Academic administration

The IAFOR Conference for Higher Education Research – Hong Kong 2018

Date: 
Fri, 10/19/2018 to Sun, 10/21/2018

Location

8 Castle Peak Road, Tuen Mun, Lingnan University
Hong Kong
Hong Kong S.A.R., China

Academic Technology Administrators Conference 2018

Date: 
Mon, 06/25/2018 to Tue, 06/26/2018

Location

730 High Street Lafayette College
Easton 18042
United States

How to dismantle the workings of whiteness and redistribute power in academe (opinion)

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz explores how to begin to dismantle the workings of whiteness and redistribute power dynamics in academe.

Section: 
Editorial Tags: 
Show on Jobs site: 
Is this diversity newsletter?: 
Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 
Disable left side advertisement?: 

City Colleges of Chicago discounts tuition for part-time students

City Colleges of Chicago looks to create fairer tuition system by decreasing the rate for part-time students, but some worry the changes could weaken an incentive to go full-time.

Colleges start new academic programs

Colleges should consider halving the gen-ed curriculum requirements (opinion)

On my campus, as very likely on yours, we’ve recently emerged from a difficult if not well-intentioned struggle over deep general-education revisions. Raised on a Midwestern farm, I confess to being of a don’t-fix-it-if-it-ain’t-broke mind-set, but even I can admit the old-fashioned distribution model baked into our gen-ed curriculum had grown a bit moldy around the edges. While we ultimately decided on a new nexus model more relevant to a digital age, the battle left me asking why gen ed itself wasn’t on the cutting board.

It sounds heretical, perhaps especially to me, a faculty member based in the humanities, but it’s been my observation over the years that the unquestioned and often outmoded fixtures that institutions fight to preserve are sometimes those that have the weakest rationales, which may explain our sensitivity and defensiveness where they are concerned. Just as travel agents once fought bitterly to keep their monopoly against the rising threat of internet-based travel bookings, and defensive real estate agents brought out the heavy artillery in an attempt to defeat the creeping threat posed by online for-sale-by-owners, it’s worth asking if America’s colleges and universities need struggle so desperately for the 40 to 60 gen-ed credit hours they often require.

Even a 40-credit-hour requirement, for example, amounts to one-third of many students’ total required credits, or roughly the equivalent of one to one and a half years of tuition. Given the College Board’s calculation that average tuition and fees for the 2017-18 academic year averaged $34,740 at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities, the cost to complete a general-education program could be in excess of $50,000.

The math is imperfect, but it still raises the question: As important a contributor to civil society as gen ed may be -- and as emotionally tied to its long-standing virtues as many of us are as teachers, scholars and mentors -- can we adequately justify its hefty price tag to our most financially needy advisees, many of whom are working one and sometimes two part-time jobs to help foot the tuition bill, to say nothing of room and board?

A product of a humanities education and a liberal arts professor myself, I can easily articulate the time-honored virtues of general education: it creates better-rounded individuals, develops more engaged critical thinkers and citizens, builds common cause and community around a shared set of concerns, and so on. But during an era of record student debt and continuing retention and demographic challenges, it’s worth asking whether we might find ways to reduce gen-ed mandates by half. Putting gen ed on a diet may enable some students to graduate a term, if not a year, early, thereby lessening the debt load they carry into a difficult job market.

Making gen ed lean wouldn’t necessarily mean surrendering our most sacred outcomes -- writing, critical thinking, scientific and mathematical literacy, physical education, service learning, and community engagement -- but better incorporating those outcomes into existing majors. For example, suppose a new, streamlined gen-ed package required one rather than two composition classes, while asking students to enroll in a writing-intensive course within their major or minor to make up the difference. Granted, such hybrid intensives may prove more difficult to administer and staff, but their necessary economies would no doubt stimulate and incentivize interdisciplinary invention.

For example, I know a senior mathematics professor who piloted a course in the mathematics of square dancing. While even he would admit the course presented students quantifiably more mathematics than physical education, its innovative transdisciplinary curriculum got students moving, thinking and quantifying, all while tapping their toes.

While far from a panacea, and problematic in their own right, internships, co-ops, student-faculty research, undergraduate theses, student teaching, study abroad and other substantive outside-of-class commitments could, if properly sanctioned and supervised, help students acquire core competencies in areas like writing, communication and quantitative reasoning. Why couldn’t more established internships with proven corporate and nonprofit partners be preapproved to meet a gen-ed requirement? Rather than charge students a full three or four credit hours of tuition for an internship taking place off campus that requires little if any on-site faculty supervision, low-overhead credits like these could be offered at a discounted rate. Or, as an alternative, corporate internship sites could compensate students for a portion of the tuition cost incurred in return for their labors.

Before we devote scarce faculty and administrative resources to building a bigger, better, more enlightened mousetrap, perhaps it’s time to set students free by reducing gen ed’s appetite for increasingly expensive credits. Yes, we must be careful, lest, like the travel agents of yore, we argue ourselves right out of a job, but surely we can acknowledge that enlightened self-interest has limits. The credit-hungry gen-ed revision packages under consideration at so many campuses this academic year may be giving faculty a free pass on necessary innovation and needlessly harming students’ pocketbooks while damaging something far more valuable: their good faith.

Zachary Michael Jack is an associate professor of English at North Central College, where he is a member of the Leadership, Ethics and Values faculty.

Editorial Tags: 
Image Source: 
iStock/retrorocket
Is this diversity newsletter?: 
Disable left side advertisement?: 
Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Summit on the Credentialing Economy

Date: 
Thu, 06/07/2018 to Fri, 06/08/2018

Location

1825 Connecticut Avenue NW 8th Floor (FHI 360 Conference Center)
Washington , District Of Columbia 20009
United States

Author discusses her new book about how U.S. laws led to growth in female enrollments

Author discusses her new book, which argues that federal laws that weren't focused on gender led to rise in female enrollments in higher education.

Why the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point plans to eliminate certain traditional liberal arts majors (opinion)

How can you be a university without a major in history?

We field this kind of question frequently at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. In March, we released curricular recommendations designed to repair our budget and stabilize enrollment. The proposal, Point Forward, called for the elimination of numerous majors in the traditional liberal arts, a greater emphasis on career-focused programs and the reimagining of our core liberal arts curriculum.

Since then, we have received a flood of messages from students, faculty members, alumni and scholarly organizations across the country. Some of them ask about process, wondering why we made recommendations suddenly and without stakeholder input. In fact, we discussed these issues for years. Others suggest there must be alternatives to eliminating underenrolled majors. I wish there were; we have tried nearly everything else. A small but growing number of people express sympathy with our dilemma, placing responsibility on the decades-long erosion of public investment in higher education. They are correct.

Set aside such issues for the moment. More interesting are the numerous messages wondering how we can be a university without majors in the traditional liberal arts. Are we not becoming a trade school, abandoning enrichment of the mind in favor of training in workplace skills?

These perceptions result from misunderstanding. Far from eliminating liberal arts disciplines, our proposal aims only at full majors. In fact, we are fighting to preserve as much as 80 percent of our faculty and curriculum in these areas -- and not just through general education but in refocused majors and minors with upper-level courses offering genuine opportunities for deep engagement in the liberal arts. Equally important, our baccalaureate degrees in natural resources, health, business, education and the performing arts -- the majority of degrees we offer -- are hardly narrow or technical.

But set this aside, too. Implied in the claim that “abandoning the liberal arts” means we “cannot be a university” are assumptions worth examining. Most students at UW Stevens Point do not choose to major in the traditional liberal arts disciplines. In fact, many universities already do not offer some of these programs. Within the University of Wisconsin System alone, four universities lack full majors in philosophy, three in sociology and four in Spanish. One of the founding tenets of the UW System was the idea that each campus would have a distinct program array defined by its select mission. If our current proposal takes this concept seriously, do we really cease to be a university?

Reading these comments as an environmental historian, I’m reminded of American attitudes toward wilderness. Few people choose to live in the wild, and most visit only rarely. True wilderness is uncomfortable and the Wi-Fi is terrible. Instead, most Americans seem content just knowing that wilderness is there, a notion that celebrates a romanticized frontier that never existed. Similarly, the implicit message from some of our critics is: it’s OK if your students major in finance, health science, and resource management; we just need to know that a philosophy major is there. This feeling, too, derives from false nostalgia -- specifically, for the idea that regional public universities can be smaller versions of research institutions. During the 1950s and 1960s, an aberrational moment in higher education when students and funding were plentiful, institutions like UW Stevens Point could afford to launch majors in the traditional liberal arts. Today, everything is different.

The inability to acknowledge this reality is deeply rooted in academic culture. Take the numerous condemnations we received from scholarly organizations asserting that without majors in their respective liberal arts disciplines, our university will lack something fundamental. “Elimination of the history program,” reads the letter from the Organization of American Historians, “means the elimination of a university’s capacity to teach … critical life skills.” Really? No one would dispute that every graduate should have meaningful courses in history. As the letter noted, “History is the discipline dedicated to studying the past … [and is] essential to navigating rapid economic transformation, international crises, epidemic disease, political gridlock and myriad other modern challenges.” I agree. I want every student in our College of Natural Resources to have a course in environmental history. But to conflate this with needing to preserve a history major seems disingenuous.

Here we encounter the elephant in the room in our current dialogue about the liberal arts and the meaning of a university. If the majority of students in universities today encounter these traditional disciplines, not as majors but only through general-education programs, should we not direct our attention there? The need for new approaches to general education has long been evident, and many institutions have sought meaningful change. Yet many such efforts, including ours, have run aground due to structural impediments rooted in our conflation of the narrow role of liberal arts majors with the much broader and more vital role of these same disciplines, a dynamic that stifles curricular innovation.

Too many general-education programs rely on courses that are introductions to liberal arts majors, even as they enroll primarily nonmajors. This double duty leaves the majority of students wondering why they must take such classes and hoping only to “get them out of the way.” Too many general education programs spark battles over department “turf,” elevating the protection of student credit hours, budgets and faculty positions above thoughtful consideration of student needs in shaping curricula. As a result, too many general education programs have little purposeful cohesion and little relevance to the majority of students. Given that most universities assign one-third of the courses required to complete a baccalaureate degree to these core curricula -- and given the tuition we charge -- is it any wonder that students resent the cost of higher education?

Our aim at UW Stevens Point is to fix this problem, to look beyond a set of majors that serve roughly 6 percent of our students and ask how the disciplines of the liberal arts can better educate everyone. Do we lose something in this equation? Absolutely. The loss is real and should be debated in the context of urging greater public investment in higher education. Will we cease to be a university? Of course not. In fact, if we succeed in making the liberal arts more relevant and available to the majority of students who never major in these disciplines, we will be a stronger university indeed.

Greg Summers is provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point.

Section: 
Editorial Tags: 
Image Caption: 
University of Wisconsin Stevens Point
Is this diversity newsletter?: 
Disable left side advertisement?: 
Is this Career Advice newsletter?: 

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Academic administration
Back to Top