Hiring Erodes Power From UMass Boston Chancellor

New details show the hiring of former Bowdoin College president Barry Mills to a top position at the University of Massachusetts at Boston earlier this month contributed to an erosion of power from the institution’s chancellor, J. Keith Motley.

Mills’s hiring to the newly created position of deputy chancellor and chief operating officer set up an unusual leadership situation at UMass Boston, which has struggled with financial difficulties and faculty unease even as it carries out wide-ranging construction projects. But a new report from The Boston Globe places Mills’s arrival in a sequence of events diluting Motley’s authority over daily institutional operations.

Motley’s contract expired in January and has not been renewed. Although he said he welcomes Mills and has no plans to leave UMass Boston, officials normally would negotiate a contract renewal six months before a deal expires. The Globe reported that Mills’s contract gives him the same powers as the chancellor and that he is in close contact with the University of Massachusetts system president and Board of Trustees, even though he reports to Motley. Mills does not receive the same pay and other perks as an institution leader, however.

Trustee Victor Woolridge, who chaired the Board of Trustees until this year, told the Globe that Mills was brought in to UMass Boston because “we think there’s some need for some help there.” Other trustees said they were increasingly worried administrators had not been dealing with financial problems quickly enough.

Officials also recently fired and replaced UMass Boston’s chief financial officer. The campus is struggling to close a deficit of as much as $30 million this year. Budget issues have prompted layoffs of adjunct professors and moves to cut nonessential travel and summer courses. Online database subscriptions have also been cut.

UMass Boston’s enrollment has declined, fund-raising has been falling, construction projects are late and financial reserves have dropped. The budget deficit of up to $30 million comes less than a decade after the institution posted a $20 million surplus in 2010.

Until recently, Motley was the UMass system’s only African-American chancellor.

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The NCAA women's basketball tournament, if academics mattered most

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Our annual look at who would win the NCAA's Division I women's basketball tournament if academics trumped athletic skill.

Wisconsin Halts Gender Reassignment Coverage

The State of Wisconsin Group Health Insurance is no longer covering procedures, services or supplies related to gender reassignment as part of its uniform benefits. The University of Wisconsin System shared news of the change, which was effective last month, with employees this week via email. Steph Tai, a professor of law at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, said the Committee for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer People in the University is planning a formal response to the change. A university system spokesperson referred requests for comment to state officials.

Wisconsin halted gender reassignment coverage for transgender state workers after a brief period of availability in January. The Group Insurance Board, which oversees benefits, decided in July to add coverage for transgender services this calendar year, according to guidance that the Affordable Care Act required such coverage, the Wisconsin State-Journal reported. But Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican, asked the board to reconsider, via the state Department of Justice. It said that providing transgender services was based on “unlawful” rules that “improperly interpret” Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit gender discrimination in education. A state consultant reportedly estimated that two to five people would have used the transgender services per year, at a cost of up to $250,000 annually in a $1.5 billion program that covers 250,000 employees and dependents.

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Presidents need wide range of skills, panelists at ACE conference say

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ACE panel participants say presidents need more skills than ever as the world changes around higher education.

Competency-Based Degrees for Federal Employees

Southern New Hampshire University will offer competency-based degrees to federal employees through its College for America, the university announced this week. The partnership with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management means all federal employees will be able to earn associate and bachelor's degrees from College for America at an annual tuition rate of $3,000. College for America offers degrees in health-care management, communications, general studies and management.

The nonprofit SNHU in 2013 was the first to gain federal approval for a form of competency-based education called direct assessment, which is self-paced and does not rely on the credit-hour standard. A handful of other colleges have followed SNHU and College for America with direct-assessment degrees.

"This alliance will open the doors to higher education for thousands of federal workers and their families and will allow them to develop skills that are immediately applicable in the workplace," said Paul LeBlanc, SNHU's president, in a written statement.

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Rubio Reintroduces Accreditation Bill

Senators Marco Rubio and Michael Bennet this week reintroduced a bill that would create an alternative accreditation pathway. The proposed legislation would give previously unaccredited institutions access to federal financial aid under a five-year pilot program. Providers, including new ones, would be eligible for aid through contracts with the U.S. Department of Education, but only if they can demonstrate quality through positive student outcomes, the two senators said in a written statement.

Rubio has been both outspoken and in the weeds with his interest in accreditation. During his recent campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Rubio called the current higher education system a "cartel" he would bust with an alternative accreditation pathway for high-quality, low-cost competitors. The return of the legislation he had proposed with Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, suggests that the Florida Republican will continue to push on the accreditation issue.

"America needs a 21st-century higher education system that embraces all the new ways people can learn and acquire skills without having to go the traditional four-year college degree track," Rubio said in the statement. "To modernize our higher education system, we must end the status quo accreditation system, which stifles competition, fuels soaring tuition costs and limits opportunities for nontraditional students, such as working parents. The alternative accreditation system we've proposed is built on higher quality standards and outcomes than the current accreditation system, and would mark an important first step toward shaking up a higher education system that leaves too many people with tons of student loan debt and without degrees that lead to good-paying jobs."

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Administrator Salaries Up 2.2%; Perks Decline

Pay rose and many perks fell for higher education administrators between the 2016 and 2017 academic years, according to a report released Tuesday by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

The median base salary of higher education administrators rose by 2.2 percent over 2016, CUPA-HR found in its “Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey” report. But the portion of universities offering full subsidies for perks such as housing, club memberships and vehicles fell. CUPA-HR said the decline in perks is likely due to cost-cutting efforts.

Administrators who have been in their current position for less than five years make higher salaries than those who have been in their jobs for longer, the report said. That could be behind a short overall tenure for administrators, which came in at four years.

The report’s other findings include that the median age for higher ed administrators is 53 years and the average tenure for a college or university president is slightly less than six years. That tenure is shorter than the tenure for CEOs in the private sector.

Deferred compensation and performance-based incentives became more popular for vice presidents. In the current year, 25 percent of vice presidents received deferred compensation, and 11 percent received performance-based incentives. That's compared to 13 percent receiving deferred compensation and 2 percent receiving performance based incentives last year.

CUPA-HR surveyed 1,125 higher education institutions, gathering data including 49,619 incumbents in 191 executive and senior-level administrative positions.

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New Higher Education Policy Group Forms

Higher Learning Advocates, a bipartisan policy-focused organization, announced its formation today. The nonprofit group, which is based in Washington, said its focus will be on advocating for federal policies that are "equitable, outcomes-based and focused on educational quality" to increase postsecondary attainment.

The Lumina Foundation has contributed start-up funding for the group, which will do policy research as well as advocacy and communications.

“Higher Learning Advocates is filling an important and unaddressed gap in the policy landscape,” said Julie Peller, the group's executive director. “Our focus is solely on reforming our nation’s federal policies to improve outcomes for today’s learners. We are bipartisan, strategically minded and are eager to roll our sleeves up and tackle these important and timely issues.”

The group's attempt to reach both sides of the aisle in Washington is reflected in its initial governing board (listed below), which includes some big names in higher education.

  • Margaret Spellings, president, University of North Carolina System, and former education secretary in the George W. Bush administration
  • George Miller, senior education adviser, Cengage, and Democratic former member of the U.S. House of Representatives
  • John Engler, retired president, the Business Roundtable, and Republican former governor of Michigan
  • Chris Bustamante, president, Rio Salado College and Maricopa Corporate College
  • Dewayne Matthews, fellow, Lumina Foundation
  • Kim Hunter Reed, executive director, Colorado Department of Higher Education
  • Teresa Lubbers, commissioner, Indiana Commission for Higher Education
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How to work with constituencies with conflicting demands (essay)

How can you as a senior administrator best handle situations in which you're caught between important constituencies with very conflicting demands? Barbara McFadden Allen, Robin Kaler and Ruth Watkins explore a hypothetical situation along those lines.

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Amid Controversy, Kentucky State Picks President

Kentucky State University's board voted Monday to name M. Christopher Brown the university's next president, The Courier-Journal reported. Many faculty members and others were unhappy with the search and questioned whether any of the finalists were worthy of leading the financially challenged historically black college. Brown has most recently been provost at Southern University.

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