U.S. Higher Education News for September 20, 2015

 

Burrows, Sister Joanne [President Clarke University]. “College More Valuable than Simple, Straight Path.” Telegraph Herald [Dubuque, IA] 20 Sep. 2015: A, 17.

Current debates about what a college education should be, and be for, bring to mind the theorem: “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” That works until you leave a two-dimensional surface. It is an illusion that we walk or drive in a straight line. Our world is curved and the shortest distance between two points is a curved line or orthodrome.

When you add the dimension of time to a three-dimensional universe, you get wormholes and other marvels.

My point? It is an illusion that a liberal arts college education progresses in a straight line. Teaching and learning happen in a curved universe that spans a lifetime. . . .

One assumption of straight-line thinking is that students enter college knowing what they want to study and are knowledgeable about their fields. Not true. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports that about 80 percent of college students change their major at least once before graduating. . . .

Here’s a secret: Your major, while important, does not determine life or career. Case in point: I began college as a zoology major and graduated with a degree in graphic design. I went on to earn an M.A. in systematic theology and Ph.D. in higher education. Was my major a waste? Absolutely not. I apply design thinking to challenges in the workplace every day but, more important, my college education prepared me with the purpose and competence necessary to pursue divergent fields of study as life and career opportunities required. . . .

 

“Ode to Robber Barons on Tax Dime.” Eureka Times-Standard [CA] 20 Sep. 2015: A, 5.

History, as the old adage goes, is written by the winners. Even though many “winners” are losers as human beings.

For a clear example of this irony, check out the new national monument to corporate greed created by our Park Service in Chicago. It’s on the site of what had been Pullman, a company town created by the feudalistic 19th-century profiteer George Pullman. He amassed a fortune as a rail car manufacturer, infamously suppressing the wages of his 5,000 factory workers.

Yet Pullman considered himself a beneficent employer, having built a 600-acre town for the workforce and vaingloriously named the place for himself. It included houses he rented to workers, churches, schools, a bank, a library, and parks – all owned by his company.

Indeed, when officials announced this year that Pullman’s town was becoming an honored part of America’s park system, officials attested to his generosity by hailing it as a place he created “to provide his employees a good life.”

Back in the day, however, Pullman’s workers were less charmed. He ruled the burg as autocratically as he did his factories. No saloons or “agitators” were allowed, nor did he allow any public speeches, town meetings, independent newspapers, or even open discussions.

Here’s how one resentful resident summed up the surreal feel of the place: “We are born in a Pullman house. We are fed from a Pullman shop, taught in a Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman church, and when we die, we shall be buried in a Pullman cemetery and go to Pullman hell.”

In 1894, the workers got Pullman’s hell on Earth when he drastically cut their wages but refused to lower their rent. He’d guaranteed a 6 percent return to the wealthy investors who financed the town, he explained – and their needs came first. . . .

 

Puzzanghera, Jim. “Student Loan Debt Threatens U.S. Economic Growth; Runaway Train of College Costs, Lack of Good Jobs Making Higher Education Not Sustainable.” Providence Journal [RI] 20 Sep. 2015: E, 4.

. . . Students around the country–and often their parents–have racked up so much college debt since the recession that it now threatens the nation’s economic growth. The debt weighs down millions of Americans who might otherwise buy homes or start businesses. And the financial horror stories of debt-saddled students, combined with continued increases in tuition, could deter others from attending college and could produce a less-educated workforce.

“The impact on future (economic) growth could be quite significant,” said Cristian deRitis, who analyzes consumer credit economics for Moody’s Analytics.

The amount of outstanding student loans has skyrocketed 76 percent to almost $1.2 trillion since 2009 as college costs have shot up and graduates have had difficulty finding good-paying jobs.

Before the Great Recession, total outstanding student loans ranked well below mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and home equity lines of credit as sources of household debt. Now it trails only mortgage debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

About 40 million consumers have at least one student loan, and the average debt was $29,000 last year, according to credit reporting firm Experian.

Worse for students, delinquency rates on college loans are rising even as they decline for other types of household debt.

The New York Fed found that 11.5 percent of student loans were at least three months delinquent as of June 30, more than 3 percentage points greater than any other loan category. Unlike other debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.

So it’s not surprising that when Gallup asked parents this year to name their biggest financial worry, paying for their children’s college education topped the list. . . .

 

Williams, Mara Rose. “Kansas Regents Requesting Millions More for Higher Education.” Kansas City Star 20 Sep. 2015.

The Kansas Board of Regents is asking the governor for nearly $30 million more to fund higher education in the state during the 2017 fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.

Regents voted Thursday to request that Gov. Sam Brownback consider adding money to his budget for higher education. More than $800 million in 2017 fiscal-year funding already has been approved for Kansas colleges, universities and technical schools governed by the nine-member board.

Regents had to submit their request to the governor by Oct. 1. Brownback has another three months to decide whether to include any or all of the additional funding requests in his next budget.

The regents’ budget priorities included about $5 million for Kansas State University to help pay for a new 78,000-square-foot, state-of-the art geoscience building on the Manhattan campus. The building’s total cost is estimated at $45 million. K-State officials said the university plans to raise half the money within the next five years through private gifts.

The University of Kansas is asking for about $3.5 million that would go toward the integrated science buildings on the Lawrence campus, and KU Medical Center wants $3.4 million for merit-based salary increases.

Wichita State University is asking for $2 million to establish a department of chemical and materials engineering, a priority now because it would complement efforts to build an innovation campus at the school . . .

About $10 million of the nearly $30 million budget request would go toward two-year colleges and high school students pursuing technical education . . .

The requests on the budget priority list also included one from the Kansas Board of Regents. Because of a significant increase in rent, the board is short about $178,000 in paying for its Curtis State Office Building space. . . .

 

And from the Indiana University website:

“Indiana University Launches Grand Challenges Research Program.” 20 Sep. 2015.

In an effort to address some of the most urgent challenges facing Indiana and the world, Indiana University has launched the most ambitious research program in the university’s history.

Indiana University will invest at least $300M over the next five years in a Grand Challenges research program to develop transformative solutions for some of the planet’s most pressing problems. Up to five large-scale research projects will be selected through a competitive review process designed to maximize impact on the state, its economy and the quality of life of Hoosiers.

These projects will address challenges that are too big to ignore — such as global water supplies; the availability of energy; infectious diseases; harnessing the power of, and protecting, big data; and climate change — by catalyzing collaborative and interdisciplinary research, as well as new partnerships with community organizations, industry and government.

As the first major step in the program, the university announced this week that it has requested preliminary proposals from faculty teams for the first two Grand Challenge grants, which are expected to be funded starting in the fall of 2016. The university plans to fund three to five projects between now and its bicentennial in 2020. . . .

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And here is an item of possible interest from outside the U.S.:

“Iran, Italy Sign agreement for Scientific, Academic Cooperation.” BBC Worldwide Monitoring 20 Sep. 2015.

Text of report in English by Iranian conservative news agency Mehr.

Tehran, 20 September: Iran and Italy signed an agreement in scientific, technology and academic fields.

The agreement was inked following a meeting held between Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology Mohammad Farhadi and Italy’s Minister of Education, University and Research Stefania Giannini in which the officials discussed ways of boosting scientific cooperation.

During the meeting, Farhadi said that the session could be a great beginning for expansion of scientific and technology-based cooperation between both the countries. “The two countries tend to expand ties and striking scientific programmes and agreements can deepen further cooperation,” he added.

Stefania Giannini, for her part, said that Italy is ready to cooperate in technology and science fields particularly exchanging professors and students.

The Italian delegation is headed by Giannini accompanied by presidents of Universities of Rome and Trieste.

Also officials from Italian Association of Science and Technology Parks (APSTI) which is the Italian national network of scientific and technological parks along with the head of Italian Department for Universities, higher education establishments in art, music and dance, are in the entourage.

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Posts in This Daily Series from the Last Seven Days:

September 13, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/14/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-13-2015/

September 14, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/15/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-14-2015/

September 15, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/17/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-15-2015/

September 16, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/18/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-16-2015/

September 17, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/19/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-17-2015/

September 18, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/20/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-18-2015/

September 19, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/21/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-19-2015/

 

 

12 thoughts on “U.S. Higher Education News for September 20, 2015

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