Over the past few years, partisanship in Washington has grown to the point that few substantive bills become law. The partisan divide at times seems insurmountable. Immigration reform has a chance to be a rare bipartisan exception.
Our nation has long prided itself on being a land of opportunity for those seeking a better life. With time, however, our immigration system has broken down. The system neither fairly serves those who want to come here nor maximizes the economic opportunities that immigrants can provide for this nation.
Recognizing this, Congress may finally act. While the U.S. House of Representatives is still developing legislation, immigration reform is steadily moving forward in the Senate where a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" drafted a strong bill that is serving as the legislative foundation. The Senate is currently debating amendments to this proposal with a vote on the overall measure expected this week.
This bill deserves the full support of higher education because it presents an extraordinary opportunity for our nation, including colleges and universities whose missions to promote education, research and economic growth will be advanced with immigration reform. Those of us in higher education must seize this moment to urge our senators to pass this bill. While the situation seems ripe for agreement, we know far too well that even the smallest bumps in the road can cause this process to unravel. It’s critical to underscore that a well-stocked pool of talent at American universities will feed directly into American businesses and create new ones that will help power our nation’s economy forward. The more we collectively make the case for the economic benefits of reform, the better the chances for overwhelming passage.
The bipartisan bill moving steadily through the Senate is filled with an array of provisions that have been long overdue. The measure establishes an expedited pathway to citizenship for the children of undocumented immigrants. These young people are here through no decision of their own and 65,000 of them graduate from U.S. high schools each year. They should have a process in place to become citizens. And they also should have the opportunity to go to their states' public colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates at the state’s discretion while participating in federal student loan and work study programs. The Senate bill would make all of this possible.
The Gang of Eight and many others also recognize the economically self-defeating policy of training the best international STEM students at U.S. universities only to force them to leave for no reason other than a lack of employment visas. To fix this, the bill streamlines and expands the green card process and eliminates many of the current system’s worst features. To be fair, there are some further improvements the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) would still like to see made either through the amendment process now or in conjunction with action in the House, such as ensuring that agriculture, natural resource, and other science fields are included within the definition of STEM. Nevertheless, overall the provisions in the bill are a vast improvement from the current system.
And just as important as having the best and brightest students in our classrooms is having the top professors from around the world to teach them. APLU and our fellow higher education associations worked very hard to successfully secure an amendment to rid the bill of several bureaucratic hurdles that would impede some universities utilizing the H-1B visa process that authorizes such temporary work. As a result of advocacy efforts with federal relations officers of many universities, higher education associations, and the critical support of the Gang of Eight, the bill no longer places some universities within a suspect class of H-1B users considered H-1B skilled worker dependent employers.
Those opposed to immigration reform are aggressively working to derail any action. They are calling, e-mailing, tweeting, mailing, faxing, and doing everything they can to overwhelm House and Senate offices in order to block reform. To counter that, the higher education community must unite and let our lawmakers know that those other voices do not represent the majority of Americans.
The Senate bill includes most of the changes those of us in the higher education community have been seeking for the past several decades. Now that we find them included in a comprehensive immigration bill making its way through Congress we cannot allow this chance to slip away. Doing so is important for higher education, but most of all it is important for our country.
Peter McPherson is president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities.
Amid talk of outcomes-based education, a new report from the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences stresses the disciplines' role in long-term career success and international competitiveness.
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.
How is it possible for instructors in the liberal arts to teach most of the undergraduate classes in the typical institution and still feel like second-class citizens? Maybe that’s the source of the problem — teaching general education to all those majors in other colleges of a comprehensive university.
Liberal arts are important, particularly because they instill critical thinking across the disciplines. General education — cornerstone courses in English composition, economics, history, modern languages, philosophy, psychology and sociology — is an essential part of the college and university experience.
However, the aim here is not to tout the humanities and social sciences but to approach the issue of second-class citizenry from a curricular standpoint so that institutions realize the cost of general education and the toll it takes on low-paid colleagues, with little demand after graduation for their majors, including ones with advanced degrees.
In a 2007 piece about low salaries for history professors, Stanley Katz, president emeritus of the American Council of Learned Societies questioned whether (a) universities were "systematically discriminating against the humanities in setting compensation" and (b) the humanities were "a throwaway part of the faculty and curriculum, to be less valued than income-producing ideas and behaviors?"
We keep telling young Americans that a bachelor's degree in history is as valuable as, say, a chemical engineering degree — but it's just not true anymore. All degrees are not created equal. And if we — parents, educators, entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders — maintain this narrow-minded approach, then we are not just failing young indebted Americans and their families. We are harming the long-term vitality of our economy.
Last year the financial news outlet 24/7 Wall St. reported the best and worst college degrees, defining both best and worst by average salaries upon graduation. Predictably, the "best" majors in ascending order were "Physical and Related Sciences," "Computers, Mathematics and Statistics" and "Engineering," with annual salaries ranging from $80-91K. On the bottom in descending order were "Literature and Languages," "Liberal Arts and History," "Psychology" and "Visual and Performing Arts," with salaries from $50-58K.
The duties of liberal arts deans are more complex than those of any other university officer, including the president. They are tasked not only with overseeing a complex unit often the size of a regional university at flagship institutions; they also must rely on a budget model that rewards the number of classes and non-majors that they teach — rather than the popularity of their own majors — so that basic education can be vended to the masses.
At public research universities, this also requires huge graduate programs and ever larger classes. Thus, there is little incentive for liberal arts departments to focus on enrollment, recruitment and retention of their own majors.
Of course decreases in enrollment bring repercussions, as we shall see later.
To fulfill their mission, liberal arts deans have to ensure that their professors do not feel like second-class citizens, especially when it comes to curriculums. After all, faculty members own the curriculums and those in the liberal arts should be free to innovate and experiment with new courses just as their counterparts do in more specialized professional and technical colleges.
Sooner or later, however, the astute dean realizes that you can generally educate other majors only if you restrict curricular growth in the humanities and social sciences because the typical budget model will not allow you to teach non-majors and expand your degree programs.
At that point, most liberal arts deans fathom what they have gotten themselves into as they try to manage departments as diverse as African-American studies, anthropology, communication studies, creative writing, economics, English, French, German, journalism, Latino/a studies, music, Native American studies, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, sociology, Southeast Asian studies, Spanish, speech, technical writing, theater, and women’s studies. Add to that the advising office, the language lab, the multicultural center, the multimedia center, the writing center, the student newspaper and television station, and the multiple emphases, sequences, options, tracks and degrees associated with each of the above disciplines.
Unluckier deans also oversee colleges of liberal arts and sciences. So now add basic courses for all students in astronomy, biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics, each requiring adjuncts, support staff and assistants in addition to lab space for the entire institution.
The most unlucky liberal arts deans also are asked to house and advise all undecided majors, taking responsibility for what should be a university college. Now add assessment, recruitment and retention to the position responsibility statement.
Just as salaries in the humanities and social sciences lag behind others, liberal arts deans also typically earn less than their counterparts in other colleges. According to the 2012 survey of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, the average salary of liberal arts deans at doctoral institutions is $180,000, thousands below that of counterparts in agriculture; business; computer and information sciences; engineering; and veterinary medicine.
Small wonder, then, that liberal arts managers last only about 4-5 years in their positions while university presidents enjoy an average 8.7 years’ tenure, according to a study by the American Council on Education.
An article by Susan Resneck Pierce cites that study, emphasizing the exhaustive list of duties assigned to the dean of liberal arts and sciences at Lewis & Clark College, where she once served as academic vice president. The list required 216 words, condensed here to 52:
Inspiring leadership, progressive management, promotion of excellent teaching and research, development of external partnerships, articulation of institutional goals for growth, side-by-side fund-raising with the president, compelling visions to attract a wide array of donors, astute financial management skills, and leveraging of budgetary systems to enable long-term strategic planning.
Finally, the dean was expected to develop "the financial resources necessary" for the college to support the above aspirations.
Pierce concluded that these and "a myriad of additional reasons" explain why liberal arts managers usually are short-timers.
To teach all those majors in other colleges, armies of graduate teaching assistants are needed. That would be fine, except there are few jobs for many of those students once they earn advanced degrees. If you consider supply and demand, you quickly come to the conclusion that teaching assistants in the humanities and social sciences are needed from a job market perspective only while earning degrees, not afterward.
It gets worse. As professors in the liberal arts create new and narrower courses, programs and degrees, they must rely on adjuncts, those low-paid master teachers who take over classes that graduate students can’t and/or professors won’t do. Adjuncts, the real second-class citizens, have large teaching loads because so many are needed to cover curricular expansion.
All this worked out in the past before business-driven budget models were introduced, based on demand for a major, and before legislatures tightened appropriations. Add a recession to the mix and a mandate or two, as in this report by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, recommending lawmakers persuade colleges “to move beyond their traditional emphasis on a broad liberal-arts education to thinking more about skills for specific jobs.”
The result? When economic benchmarks are used, the humanities and social sciences are viewed as dispensable.
Often they become targets during reorganization when institutions eliminate departments and degrees because insufficient attention has been given to such considerations as curricular glut and declining levels of enrollment, recruitment, retention and placement rates. Other less controversial strategies can lighten the load of liberal arts management and create an even playing field for the professoriate.
Work with the dean. Faculty can streamline curriculums, ending sequences and eliminating most prerequisites so students advance more quickly in degree programs. Units can require lower and upper core courses on vital topics with all other classes as electives, rotating them every other year rather than offering them every semester. Professors should help with recruitment of students, increasing undergraduate enrollment to ensure that programs are viable. Faculty advising is essential in retention and placement efforts. Departments can require undergraduate plans of study so their students can finish degrees in four or fewer years and then promote graduation rates to build enrollment.
Consolidate departments. If faculty members fail to work with the dean, or if the budgetary situation warrants, it is preferable to consolidate departments and degrees instead of eliminating them. Rather than underwrite numerous academic units, administrations can combine them into schools of humanities and social sciences, thereby honoring tenure of professors. For instance, related academic units — ones that deal with society, say, such as cultural anthropology, political science and sociology — would combine within a collective structure requiring fewer chairs and support staff. Curricular streamlining is essential now, with cornerstone courses across disciplines and specializations in each major. Similar consolidation can be done with all or some of such humanities as history, English, modern languages, philosophy and religion.
Recreate university college. If your institution lacks a university college, create one for undeclared majors and locate support centers and laboratories there, along with reassigning to the new dean all responsibility for general education. If your institution has a university college, recreate it to handle general education and remove those responsibilities from colleges of liberal arts and sciences. Pay adjuncts well to teach those courses in the excellent tradition of letters. This will go a long way toward eliminating or reducing need for large graduate programs for which there is little demand after graduation. Over time, without graduate assistants, curricular offerings will decrease because someone has to teach all those courses. Faculty numbers and support staff can be adjusted to meet actual interest in the major, with increased research and grant expectations for continuing professors.
Reassign responsibility. Faculty senates can identify general education themes in the arts, communication, ethics, language, natural sciences, and society and then require deans of other colleges to provide them within their own existing curriculums. For instance, a philosophy requirement can be tailored for each college, from "Ethics and Engineering" to "Veterinary Medical Ethics.” Composition classes can focus on topics associated with each college, too, such as issues in agronomy, education, business and so forth. Granted, faculty senates would have to guard against program duplication, restricting these thematic areas only to general education, but deans of other colleges would relieve some of the burden from the liberal arts, again providing that even playing field so that graduate programs meet demand and all professors have similar teaching loads and research expectations.
The root of second-class citizenry is easy to discern. Liberal arts colleges are expected to provide two things while other colleges are not: their own pedagogies plus general education. There may be other venues to resolve this dilemma, but denigrating the liberal arts and their essential basic courses is not one of them. Rather, we should seek curricular and organizational alternatives to revitalize higher education, reducing budgets and with it, student debt, instilling new respect for the rigors, cost and value of general education and recruiting a new class of scholars with research and grant expectations as well as instructional ones.
Michael Bugeja is chair of the Contemporary Leadership Committee of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication.