U.S. Higher Education News for September 21, 2015

 

Anderson, Nick. “At UCF, Bigger Is Better.” Washington Post 21 Sep. 2015: A, 1.

ORLANDO – A small state school launched here in the 1960s to develop employees for the space program has morphed into one of the nation’s largest universities, using accessible admission policies and online instruction to fuel extraordinary growth in an era when many public colleges face fiscal uncertainty.

The University of Central Florida will have about 54,000 undergraduate students this fall, up 90 percent since the turn of the century. The only public university with more is Arizona State, counting at least 67,000 on five campuses.

UCF and ASU are in the vanguard of an insurgency that aims to demolish the popular belief that exclusivity is a virtue in higher education. They stand for access on a grand scale, arguing that breakneck growth serves a nation in desperate need of a better-educated workforce. They also are pursuing a new financial model that enables public universities to thrive even when state support dwindles.

Their solution, possibly a blueprint for others around the country, combines a bustling traditional campus with an ever-widening menu of online and semi-online courses. And they’re doing it at a relatively low price. . . .

Many UCF students are the first in their families to go to college, and thousands arrive every year from community colleges. . . .

There are downsides. Central Florida’s student-to-faculty ratio is one of the highest in the country, at 31 to 1 as of 2013. The norm for public universities with at least 20,000 students is 19 to 1.

Some classes on the sprawling campus are so packed – with as many as 1,000 students –  that there are only enough seats to handle a fraction of them. The rest watch online or squat in the aisles. Such “lecture-capture” courses and others with online elements aim to bolster teaching capacity and give students flexibility. Some students juggle classes and jobs. Others don’t want to attend lectures. . . .

 

Coen, Andrew. “New Jersey P3 Program in Limbo.” Bond-Buyer News 21 Sep. 2015.

A campus town center at the College of New Jersey is the newest project to materialize from a public-private partnership program that faces an uncertain future after a five-year run.

The public college opened the first phase last month of a mixed-use development that includes housing for 612 students, a bookstore, a fitness facility, retail stores, health facilities and restaurants. The initiative was coordinated through the Higher Education Institutions Public-Private Partnership Program overseen by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and was entirely funded at no cost to TCNJ or taxpayers by The PRC Group, which invested $120 million into the project. . . .

Plans to extend the program and expand it to local governments and transportation projects are stalled after Gov. Chris Christie sent the bill to do so back to the state legislature, requesting changes.

The P3 legislation had permitted state or county colleges to enter into a private-public partnership allowing a private entity to assume full financial and administrative responsibility for on-campus construction projects as long as the school retains ownership of the land. The arrangement took flight thanks to legislation Christie signed into law in March 2010 to ease restrictions on P3s between higher education institutions and private entities.

Christie’s conditional veto Aug. 11 supports P3s, but recommended that provisions imposing prevailing wage requirements and mandating project labor agreements, which were part of the 2010 P3 legislation, be removed from the bill. . . .

 

“Editorial: Congress Must Crack Down on For-Profit Colleges Ripping Off Students and Taxpayers.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch 21 Sep. 2015: A, 9.

The Great Recession prompted mass layoffs, an excruciatingly painful economic transition that left mid-career workers out in the cold. Many of those workers went to college, or returned there, to try to increase their odds of finding a new job.

They ran into hurdles at public colleges and universities. Those schools were reeling from funding cuts as states slashed their budgets in response to the recession. The schools couldn’t meet demand.

But for-profit colleges could. They marketed themselves heavily, especially targeting low-income students who could tap federal student loans. The result was predictable. A Brookings Institution report released in early September found that students are defaulting on loans at double the rate than before the recession. Most of the increase is from students attending private, for-profit schools.

The report shows that compared to students attending four-year public or nonprofit schools, more students at for-profit schools failed to earn a degree, and those who did had a much harder time finding work.

Even those students who graduated and found work didn’t find their hard-earned degrees very valuable. In 2013, the median wage for 2011 graduates from for-profit colleges was less than $21,000–while the median loan balance was almost $10,000.

Dispiriting data from the U.S. Education Department suggests that in many careers a diploma from a for-profit college will get you a lower salary than a high-school dropout in the same field. . . .

It’s been more than three years since a report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions spurred much of the negative attention, investigations and lawsuits aimed at for-profit educational institutions.

While much has changed since then, too much hasn’t. President Barack Obama hasn’t even been able to convince Congress to close a gaping loophole to the 90/10 rule that prohibits for-profit colleges from receiving more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid. . . .

 

Schneider, Carol Geary [President, Association of American Colleges and Universities]. “The President’s College Scorecard” [Letter to the Editor]. New York Times 21 Sep. 2015: A, 20.

Regrettably, the administration’s College Scorecard provides no information about either the quality of college learning or the role of higher education in building capacities we need in a free and democratic society. Its message to students is that they should seek out institutions that seem to promise the highest salaries, with no questions asked about the rigor, breadth, creativity or global reach of the actual curriculum.

The scorecard thus accelerates what has been a narrowing of the American dialogue about the purposes of higher education over the last two decades.

Many were scandalized when Gov. Scott Walker tried to excise fundamentals like the search for truth, and service to the public, from the mission of the University of Wisconsin system. We should be equally scandalized that the Obama administration has excised all of that–and the quality of learning as well–from its deeply flawed metrics for what the president described as the value of college.

In fact, we do have metrics we can use to investigate issues like whether college is preparing students to tackle complex questions or contribute to the larger society. It is time for policy leaders to use them.

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And here are some items of possible interest from newspapers outside of the U.S.:

 

Cameron, Lucinda. “Scots Universities Forge New Links in Brazil.” Scotsman 21 Sep. 2015.

Seven Scottish universities are beginning a week of engagements in Brazil to try to develop new research partnerships between the two nations.

The engagements will focus on areas of shared research interest in which Scottish universities offer particular expertise, including environmental management, air and water pollution, agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and geology.

Representatives from the universities of Dundee, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Stirling, St Andrews, Abertay, and Edinburgh Napier University make up the Scottish delegation travelling under the “Connected Scotland” banner with support from British Council.

They will hold a series of engagements and workshops for researchers from over 20 Brazilian universities, research institutes, government ministries and funding bodies in three Brazilian cities: Sao Paulo, Recife, and Belo Horizonte. . . .

The workshops will be run by two Scottish research pools, the Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society (Sages) and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology (Masts), which represent the research strengths of 12 Scottish universities.

It is hoped that research collaborations between Scotland and Brazil will increase as a result of the mission and that new collaborations will qualify for UK Government cash from its Newton Fund, part of the UK’s official development assistance.

The fund is worth £75 millionthis year, and it is expected to grow in subsequent years. Brazil is one of the partner countries identified by the fund for research collaborations on development topics.

 

“Kerala Boosts Transgender Rights with Education Scholarship.” New Indian Express 21 Sep. 2015.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM–It may not lessen the societal stigma faced by transgenders, but in a first, the state government has decided to institute a scholarship for students from the community to fund their studies.

The scholarship instituted by the Social Justice Department is touted to be the first-of-its kind in the country. Students in five categories, including those in government, aided and self-financing, would benefit from the initiative. . . .

“Nowhere else in the country have such a scholarship programme instituted for transgender students by a state government. This is to bring down the incidents of harassment against TG students. Students will be required to produce medical certificate and the schools need to identify them. . . . ” said V N Jithendran, director of Social Justice Department.

The final draft policy for TGs in the state, formulated recently, has pivotal measures to ensure equality of transgender students. It has found out that 58 per cent of transgender students drop out before completing 10th grade of which 24 per cent drop out well before completing ninth grade. Major reasons include harassment, gender related negative experiences at school and lack of poverty/social educational quota or reservations.

It proposes that the educational institutions and universities issue a TG policy to address issues of gender non-conforming and TG students and establish an anti-discrimination cell to monitor any form of discrimination/harassment. . . .

 

“National Language: Universities Yet to Make Urdu the Official Language.” Express Tribune [Pakistan] 21 Sep. 2015.

Higher education institutions across the province are yet to implement the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) directive of using Urdu as the official language.

The federal government, through the HEC, had ordered universities to use Urdu for all correspondences by September 15. They were asked to translate their acts, statutes and websites to Urdu. The commission had ordered that admission forms be issued in Urdu alongside English.

On August 27, the HEC had issued a circular in Urdu that read, “As per Article 251 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the national language of Pakistan is Urdu, and arrangements shall be made for it being used for official and other purposes. For the purpose, the prime minister of Pakistan has approved a framework. The recipients are directed to take appropriate measure for the implementation of the framework.”

Speaking to The Express Tribune, officials of some public universities in Lahore said that adopting Urdu as official language would take time. “It takes time to translate all information into Urdu and to train officials for the purpose,” said an official who did not want to be named. Several other officials said that some universities did not have the resources needed to implement the order on time. . . .

The federal government had issued the directive to higher educational institutions after the Supreme Court ordered it to adopt Urdu as the official language. The Institution for the Promotion of National Language was asked to help institutes in implementing the orders. The directive will not have any impact on the curriculum of educational institutions.

The framework, approved by the prime minister and attached to the circular, had said that public and semi-government departments working under the federal government were required to translate and publish their policies, procedures and rules in Urdu within three months. . . .

 

O’Hagan, Ellie Mae. “Employability Rankings Are a Betrayal of What Universities Are About.” Independent [UK] 21 Sep. 2015: 26.

A couple of years ago I was invited to the University of East London (UEL) to give a talk to the students about the new wave of activist movements–UK Uncut and student protests– that had burst out around the country. Young, diverse and mostly living in Tower Hamlets, these were working-class students I was addressing, many of whom were the first in their families to go to university. They lacked the officious rhetoric of the students at more establishment institutions, but they were sharp, observant and uncompromising. I left the session feeling that it was I who had been the one to learn something.

It was disappointing, then, to read that a study ranking universities in order of employability placed UEL bottom, as 45 per cent were not considered to be in a “professional job” six months after graduating. “With tuition fees at £9,000 a year, young people risk wasting their money,” Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, warned–the implication being that there’s no point in going to UEL at all if you’re not going to get a decent job out of it.

That’s not how it felt to me, surrounded by passionate young people who had something to say, and tutors who cared sincerely about the kind of adults these students were becoming. For many–and especially, no doubt, the 47 per cent from working-class backgrounds–the university provided space away from family pressures to think critically about life, and their own hopes and dreams.

Studies like these ignore the fact that a significant number of students at newer universities come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and the very fact of taking part in higher education will reduce these disadvantages, even if their alumni don’t end up as professors of philosophy within six months of graduating. . . .

The purpose of education should be to develop and nurture a human being. The great tragedy of tuition fees is the way it has transformed how we view higher education as something to be bought rather than a public good in and of itself. . . .

 

O’Leary, John. “Key Factors That Keep Students Satisfied.” Times [UK] 21 Sep. 2015: Good University Guide 2016, 4, 5.

Student satisfaction is increasingly important to universities, not only because it plays a role in rankings but also because undergraduates are more demanding in the era of £9,000 fees.

Universities go to great lengths to ensure a high response rate in the annual National Student Survey (NSS) and to encourage students to give a positive verdict on their courses. Posters reminding undergraduates of improvements since the previous survey are commonplace, as are email campaigns carrying the same message.

Those efforts will surely be redoubled if, as seems likely, scores from the NSS are included in the government’s proposed Teaching Excellence Framework, which will help to determine which universities are allowed to raise their fees in 2017.

The new edition of The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide takes a more detailed look than ever at the results of the 2015 NSS, which measures the satisfaction levels of 300,000 final-year undergraduates. Separating the responses relating to teaching, feedback and academic support from those concerned with the broader student experience produces revealing results. . . .

[The article parses many of the specific results and compares the results among categories of institutions, but the idea that there is such a national and now determinative survey of student satisfaction in the UK seems to me to be the major insight to be gathered from the article for U.S. readers.]

 

Richards, Jennifer, and Robert Penman. “Creative Writing” [Letter to the Editor.” Times [UK] 21 Sep. 2015: 30.

Last week Ofqual and the Department for Education discontinued creative writing as an AS and A-level subject after 2018 on the grounds that there are close connections between this subject and English, and that it “is (or could be construed to be) more skills-based than knowledge-based”.

Creative writing has been a popular university subject for more than 40 years, and it is taught at undergraduate and postgraduate levels in Russell group and post-1992 universities. More than 3,500 students are enrolled on the AS and A level. The DfE decision shows a lack of respect for their choices and is a U-turn on previous recognition of this subject. The distinctiveness of creative writing has been recognised by the government’s Quality Assurance Agency, which states that “English is a broad subject comprising three complementary strands . . . English literature, English language and creative writing”. We urge an urgent review of this decision.

 

Sengupta, Seema. “’Educated in India’ Brand.” Arab News 21 Sep. 2015.

. . . Unfortunately, the [government] failed to gauge the huge benefit that India’s predominantly young population can extract from a liberalized education sector. Since one of the world’s largest higher education systems is in India, preventing free flow of funds and ideas into India’s higher education setup is a regressive step that would harm the interest of India’s future generations ultimately. After all, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has repeatedly lamented the absence of any Indian university in the top 100 global list. Regrettably, not only no Indian institute of higher learning ranks among the top 100 global universities, India is also the only BRICS member state that has no representation in the 100 top-rated universities of the world. Why India, in spite of being a rising economic superpower is struggling to enhance her education standards to be rated, indisputably, among the top 10 or even top 50 or 100, wondered Mukherjee? Indeed, it is quite distressing that a nation possessing long-standing tradition of knowledge and having been a glorious seat of learning since ages finds itself in such a mess.

As Mukherjee rightly observed, “If we undertake an honest analysis of the state of higher education in our country today, it is evident many higher academic institutions lack the quality to produce graduates for the global market.” So, there is an urgent need to infuse a breath of fresh air within India’s stagnated higher education system to provide more options to the increasing number of Indian students traveling abroad for higher studies.

A recent study, titled “Skilling India: Empowering Indian Youth through World Class Education,” commissioned by the Associated Chambers of Commerce in India reveals that 0.68 million students left India due to dearth of quality higher education and increasing competition for limited seats available in existing institutions as against 0.29 million in 2013. Empirical data suggests that the number of Indian students going overseas for higher study grew by a whopping 256 percent between 2000 and 2009. Consequently, higher educational institutions are losing roughly $6-7 billion annually that these Indian students are spending on their higher education abroad and worse still, a minuscule number of them are choosing to return home thus resulting in huge brain drain. . . .

 

“Students’ Punishment Defeats Training Purpose.” China Daily 21 Sep. 2015.

More than 20 first-year female students of Hunan College of Foreign Studies were reportedly forced to wrap themselves in heavy quilts and lie on an asphalt track under the sun because they didn’t keep their dormitories tidy as required during the mandatory military training. Comments:

It’s time we reviewed the heavy physical training as well as the outdated punishment methods for college students, because such practices have failed to cultivate patriotism among students. Besides, they do not conform to the demands of military modernization.

Chongqing Times, Sep. 18

It is not right to treat normal college students as soldiers and hand out military-style punishments to them even if they are undergoing the mandatory military training.

Forcing the students to wrap themselves in quilts and lie under the late summer sun is over-punishment. What the drillmaster did to the 20 female students constitutes physical abuse, and could cause serious mental and physical damage to them.

Bohai Morning Post, Sep. 18

To instill the sense of discipline in freshmen, the military training has to be made reasonable. The process should be such that students enjoy it and readily accept the rigorous physical exercise. If severe physical punishment becomes routine, students might develop a deeper aversion to the training. The Hunan college incident should not be allowed to happen again elsewhere.

Nanning Evening News, Sep. 18

The punishment is a violation of not only what the military training is aimed at, but also education norms. The brutal punishment has tarnished the image of Chinese colleges and universities as a whole, because it has revealed the flawed management system adopted by many higher education providers. It is far worse than an untidy dormitories and demands some serious thinking.

For students, better education management is as important as having stronger bodies.

 

“Turkmenistan to Introduce Chinese, Japanese Languages into Curricula of Universities and Schools.” Central Asian News Service 21 Sep. 2015.

President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers focused on reforms of the national education system, in particular, the language training on Friday . . ..

He said that the Chinese and Japanese languages should be included in the curricula of high schools and higher education institutions of technical, economic and other areas. He proposed to develop a methodology of teaching these languages.

Berdymukhamedov instructed Vice Prime Minister Sapardurdy Toylyev, responsible for this area, to widen the list of taught foreign languages. He noted that learning foreign languages is the priority area in the contemporary world, taking into account expansion of the geography and the range of international partnerships of Turkmenistan.

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Posts in This Daily Series from the Last Seven Days:

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/

September 20, 2015:

https://academeblog.org/2015/09/21/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-20-2015/

 

13 thoughts on “U.S. Higher Education News for September 21, 2015

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