The increased public focus on community colleges makes this a time for policy makers and others to gain a better understanding of the demographics of the institutions, according to a brief released Tuesday by the American Association of Community Colleges. Many assumptions that people have about college enrollment generally, or about community colleges, are out of date, the brief argues. For instance, many people assume fall enrollment figures are a good indication of total enrollment. But at community colleges, unduplicated year-round enrollments are on average 56 percent higher than fall enrollments. Including non-credit students would further add to the total.
An investigation by The Washington Post has revealed many millions in earmarks -- grants made by members of Congress to specific institutions, bypassing peer review -- that have gone to colleges that employ close relatives of the lawmakers who obtained the funds, or who have such relatives on their boards. For example, Representative Robert Aderholt, an Alabama Republican, helped get about $440,000 for the University of Montevallo while his wife was on its board. Or there's Representative Robert E. Andrews, a New Jersey Democrat, who won $3.3 million over the last 10 years for a scholarship program at the Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, where his wife is an associate dean in charge of scholarships. And Rep. Robert E. Latta, an Ohio Republican, co-sponsored earmarks worth $2.8 million for Bowling Green State University while his wife was a senior vice president there.
Stanford University announced Monday that it raised $6.2 billion between October 2006 and Dec. 31, 2011, shattering the record for the largest university fund-raising campaign in history and exceeding the university's original goal of $4.3 billion. Before Stanford's announcement, Yale held the record for the largest fund-raising campaign on record, raising $3.881 billion between 2004 and July 2011. Stanford's announcement even exceeds the largest announced goal, $6 billion, which the University of Southern California announced in August.
The $6.2 billion will go to fund cross-disciplinary initiatives in every area of the university, including more than 130 new endowed faculty appointments and 360 new fellowships for graduate students. Many large campaigns include gifts that are paid out over time, so it's particularly noteworthy that more than 80 percent of campaign commitments have already been fulfilled. The university has set up a website detailing what the money will be used for.
Every bowl season features pundits debating a playoff for big-time college football. But a more serious challenge may be emerging from the Big Ten. The Chicago Tribune reported that Big Ten officials are talking about a plan in which the top four football teams would be removed from the Bowl Championship Series, and would instead have a playoff. The semifinal games would be played at the higher seeded institution of the two pairs. The site of the championship would be bid out. The Big Ten idea emerges amid concern among many in college football about low ratings for this year's championship game and a noted lack of excitement among fans about many bowl games.
Paul M. Bobrowski, associate professor and former dean of the College of Business at Auburn University, in Alabama, has been named dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Dayton, in Ohio.
Jack Cline, assistant vice president for federal relations at the University of Massachusetts System, has been chosen as director of federal relations at the University of Kansas.
Thomas W. Durso, senior director of marketing and communications at Holy Family University, in Pennsylvania, has been appointed as associate vice president for college relations and marketing at Albright College, also in Pennsylvania.
Tracie MacMahon, vice president for marketing and client relations at the National Student Clearinghouse, in Virginia, has been promoted to chief operating officer there.
Chip Paucek, president and chief operating officer at 2tor Inc., in New York, has been named chief executive officer there.
Robert J. Pietrykowski, assistant vice president for human resources and chief negotiator at Cleveland State University, in Ohio, has been selected as vice president of human resources at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida.
The appointments above are drawn from Inside Higher Ed's job changes database. To submit news about job changes and promotions, please click here.
As the president of a small, selective – and, I hesitate to add, highly ranked – liberal arts college, I’d like to say that I’m surprised by the recent news that Claremont McKenna College has been submitting false SAT scores for incoming freshmen to, among others, U.S. News & World Report for the last six years. And I’d like to say that I believe that whatever the reason for the transgression, we can all rest assured that it’s an aberration, an unseemly and unfortunate action of a single bad actor – in this case a senior admissions official at what is clearly a fine college. Sadly, I can’t in good faith say either of those things.
We should have seen this coming.
But, as history has taught us, the tip of the iceberg is sometimes pretty easy to miss. And what’s below the surface? An entire panoply of sophisticated methods of gaming the system – all on the margins of acceptable practices and mostly, we hope, well clear of the boundary that Claremont McKenna crossed.
For instance, since some ranking formulas rely heavily on low admission rates as a measure of selectivity, it’s not uncommon for colleges to cast the broadest net possible when seeking applicants – with the certain knowledge that many of those applicants will not qualify for admission. Conversely, when calculating the percentage of living alumni who give, it makes more sense to cast a smaller net, leading to wildly different definitions of what constitutes “living” alumni, all for the sake of a higher level of alumni participation.
For years, those of us who are entrusted with the job of guiding places like Claremont McKenna or any other institution of higher education have been playing a dangerous game of chicken with college rankings. Few of us have any confidence in their ability to truly represent what we are all about, or gauge, in any meaningful way, our capacity to transform the lives of those we serve. Yet we – and I include Colby College – continue to participate. But why?
In part because we recognize that, much to our dismay, the college experience has been increasingly commodified over the last decade. Students and families turn to rankings in much the same way we peruse consumer guides before buying a major appliance, comparing models, makes, and features to determine – prior to our actual use – which one will suit us best. In some ways, the White House’s recent proposition to create “easy to read” scorecards for colleges is a logical – and, I would argue, unfortunate – evolution of this process.
But we also participate – and this admission makes me a bit squeamish – because of the tremendous risk inherent in not doing so. It's one thing to believe, as I do, that the tangible difference in being ranked, say, 9th or 29th, is meaningless, and that for many students, the likelihood of personal success has nothing whatsoever to do with rankings of their college. But I’m also sure that, absent collective action, any college that opts out of the rankings game invites potentially negative outcomes. And, as those who have been entrusted to safeguard both the present and the future of the institutions we serve, that’s a risk that few presidents or boards are prepared to take.
Or are they?
Perhaps the time has come for us to admit that we are trying to work within a system that substitutes measures of inputs – how many volumes are in the library, for example, for measures of outcomes – how many graduates have gone on to become useful, productive, and engaged citizens in their communities.
Perhaps the time has come for us to admit that we are trying to work within a system that encourages us to skew our work toward improving our performance in the rankings rather than focusing on our core educational missions; deploy teams of people to squeeze each ranking data point until it screams, rather than take all possible measures to find students who seek – and will truly benefit from – the distinctive experience we each have to offer.
And perhaps the time has come to admit that we are trying to work within a system that is such a powerful corrupting influence on us all that it has the power to make a senior official at a college like Claremont McKenna take the catastrophic professional and reputational risk of fudging SAT data to make already outstanding students look just a shade better.
It’s time for us to take collective action. To speak loudly and clearly and in a single voice that we will not participate in that kind of system.
We could, as Colby and many other colleges have already done, pledge to no longer use rankings to promote ourselves. But, as well intentioned as these efforts are, they have done little to mitigate the influence of these instruments. Suppose every college in the country stopped participating in these ill-defined measures of quality? And suppose we found new ways to collaborate with those who would rank us, ways that generate information to better help prospective students and their families make an informed decision?
And finally, suppose we all agreed to reclaim our integrity by not playing along with a system that both encourages and rewards deceit?
Now THAT would be surprising.
William D. Adams is the 19th president of Colby College, in Waterville, Maine.