U.S. Higher Education News for September 13, 2015

 

Appiah, Kwame Anthony. “The College Crossroads.” New York Times 13 Sep. 2015: M, 17. [The Education Issue]

. . . As higher education expands its reach, it’s increasingly hard to say what college is like and what college is for. In the United States, where I now teach, more than 17 million undergraduates will be enrolling in classes this fall. They will be passing through institutions small and large, public and private, two-year and four-year, online and on campus. . . .On whatever track, quite a few will encounter Descartes as part of their undergraduate requirements. Why should that be? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a consensus on such things. That’s because two distinct visions of higher education contend throughout our classrooms and campuses.

One vision focuses on how college can be useful–to its graduates, to employers and to a globally competitive America. When presidential candidates talk about making college more affordable, they often mention those benefits, and they measure them largely in dollars and cents. How is it helping postgraduate earnings, or increasing G.D.P.? As college grows more expensive, plenty of people want to know whether they’re getting a good return on their investment. They believe in Utility U.

Another vision of college centers on what John Stuart Mill called ”experiments in living,” aimed at getting students ready for life as free men and women. (This was not an entirely new thought: the ”liberal” in ”liberal education” comes from the Latin liberalis, which means ”befitting a free person.”) Here, college is about building your soul as much as your skills. Students want to think critically about the values that guide them, and they will inevitably want to test out their ideas and ideals in the campus community. (Though more and more students are taking degrees online, most undergraduates will be on campus a lot of the time.) College, in this view, is where you hone the tools for the foundational American project, the pursuit of happiness. Welcome to Utopia U.

Together, these visions–Utility and Utopia–explain a great deal about modern colleges and universities. But taken singly, they lead to very different metrics for success. . . .

 

Bazelon, Emily. “Reframing the Victim.” New York Times 13 Sep. 2015: M, 56. [The Education Issue]

Last summer, the Harvard law professor Janet Halley sat down at her dining-room table to look through a set of policies that her university created for handling complaints of sexual assault and harassment. Halley had taught this area for years, and she was interested to see what the university came up with. The new rules were released amid pressure from student-led groups of rape survivors and their advocates, who demanded that schools across the country do more on behalf of victims. Harvard was also responding to years of calls for change by the Obama administration. Just eight months earlier, Valerie Jarrett, a senior presidential adviser, called for a ”more victim-centered” campus approach to dealing with the problem of sexual assault.

But as Halley read the new rules, she felt alarmed–stunned, in fact. The university’s definition of harassment seemed far too broad. She worried that Harvard’s new rules would not be fair to the accused. She thought of a case she wrote about years earlier, in which a military serviceman was discharged because another serviceman complained that the man had looked into his eyes for too long in the mailroom.

At 63, Halley is a self-described feminist, but she also wrote a book in 2006 with the subtitle ”How and Why to Take a Break From Feminism.” Throughout her legal career, she has cautioned against treating sex exclusively as a danger from which women should seek the authorities’ protection. Wielding legal power responsibly, she said, requires exploring other theories of sex and sexuality alongside feminist ideas, in order to take into account ”as many interests, constituencies and uncertainties as we can acknowledge.” She counsels women to think twice before calling on the law to shield them. And she has urged feminists to recognize that power, and gender itself, do not always fall predictably along male and female lines. ”A lot of us have been struggling to keep alive the flame of opposition within feminism,” she told me. . . .

 

Davidson, Adam. “A Matter of Degrees.” New York Times 13 Sep. 2015: M,25 [The Education Issue]

. . . Tackling this crisis [in the affordability of higher education] is now a political issue. President Obama has proposed making community college available to nearly every American. Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley have all announced plans to increase federal funding for college, if elected. Those on the right are also offering solutions, though they tend to consider government spending part of the problem. Donald Trump says he will cut the Department of Education ”way, way, way down.” Scott Walker successfully cut $250 million from Wisconsin’s budget for higher education. Jeb Bush has focused far more attention on primary and secondary education — opposing tenure for teachers, advocating ”school choice” — but he promotes his cutting back of affirmative action in Florida’s public universities as an example of reducing government’s role in education.

Higher education is a fascinating, complex business. Its pricing dynamics ripple throughout the rest of our economy, in effect determining who will thrive and who will fail. What’s more, the product of this particular industry is not just an end in itself. Education can have enormous personal benefits for those who acquire it, but it also has external benefits to the rest of society. Education exerts something of a multiplier effect; it transforms not only the lives of the educated but of those around them as well. Workers with more education are more productive, which makes companies more profitable and the overall economy grow faster. There are also significant noneconomic benefits. Educated populations tend to be healthier, more stable and more engaged in their civic institutions and democratic debate. . . .

 

Guillory, Ferrel. “Universities, High Schools as Partners in State Success.” Herald-Sun [Durham, NC] 13 Sep. 2015.

Why go to college?

What’s college for?

What good does it do?

The answers don’t seem quite so clear these days.

Still, North Carolina needs crucial conversations to elevate knowledge and clarity about the importance of higher education for school boards, principals, teachers, guidance counselors, students, and parents.

With the United States–and North Carolina–still in a ragged recovery from the great recession that technically ended nationally six years ago, it is a moment of sober, dispiriting news for parents and young people, pondering their futures. Consider, for example, the analyses that suggest the nation has entered an “era of job gentrification,” in which there is a “cruel game of musical chairs in the U.S. labor market.” The Washington Center for Equitable Growth describes a labor market in which “the best-educated workers (are) increasingly filling jobs lower and lower on the job ladder,” in the process displacing people without a college degree. . . .

By itself, education may not have the potency to solve all the fluctuations of the labor market. The U.S.–and North Carolina–need more good, well-paying jobs. But a state’s investment in education–in public schools from pre-K through university–can create the conditions that make it more attractive to enterprises that produce well-paying, high-end jobs. . . .

And yet, North Carolina joins with other states in having their universities rely more on tuition and less on state funding. In February, the Board of Governors approved a 4.3 percent increase in tuition and fees across the UNC system. North Carolina’s inflation-adjusted average university tuition has gone up by 35 percent since 2008, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. . . .

 

Magan, Christopher. “New Rule Complicates Classes for Credit.” Bismarck Tribune [ND] 13 Sep. 2015: C, 10.

IRONDALE, Minn. — Rebecca Young may need to go back to school if she wants to continue teaching algebra for college credit at Irondale High School.

Despite holding a master’s degree and having completed other graduate-level work, Young may not meet the Higher Learning Commission’s recently updated standards for a college instructor. The HLC accredits nearly 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 Midwestern states including 114 institutions in Minnesota.

“I don’t mind going back to school if there are courses that will help me teach,” Young said. “To take classes that are not going to improve what I do, to do it just for a credential, I’m not too excited about that.”

Young is one of a growing number of educators teaching college-level classes in Minnesota high schools. Many of these instructors worry that the recent HLC policy change will end the flexibility that allowed high school teachers with advanced degrees to teach college classes in subjects different from their majors.

The courses are increasingly popular, with 24,731 students taking dual-credit classes in 2014 — a 23 percent increase over five years.

The HLC board of trustees voted in June to require that all college instructors hold a master’s degree in the field they teach or have a master’s degree in another field and 18 credits in the field they teach by September 2017. . . .

 

Natalicio, Diana (President of UTEP). “Texas-Mexico Partnership Crucial for UTEP.” El Paso Times [TX] 13 Sep. 2015.

Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott traveled to Mexico, his first official international visit. The goal was to strengthen bilateral relations between Texas and Mexico, which have been strained in recent years.

This was welcomed news at The University of Texas at El Paso, where we have long known that a strong, vibrant, and mutually respectful relationship with Mexico is of benefit to our border region, the state of Texas and our nation.

UTEP was founded in 1914 as Texas’ State School of Mines and Metallurgy, capitalizing on the economic potential of Mexican mining operations. One-hundred years later, this same mutuality of economic interests is revealed in such sectors as manufacturing and energy.

Mexican students have always been welcomed at UTEP, because educating talented young people across this binational metroplex of 2.5 million offers huge reciprocal benefits.

Two Mexicans were among the first 27 students to enroll in 1914.

Today, nearly 1,100 (5 percent) of UTEP’s more than 23,000 students are from Mexico   the largest number on any U.S. university campus. . . .

Through . . . many . . . collaborative efforts, UTEP has successfully demonstrated that our location on the U.S.-Mexico border represents a huge asset, not, as some have claimed, a liability.

We earnestly accept our responsibility to leverage UTEP’s border location and serve as a catalyst for stronger and more sustainable relationships with Mexican colleagues and institutions.

Texas and Mexico have so much to gain by capitalizing now on our mutuality of interests, and so much to lose if we ignore this opportunity.

Building closer ties between us will be the key to the future economic competitiveness, prosperity and quality of life on both sides of this border for generations to come.

 

“NECC Grant Provides Workplace Training in Haverhill.” Lowell Sun [MA] 13 Sep. 2015.

HAVERHILL — Thirty-six employees at three Haverhill food-manufacturing companies will receive Workplace English training thanks to a $71,000 Rapid Response Program Grant awarded to Northern Essex Community College from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

This is the third and largest Rapid Response grant NECC has received over the past three years. The Rapid Response Program was created to enable community colleges to respond in a timely manner to the workforce-development needs of its local employers. The DHE awards grants through a competitive process to support employer requests for workforce-training programs. The programs take into consideration the scheduling needs of working adults.

NECC’s Project Gateway Proposal, which will be funded with the grant, will bring English classes into the workplace for employees at Cedar’s Mediterranean, Joseph’s Gourmet Pasta and Hans Kissle. The classes, which are about 90 minutes long, will be held twice a week and are scheduled to be offered for 17 weeks.

“The food-manufacturing sector in our region has been a significant employer of workers with limited English speaking skills,” said George Moriarty, executive director of NECC’s Center for Corporate and Community Education. “The grant allows us to take advantage of that positive employment record by improving workers’ language skills, making them more effective workers on the shop floors.”

 

Shear, Michael D. “With New Website to Research Colleges, Obama Abandons Plan to Rank Schools on Quality.” New York Times 13 Sep. 2015: A, 31.

WASHINGTON — President Obama on Saturday abandoned his two-year effort to have the government create a system that explicitly rates the quality of the nation’s colleges and universities, a plan that was bitterly opposed by presidents at many of those institutions.

Under the original idea, announced by Mr. Obama with fanfare in 2013, all of the nation’s 7,000 institutions of higher education would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim of publicly shaming low-rated schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential.

Instead, the White House on Saturday unveiled a website that does not attempt to rate schools with any kind of grade, but provides information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.

Mr. Obama praised the new website in his weekly address, saying that by using the new College Scorecard, ”Americans will now have access to reliable data on every institution of higher education.”

But the new website falls far short of what the president had hoped for. When he announced the plan at the University at Buffalo in 2013, Mr. Obama put colleges on notice that schools performing poorly on his rating system would eventually lose access to billions of dollars in federal student aid money. . . .

 

 

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