This is a re-post from the “On the Issues” blog of the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education [http://futureofhighered.org/on-the-issues/]
A bill was recently introduced in the Florida legislature that would bypass the established system of accreditation and allow local state officials to accredit MOOCs and other online courses, including those from unaccredited for-profit providers. (A similar bill introduced in the California legislature was reported on in “On the Issues” on March 29, 2013 (http://futureofhighered.org/a-massively-bad-idea-from-california/). Continue reading
The lead for today’s installment of Meet the Press included the tease: “Is President Obama already a ‘lame duck’?”
In 1933, the passage of the 20th Amendment shortened the period between the presidential election and the inauguration of the president so that if a sitting president were a “lame duck”—that is, either lost the election or chose not to run for re-election– the transition period would be shortened and the new president could assume office and attempt to address pressing issues in January, rather than in March. In 1933, as the nation sank ever more precipitously into the economic catastrophe of the Great Depression, expediting the transfer of power made a great deal of sense to just about everyone—except, of course, for those relative few who thought that Herbert Hoover was doing a fine job.
So how is it that anyone is asking whether President Obama is a “lame duck” in just the fifth month of his second term?
Although I am certain that it suits the GOP to have him already regarded as a “lame duck,” I think that this absurdity is much more media-driven than media-reported.
The 24/7 cable news stations (something of a misnomer for MSNBC since for half of each weekend, it runs reality-television programming starring inmates in high-security prisons) have accelerated the trend toward emphasizing news bytes over in-depth exposes. You would think that the opposite would be true—that having 24 hours to fill would provide an opportunity for more extensive and substantive investigative reporting. But 60 Minutes and PBS are now anomalies, not models. Continue reading
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 6
Donoghue, Frank. The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. New York: Fordham U P, 2008.
In this seminal work of the corporatization of American universities, Frank Donoghue offers a much longer historical view than most other authors focusing on the topic. Some have started in the mid-1970s, when economic recession and the “Rust Belt” decline of American manufacturing and working-class economic security, along with post-Baby Boom demographics, created new fiscal pressures on our universities. Others have looked back to the late 1940s, when the G. I. Bill eliminated many previous socio-economic obstacles to a earning a college degree and drove the very rapid expansion of our universities–the public university systems, in particular. But Donoghue starts in the post-Civil War era, when the establishment of most of our land-grant universities marked the beginnings of the modern university in America. He not only historically delineates the tension between the proponents of utilitarian education and the proponents of “liberal arts” education, but he emphasizes that, from the beginnings of the modern American university, this tension has been inherent in our shifting conception of the core mission of our universities. The Gilded Age and the Roaring Twenties marked previous high points for the proponents of utilitarian education, and it is hardly surprising that at the turn of this century, as the nation seems to have settled into a second Gilded Age, the proponents of utilitarian education have once more moved into the foreground. Unlike most critics of the increasing corporatization of our universities, Donoghue does not, however, view this as a cyclic phenomenon. Instead, he believes that most colleges and universities have already passed a tipping point and are moving inexorably toward an increasingly corporatized state in which the humanities and social sciences are being reduced from major disciplines within the curriculum to basic skill sets and diversions for dilettantes and subversives. Continue reading
This piece is reposted from the “On the Issues Blog” maintained by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education: http://futureofhighered.org/on-the-issues/ If you are looking for faculty-driven commentary on current issues in higher education, you should consider adding the “On the Issues” blog and the CFHE website to your links page.
MOOCs may prove to be another “bubble” like the online for-profit universities are proving to be, but their widespread adoption could be a much bigger threat to higher education than the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University ever were or will be.
In “Teaching by Hand in a Digital Age” (Chronicle of Higher Education Blogs March 11, 2013), Joseph Harris persuasively makes the case that the lack of instructor-student interaction is the fundamental failing of MOOCs—and a failing that will be especially noticeable in writing courses. Despite dubious claims that robo-readers can evaluate student writing as effectively as human readers, robo-readers clearly cannot interact in any meaningful way with the student writers themselves. They cannot give those writers a sense of the nuances in a human response to their work, a sense of how the expression of their ideas fits within broader patterns of personal and professional communication.
Harris compares MOOCs to textbooks. But MOOCs are more like digitally jazzed-up, televised courses than they are like textbooks: that is, they permit a student to be even more passively engaged than a textbook does, and they will be effective for an even narrower percentage of learners than the online degrees offered by the for-profit universities that, like the competency-driven Western Governors University, have emphasized the importance of advisers over faculty. Continue reading
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 2
Altbach, Philip G., Patricia J. Gumport, and Robert O. Berdahl, eds. American Higher Education in the Twenty-First Century: Social, Political, and Economic Challenges. 3rd Edition. Eds. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins U P, 2011.
In selecting the essays included in this collection, the editors have attempted not only to provide an overview of the major issues confronting America’s colleges and universities, but also to suggest how at least some of those issues are affecting higher education on an international scale.
The authors collectively address several paradoxes. First, although the American system of higher education has long been and still remains the best in the world, there is a growing sense that its future is more uncertain than it ever has been–and may be perilously uncertain. Second, although higher education has always been defined by some degree of continual flux, there is a growing sense that the changes that are currently occurring are more definitive and more irreversible than previous cycles of change. And, lastly, the movements toward more specialization in the curriculum and toward more contingent employment among the professoriate seem to have reached critical tipping points, beyond which it will be increasingly difficult to readjust institutional missions in response to shifting political, economic, and cultural pressures.
The collection includes seventeen essays, which are divided into four sections: The Setting, External Forces, The Academic Community, and Central Issues.
The greatest irony in the increasing privatization of public education is that the deficiencies that the “reformers” typically claim to be trying to correct are often exacerbated by the very “reforms” that they are advocating.
There is now a tremendous amount of statistical evidence that, on average, students in charter schools perform worse–and often much worse–than students in public schools. Moreover, if one focuses just on the for-profit charter schools, which do not provide the “public face” of charter schools but do now constitute the majority of such schools, their students’ performance is often simply abysmal.
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Bloomberg News, Chronicle of Higher Education, Blumenstyk and Fuller
Number of post-secondary institutions newly accredited between 2005 and 2009: 483.
Percentage of post-secondary institutions newly accredited between 2005 and 2009 that were private for-profit institutions: 77%.
Percentage of total accredited post-secondary institutions in the U.S. that were private for-profit institutions in 2009: 26.2%.
Percentage of students in post-secondary institutions enrolled at private for-profit institutions in 2010: 9%.
Percentage increase in enrollments at private for-profit institutions between 2005 and 2009: 235%.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Percentage of those enrolled in public four-year institutions who received financial aid in 2009: 79%.
Percentage of those enrolled in private not-for-profit four-year institutions who received financial aid in 2009: 87%.
Percentage of those enrolled in private for-profit four-year institutions who received financial aid in 2009: 86%.
Percent of total costs covered by the average federal Pell grant in 1975: 84%.
Sources: National Center for Education Statistics, Goldwater Institute, New Republic
Average annual tuition at public four-year institutions in the U.S. in 2010: $7,605.
Average annual tuition at private four-year institutions in the U.S. in 2009: $27,293.
Average annual tuition at public two-year institutions in the U.S. in 2009: $2,713.
Percentage increase in tuition and room-and-board costs across all institutions from 2000 to 2010: 37%.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
Total number of degree-granting colleges and universities in the United States in 2009: 4,495
Post-secondary enrollment in 2009: 20.4 million
Percentage of the total U.S. population enrolled in 2009: 5.7%
Enrollment by percentage in four-year institutions in 2009: 62%
Enrollment by percentage in two-year institutions in 2009: 38%