administrators

Commission Report on Higher Education Financing

The University of Virginia's Miller Center and the affiliated National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education on Wednesday released a report making the case for how to best fund increased college credential production in the United States.

The Miller Center in 2014 created the commission with funding from the Lumina Foundation to develop recommendations for long-term, sustainable financial models for higher education. The commission, which was led by a bipartisan group of former lawmakers and college leaders, generated 10 white papers by higher education experts. For example, two of the papers called for more state support of public higher education to go to open-access colleges and need-based aid.

The commission's final report drew from the papers. It included nine recommendations:

  • Increase federal and state institutional support;
  • Enhance state revenue to support higher education;
  • Stimulate the development and implementation of low-cost education delivery models;
  • Encourage productivity in the postsecondary system;
  • Create incentives for students to graduate on time;
  • Help students and their families make better decisions;
  • Increase and reform financial aid to target low-income students;
  • Develop additional private funding;
  • Take advantage of private-sector programs.

"While the U.S. higher education system is still the envy of the world, the nation is clearly at a major crossroads given the increased income inequality and the fact that many workers feel left behind economically," Mike Castle, commission co-chair, former Republican governor of Delaware and former U.S. congressman, said in a written statement. "It is our hope that national and state policy leaders gain valuable insights and policy direction from our work to build stronger federal, state, business and higher education partnerships focused on higher degree and certificate attainment rates."

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Coach Accused of Battery Against Players

Indiana authorities have filed a misdemeanor battery charge against Sean Woods, men's basketball coach at Morehead State University, in Kentucky, after two of his players said he assaulted them during a game at the University of Evansville, The Herald-Leader reported. The university suspended Woods last month, but did not cite specifics.

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Professor Leaves California Due to Threats

The professor of psychology who was secretly videotaped talking about Donald Trump has left the state of California following a series of physical threats, The Orange County Register reported. Hundreds of people demonstrated at Orange Coast College for and against Olga Perez Stable Cox, the professor, this week, as her faculty union said her classes will be covered by someone else through the end of the semester. “Someone emailed her a picture of her house, with her address,” Rob Schneiderman, president of the campus's faculty union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, told the Register. Another email read, “You want communism, go to Cuba … try to bring it to America and we’ll put a [expletive] bullet in your face,” the newspaper reported.

A videotape of Cox saying in her human sexuality class after the election that Trump’s victory was an “act of terrorism” was shared on the campus’s College Republicans’ Facebook page last week and promptly went viral. Cox did not respond to a request for comment, but Schneiderman has said she was answering a question from a student. The context of Cox’s comments is not clear from the video itself. Two students in Cox’s class told the Register this week that Cox also asked students who voted for Trump to identify themselves. “She tried to get everyone who voted for Donald Trump to stand up and show the rest of the class who to watch out for and protect yourself from,” said student Tanner Webb. Schneiderman disputed the account, saying that Cox told the class some people would be happy with the election results, and asked students to stand up if they wished, after one student did so without prompting.

Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committee member from California and an attorney who is representing the Orange Coast College Republicans, has previously said he wanted Cox to apologize but now says singling out Trump supporters is grounds for possible dismissal. “That’s a deal breaker for me,” he told the Register. The college is investigating the matter.

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Four fundamentals colleges must communicate in the post-election era (essay)

In the wake of the presidential election, most analysts have concluded that the higher education community  was one of the biggest losers. American colleges and universities may offer the education the world desires, but people in huge swaths of the country perceive campuses as elitist and full of political views they reject.

The election results arrived, too, amid long-boiling cynicism and doubt about the value, and values, of our institutions. Even for students seeking degrees, the costs and debts have often become onerous, and the results -- notably the jobs -- are not always what have been promised. Now, exit polls say, the election has confirmed how differently college and noncollege graduates view just about everything.

We in higher education must address vital issues of access, cost and effectiveness (let alone widespread and brutal economic inequality). We must also reconnect who we are and what we do with our own campus communities and especially with America’s wider citizenry. But communication is especially fraught as postelection campus strife swirls, amid calls for sanctuary campuses, walkouts, hate speech and acts of violence.

Our institutions, aiming to serve outstanding talent wherever it is found, bring together human differences -- cultural, racial, economic and more -- that even in normal times invite tension. Day after day, in classrooms and residence halls, events and offhand conversations, diverse and changing generations wrestle with ideas that invoke all those differences. Even without postelection duress, conflicts over ideology, language, race, gender identity and every other complicated topic would be guaranteed. Throw social media into the mix and you have quite a brew. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like can turn campus struggles into national, and immediate, spectacles.

When such crises emerge, we must respond with speed -- and across numerous media simultaneously. But what do we say in those moments, and even more, over the longer term? Having worked in higher education, at both public and private institutions, since the administration of George H. W. Bush, I believe that four pillars must serve as the foundation of higher education communication in this postelection era.

First principles. Higher education is by definition about something, well, higher. Ideals that are the cornerstone of mission statements everywhere express a commitment to liberation of the mind, rigorous pursuit of the truth, skepticism about received wisdom, engagement in civic life, respect for freedom of speech, and the imperative of decency and character. These ideals connect colleges and universities to something greater in the human spirit than the pressures of the moment -- be they political, cultural or otherwise.

These ideals are largely American ideals, too. Especially when doubts are greatest and bigotry is rising, the vocalizing of those ideals must be steady. Through speeches, statements, emails to alumni, op-eds and other means, campus voices must convey and stand by them. Presidents, provosts and deans -- the academic leadership -- must take the lead, as some already have done forcefully since Nov. 8. That must spread and continue for months and years to come. Presumably we believe that, in difficult times, higher education has light to fight for, and to offer.

The academic core. The noble principles that our institutions profess are rooted in the belief that powers of the mind can bring us closer to truth, and therefore closer to those better angels of our natures that our missions promise to inspire. Reason, logic, analysis, accuracy -- colleges and universities are built around such qualities. Foregrounding what is essential seems especially critical when the difference between fact, falsehood and opinion is being muddied. But a cursory examination of much of our messaging will find other ideas prioritized: career value, community service, leadership development, economic impact. These are important, but they all depend upon delivering the academic mission first, and the rhetoric shouldn’t confuse what’s first and foremost.

Stories. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about human beings going back to our cave days, it’s that we’re fascinated with stories. We in higher education need to tell ours, specifically the ones that show why the ideals and academic mission of our institutions matter.

The election autopsy is making the case that elites too often talk past other people, but that argument isn’t only about the failures of ignoring economic pain or “flyover country.” It’s also about assuming that facts and data are sufficient for argument or advocacy. Our ideals need a down-to-earth life, because that is where they reveal themselves. If we’re going to make our missions real and honest, sound reasoning has to be paired with stories of the people who are affected by the ideals. Thankfully our resources for these stories, in the experiences of students and alumni, are virtually limitless.

A bigger audience. Four-year colleges and universities naturally spend most of their time communicating with people already in the same sphere: people on the campus, admissions prospects and alumni. But only a third of American adults have a four-year degree. If we’re not communicating regularly with the rest of the country, meaning the rest of the community around us, we actually are living in a bubble, just as critics allege.

There are numerous places through which to connect, including local civic clubs, shelters, hospitals, K-12 schools, churches, farms, small businesses, industry -- and local two-year colleges, too, where so many of tomorrow’s bachelor’s degree aspirants begin. This can’t only be through service work by students and others, either. It has to be through sharing ideas, listening and building understanding and relationships. The election has been an intense reminder of the vast gap that can exist between how people with a four-year degree and those without one experience the world. Higher education can do more to listen, learn, serve -- and bridge the divide.

The election makes clear the striking importance of reaching out -- and of how, how often and how extensively we do it. The stakes have become extreme for higher education, and more importantly, for our nation. Getting this right is crucial.

Pete Mackey led communications at such institutions as Amherst College, Bucknell University and the University of South Carolina and now runs the communications firm Mackey Strategies.

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Outrage in New Zealand Over Sexist Comments

Advocates for women in science in New Zealand are criticizing Chris Kelly, chancellor of Massey University -- and some are demanding his ouster -- over comments he made about female veterinarians, The New Zealand Herald reported. Kelly made the comments in an interview with Rural News in which he described how veterinary enrollments are now dominated by women. Here's what he said: "The problem is one woman graduate is equivalent to two-fifths of a full-time equivalent vet throughout her life because she gets married and has a family, which is normal." Kelly has since apologized, but many say that the attitude reflected in his quote is one that works against women in many science fields.

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College Can't Prove It Taught 16,000 Online Students

City College of San Francisco can't meet state requirements for proving that it educated 16,000 students online in recent years, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. As a result, the college must repay nearly $39 million to the state. Repaying those funds would be difficult for the college at any time, but may be particularly difficulty now as the institution is facing a severe financial crisis due to falling enrollment. No fraud is suspected in the case, officials said. Rather, the college just didn't have required record keeping and tracking in place.

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Education Secretary Drops Recognition of Accreditor

In an expected move, John King Jr., the U.S. secretary of education, on Monday made the Education Department's final decision to terminate its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). The council is a national accreditor that oversees 245 institutions, many of them for-profits, which enroll roughly 600,000 students and collectively received $4.76 billion in federal aid last year.

ACICS had accredited many Corinthian College locations as well as ITT Technical Institute. King, citing "pervasive compliance" problems, followed through on a federal panel's decision to nix the council for failing to protect students and taxpayers from fraudulent and underperforming colleges. The council had appealed that decision, which the department backed previously and confirmed with King's decision this week. In a written statement, ACICS said it would "immediately file litigation seeking injunctive and other relief through the courts."

The colleges accredited by the council have 18 months to find a new accreditor or risk losing access to federal aid. Many have been scrambling to be accredited by other agencies, particularly by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

In the meantime, the department on Monday said it was adding new conditions for ACICS-accredited colleges to remain aid eligible. Those measures include monitoring, transparency, oversight and accountability requirements. The department said the conditions "establish triggers tied directly to milestones in the accreditation process to ensure that institutions not on track to receive accreditation from a federally recognized accrediting agency within 18 months are subject to progressively stronger student and taxpayer protections."

Council-accredited colleges have 10 days to agree to the new conditions or they will no longer be able to receive federal aid. The colleges must submit teach-out plans as part of the department's terms.

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New presidents or provosts: Albright Central Arkansas Clinton Contra Costa Missouri Northwest Florida Pasco-Hernando Utah State

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  • Mun Y. Choi, provost and executive vice president of the University of Connecticut, has been chosen as president of the University of Missouri System.
  • Noelle Cockett, executive vice president and provost at Utah State University, has been selected as president there.

Feds Announce New Debt Collection Contracts

The U.S. Department of Education last week announced the seven companies it awarded new contracts for the collection of debt from federal financial aid. The seven companies, listed below, were selected from 48 bids, according to the publication insideARM.

Last year the department said five debt-collection companies had misrepresented borrowers in an attempt to get loans out of default. None of those five companies were awarded new contracts. The seven that did are Financial Management Systems Investment Corp., GC Services Limited Partnership, Premiere Credit of North America, the CBE Group, Transworld Systems, Value Recovery Holding and Windham Professionals.

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After the election, academics should pursue a form of radical dialogue (essay)

I am a professor of sociology who did not vote for Donald Trump, and I do not know of a single academic colleague who did. (And if they did, they are certainly not disclosing this in academic circles.)

I remember sitting with colleagues before the primaries when Trump was gaining ground. They laughed him off. They did not know anyone who would vote for him.

The pollsters got it wrong, too, and they all seemed to get it wrong in the same direction: in favor of established liberal Hillary Clinton. They are already writing about the statistical reasons this may have happened. I am going to set those aside for now to address a sociological, qualitative reason.

Sociologists have long studied the tendency of people to bond with others like them. Case in point: I love my academic colleagues because they are a lot like me. We are a group of passionate people who care deeply about the poor. And we are similar in other ways, too. We like to read dry academic articles and make arguments that contain the word “nuanced.”

And politically, many of us lean to the left (or even the far left). When I am with other sociologists, I tend to de-emphasize the things that are different about us and emphasize the things that are similar: I talk a lot about how my husband is an equal partner in care for our daughter, how I come from a biracial family and how I am raising my daughter in, as much as possible, a gender-neutral fashion.

That is starkly different from the way I was brought up.

I was literally raised on Podunk Road, where trailers and beat-up cars dotted the landscape. Our family was probably among the richest of a group of poor white people. Among those I went to school with, I am one of the only ones who attended an Ivy League school, Cornell University. I was likely let in under affirmative action because of a land grant that required the university to take in a proportion of local farm kids. I fit this description.

When I am with my colleagues, I talk less about how most of my family were church-going, card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association or how I still go to church every week.

The truth is, academics at elite institutions tend to be more liberal, less religious and more in favor of big government than the rest of the American population. Most of us would be hard-pressed to give a well-reasoned, conservative argument in response to any social issue. And more than one academic colleague has told me that if their neighbor had a Republican sign on his lawn, they probably would not make any effort to get to know the neighbor.

I join my colleagues in the fight against social inequality in all its insidious forms. But many academics like me have not spent much time trying to understand the groups of people who likely voted for Trump, nor have we spent much time trying to translate our academic work to these groups. And given the demographics of the United States, we forget that, for Trump to win, he needed to have some of the people whose interests I think his views work against actually vote for him -- including poor people, immigrants, women and Latinos.

For most academics, our candidate did not win the presidential election. We now face a crossroads. Will we lock ourselves in our ivory towers and face the outside world with cynicism? Or will we concede that our best social scientists got the prediction wrong?

Now is the time to move forward in pursuing a form of radical dialogue that we do not hear very often on university campuses. I would advocate that we move forward as leaders in listening to and learning from the entire world outside the academy. We need to live up to the best vision of the university, where everyone is welcomed to hear and be challenged by views different than their own.

Here are some concrete suggestions:

  • Challenge yourself to find the best voice on the other side. Academics are human, and it’s tempting when dealing with controversial issues to choose an unattractive opponent. I study religion, and I have heard many debates between erudite, attractive academics and inarticulate faith leaders. We must find the most attractive, well-spoken person on the “other side.”
  • Claim the best vision of the university as a protected space for dialogue. Each month, through the Religion and Public Life Program that I direct at Rice University, I host a discussion or reception for 20 to 30 religious and civic leaders at my home. In the midst of polarized faith communities and tensions between faith and secular communities, the leaders who come say that this is one of the few places in their lives where they have the opportunity to meet with someone who is different. I have seen conservative and liberal faith leaders, people who would never meet under another circumstance, come together around common social justice issues.
  • Claim a nonutilitarian vision of the university. Universities have fallen prey to business principles. Some of this is unavoidable as funding streams narrow. In its best form this utilitarianism is born from a desire to do work that really counts. But universities can be the soul of society. Sometimes we academics -- who are busy with committee work, raising funding for projects and getting out the last possible publication for the academic audience -- forget what a privilege it is (especially for those of us who have stable academic jobs and even stable academic jobs with tenure) to work in a university context where we get paid to do work that we love.

In its worst form, the academy is often rightly criticized as being in an ivory tower with no central importance to helping solve societal problems. But in their best form, universities can provide society spaces to stop and reflect. That is why, in particular, the modern university needs the humanities. In my university classes, I learned practical skills for a job, but the best classes I took were my history and philosophy and writing classes -- those that prepared me to think, reflect and appreciate beauty.

I write this from a sabbatical in France. I grew up among the rural poor, but I do not know many of them anymore. In the next few months, I will return to America, to reality and, I hope, to trying to understand this new reality and sharing that knowledge with my colleagues, students and the rest of the world.

The election has changed me. When I return I want to be a better teacher and do a better job incorporating views and traditions different than my own in my classes. I might spend more time trying to translate my work to a broader public that can benefit from it and from whom I can learn. When colleagues say things that cut off dialogue or say that certain views are not welcome, I might feel freer to gently challenge. I might spend more time in my community translating my work, and I might take my students with me. I might try harder to bring that community to campus. In the best case, the election provides a chance for the academy to reflect on itself and achieve a new vision of service to the broader society.

Elaine Howard Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences at Rice University, where she directs the Religion and Public Life Program.

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