On May 10th, CUCFA President Robert Meister sent the following open letter to Coursera founder Daphne Koller:
Can Venture Capital Deliver on the Promise of the Public University?
An Open Letter to Daphne Koller,
Co-Founder and Co-President of Coursera and Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University
Dear Professor Koller,
Because I share your vision of creating a world in which all have access to an excellent and empowering education, I would like to propose a new online course for you to make freely available through the Coursera platform. Its title is “The Implications of Coursera’s For-Profit Business Model for Global Public Education.”
The goal of the course will be for the students enrolled in it to understand the real relation between Coursera’s visionary mission—“to offer courses, in partnership with the worlds’ top universities, to everyone for free”—and the logic of the strategic business plan that led Coursera to be named “The Best Startup of 2012” by TechCrunch last January.
You and your company’s compelling pitch to consumers suggests that the private sector–that is, venture capitalists and not taxpayers–can deliver a more equal world in which income will be based on the skills and knowledge people actually acquire rather than the artificial scarcity of credentials for which they are eligible and can afford to pay. It is natural to hope that in this more equal, and also more productive, world incomes could rise for everyone willing to acquire the necessary academic knowledge and take the tests to prove it. This, in fact, was exactly what was promised by the original California Master Plan for Higher Education using taxpayers’ money when it was adopted in 1960.
My proposed Coursera course will ask students to discover for themselves how and why John Doerr, and your other Venture Capitalists, are willing to provide an even greater abundance of knowledge in the service of greater economic and social equality than is the State of California, which clearly has the means to spend much more than it has cost your company to reach a worldwide enrollment in the millions. 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
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 5
Bradley, M. J., R. H. Seidman, and S. R. Painchaud. Saving Higher Education: The Integrated, Competency-Based Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree Program. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2012.
This book proposes an idea previously treated at some length by Robert Zemsky in his book Making Reform Work: The Case for Transforming American Higher Education (Trenton, NJ: Rutgers U P, 2009). The three-year baccalaureate degree seems to offer a somewhat painless way of mitigating some of the most pressing issues in higher education. It has a clear appeal to many students, politicians, and college and university administrators. But it has also been met with misgivings by a growing number of student advocacy groups, most faculty, and many employers.
The authors developed the program that is the focus of the book at Southern New Hampshire University, and they take great pains to distinguish the “Integrated” program that they developed from the more common “Accelerated” and “Prior Learning” models.
In the “Accelerated” model, students take the same number of course credits, delivered over the same number of contact hours, that they would in a four-year baccalaureate program. But, by scheduling classes in both the daytime and the evenings and on weekends, and by taking a full semester-load during the summers, the students can complete the required work in three, rather than four, years. Since most colleges and universities do not charge, or charge a reduced rate, for credits beyond the designated full-time load, students in the Accelerated Program save considerable money on their tuition and are also able to enter the workforce and to earn incomes that reflect their new credentials one year sooner than their peers. Administrators, who are held to account for graduation rates, tend to like the idea of a program that presumably provides more incentives to graduate in a timely way. On the other hand, critics will quickly point out that the “Accelerated” model requires such an intensive commitment to study that it often exacerbates problems with retention and lowers the graduation rates that it is ostensibly designed to improve. Continue reading
Testimony of John McNay, Ph.D., President
Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors
Before the House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education
Representative Cliff Rosenberger, Chair
March 6, 2013
Chairman Rosenberger, Ranking Member Ramos, and distinguished members of the Higher Education Subcommittee: my name is John McNay and I am President of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP). The Ohio Conference AAUP represents nearly 4,500 college and university professors at both public and private institutions of higher education across the State of Ohio. I am also a professor of American history at the University of Cincinnati where I teach courses on the Cold War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. I’ve published books and articles on the Cold War.
The mission of the Ohio Conference AAUP is to promote the greater social good that comes from a dynamic, active professoriate – professors being the backbone of quality education and research in higher education. To achieve that goal, we work to preserve and advance academic freedom – the right to engage in good teaching and important research without fear of being terminated for political reasons; and to promote shared governance, so that important decisions are made with the input from those with the expertise to make good decisions and from those who must carry out those decisions in the best interests of students and the general public.
I come to you today to share the thoughts and opinions of the Ohio Conference AAUP regarding House Bill 59, the state budget bill. My comments will focus on three key topics: the new State Share of Instruction (SSI) formula, the provision pertaining to faculty teaching loads, and the problem of administrative bloat at our public institutions. Continue reading
Reviews of Recent Books Concerning Current Issues in Higher Ed: No. 3
Fethke, Gary C., and Andrew J. Policano. Public No More: A New Path to Excellence for America’s Public Universities. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford U P, 2012.
This book has been very controversial. Not surprisingly, given that the authors have served as deans of business schools, they argue that our public universities should be restructured to operate as closely as possible to how the most successful business schools operate. At best, this perspective on the future possibilities for American higher education is very insistently and even grimly pragmatic. At worst, it can be said to miss the basic point that the increasing corporatization and privatization of our public colleges as universities is at least one of the root causes of the problems that the authors now propose to solve with the complete corporatization and privatization of those institutions. The book is undeniably thought-provoking and politically provocative, but much the same can be said for self-immolation.
To give the authors their due, they make some distinctions about the root causes of the current problems confronting American higher education that are essential to any understanding of the nature of those problems and of the ways in which they might be effectively addressed. For instance, they argue very adamantly and persuasively that tuition has been increasing very dramatically not because the costs of delivering higher education have been rising as dramatically, but because state and, to a lesser extent, federal support for public higher education has been dramatically decreasing. Indeed, they demonstrate that although tuition has been rising at two to three times the rate of inflation, the actual costs of delivering higher education have been increasing much more modestly, at only a third to half of the rate of inflation. To explain these modest increases in costs, they point to efficiencies created by the increasing reliance on contingent faculty and the expanding instructional applications of electronic technologies. But, they fail to note that these “efficiencies” would not have been fiscally as necessary if the decline in governmental subsidies had not been compounded by a dramatic increase in high- and mid-level administrative positions and in administrative support staff. Indeed, the establishment of a professional administrative class in our colleges and universities and the subsequent proliferation of administrative positions and costs has been one of the major features of the increasing corporatization of American higher education. Never mind that the mantra of operating our institutions as if they were businesses has led to the proliferation of middle-management positions that seems more characteristic of a 1950s, rather than a 2010’s, business model. Continue reading
By Ian Reifowitz
Contemporary conservatism is based around one simple myth: those at the top deserve to be there, and so do those at the bottom. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research helps destroy that myth.
The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education calls on America’s college & university faculty to join in the search for new ways to fund higher education.
In the United States, quality public higher education was once accessible to most Americans able to benefit from it.
The way it worked was simple—taxpayers funded public colleges and universities sufficiently so that students who were prepared to work a few hours a week could complete their degrees in a relatively short time with a minimum amount of debt. For those with even greater need, government provided state grants and Pell grants.
This system worked well for decades and opened the door to opportunity for millions of Americans.
Now, we are told we can no longer afford this. We believe that is wrong.
As a teacher at a college with a student population made up primarily of minorities, immigrants, and/or first-generation college students, an article in today’s New York Times hit home. By Jason DeParle, it is titled “For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall.” One of my greatest frustrations, and one I constantly work to overcome, arises from a situation DeParle describes succinctly:
With little guidance from family or school officials, college became a leap that they braved without a safety net.
I’ve long felt there’s something wrong with how “we” treat (and, quite frankly, profit from) students struggling to get a toe-hold in the middle class. We take their tuition (often forcing them into debt) on a promise of great future rewards, but we provide them with no clear swing to those rewards and no soft landing for those who, for one reason or another, don’t reach the other platform.
Sources: Chronicle of Higher Education, Atlantic, Nation of Change
States with double-digit decreases in state allocations for higher educations from 2010-2011 to 2011-2012:
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%.