Author discusses his new book, 'The Political Economy of Higher Education Finance'

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Author discusses his new book on the politics of tuition policies in OECD countries.

Nebraska President Defends Athletes' Protest

University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds on Tuesday defended the rights of three football players on the University of Nebraska at Lincoln team who dropped to their knees during the playing of the national anthem on Saturday. Bounds said that he "completely opposes" any limits on the athletes' right to protest, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported. The athletes joined in a growing national protest in which athletes do not stand for the national anthem as a protest over police shootings of unarmed black men. Since Saturday's game, a member of the university's Board of Regents has criticized the protest and suggested that those who joined should not be on the football team. Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has called the protest "disgraceful and disrespectful" but said that the players had the right to protest.

Michael Rose-Ivey (right), one of the football players, spoke about his decision, and published a transcript of his remarks, in which he responded to the backlash against the protest.

"As we looked at what's been going on in this country, the injustices that have been taking place primarily against people of color, we all realized that there is a systemic problem in America that needs to be addressed. We felt it was our duty to step up and join the chorus of athletes in the NFL, WNBA, college and high school using their platforms to highlight these issues," he said. "We did this understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn't expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans, members of the media and others about the method of protest. While you may disagree with the method, these reactions further underscore the need for this protest and give us just a small glimpse into the persistent problem of racism in this country and the divisive mentality of some Americans. To make it clear, I am not anti-police, I am not anti-military, nor am I anti-American. I love my country deeply and I appreciate the freedoms it professes to afford me."

Federal Court Blocks Penn State U Hospital Merger

A federal appeals court this week overruled another court's ruling that would have allowed a merger between the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System, a private hospital operator. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Pennsylvania's attorney general have opposed the merger, citing monopolistic concerns. A district court had denied the FTC and the AG's office's request for a preliminary injunction to block the merger, saying the legal challenge failed to properly define the relative geographic market the merged hospitals would serve. The appeals court, however, reversed that decision, saying an injunction would be in the public interest.

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No Punishment for 'Run Them Down' Tweet

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will not punish a professor of law and well-known conservative blogger for his controversial tweet about the recent Charlotte, N.C., protests. Melanie D. Wilson, dean of Tennessee’s law school, said last week that she was investigating Glenn Reynolds's suggestion that motorists “run down” protesters blocking traffic. In a statement Tuesday, Wilson said she'd wrapped up that investigation, via “an examination of the facts, policies in the university’s Faculty Handbook and the law.” Wilson also discussed the tweet with Reynolds, university leaders and Tennessee’s general counsel, and sought feedback from faculty members, staff students and alumni, she said, before determining that “no disciplinary action will be taken.”

While Reynolds's tweet was widely criticized as inciting violence, many free speech advocates argued that an investigation that could result in a sanction was unwarranted.

“The tweet was an exercise of [Reynolds’s] First Amendment rights,” Wilson said. “Nevertheless, the tweet offended many members of our community and beyond, and I understand the hurt and frustration they feel. … We will now move forward to rebuild our law school community and refocus on our primary purpose: educating future lawyers and leaders.” She added, “Only by coming together as a community in thoughtful and constructive dialogue can we ensure that [the law school] -- and the university overall -- is a supportive, collegial community of scholars and lifelong learners.”

Reynolds, Beauchamp Brogan Distinguished Professor of Law at Tennessee and moderator of Instapundit, responded last week to a tweet from a local news station about protesters blocking traffic with the words “Run them down.” He issued a separate apology Tuesday to the law school. One “of my 580,000 tweets blew up,” Reynolds wrote. “I try to be careful and precise in my language. I didn’t do that this time, and I unfortunately made a lot of people in the law school community sad or angry, something I certainly didn’t mean to do, and feel bad about.”

Reynolds said he was “following the riots in Charlotte, against a background of reports of violence, which seemed to be getting worse.” While the words “run them down” can “be taken as encouragement of drivers going out of their way to run down protesters,” he said, “I meant no such thing, and I’m sorry it seemed to many that I did. What I meant was that drivers who feel their lives are in danger from a violent mob should not stop their vehicles. … My tweet should have said, ‘Keep driving,’ or ‘Don’t stop.’ I was upset, and it was a bad tweet.”

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Parents More Optimistic About Paying for College

More parents are saving money for college, according to the latest installment of a national survey conducted by Sallie Mae, the student lender. They're also saving more money and are more confident about their ability to pay for college, the survey found. For example, 55 percent of parents say they are confident they can meet the future price of their children's college education, up from 42 percent last year. Parents on average have saved $6,000 more for college, with an average of $16,380, compared to $10,040 last year.

Millennial parents (defined as age 35 or younger) are more committed to saving for college. The survey found that more millennial parents are saving more for college than their Generation X and baby boomer peers. They also are more likely to say that parents should be solely responsible for paying for college (38 percent of the survey's respondents) compared to 26 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of baby boomers.

Redesigning college processes with the student in mind (essay)

Even the most well-intentioned colleges and universities have a hard time figuring out where to start on the path to improving student success and completion. Financial incentives that keep students on track toward graduation have, in many cases, proven effective, but they often don’t scale in an era of tight budgets. Emerging technologies promise transformation, but they can fall short in a world where financial or organizational challenges tend to stymie implementation.

As it turns out, the road to innovation is lined with real-world hurdles. Initiative fatigue abounds. And all too often, fiscal and organizational barriers can win the day when colleges and universities consider doing something new.

But what if colleges and universities flipped that model on its head? What if the most successful initiatives started with doing less, not more? Can colleges and universities drive outsize gains without spending any money or imposing new responsibilities on faculty and staff members?

Savvy colleges and universities are doing just that, by embracing basic engineering strategies like design thinking or process mapping. Process mapping, as the name suggests, entails mapping out an institutional process from start to finish. The goal is to understand processes from the perspective of the person encountering a product or service -- in the case of higher education, students. It requires institutional leaders to ask, “How does a student engage with our college or university when trying to do X?”

The exercise is inherently empathetic -- it demands that administrators and faculty members put themselves in students’ shoes. And it guarantees, at the very least, greater self-awareness and knowledge of pain points and hurdles that students experience and that need to be removed.

Underlying this approach is a somewhat controversial premise: colleges and universities were not, historically, designed around the needs of students. Like those in charge of many organizations that evolve to meet new demands, well-meaning administrators and faculty members have put processes into place with an imperfect understanding of the user experience. Most campuses have unintentionally put the onus on the students to navigate the complexity of a college campus. When you start looking at problems from that perspective, design flaws leap out.

As consumers, we expect that retailers or service providers have designed the experience around the customer. We become frustrated when things are counterintuitive, bureaucratic, slow, difficult or painful. So why should we tolerate flawed processes that frustrate our students? If colleges and universities really want students to complete their degrees, why is it up to students to let the university know when they are ready to graduate? And why should the students then have to apply to graduate -- and often pay a fee?

Process mapping allows the university to identify and confront the roadblocks for students and then work to remove them, yet it also reveals where faculty members, advisers and administrators are encountering inefficiencies and unnecessary work.

In fact, some of my favorite examples of campus transformation began with process mapping.

Georgia State University has used process mapping to better understand how the university communicates with students, mapping out every email, letter and call that students receives from dozens of offices across campus from the time that students first apply through the end of their first semester. The results of the exercise -- showing an overwhelming stream of often repetitive, conflicting and uncoordinated messages -- inspired the university to better organize how it orients news students and how it explains the choices that they face.

Those insights, in turn, led to more substantive changes -- changes that helped them transform the institution into a national model for student success, eliminating race and income as a predictor of academic outcomes. For instance, university administrators saw how freshmen immediately upon enrolling were expected to make a choice between dozens and dozens of majors, an overwhelming and stressful experience with students too often feeling pressure to make ill-informed decisions. Instead, they paired down the initial choice into seven “metamajors,” or broader-themed categories of study, to give students an opportunity to explore and discover during their first year of college. That small shift has led to a decline of more than 30 percent in the number of changes in major among students at Georgia State -- saving students both time and money in earning their degrees.

Georgia State’s success inspired Michigan State University to bring together representatives from across the campus to map all the ways the university interacted with students from the time they were admitted to the end of the first semester. They discovered that each new student was being barraged with about 400 emails from admissions, financial aid, the registrar’s office, student life, housing and residence life, academic advisers, the student accounts office, academic colleges, and more. The process mapping team found messages that were redundant, that could have been delivered in a different format or that could have been delayed so that other, more critical communications would get noticed.

The campus was overwhelming new students with noise during the time when they really needed clear and thoughtful guidance. That was especially problematic for first-generation and low-income students, who often lack external support in navigating university processes.

The team at Michigan State immediately started work on identifying ways to streamline, prioritize and redesign their interaction with students to be particularly sensitive to the needs of low-income and first-generation students. Financial aid communications now take priority for new students, while notices about extracurricular activities like intramural sports or clubs can wait until students arrive on the campus.

In the past, students who ended up on academic probation at the end of their first semester would receive four different emails from four different people. Now, Michigan State sends one email with clear information about how the student should seek academic advising help and get financial aid questions answered. Viewing the institution through the eyes of the students has allowed Michigan State to find new ways to help students who are at risk of going off track just out of the gates.

Most higher education institutions can benefit from a similar exercise. I have never found a campus that is too self-aware of how they impact their students, faculty members and administrators. Process mapping takes very little time and no additional financial outlay. The team at Michigan State, for example, was able to convene over the course of a day to map out the various communications students were receiving and, in the following weeks, agree upon which messages would be prioritized in the admissions-to-enrollment process.

Process mapping isn’t limited to enrollment and admissions. Colleges and universities can also use process mapping to examine a wide variety of operational challenges, such as course scheduling bottlenecks, barriers to graduation or the delivery of nonacademic student support services. Process mapping can also help the university ensure that students from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and supported on the campus.

Change doesn’t have to be complicated. The harder we make it to change, the less likely it is to happen. If you are asking yourself where to start working to improve student success, a simple exercise like process mapping is the right answer.

Bridget Burns is the executive director of the University Innovation Alliance, a national consortium of large public research universities collaborating to improve outcomes for students across the socioeconomic spectrum through innovation, scale and diffusion of best practices.

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University of Colorado regent election could have major impact

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The University of Colorado's board hangs in the balance as candidates debate funding, climate change and academic freedom in hopes of winning election.

New film aims to portray fraternity in realistic -- and disturbing -- fashion

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The film Goat depicts fraternity hazing at its most brutal, raising hopes that there could be cultural shift away from making light of the behavior. 

Minnesota Students Walk Out in Support of Adjuncts

Hundreds of University of Minnesota students walked out of classes and rallied at the Twin Cities campus Friday in support of non-tenure-track instructors trying to unionize. “This is so important because when faculty that are teaching me are exhausted, overworked, underpaid and they’re having to worry about maybe even taking up other jobs outside of that, that puts a strain, and they’re unable to really focus on the curriculum and us as students,” Irina Barrera, a student protester, told ABC News. State labor officials said last week that adjunct and tenure-line instructors can hold an election over whether to form a joint union affiliated with Service Employees International Union, despite university arguments that the two groups did not share significant interests. A student group called Differences Organized planned the walkout. 

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GI Bill Benefits and ACICS Colleges

Military and veteran students who attend colleges that are accredited by the Accrediting Council of Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) should be able to continue receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to attend those institutions, at least for another 18 months. 

The U.S. Department of Education last week said it would back a federal panel's decision to eliminate ACICS, a national accreditor that oversees 245 colleges that collectively enroll roughly 600,000 students. The accreditor also is the gatekeeper for federal aid at 700 GI Bill-approved programs, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs said last week in an email to students who are enrolled in those programs. However, the U.S. Congress has passed legislation to allow GI Bill recipients to continue attending ACICS-accredited colleges. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

"At this point nothing changes for you for at least the next 18 months," said Curtis Coy, deputy under secretary for economic opportunity at the VA, in the email to students. "We would, however, suggest you may want to re-evaluate your educational goals and decide that your current school and program will either meet your need for the next 18 months or that you may want to consider other options, courses and/or schools."


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