Texas Dean Cites Campus Carry in Decision to Leave

Fritz Steiner is leaving his job as architecture dean at the University of Texas at Austin and is citing the new campus carry law -- which will allow guns in classrooms, among other campus spaces -- as a key reason, The Texas Tribune reported. Steiner will become dean of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design on July 1. He said he has turned down such offers in the past. "I would have never applied for another job if not for campus carry," he said. "I felt that I was going to be responsible for managing a law I didn't believe in."

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Essay on how to use promising student success strategies in a comprehensive, cohesive way

The college completion agenda has stalled. A decade in, a smaller percentage of first-time students are earning a degree or certificate.

It’s not for want of trying. Colleges have launched myriad programs aimed at ensuring students earn more college credits and degrees. We have rethought developmental education, revamped student services, bolstered tutoring and academic counseling, and launched student learning centers.

Yet it turns out that a piece-by-piece approach is not what benefits the largest number of our students. Many colleges have not been able to fully integrate their efforts across an entire campus or system. Community college leaders are recognizing that isolated efforts -- no matter how well intentioned -- will fail to comprehensively alter the institutional culture if not designed to move to scale from their inception.

This is consistent with a conclusion of Redesigning America’s Community Colleges: A Clearer Path to Student Success, just out this year. Pathways reforms -- often referred to as either “structured” or “guided” pathways -- have evolved from a solid base of research on what works, according to authors Thomas Bailey, Shanna Smith Jaggars and Davis Jenkins. But what often is missing is cohesion and integration. They call on colleges to “undertake a more fundamental rethinking of their organization and culture."

The current generation of pathways reforms has become the strategy of choice to address longstanding problems of completion, but many of these efforts suffer from the same omissions.

Pathways efforts include several key elements that help students gain traction toward degrees. Students typically receive orientation that includes an assessment of their career interests and academic and noncognitive needs. They choose and enter streamlined, coherent academic programs organized around specific program pathways -- a set of courses that meet academic requirements across a broad discipline grouping such as health sciences, business or education -- with clear learning goals aligned with further education and/or a career. Students’ routes through college have a mapped-out design, with course requirements made clear and visible. Pathways efforts also provide intensive student supports, such as academic advising and career counseling, and monitor student progress, providing frequent and customized feedback to learners.

Like the hodgepodge of pilot programs in previous rounds of community college improvement, these efforts won’t produce systemic change unless they are designed in an integrated, holistic way and colleges make the commitment to implement them at scale. Today, experts who have studied these initiatives around the country suggest that only a handful of campuses have introduced pathways efforts that are truly comprehensive.

The vast majority of these initiatives “are pathways in name only,” says Michael Collins of Jobs for the Future (JFF), an organization that has been studying pathways efforts through its role in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Completion by Design initiative. “All too often, what’s missing is an overarching vision that weaves together multiple interventions. Organizational culture change and holistic integration of programs must be at the heart of pathways.”

As Kay McClenney, senior adviser to the American Association of Community Colleges, observed, “There are some colleges that have mapped programs. But there is still so much work to be done. They still must grapple with questions about what their faculty recommend as the appropriate core courses. They need their faculty to determine the right math for their programs. They need to embed advising in the pathways. They need to integrate student supports so they are comprehensive and inescapable. They need to ask how to incorporate applied learning and co-curricular experiences.”

In other words, this takes years of work. A decade of experience shows that institutions that don’t focus on complete transformation see only short-term progress and find themselves far from achieving desired outcomes.

At my college, Davidson County Community College, we have learned through our participation in Completion by Design that effective pathways programs engage every part of campus -- including leadership, admissions, financial aid, registration, full and part-time faculty, student supports, and communications -- to ensure that every student benefits. The programs make sense to the students, and faculty and staff work collectively to support student success.

We also have partnered with our state colleagues to implement policies that support the success we are achieving at DCCC. North Carolina’s new multiple-measures placement policy, for example, allowed us to enroll students in college-level courses with instructional supports in ways that we believed would be more effective than our prior approach to developmental education. Similarly, the state’s new Comprehensive Articulation Agreement pushes colleges to design transfer pathways with clearly defined goals, courses guaranteed to transfer, alignment to university requirements and built-in guidance and advising.

As part of a new national task force on building pathways to credentials, my colleagues in the Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success at Jobs for the Future believe it is absolutely critical for institutions to create a vision of systematic, total transformation. Moreover, we must bring state partners with us, because policy (and funding) can make the difference between amplifying or undermining campus reform efforts.

The trust is made up of leaders from colleges and state systems. Together, we are exploring the state and federal policy levers that can help spread pathways reforms from a handful of colleges to the majority of colleges. We also will seek out ideas within the field on key policy issues, such as how to engage as leaders in institutional reform, how to equip our college leaders with change management skills, using incentives and improved financial aid to better support students, and ensuring that the pathways we build are based on what makes sense to students, rather than being dictated by the incongruities in federal education and workforce policy.

Community colleges have a great opportunity to redefine pathways from a host of successful pilots into a holistic, integrated program of transformation for our colleges to better serve 21st-century students. Experts point to evidence emerging from colleges such as the City Colleges of Chicago and the City University of New York.

CUNY’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program emphasizes enriched academic, financial and personal supports including comprehensive and personalized advisement, career counseling, tutoring, tuition waivers, transportation aid, and additional financial assistance to defray the cost of textbooks. A study completed last year by the research group MDRC found that after three years, ASAP has nearly doubled the percentage of developmental education students who have completed an associate degree: 40 percent of the study’s program group had received a degree, compared with 22 percent of the control group.

New pathways project grants recently announced by the American Association of Community Colleges aim to expand holistic pathways efforts even further. AACC will provide support, training and networking opportunities to 30 colleges already progressing on a pathways student success agenda with the goal of deepening their efforts and creating a model for the level of change management and leadership required. As these and other efforts take root, let’s make sure we don’t settle for reforms that are pathways in name only.

Mary Rittling is president of Davidson County Community College. She serves as the chair of the Building Pathways to Credentials Task Force of the Policy Leadership Trust for Student Success, a new initiative led by Jobs for the Future to advance state policy improvements for community colleges.

Professor Responds to Records Request by Posting Correspondence to Blog

A professor who says she’s an easy target for a think tank with ties to the conservative Charles Koch Foundation has responded to a voluminous open records request by sharing those records not only with the organization but anyone else who wants to read them. Laura Wright, the chair of English at Western Carolina University who vocally opposed the Koch Foundation’s proposed $2 million gift to establish a center for the study of free enterprise on campus, detailed the story on her blog, The Vegan Body Project. She also posted the 100 pages of emails requested by the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy: those with references to Koch, BB&T Bank (which has backed free-market-education initiatives on many campuses in the South) and Ayn Rand, whose books are required reading on other campuses that have made deals with BB&T and Koch to establish free-enterprise centers or programs.

Wright said via email that she thought her emails should have been protected, since her communication regarding the proposed center constitutes academic freedom. But because she had to release all of them, Wright said she wanted to make them available to the public, lest her words be taken out of context or otherwise used against her. “I just wanted to put everything out there along with the context for my statements, so that the full record would be available for anyone interested in the broader discussion,” she said via email. Many of the released emails include correspondence with local and national media on the proposed Koch gift.

Jay Schalin, a writer for the North Carolina-based Pope Center, which has loose ties to Koch, said he asked for Wright’s emails because he supports the proposed free-enterprise center. “I understand it to be a truly academic enterprise: the intent is to ‘study’ free enterprise, warts and all, rather than to be a one-sided cheerleader,” he said via email. (Note: An earlier version of this sentence misstated Schalin's first name.) “The contentious opposition to it by certain segments of the faculty made it a story-worthy event. … If it is acceptable to question whether the founding of a center is political rather than academic, it is equally acceptable to ask whether the opposition to the center is political.”

As for the status of the center, Bill Studenc, a university spokesman, said that it has been approved by the institution’s Board of Trustees, but at this point there’s no funding for it. The university is currently trying to address faculty concerns about academic integrity, articulated in a November Faculty Senate resolution against the center.

ACE Weighs in on Credentialing and Competencies

The American Council on Education on Thursday released two new papers that call for a less fragmented credentialing system in higher education and for better communication about the value of students' competencies. The group, which is higher education's umbrella organization, is hosting a live stream from an open meeting about the two papers on Thursday morning.

The range of credentials issued has grown in recent years, with more associate degrees, certificates and state-issued licenses being awarded.

“The diversity of credentials is not always meeting the needs of students, educational institutions and employers, and unfortunately the proliferation of credentials is causing confusion,” one of the papers said. “There is a lack of shared understanding about what makes credentials valuable, how that value varies across different types of credentials for different stakeholders, what constitutes quality and how credentials are connected to each other and to opportunities for the people who have earned them.”

In addition, ACE said students can benefit from more effective communication to employers about what they know and can do with that knowledge.

"Employers need to understand the competencies of applicants in order to make appropriate hiring and promotion decisions, thereby increasing the value and effectiveness of their organizations,” the second paper said.

Achieving the Dream seeks stronger faculty role in college completion agenda

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Faculty-led reforms may be the best way to improve graduation rates, according to Achieving the Dream, which is working to give adjunct faculty members a seat at the table.

U of Iowa President Criticized, Interrupted at Forum

In his first open forum as president of the University of Iowa, on Tuesday, Bruce Harreld was repeatedly interrupted, criticized and urged to resign, The Gazette reported. Many faculty members opposed his selection as president last year, saying he was unqualified, and the forum suggested he has not won many critics over. When he spoke at length before taking questions as expected, someone shouted, “Answer our freaking questions …. A town hall meeting is not a monologue.” Others shouted, "Questions, questions." When Harreld was asked questions, he didn't provide many answers, repeatedly turning questions around and asking people to help with whatever issue they identified. He also repeatedly said that the university needed new economic models to thrive. Many asked Harreld to resign, but he indicated that he has no plans to do so.

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In Bid to Save Money, Chicago State Kills Spring Break

Chicago State University announced Tuesday that it will eliminate spring break as part of a plan to finish the academic year before running out of money, The Chicago Tribune reported. Some public colleges in Illinois are struggling to maintain operations as they move toward the end of an academic year in which the lack of a state budget means they have received no funds from the state. Chicago State, with many low-income students, has indicated it may run out of money next month. Calling off spring break is part of a larger plan that will end the spring semester with graduation on April 28. The original schedule would have ended the semester May 13.

Stanford announces huge gifts and new efforts to attract best graduate and professional students

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University announces $400 million gift to help create $750 million endowment for program to attract the best talent from around the world.

Faculty Votes No Confidence in Board Chair of N.Y.'s Mount Saint Mary College

Citing longstanding concerns about academic freedom and shared governance under its current administration, the faculty at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., on Tuesday voted no confidence in Albert Gruner, chairman of the Board of Trustees. The faculty called for his immediate resignation from the board, saying his “unwavering support” of a former trustee accused of posting an anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim video on Twitter, along with “hostile confrontations” of faculty members, in particular, made him unfit to lead. The vote was 55 in favor and 10 opposed, with six faculty members abstaining. 

The college said in a statement that it "values all opinions and concerns. The trustees, like the president, are firmly committed to shared governance and recognize the important role played by the faculty, administration, and the board in advancing the college." Charles P. Frank, vice chair of the board, said in a separate statement that Gruner "used a reasoned and measured approach in his inquiry into concerns regarding a newly-appointed trustee. This is the manner in which a person with his fiduciary responsibilities should act. ...Throughout his tenure as board chair [Gruner] has always upheld the foundations of shared governance and the mission" of the college.

Registrars: Transcripts Can Cite Disciplinary Actions

Disciplinary actions typically are not included on students' academic transcripts. And since 1996, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) has said recording violations such as harassment, sexual misconduct, substance abuse or plagiarism on a transcript is not a recommended best practice. That stance has changed, however, the group said last week.

Colleges are feeling more pressure to include misbehavior and academic infractions on transcripts, the registrars' group said, citing recent campus violence as a primary driver. They also are feeling spurred to screen incoming students through the admissions process by asking questions about encounters with law enforcement, even if there was no conviction.

"With 23 shootings on college campuses in 2015 alone," the group said in a written statement, "public opinion on the notation of disciplinary action on transcripts is changing and changing fast."

Those practices remain far from the norm in higher education, however. Fully 95 percent of institutions said academic transcripts do not reflect students' probationary status for behavioral reasons, the group found in a recent survey. And 85 percent said their institution's academic transcripts do not reflect students' ineligibility due to major violations.

Yet two states -- New York and Virginia -- recently have passed legislation that requires the notation of disciplinary actions on transcripts, the group said, adding that federal action is possible.

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