, revenue generated by the Power Five leagues was $570 million. According to the Knight Commission, that revenue will be $2.8 billion by 2020.

Perko and Cartwright both said that the commission shares his concern, and that spending among Division I programs will remain a priority when the new leadership takes over next year. Indeed, the so-called athletics arms race has been among the commission’s chief concerns for decades. “A frantic, money-oriented modus operandi that defies responsibility dominates the structure of big-time football and basketball,” the commission wrote in its 2001 report.

Sack, of New Haven, said the amount of money involved in college sports may also be the primary reason the commission has not accomplished more of its goals. Sack recalled running into Friday, the original co-chair, at a conference shortly before his death in 2012. Sack said he asked Friday why the commission hadn’t made more progress.

“I’ll tell you the truth,” Sack said Friday replied. “It’s the money. There’s just too much, and we can’t do anything about it.”

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William C. Friday and the Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh at an early meeting of the Knight Commission
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By Colleen Flaherty

Faculty members across the University of Wisconsin System have fought — mostly unsuccessfully — a number of changes to their tenure protections since 2015, when the Wisconsin Legislature voted to strike tenure from state law. Now faculty members say what remains of tenure risks further erosion, via a proposed policy that would give administrators ultimate authority over faculty members’ posttenure review. The university says the proposed change is a mere formality, but many professors disagree.

Regents are scheduled to meet next week, at which time they’ll consider revising a formal posttenure review policy adopted just last spring. The proposal makes clear that an administrator, not a faculty member or committee, will sign off on posttenure reviews. Such reviews determine whether faculty members meet or do not meet expectations, and those who do not meet expectations must complete a remediation plan. Such decisions are not subject to the normal faculty grievance process.

Currently, the systemwide posttenure review policy says each campus, through its normal governance process, “shall develop and implement a policy for periodic, posttenure review of tenured faculty members” containing a number of minimum criteria.

Regents now want to amend that statement to say that posttenure reviews “shall include an independent, substantive review by a dean, the provost or the chancellor, or a designee, with the appropriate administrator making the final assignment of the category reflecting the overall results of the review.”

The issue here is attracting particular attention because Wisconsin faculty members, while not pleased with the changes to the state’s tenure system, thought they were at least done. So additional shifts are not promoting trust in a new system many professors already feel was imposed upon them.

Apart from further gutting tenure, this move by the Regents undoes the work campuses have been doing to comply with March 2016 policy https://t.co/f8usMh8sIy

— Nick Fleisher (@nickfleisher) December 6, 2016

thus allowing admin to overrule a faculty review determination that a member meets or even exceeds expectations. https://t.co/z7xOjMaCSy 2/2

— Dave Vanness (@djvanness) December 6, 2016

Meanwhile in Wisconsin… proposal to gut tenure protections. (Thread) https://t.co/uVgYPHzIgw

— Meanwhile in (@MeanwhileInHE) December 6, 2016

David Vanness, associate professor of population health sciences at the Madison campus and past president of its advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said he’s not opposed to administrators being part of the review process. But an independent review of a faculty member’s application breaks with the spirit and tradition of shared governance, specifically that educational matters — including faculty appointments — are the primary domain of the faculty. Other campuses already have included the proposed change in their posttenure review draft policies, but Madison has refused.

Under the proposed policy change, Vanness said, “it’s possible that a faculty member could be judged by their peers to meet or even exceed professional standards, but then be declared deficient by an administrator, thus triggering remediation, which also cannot be appealed under the policy, and possibly eventual dismissal.”

Dismissal proceedings would still be subject to due process, he said, but much damage already will have been done. He called the change an “enormous and unchecked power that could easily be applied to pressure faculty into behaving in a matter that is considered politically acceptable. Its use, or even threat of its use, could have a chilling effect on research and teaching activities.”

Michael Olneck, professor emeritus of educational policy studies and sociology at Madison, said that the proposed language, as written, seems “a complete vitiation of the rightful prerogative of the faculty, and the faculty alone, to apply evaluative categories to faculty peers.”

“I would rather they have language that says administrators need not be bound by the categorization and recommendations made by faculty than allow administrators to substitute their judgments of quality for that of the faculty,” Olneck added via email. “That way the raw power of administrators would correctly be seen to be severed from the legitimate professional authority of the faculty. And the new position of administrators as ‘bosses’ would be seen for what it is, and the intentions of the Legislature and regents will have been satisfied.”

Following the elimination of tenure from state statute last year, the regents said they’d develop their own tenure policies to close any gaps left by the change. But faculty members say the policies the regents ultimately approved offer fewer protections than they previously had and that are considered the norm nationally. Program closures are a real possibility in light of major cuts to higher education in the state budget, for example, and the new tenure policy says such closures resulting in faculty layoffs may happen for financial or educational reasons. That’s a major departure from the system’s prior policy, which said that tenured faculty members in good standing could only lose their jobs in cases of true financial exigency — not just budget cuts. The standard is common in tenure policies elsewhere and is endorsed by the AAUP, which also allows for faculty layoffs for educational reasons determined by faculty members.

Regents also approved last spring the posttenure review policy facing the amendment.

Stephanie Marquis, a system spokesperson, said via email that “what is being proposed is minor clarifying language that specifies that even a positive/affirmative performance evaluation will still be sent to the appropriate administrator for review.”

A similar process is used for tenure decisions, she added. “Of course, peers will still play a major role in the evaluation process. It’s adding the last step of all reviews going to the appropriate administrator, not simply those evaluations that are unsatisfactory.”

Vanness said the change remains significant, despite any claim to the contrary.

“I am not surprised by the official ‘move along, there’s nothing to see here, folks’ explanation,” he said. “But, again, I would ask, why go through the formality and public embarrassment of being forced to amend their own policy — on the heels of a no-confidence vote, no less — for something they claim is so trivial?”

Vanness said Marquis’s comment comparing the proposed process to tenure was telling, in that it makes clear “that under this policy we will effectively be going through the process of re-earning our tenure every five years.”

One would think the system would want to avoid that impression, he added, “particularly given the challenges we have been having with recruitment and retention.” Madison paid out $23 million in retention incentives last year to hold on to an unusually large number of faculty members recruited elsewhere.

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By Matt Reed

Models for college leaders.

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By Joshua Kim

What to do and what not to do.

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By Anne Guarnera

Strategies for developing a course plan with other teachers.

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By Barbara Fister

A new report is out from Project Information Literacy. Make sure you read it before you get too far into a library renovation.

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By Kasia Kovacs

Policy makers of all political stripes have been pushing to hold colleges and universities accountable by looking at the outcomes of their former students in the labor force — whether they are employed full time, how much they earn, etc.

Last year, the Obama administration included median postcollege earnings for over 4,000 colleges and universities in its College Scorecard data. Plus, as of 2015, 32 states had some form of performance or “outcome-based” funding for public institutions of higher education. In fact, one institution — the Texas State Technical College System — makes funding recommendations to the state Legislature solely by analyzing data on students’ postcollege earnings.

Such approaches often draw criticism for embracing an overly vocational view of what higher education is for, for focusing too narrowly on a small set of indicators or for thinking too short term.

A new study examining the use of labor market outcomes concludes that use of a single metric cannot accurately evaluate institutional performance, but that a mix of several different measures sorts institutions better than using no labor market indicator at all.

The study from the National Bureau of Economic Research (abstract available here) analyzed data from the Ohio Education Research Center — specifically, student data from 2000 to 2007 and labor market data from 2000 to 2012. The sample included data on students from 30 four-year colleges and 28 two-year colleges. It constructed four labor market accountability metrics and one metric to measure academic success.

The four labor market metrics were: (1) full-time, full-year employment; (2) annual earnings conditional on full-time, full-year employment; (3) employment in the social service sector to “address the critique that earnings are not the only positive outcome of education,” the study stated; (4) and the proportion of students who had ever claimed unemployment since college.

“There are other outcomes besides earnings that can be measured by looking at social services,” said Judith Scott-Clayton, associate professor of economics and education at Teachers College at Columbia University, who co-wrote the study with Veronica Minaya, visiting scholar at Teachers College.

“In the public sector, there may be lower wages, but there are often better pension benefits and health care benefits, and tenure protection for teachers,” Scott-Clayton said.

Degree completion rates were also calculated for two- and four-year colleges to compare outcomes in the labor markets to academic outcomes. Many states use academic measures as part of their performance-based formulas for funding, but the study found that academic outcomes alone are not necessarily a good indicator of postcollege student success.

Among the study’s conclusions: examining earnings after a long period of time is more reliable than examining earnings one year after graduation. Graduates may not be making salaries that are representative of their future earnings after one year, especially if they are continuing their education. So the simplest labor market metrics (employment rates and earnings one year after graduation) are problematic.

Even if institutions wait 10 years to collect data on student earnings, state unemployment insurance databases can provide more robust measures of postcollege experiences than earnings alone. Earnings don’t take into account well-being or access to health insurance, for instance, and unemployment insurance databases can also tell institutions whether graduates are employed year-round and how many have filed for unemployment.

In addition, researchers found differences between metrics for two- and four-year institutions. Degree completion rates aren’t a good indicator of graduates’ outcomes in the labor force, especially when it comes to two-year colleges. However, the conditional earnings metric — that is, annual earnings conditional on full-time, full-year employment — is much more stable for two-year colleges than four-year colleges. This could be because students from two-year colleges tend to go straight into professional careers, while students from four-year colleges tend to settle into the labor force more slowly, said Scott-Clayton.

The study has its limitations, noting that it did not control for outside factors such as student ability or family income, and the researchers did not analyze input-based measures of institutional quality and selectivity.

Still, the ultimate conclusion of the study is clear. Measuring the performance of institutions of higher education with a single metric is hugely problematic — any metric alone fails to measure variability in labor market outcomes and other aspects of well-being. Instead, it’s best to consider several metrics when determining whether college graduates are getting an appropriate bang for their tuition buck.

In the end, “the choice of what to measure is much more important than exactly how to measure it,” Scott-Clayton said.

Assessment and Accountability
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By Carl Straumsheim

The faculty union at Rutgers University on Friday escalated its criticism of how the university is handling faculty members’ communication, urging its members to opt of the university’s new email system or risk compromising their academic freedom.

The dispute, which has been going on since Rutgers in August rewrote its policy concerning the acceptable use of IT resources, highlights the tensions between administrators and faculty members that sometimes arise when universities push for technological updates. While the administration has billed the move to a new email system as a way to consolidate old systems and improve collaboration across departments and schools, the union, which is affiliated with both the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, views it as a way to force faculty members to use one email provider and potentially allow the administration to monitor their communication.

While the old acceptable-use policy stipulated that employees only needed to use the official university email for sensitive personal information such as grades, patient details and Social Security numbers, the new policy expands the scope to include all “university business.” That term is not defined.

Additionally, the policy grants the university the right to “examine material stored on or transmitted through its information technology facilities” — in other words, read employees’ emails — for reasons including complying with its own policies or federal and state law, running maintenance on the system, or, more generally, in order for the university “to carry on its necessary operations.”

Together, those provisions represent a “vast overreach,” David M. Hughes, president of the Rutgers AAUP-AFT chapter and professor of anthropology, said in an interview.

“What the administration seemed to want to assert was that they had the right to examine, to look into, to own, to store, to search through the entirety of our intellectual lives,” Hughes said. “We refuse to suffer this kind of intrusion, because we have academic freedom, and we will protect it.”

The university in February announced it would migrate to a new email system, known as Rutgers Connect, which is based on Microsoft’s suite of productivity software, Office 365.

Hughes said the union has since this fall asked the administration to clarify the acceptable-use policy and specify that the university won’t use the new email system — which includes powerful tools for search and device management — as a surveillance tool.

In particular, Hughes said, the union would like the policy to borrow language from New Jersey’s open-records law, which includes exemptions for information related to teaching and research. He also said faculty members should be free to set Office 365 to automatically forward emails to a private account, and that the university should follow a semi-judicial review process before it can read faculty members’ emails.

While administrators — including university President Robert L. Barchi — have publicly said “university business” does not cover emails related to teaching and research, the policy has not been updated with that clarification. The administration hasn’t addressed the union’s other two concerns, Hughes said.

Unsatisfied with the progress since the two sides last met on Sept. 13, the union Friday morning sent an email to its members in which it recommended faculty members should consider a “personal moratorium” on Office 365. Faculty members should follow university policy and use the official university email for “communicating with students about academic performance and communicating with patients about their health” — nothing more, the email reads.

In a brief email statement, a spokesperson for the university reiterated what administrators have previously said about what does and does not constitute “university business.”

“The university has informed the union that faculty members are free to use other email platforms for their scholarship and research work,” the spokesperson wrote. “We are in active conversations with the union on this matter.”

Hughes, in response, said in a follow-up email that those assurances don’t change the situation.

“The administration has been saying as much verbally,” Hughes wrote. “We want them to put that commitment — regarding the narrow definition of ‘university business’ — in writing and to revise the Acceptable Use of IT policy accordingly. Old Queens [the name of the main administration building at Rutgers] has given us no assurances, in any form, regarding automatic forwarding or surveillance.”

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By Colleen Flaherty

Some professors were troubled by Professor Watchlist when it debuted last month, viewing it as a serious threat to academic freedom. Yet others saw the site — which names and monitors professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom” (the “promoting anti-American values” criterion has since been removed) — as more annoying than dangerous. Some submitted complaints about Indiana Jones, Professor Plum or other fictional academics, for example. Others joked they wished they’d been named, saying they’d wear it as a badge of honor.

But now Professor Watchlist has met its match in a new blog, Watchlist Redux, where being named is intended as a badge of honor.

“This site is dedicated to showcasing and championing courageous thinkers and teachers — and at the same time saying ‘shame, shame, shame’ to those who would insinuate that these people are dangerous,” reads Redux. “Those of us who decided to start this site have taken — sometimes taught — courses in logic. We know bad logic when we see it, such as this: Radical equals bad equals dangerous. But [Professor Watchlist] won’t tell you what they mean by ‘radical.’ They trade in innuendo.”

So, Redux says, “We professors would ask students who use such bad logic, ‘What do you mean by radical?’ Wasn’t Socrates in his time, or Thomas Paine in his, or Gandhi (or [Martin Luther King Jr.]) radical in his? Yes, indeed they were. … The word ‘radical’ means ‘at the root,’ so to be a radical intellectual is to be one who gets to the root of problems. High time for more of that!”

Redux includes two lists of radical thinkers: those of the past and present, respectively. The past list includes blurbs about influential thinkers from Socrates to Thomas Jefferson to Anna J. Cooper to Alan Turing, with some perhaps unexpected entries. An entry on Jesus of Nazareth, for example, reads, “Notorious radical and troublemaker, taught the poor, executed by the state.”

The blog was created, with assistance from some online communities of friends and colleagues, by Noëlle McAfee, professor of philosophy at Emory University. In an interview, she noted that Jesus also destroyed a lot of property in his time. While Redux is intended as a satire, she said, it’s also a way to honor the original sense of the word “radical” and those who pursue getting to the root of problems across disciplines and political persuasions.

“Some of these people were, in the past, seen at that time to be very radical and dangerous and, in retrospect, they were doing really important things,” McAfee said. “So I started this website as a positive response to this scary [watch list] nonsense. It’s intimidating, as people have said, to be put on a watch list where the innuendo is that you’re dangerous.”

McAfee noted that many of the profiles on Professor Watchlist are drawn from blogs that haven’t been checked for fact, yet the claims against the named professors — especially allegedly discriminating against conservative students — are serious. It’s another layer of “truthiness” and “fake news” that deserves refutation, she said.

Redux’s list of contemporary scholars includes dozens who have in some way challenged the disciplinary status quo. They include George Yancy, a professor of philosophy, also at Emory, who was also named to Professor Watchlist. His profile there flags an opinion piece called “Dear White America” published last year by The New York Times. In it, he asks white readers to acknowledge the ways they benefit from racism, and acknowledges that he’s been guilty of sexism.

He wrote another Times piece responding to being named, saying Professor Watchlist is “essentially a new species of McCarthyism, especially in terms of its overtones of ‘disloyalty’ to the American republic. And it is reminiscent of Cointelpro, the secret FBI program that spied on, infiltrated and discredited American political organizations in the ’50s and ’60s. Its goal of ‘outing’ professors for their views helps to create the appearance of something secretly subversive. It is a form of exposure designed to mark, shame and silence.”

Yancy said Monday that he never found the original watch list, funded by Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization, “silly,” both due to his knowledge of history and the current political climate. He said he’s received emails from academics and nonacademics from around the world since being named, writing to express their solidarity and shared anxieties.

“I’ve had people say, ‘I was a teacher once, so I know what it means to be censored.’ They’re all feeling as if their ability to be creative intellectually and to speak against oppression at this moment is under siege — it’s being truncated or limited in some way.”

“I see Turning Point USA as kind of totalitarian in its orientation — no one should be mocked in this way, quite frankly,” he said.

Yancy’s much more comfortable with his Redux profile, however. It reads, “Points out what ought to be obvious to white folks but, because of white privilege, isn’t.”

Professor Watchlist could not immediately be reached for comment.

Eva Feder Kittay, a distinguished professor of philosophy at the State University at New York at Stony Brook, was named to the Redux list of contemporary scholars for “teaching us a lot about what it is to be human.” Much of her work centers on disability and moral status. She isn’t on the original watch list but said via email that it’s “appalling and contrary to everything we want this country to stand for. Teaching — especially, but not only — philosophy (my intellectual home) must wake us from our slumbers, must provoke, excite, cause us to reflect and, when possible, to act to make the world a better place. If not, then what is love of wisdom for?”

Kittay said she worried about current political rhetoric and cited Eugène Ionesco’s The Rhinoceros. In the play, a rhinoceros charges through a town, causing residents to argue about how it got there. One by one, the villagers all transform into charging beasts. “If we don’t speak up against watch lists, we might all become raging rhinoceroses,” she said.

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“Radicals” on a new website include Socrates, Jesus, Alan Turing and Anna J. Cooper.
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By Rick Seltzer

A decade-long stagnation in the number of U.S. high school graduates is setting in, and the number of students receiving diplomas in 2017 is expected to drop significantly.

The stagnating number of graduates breaks nearly two decades of reliable increases and comes as significant demographic changes reshape where students live and from what backgrounds they come. The pool of high school graduates is projected to become less white, more Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander, and increasingly located in the South over the coming years, according to a new set of projections in a report released Tuesday by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

WICHE’s projections, typically released every four to five years, are closely watched as a window into enrollment trends across the United States. The trends carry significant implications for policy makers trying to align educational priorities with job markets — and with colleges and universities attempting to plan their classes of the future. The new projections mean higher education systems will have to change, according to Joe Garcia, a former lieutenant governor of Colorado and former campus president who is president of WICHE.

“We’re simply going to have fewer students in our K-12 system, and we’ll be producing fewer graduates,” Garcia said during a conference call to discuss the report’s findings. “That has significant implications to our institutions — our colleges and universities — as well as to our employers and our work force.”

The decade of stagnation is projected to run from 2013, when enrollment hit 3.47 million, through 2023. During that time, the annual number of high school graduates in the country is expected to slot in between 3.4 million and 3.5 million. However, a substantial drop is expected in 2017. The number of high school graduates is projected to fall by about 81,000, or 2.3 percent, that year.

It looks like a big decline. However, it’s not so huge that colleges and universities will need to brace for large disruptions, as long as they reach out to more students, Garcia said.

“They will need to brace if they’re not embracing the new student population,” he said, referring to the expected increases in Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates. “They do need to be going after those populations that are increasing.”

Further into the future, enrollments are projected to grow from 2024 to 2026. A new peak enrollment of 3.56 million is projected in 2026. It will be driven by an increase in the number of nonwhite graduates.

Afterward, however, enrollments are projected to drop off significantly. From 2027 and 2032, the average graduating class size is expected to fall below 2013 levels.

The plateauing and eventual projected decline of high school graduates brings to an end 15 years of consistent increases. The population of high school graduates jumped from 2.52 million in 1996 to 3.47 million in 2013, which is the last year confirmed graduation tallies are available.

It’s worth noting that the latest available data show higher high school graduation levels from 2009-2012 than were predicted in WICHE’s last round of projections. The commission said stronger growth and retention of high school students and slightly greater 12th-grade graduation rates contributed to the difference. WICHE research suggested that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration policy, put in place in 2012, may have contributed to increases in the overall number of high school graduates.

Commission officials declined to speculate on how new immigration policies under President-elect Donald Trump could affect their future projections.

Demographic Changes

Previous WICHE projections have warned of peaking numbers of high school graduates and projected increasing diversity among graduates. But experts said Tuesday’s projections represent a new challenge to the status quo at institutions, one that pointed toward increased efforts in recruiting minority students and poor students — and keeping them on campus.

Tuesday’s report projects Hispanic graduates spiking by 50 percent at public high schools from 2014 to the mid-2020s. That would mean about 920,000 graduates per year around 2025. Asian/Pacific Islander graduates from public high schools are projected to spike by 30 percent over the same time frame. The total number of black public high school graduates is expected to level off and decline slightly after peaking at about 480,000 from 2010 through 2012. Projections have the number of black high school graduates slipping by about 6 percent between now and the early 2030s.

In sharp contrast, the number of white public high school graduates is projected to fall by 14 percent between 2013 and 2030. The population of white public high school graduates is projected to decline by about a quarter of a million people between 2013 and 2032, to 1.6 million.

Initially, growth in nonwhite public school graduates will be enough to essentially balance out consistent declines in the white graduate population — that’s how current graduate levels can plateau even as numbers of white graduates plunge. The balancing out runs to 2023 before a spike in nonwhite graduates drives up overall graduate levels. From 2024 to 2028, nonwhite graduates are projected to increase by 150 for every 100 white high school graduates dropping off the charts. But then from 2029 to 2032, nonwhite high school graduates are projected to dip back below 1.5 million, roughly the same as 2020 levels. That’s still 12 percent higher than 2013.

Experts said the projections indicate that higher education institutions will need to increase pathways to college for minority students while also making an effort to help those students stay on campus and graduate with degrees. That’s true for institutions recruiting Hispanic students, according to Deborah A. Santiago, co-founder, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, a Washington-based nonprofit group focusing on Latino student success.

“Some could see this demographic and geographic shift as a threat to their status quo,” she said in an email. “It is. We should collectively acknowledge traditional efforts to serve traditional students have not sufficiently closed achievement gaps in high school or in college attainment for posttraditional students (those who do not fit the majority profile). If they had been effective, we wouldn’t currently have gaps in achievement and attainment. Identifying new ways and new categories of students to recruit is a clear opportunity to be proactive in positioning to serve a wider profile of posttraditional students.”

Colleges and universities will need to recruit and keep students who traditionally have not completed college at high rates, according to William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College, in Texas.

“It’s imperative upon our institutions of higher ed to increase the college-going rates of all students, but in particular the students who are low income, first generation and students of color,” Serrata said during the conference call on the projections. “This is really a road map for us in higher education to really change our strategies to focus on increasing college-going rates amongst those populations and then facilitate their success once we have them.”

Regional Variations

Changes in graduating class sizes are expected to vary significantly by region and state. The Northeast and the Midwest are projected to experience declining numbers of graduates. The West will be home to slight increases. The South will see steady, significant increases.

The rise of the South is a continuation of recent trends. About a third of the country’s high school graduates were located in the region in the early 2000s. That portion had grown to about 43 percent — or 1.23 million graduates — by 2013. It’s expected to jump to nearly 47 percent of graduates, 1.35 million people, by about 2025. After that peak, projections show the South continuing to produce roughly 45 percent of the country’s high school graduates, even as overall graduate numbers decline after 2025.

Meanwhile, the Western United States is projected to see some growth, keeping a relatively steady share of the country’s graduates. The population of graduates in the region is expected to grow from 813,400 in 2010 to 860,000 in 2024 before settling back at 784,000 by the early 2030s. The West’s graduate levels as a portion of the country’s total should come in between about 25 and 30 percent throughout that period.

The Midwest is projected to drop from 22 percent of the country’s high school graduates in 2013 — about 762,000 people — to 19 percent by 2030. Annual graduates will drop by approximately 93,000 in the region. The Northeast is projected to drop from 18 percent of graduates in 2013 — 639,000 graduates — to 16 percent (567,000) by the early 2030s.

Public high school graduates drive the projected trends, as they represent 91 percent of the country’s high school graduates. Still, it is worth noting that WICHE projects private high schools to lose far more graduates than their public counterparts. Private high schools are projected to lose about a quarter of their graduates over 20 years. That would drop them from 302,000 in 2011 to 220,000 by the early 2030s. Private school enrollment declines are fueled by drops in religious schools of all affiliations, particularly Catholic high schools.

Even within regions, states are expected to experience significant differences in changes to graduation levels. For example, in the Northeast, Connecticut is projected to see a 26 percent drop, from 44,495 high school graduates in 2011-12 to 32,968 in 2031-32. Neighboring New York, in contrast, is projected to lose a smaller portion of its annual graduates, dropping 6 percent from 212,474 to 200,020 in the same time frame.

Policy Implications

Taken together, the changes mean colleges and universities are likely to feel increased enrollment pressures. The WICHE report notes that institutional leaders will not be able to count on “a steadily increasing stream of high school graduates knocking at their door.”

Policy makers might take note. Enrollment pressures can lead to work force pressures, said Nicole Smith, a research professor and chief economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Once we have a declining set of students from high school, we would expect, in a true pipeline fashion, to have a commensurate decline in entrance into college, and then those who are available for the work force,” she said during the conference call.

The demographic changes indicate colleges and universities could have trouble filling their classrooms with enough academically prepared students who can pay full tuition, said Garcia, WICHE’s president. That could mean financial stress as budget cuts sweep many states.

“University presidents are in a tough spot, because they’re squeezed as states start spending less money on their public institutions,” said Garcia. “Frankly, tuition matters. What those presidents may understand is it’s their obligation to serve all students, but the financial challenge is if they don’t recruit more well-prepared, well-resourced, full-pay students.”

Still, there is opportunity in bringing new student populations onto campuses, said Demarée Michelau, vice president of the office of policy analysis and research at WICHE.

“I caution us to not just think of the challenges that are ahead of us, but to think of this as an opportunity,” she said during the call. “A lot of the changes that come with serving diverse populations help all students. They’ll help adult students. They’ll help traditional students.”

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A new report projects the population of Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander high school graduates will grow, even as overall graduate levels stagnate and eventually drop.
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By Scott Jaschik

When increasing numbers of American colleges in the 19th century started to admit women, many institutions — whether women’s colleges or newly coeducational institutions — revised their view of their moral missions. A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion and the Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837-1917 (Cornell University Press) considers this important period in the history of American higher education.

The author is Andrea L. Turpin, assistant professor of history at Baylor University. She responded via email to questions about her book.

Q: Many of the oldest colleges in the United States had religious affiliations and, at least in part, religious missions. How was moral purpose originally defined in American higher education?

A: America’s earliest colleges — like Harvard, Yale and Princeton — understood themselves to serve both church and state. The goal was to form pious men of high character and broad mental training who would be capable, public-spirited ministers, doctors, lawyers and community leaders. Because colleges assumed only men could fill these positions, they did not focus on instilling character qualities specifically associated with men. Instead, they just sought to make students into good Christians in a way that could have applied equally to either sex.

Q: How did the arrival of women’s colleges change the picture?

A: The 19th-century push for women to enter higher education was led in large part by reformers I call “evangelical pragmatists.” They were willing to violate gender norms against women’s higher education in order to train more people to spread the Christian message intelligently — to get more hands on deck for God, as it were. These educational reformers provided women the same moral training as men: they sought to make them into good Christians, in this case by fostering revivals on campus.

This approach to women’s higher education changed as women’s colleges became more established in the late 1800s. By then, it was considered narrow for a college to associate too closely with a particular religious tradition. So women’s colleges rebranded their identity around training their graduates for a specific type of service rather than a specific type of religious outlook. They defined their moral purpose in a way more religious traditions could agree on, but also more particular to women. Instead of trying to make students into evangelical Protestants, women’s colleges sought to prepare graduates for moral contributions at which they thought educated women would uniquely excel, such as the burgeoning field of social work, which required both head and heart.

Men’s colleges — which, like women’s colleges, were now largely led by liberal Protestants — followed suit. Instead of pursuing spiritual formation that applied equally to men and women, they started trying to set their graduates apart by fostering character traits associated in the public mind with successful elite men, such as courage and a tendency to seek positions of power from which to do good.

Q: As some institutions — public and private — educated men and women together, how did issues of moral vision play out?

A: Coeducational institutions tended to pattern their approach to women off of women’s colleges and their approach to men off of men’s colleges. Things could get a bit more complicated there, though. For example, in the decades around 1900, the University of Michigan was led by two presidents who believed the university’s women and men should have identical training, both intellectually and morally. But single-sex extracurricular student religious groups, especially the wildly popular YMCA and YWCA, disagreed. So even at an unusually egalitarian institution like Michigan, students still experienced a push toward types of service to their future communities considered appropriate for men versus women.

Q: Do you view the moral mission colleges took on as they educated women as sincere? Or was this effectively cover for deeply sexist attitudes even by institutions that educated women?

A: For the most part, yes, I do actually believe it was sincere, at least at many women’s colleges. For example, Wellesley trusted women’s abilities so much that it employed only female presidents and faculty. This leadership genuinely believed educated women had a unique role to play in society and sought to reproduce its own passion for social service in the student body. Of course, this approach limited women in certain ways while it expanded their options in others. A more nuanced case would be “coordinate” women’s colleges, like Radcliffe, which was attached to Harvard. Its founders wanted to expand opportunities for women, but Harvard approved it as a means to keep women firmly out of the men’s college. And some coeducational universities first admitted women on principle, but at others it was a means of making more money or a demand by their constituency.

Q: As you look at higher education today, women in the majority as students, but still facing sexism, do you see a lasting impact to the issues you discuss in your book?

A: Some legacies of that time period definitely still stick with us. Perhaps the most obvious is football. College football rose to prominence in the decades around 1900, when colleges shifted from trying to make male students into people of high character in general and started trying to foster in them traits specifically associated with successful, powerful men. Many individual football players today are people of high character and some programs do a good job of holding their players to a high standard. Yet something about the masculine ideal held up within the world of college football does sometimes seem to lend itself to a culture of sexual assault.

New Books About Higher Education
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Source: Inside Higher Ed

    

By Zaid Ali Alsagoff

CHALLENGE
Wouldn’t it be cool, if we could in a formal lecture and classroom learning environment EASILY generate the kind of noise, engagement, and fun one experiences in a(n) electrifying concert, All-Star Wrestling event, football match, festival, etc.?
Alright, we have tools such as Kahoot, Quizizz and Poll Everywhere to engage every student/participant on their mobile devices with questions (and results) in a lecture or F2F learning session. These tools are great, but they require everyone to have Internet access, need to learn how-to-use the tools first (quite easy), and prepare questions before the session.
Now, what about when you want to ask questions on-the-fly as you speak, how do you engage everyone to participate in the room? You could quickly type and launch a question through Poll Everywhere, but not many lecturers are confident to that (from my experience).
Another way, is to give all your students in the room color-coded cards to answer questions, which is a technique I learned from Dr. Ronald M. Harden, when he facilitated workshops at the International Medical University (IMU).
Probably, the simplest way is to simply ask people to raise their hand if they agree (true, false, myth, etc.) with you. Though, these days’ younger students (and us, too) often hardly bother to raise the hands (especially in big crowds), when asked during lectures or talks. Perhaps, we are so busy on our mobile devices typing away that we have no time to lift even one hand to participate in answering questions.
So, any better alternatives?

YEAH-BOO!

While driving on my way to the SMiLe Symposium 2016 at National University of Malaysia (UKM) on the 5th December, the ‘YEAH-BOO’ idea just popped up in my head. I was invited to participate in a panel discussion, and that also gave me the opportunity to explore my ‘YEAH-BOO’ idea, too. Unfortunately, I forgot to video recorded how it went (will video record next time, Insya-Allah), but here is a snippet on how this method works.
You are giving talk, and suddenly you are inspired to ask the participants a quick Yes/True and No/False question, what do you do? Well, again I could ask them to raise their hands if Yes…BORING!
So, instead I asked the participants to scream ‘YEAH‘ (and even raise their hands if wanted) if Yes, True, Positive, etc. and ‘BOO‘ if No, False, Myth, Negative, etc. depending upon the question. Guess what? You could immediately feel the energy, engagement and noise in the room. The participants seemed to have fun with it, too. When is the last time they could ‘BOO’ with a smile at an academic event?
The great thing about the ‘YEAH-BOO‘ method is that any educator can apply it without any training needed (except guts). It is a great way to awaken (sleeping students) and engage everyone to make some noise for their feedback and opinions. For the first time, you might experience the kind of noise and engagement often experienced in live sport events. Try it out to find out!

LIMITATIONS

  • The YEAH-BOO method is limited to questions with only two options. Although, you could have 4 sounds for 4 options, but I am not sure if you could filter out the noise you want.
  • You have to sense their opinion from the noise generated, and that might not be so accurate (compared to digital tools like Poll Everywhere), especially if you hearing ability is damaged. Also, one nutty dude BOOing his lungs out might neutralize 10-15 ‘YEAH’ screams.
  • While the noise and fun might awaken all the students in the room, other neighboring classrooms could be affected dramatically, if the room is not sound-proof.

YEAH-BOOING FORWARD

If only I could work with a few geniuses from MIT School of Engineering or Google, we could conceptualize, design, prototype, and launch the sound-frequency-vibration-detector YEAH-BOO WAND, which will capture all the noise generated from the students/participants and provide ACCURATE LIVE STATS on the projector/smart screen, which include percentages, noise factor sentiment (new and hot feature for learning), and voice-person detection for formal (and informal) assessment.
Once the YEAH-BOO WAND (version 1) is launched on February 22 (2018), we will straight away work on version 2, which will enable the tool to detect up to 6 different sounds, empowering multiple-questions, too. Launch target is November 14, 2018.
For version 3, we will work on the YEAH-BOO WAND that supports open-ended questions, whereby even hundreds of students could talk at the same time and all that would be captured with a blink of an eye and be displayed on the project/smart screen in various ways, including chat boxes, word clouds, running text, etc. Yes, let’s not forget that all the versions, will have infused gamification and game mechanics to spice up learning to a level never seen at a University, College or School.
Let’s do it! Yes, we can :)

Source: Zaid Learn

    

By Matt Reed

A key competency.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs

    

By Joshua Kim

Let’s talk about Thomas Friedman’s new book.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs

    

By Matt Reed

Search committee behaviors.

Source: Inside Higher Ed Blogs