The 10-person commission charged with plotting the future of the University of North Texas at Dallas released its recommendations Monday, largely backing a consultant's advice that the university focus on hybrid learning, minimizing the time to degree, and aligning courses of study with regional needs.
In 2011 the university commissioned 10 leaders from higher education, business, and local government, including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, to develop a strategy to expand the university from 2,000 students to 16,000 students while decreasing the cost of education and improving graduation rates. The Commission on Building the University of the 21st Century reviewed reports from the consulting firm Bain & Company, brought in on a pro bono basis in 2011 to suggest long-term plans for the 11-year-old institution, and from a group of faculty and staff who, critical of Bain’s analysis, drew up their own recommendations. While Bain advised increasing teaching loads and freshmen enrollment while decreasing the array of majors and integrating online courses, the faculty plan proposed focusing on transfer and underprepared students, developing a liberal arts core, and emphasizing research.
The commission’s recommendations, which its members will vote on Tuesday, largely fall in line with Bain’s suggestions. The 10 strategies the commission lists include developing hybrid courses that blend in-person and online instruction, increasing freshman enrollment, providing students with the option for year-round instruction, and working with local business leaders to develop degree programs that mesh with local workforce needs. The report states that the university will have a student focus and will value teaching over research, but acknowledges as one of its guiding principles, “Faculty play a key role in the success of students and UNT Dallas,” and suggests a comprehensive development program to engage faculty and staff in this “new model.”
A new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds a relationship between state appropriations cuts and tuition increases in public higher education. The report notes increased interest in the views espoused by critics of higher education that the availability of federal grants and loans has encouraged colleges to increase their charges. But the report looks at the tuition shifts since 2008, and finds that the greatest increases are in states that made the deepest cuts in spending on higher education.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is calling for public colleges and universities to offer students a four-year freeze on tuition, such that each entering class would be assured of paying the same tuition rate for the next four years, The Austin American-Statesman reported. He said this would encourage students to graduate in four years, and would help students avoid high debt levels. "If you get out of the University of Texas with a $50,000 debt, I don’t know if we’ve served you well," he said. In fact, student debt load at UT is not close to that level. Only about half of bachelor's recipients at the University of Texas at Austin borrow, and the average total debt for those who do borrow is just over $25,000.
The State University of New York has been pushing the idea of "shared services" in which various of the 64 campuses would seek joint contracts or combine functions to save money. Some pairs of campuses have decided that single administrators will perform jobs for both institutions, while many other campuses sought economies of scale with joint contracting. In the first year of the program, the system saved $6 million, SUNY officials announced Wednesday. The money was reallocated to academic instruction and student services, officials said.
The economy's impact on giving to higher education isn't always what one might expect, according to a new study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Using a national sample of colleges and universities, the study found a positive correlation between average income and house values in a state and donations by the people who live in that state. However, the study also found an increase in donations -- especially for operating budgets -- when a university suffers a "negative endowment shock." The latter finding appears correlated to increased efforts by fund-raisers during such periods, and suggests that donors respond to such efforts. The study finds that these donations may be a form of "insurance" against endowment declines.
Emory University on Friday announced a series of program eliminations, saying that it needed to focus resources on a smaller number of academic units. The university will close programs in educational studies, physical education, visual arts and journalism. In addition, graduate admissions will be suspended in Spanish and economics, pending a "reimagining" of the role graduate education at Emory will play in those fields. Tenured faculty members in the departments will be assured of their lines moving to other departments. But staff and non-tenured faculty members are expected to lose jobs, and their positions are guaranteed only for the current academic year.
A letter from Robin Forman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Emory, explained that "these steps are not in response to the deficit, and will play no role in reducing our expenses." Rather, the letter, said, "for the college to reach its intellectual goals requires more than simply breaking even; we must have the flexibility to make the investments that our aspirations require. All of the funds that will gradually become available through the changes I have described will be reinvested in the college, strengthening core areas and expanding into new ones."
California State University is planning to send letters to hundreds of thousands of applicants to the system's campuses, warning them that if voters in November defeat the governor's proposal to raise taxes, far fewer slots will be available, The Los Angeles Times reported. To drive home the point, Cal State has decided not to make admissions decisions until after Election Day. Typically, the university system starts admitting students in October. Anti-tax advocates are accusing the university of inappropriately campaigning for the governor's plan. But a spokeswoman for Cal State said that "we are just laying out the facts of what the budget is and what impact this will have on our budget."
Submitted by Kevin Kiley on September 13, 2012 - 3:00am
Concordia University-St. Paul announced Wednesday that it was dropping its undergraduate tuition and fees by a third for next year, joining a handful of institutions including the University of the South and the University of Charleston to cut their sticker price in the face of increased price sensitivity in the market. The sticker price for tuition and fees, currently set at $29,700, will be $19,700 next fall for all students, including those currently enrolled.
Administrators at Concordia said they were becoming concerned that students their traditional demographic -- middle- and lower-income students in Minnesota -- were ruling out Concordia as an option based on its price, despite the fact that after aid few students actually ended up paying that much. According to federal data, 99 percent of students at Concordia received some form of institutional aid.
Much of the student population at Concordia currently pays less than the new sticker price. The college's discount rate was 48 percent, meaning that students paid just over 50 percent of the sticker price on average. Concordia administrators said some revenue is likely to be lost by lowering the price, but that they hope to offset that by increasing enrollment.