Colleges have faced increased pressure in the last year from student and environment activists to sell off investments in fossil fuel companies, but most colleges that have acted on those requests have very small endowments, and relatively few such investments to start with. Brown University (which has a substantial endowment) on Friday announced that its board had discussed but not voted on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Policies that the university sell holdings in 15 companies that mine or burn coal. A university statement said that no formal action was taken on the advisory panel's report.
A Brown statement said: "During the business meeting of the corporation, members asked the university to identify ways to work with students, faculty, staff, peer institutions, and other strategic partners to develop a robust response to climate change and to assume a greater leadership role on the issue of CO2 emissions. Corporation action on the issue of divestment was not expected at this meeting, and the corporation confirmed that the complexity of the divestment issue warrants further discussion before responding to the ACCRIP’s recommendation."
Thomas R. Kepple Jr., the departing president of Juniata College, has been chosen to lead the American Academic Leadership Institute, which trains future college presidents and other senior administrators. As the new president of the nonprofit institute, which derives funds from its for-profit subsidiary, Academic Search, Inc., Kepple will oversee the Senior Leadership Academy, which is sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges and prepares mid-level administrators for positions as provosts and vice presidents in all divisions) and Executive Leadership Academy (which prepares provosts and vice presidents to become presidents). The latter program is cosponsored by both CIC and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Both organizations receive support from the AALI. Kepple replaces Ann Die Hasselmo as leader of AALI. (Note: This item has been updated from an earlier version to clarify the relationships between the organizations.)
Among the several hundred students who graduated one Saturday this month, I noticed a few distinct styles of handshakes:
The Grad Grip: The most commonly seen handshake at commencement. The student waits patiently at the side of the stage for his name to be called, smiles broadly while crossing the eight feet or so of space between us, notices my outstretched right hand, grabs it for a few shakes, sees the degree I’m offering them, plucks it from my left hand, pauses briefly for a picture, then dashes for the other side of the stage.
The Near-Miss: It’s an important moment — the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice, and now everyone is watching. And then there are all those strangely dressed people on the stage. And bagpipe music? It’s enough to make anyone a little nervous, and nearly miss a handshake in the rush to grab that diploma and make it safely to the other side. A half step back to grab that offered hand, though, and all is well.
The Paparazzi Pump: Even with the hired phalanx of photographers at the edge of the stage, some students like to have a family member or friend backing them up and snapping (clicking?) the moment for posterity. The Paparazzi Pump happens when I shake hands and the student doesn’t let go — vigorously continuing the shake and grinning off to the side until they get the "thumbs up" from their camera-toting buddy in the crowd.
The Rockstar: This one’s not what you think it is. Yes, many students wear cool-looking sunglasses and even rhinestone-studded mortarboards to celebrate the Big Day; but this handshake — which involves rapidly pumping my hand up and down like the beating of a hummingbird’s wings — comes from the natural excitement and energy of the moment — or the enormous amount of caffeine in the large Dunkies coffee or "Rockstar" energy drink they had just after breakfast.
The Mad Men Mash: Favored by 1960s advertising executives (and some 21st-century business and accounting majors), the Mad Men Mash is usually practiced by graduates wearing nicely pressed suits and ties, and involves striding proudly across the stage, extending an arm straightforward, gripping my hand like a vise, looking me directly in the eye, and saying a clear and confident, "Thank you," to the applause of a cheering claque of admirers.
The Proud Lefty: For the photograph to work just right, it’s important that I shake with my right hand, and distribute degrees with my left, so I am careful to hold my right hand out just as each student begins to cross the stage so they know what to expect. Invariably, though, there are some southpaws who insist on a left-handed shake, requiring that I quickly change hands with the diploma and shift my position in the box. (Be proud, lefties! I just hope those pictures are turning out O.K.…)
The iShake: This one’s a relative newcomer to commencement. Those robes don’t come with pockets, you know, so what’s a newly minted college graduate to do with her car keys, pocket book, commencement program, and cell phone? Well, the keys, purse and program will be just fine left behind on the folding chair, but the iPhone? At least a dozen of Saturday’s grads brought it along and did the iShake.
Hmmm …. By next year, maybe someone will develop an app for that.
Lane Glenn is president of Northern Essex Community College.
Rising tuition, declining government subsidies, stagnant endowments, and increased competition are challenging higher education like never before. College and university leaders are struggling to understand where these changes will lead and how they can make higher education more affordable, more accessible, and of greater quality for an increasingly diverse and aspiring student. Based on our interaction with university leaders and policy makers, we believe that the timeline for transformational change has shortened to five years. During this time, higher education will have moved from a provider-driven model to a consumer-driven one and, in so doing, upend a system that had endured for centuries.
Half a decade from now, almost all universities will offer their students the option of undertaking their coursework in high-demand degree programs online. However, online offerings will no longer be the competitive advantage they are today. Most online enrollment will be open or provisional and more than 80 percent of professional degree programs, such as MBA, RN-to-BSN, and M.Ed., will be earned online. Additionally, by 2018, new types of widely accepted degrees will have emerged that are less time-consuming, less expensive, and more relevant to 21st century jobs.
The vast majority of on-campus students will be enrolled in some online courses, a movement already afoot, with the Sloan Consortium’s 2012 Survey of Online Learning finding that approximately a third of all U.S. college students took at least one online course during the fall 2011 term. The increase of nearly 10 percent in online enrollments over the previous year is particularly meaningful given that overall enrollment declined in the United States for the first time in 15 years, and continued its decline across the developed world.
Foreign universities with growing stature and competitive pricing will be aggressively recruiting U.S. students for their online programs. With thousands of universities in the United States and around the world online, students will have more choices in higher education than in any other consumer category. This unprecedented competition and the availability of many high-quality, low-priced options will have caused the tuition bubble to burst and the cost of attending college to tumble, putting even greater pressure on institutional budgets.
While the relative cost of instruction will have declined due to increased scale, the incomes of many professors providing online instruction will have risen sharply. Some of these professors will have become the free agents of academe, with their courses widely accepted at both public and private universities around the world.
While some international students will continue to come to the United States to study, we expect that almost all enrollment growth at U.S. universities will come from international students enrolled in online programs. Some public and private universities will have reached iconic status, ushering in a new breed of multinational educational organizations. These large multinational universities will provide curriculum and instruction in multiple languages and offer competitive pricing designed to suit local markets. Capitalizing on their reputations, they will have become leading global brands with student bodies well in excess of 100,000 choosing from many newly added degree programs designed to meet demand in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and India.
As a result of greater use of technology in the delivery of higher education, construction of new buildings on the campuses of tax-supported institutions will have slowed significantly. At the same time, we expect that over the next five years university systems will be consolidating campuses at an increasing rate as trustees and legislators come to understand the economics of online learning and how vastly it can expand the reach of an institution. Companies like ours — Academic Partnerships — are helping universities respond to this transformative moment in higher education.
Critics of the current university ranking system abound — and rightfully so. With metrics such as class size and alumni giving determining a university’s placement, these rankings will become even more antiquated amidst the fundamental changes we are now observing. By 2018, we expect that the university ranking system will focus on consumer choice vis-a-vis growth as a key criterion, along with completion rates, the employability of a university’s graduates, and their subsequent job performance.
Universities will have become more transparent, publishing meaningful standardized metrics that permit consumers to better assess which university is right for them. The relationship between universities and employers will have changed as well, with these groups routinely working together to develop content for degree programs that is aligned with specific jobs and career-related competencies.
At the same time, we expect that a majority of college-bound students will graduate high school with some college credits and that several states will have converted the last year of high school to the first year of college. Entering college with a head start on credit hours and exposure to online programs, by 2018 most full-time students will be completing a four-year degree program in four years, compared to just 60 percent of students who do so today in six years.
We believe that public universities that have moved with urgency to embrace this new reality will thrive. And so, too, will the students they serve. By 2018, higher education will be truly globalized and we will see greatly expanded access, reduced costs, more virtual campuses, and, most important of all, the increased competitiveness of our universities and our students. That’s a future we should all embrace.
Randy Best is chairman of Academic Partnerships. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, is a senior adviser to Academic Partnerships.
Some students engaged in a non-disruptive protest Tuesday at commencement ceremonies for Teachers College of Columbia University. The Washington Post reported that students held signs saying "Not a Test Score" to protest the awarding of an honor and a speaking role to Merryl Tisch, chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents. The students said that reforms pushed by Tisch rely excessively on standardized test scores, to the detriment of educational values. Susan Fuhrman, president of the college, released a letter (covering numerous controversies at the institution) in which she defended the honor for Tisch. "I have been listening closely to objections by some about bestowing the TC Medal of Distinguished Service on New York State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch," Fuhrman wrote. "Let me assure you that our decision to bestow the TC Medal on Chancellor Tisch was made to recognize her body of work and leadership across a range of fields, including education, and does not constitute an institutional endorsement of specific decisions, opinions, or policies. The same standard applies to all of our medalists, and going forward we will broaden community involvement in the selection process."
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Tuesday revived a bias lawsuit against Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge that had been dismissed by a lower court. In the case, a woman passed over as police chief said she was denied the position of police chief based on illegal gender bias, and was retaliated against for raising complaints about her treatment. The appeals court said that there was sufficient evidence for a full trial on the case. For example, the court noted that her application received no response and that a man got the job, even though a college degree was a requirement for the position, she had bachelor's and master's degrees, and the man lacked a college degree. While LSU offered non-discriminatory reasons for her dismissal, the appeals court said that the evidence in its entirety was sufficient for the case to go forward.
While other colleges have cut adjuncts' hours to avoid insurance mandates ahead of the Affordable Care Act taking effect, College of DuPage is offering some adjuncts coverage under a new "lecturer" designation.
The number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities was 1.6 percent lower in 2011-12 than it was the year before, but the number of degrees conferred by those institutions was up 5.1 percent, new data from the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics shows. The statistics, published in a report that also presents data on tuition levels, show that colleges that award federal financial aid enrolled a total unduplicated headcount of about 29 million students in 2011-12, down from more than 29.5 million in 2010-11. The biggest drops came among public two-year (down about 250,000 students) and private for-profit (about 200,000 students) colleges, with public four-year universities gaining about 100,000 students and private four-year colleges up slightly. The declines for men and women were roughly proportional.
But despite the smaller pool of students, degree completion increased. The colleges awarded slightly more than 1 million associate degrees (nearly 8 percent more than in 2010-11), and nearly 1.8 million bachelor's degrees, 4.3 percent more than the year before.