Crises Connected like Spokes of a Wheel—or the Pockets on a Roulette Wheel

Last Sunday, the New York Times published an editorial, signed by the editorial board, titled “The College Faculty Crisis” [http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/opinion/the-college-faculty-crisis.html].

In many ways, the editorial does not say much that should be new to anyone in higher education, but it is certainly significant that the most highly regarded newspaper in the country is highlighting the issues related to the declining state support for public colleges and universities and the effects of the increasing contingency among faculty.

Citing a new study by the Center for Community College Student Engagement, a research center at the University of Texas at Austin, a study that is based on the responses of some 71,000 faculty about their working conditions, the editorial writer emphasizes four major points, which I not only will summarize but will also elaborate on to some degree. Continue reading

Backseat Driving in the Clown Car

Backseat driving in the clown car: that’s what pundits are about, today.

In The New York Times, David Brooks tries to turn that around, making out that is those who disagree with him who have the red noses and squeeze horns. He mounts a defense of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) based on the idea that those he shills for are the wise and considerate and caring–and that everyone else is either raw material or the lunatic fringe (both left and right).

Education, to Brooks, “is to get students competitive with their international peers.” What the students need in their personal lives, or want, these don’t matter. What communities need, in terms of citizens and contributing members, doesn’t matter. And anyone who disagrees with Brooks and those he advocates for is a nut. A clown. Continue reading

The NLRB Decision on the Unionization of College Athletes at One Institution Signals, but Will Not Determine, the Changes That Are Coming

The Tacoma News Tribune very recently published a very thoughtful editorial by Bill Virgin titled “It’s Not So Far-Fetched to See the Future of Collegiate Sports as a Business Entity” [http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/04/13/3147199/its-not-so-far-fetched-to-see.html?sp=/99/261/].

Virgin considers the following contrasts: the erosion of the concept of the amateur athlete and the rise of professional sports as a major entertainment industry, the rise in the profits generated by intercollegiate athletics and the low graduation rates among college athletes; and the tension between increased allocations to intercollegiate athletics ostensibly to market academic institutions and the rise in student debt and cuts to instructional budgets.

Virgin concludes that the end of amateur collegiate athletics is on the horizon—not because of the recent NLRB decision to allow the student athletes at Northwestern University to unionize but because that decision reflects a broader societal awareness of the hypocrisy of pretending that, at its top levels, this “big business” should be able to generate huge profits for everyone involved except for those most fundamentally involved, the athletes themselves.

Like Virgin, I don’t think that there is much point in mulling over the specifics of the NLRB decision on Northwestern. It seems more significant as a pivotal event than as a critical event: that is, it has created an awareness and a certain momentum that will extend beyond even its being overturned in the courts. Continue reading

The Ryan Budget, Higher Education, and Political Partisanship

I “periodically” receive e-mails complaining that my posts are sometimes too openly partisan politically. My response to those complaints has been that I have persistently criticized the Department of Education and other Democratic agencies and initiatives that have been seemed to represent a desertion of progressive values. A few of my correspondents have then pointed out that in making that argument, I have essentially been doubling down on my partisan political stances by deriding Democrats for behaving like Republicans. I would prefer to use the terms “progressive” and “Far Right” because I think that they are sometimes more accurate than party identifications, and my motives are not to promote one major party over the other but to promote one value set over the other. But I do not think that it is simply a reflection of my partisan bias that Republicans have become so consistently “Far Right” in their ideology that I seem to have nothing positive to say about the policies that they are advancing.

Take, for instance, the recent federal budget put forward by Paul Ryan. Before considering several elements of its directly related to higher education, it is worth considering its broader impact. Continue reading

The Top Issues Facing Higher Education in 2014 and Beyond

Writing for Forbes, John Ebersole, the president of Excelsior College, has identifeid the following ten issues as the most significant issues facing higher education this year:

1. Cost.

2. Renewal of the Higher Education Act.

3. Workforce development.

4. Competency-based education.

5. Accreditation.

6. Assessment.

7. Quality assurance in non-institutional learning.

8. Recognition of the new majority in student bodies.

9. Crisis in leadership.

10. The economy.

Ebersole notes that many readers may wonder about his exclusion of MOOCs as an issue, but he feels that the questions about their efficacy for most students and their over-exposure in the media have greatly decreased the consideration of MOOCs as an major innovation in higher education.

I agree largely with that assessment, but I would take issue with a fairly large number of his choices for the list. Continue reading

Missouri Program Allows Students to Apply University Credits Retroactively toward an Associates Degree

In a recent post, I discussed a dubious proposal put forward in Ohio to award associates degrees to all university students who have simply completed a specified number of credit hours, regardless of the distribution of those credit hours [http://academeblog.org/2014/04/04/kent-state-university-announces-plans-to-increase-dramatically-the-number-of-associates-degrees-that-it-grants/].

A much more reasonable program has been initiated in Missouri, though to date the results have not been anything close to what the proponents of the program hoped to achieve with it.

In 2012, the Missouri legislature approved what it called a “reverse-transfer program.” Recognizing the need for the state to produce more degrees at all levels and looking for inexpensive ways to achieve that goal, the legislature considered the number of students who had earned well over the number of credit hours needed for an associates degree without receiving any degree. Continue reading

Kent State University Announces Plans to Increase Dramatically the Number of Associates Degrees That It Grants

The Columbus Dispatch recently reported that Kent State University is planning to grant an associates degree to any student who completes 60 credit hours, or about half of the credit hours needed for most baccalaureate degrees.

Apparently the university will create a generic associates degree for this purpose.

In addition to its main campus in Kent, Ohio, the university has the most extensive system of regional campuses of any university in the state. There are seven regional campuses in the Kent system, stretching from the northeast corner of the state and the shores of Lake Erie to the Amish region just north of I-70, which runs west to east across the entire state, passing through Dayton at the western end of the state and Columbus in the center. Kent State’s seven regional campuses are the Ashtabula, East Liverpool, Geauga, Salem, Stark, Trumbull, and Tuscarawas campuses.

At those regional campuses, the university has always awarded associates degrees. Ohio’s two dozen regional campuses are treated as colleges within nine of the state universities. Established during the 1960s and early 1970s, the regional university campuses initially offered selected technical programs, comparable to those typically offered at technical and community colleges, as well pre-baccalaureate coursework for students transferring in their third year to the main campuses of the universities. Over the past two decades, the university regional campuses have phased out many of the more “blue-collar” technical programs and have increased the number of baccalaureate degrees that can be completed entirely on the regional campuses.

So, the Kent campus’s announcement that it plans to start awarding associates degrees runs counter to the gradual and ongoing shift at the regional campuses away from an emphasis on associates degrees and toward a greater emphasis on baccalaureate degrees. And it is therefore hardly surprising that many questions would be raised about the rationale for such a plan. Continue reading

Ohio’s Public-University Presidents Take a Stand, of Sorts, on Faculty Workload

As I have indicated in several previous posts, there is another attempt in this year’s budget review bill (HB 484) in the Ohio legislature to increase faculty workloads by ten percent.

I have posted OCAAUP President John McNay’s full testimony on that provision to the House Committee considering the bill.

Bruce Johnson has also testified before that committee. Since 2006, Johnson has served as the President of Ohio’s Inter-University Council (IUC), the organization through which the state’s public university presidents coordinate their initiatives and their responses to legislation related to higher education.

Johnson is a Republican, a former Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and the former Director of the state’s Department of Economic Development. Under his leadership, the IUC has not exactly been supportive of public university faculty. Most notably, the IUC not only accepted but actually advocated for the language in Senate Bill 5 that would have eliminated all collective bargaining rights for faculty.

Below is Johnson testimony on the workload provisions in HB 484. It’s actually a fairly cogent response to a poorly conceived, ultimately unenforceable, but now annually recurring attempt to mandate an across-the-board increase in faculty workloads. Johnson manages to make some of the arguments that John McNay made in his much more openly skeptical testimony, while still seeming to make the politically required gesture of supporting the broader intent of the bill. Continue reading

Bobby Jindal Calls a Large Tuition Increase an Increase in His State’s Support for Higher Education

In its December 2013 report on state support for higher education in the previous fiscal year, the American Association of Colleges and Universities highlighted the singular decline of state support in Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana, where the 17.6% decline in state funding was very close to double the second highest decline among the states, an 8.9% decline in West Virginia.

To put those numbers in further perspective, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, only seven of the 50 states failed to increase their spending on higher education. This general pattern of increased allocations reflected the states’ attempts to restore some of the funding lost in the unprecedented cuts that occurred during and immediately following the Great Recession. The increases in funding were, however, fairly modest in comparison to the cuts, averaging about 2.9%.

Over the last seven years, the Jindal administration has cut almost $700 million in funding for higher education in Louisiana. At the same time, the state has permitted tuition increases covering only about two-thirds of that lost funding.

In his new budget, Jindal is calling for a $142 million increase in state spending on higher education, but $88 million of that total is simply permitted tuition increases that, unlike in previous years, will not be offset by even larger cuts in state support. Continue reading

Three Years Ago, Senate Bill 5 Was Signed into Law in Ohio

This is a post by John McNay, President of the Ohio Conference of AAUP and the author of Collective Bargaining and The Battle of Ohio: The Defeat of Senate Bill 5 and the Struggle to Defend the Middle Class (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) [http://www.amazon.com/Collective-Bargaining-Battle-Ohio-Struggle/dp/1137339179/ref=la_B001KI3NOG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1396230324&sr=1-1].
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Three years ago, on March 31, 2011, the Republican-dominated Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 in the face of overwhelming public protests. That evening Gov. John Kasich had a celebratory signing ceremony covered by statewide television. Senate Bill 5, derived mainly from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council, was designed to crush public unions across the state.

Championed by Gov. Kasich, SB 5 was the centerpiece of his legislative agenda­, and was defended as necessary to close a $6 billion budget gap. Proponents inaccurately blamed public workers for the deficit when, in fact, it was produced by years of irresponsible income tax cuts imposed on the state combined with the recessions. Since 2005, the income tax had been slashed by 31 percent. The crisis atmosphere was exploited by the Republican Party to try to impose extreme ideological positions on Ohio that in ordinary times Ohioans would not accept. Continue reading