U.S. Higher Education News from September 29, 2015

The board of trustees at the State College of Florida have voted to phase out continuing contracts for the college’s faculty. Those contracts have been available to faculty who have five years of seniority. Although the phasing out of such contracts seems consistent with Governor Rick Scott’s professed interest in restricting, if not eliminating, tenure and shared governance statewide, the trustees at the State College of Florida had previously extended the probationary period for faculty from three to five years. The existing contracts will not be rescinded, but once they have run their course, they will not be renewed. The college’s president, its faculty, and others with a special interest in the State College of Florida have expressed concerns that the lack of any employment security will prevent the college from attracting and keeping excellent faculty and will erode the quality of the education that the college provides to its students. Faculty at the rest of the state’s more than two dozen community colleges are wondering whether the changes at the State College of Florida will become a model for the state’s other colleges.

The editors of Salt Lake City’s Deseret Morning News have considered the educational proposals advanced by Marco Rubio and by Hillary Clinton, and they believe that they have found more similarities than differences in the two plans—an assertion that one suspects will be greeted by both campaigns with something close to horrified denials. The editorial writers, however, note that the plans put forward by both campaigns are premised on the increasing need to have some sort of college education in order to survive, never mind succeed, in today’s economy, that both plans emphasize the need to reduce the debt burden on both current and future students, and that both plans suggest that innovation in how education is delivered may be the key to containing costs. Although the editorial writers make a seemingly sincere effort to encourage candidates and voters to look beyond the increasingly deep partisan divisions in American politics, they minimize major differences in the candidates’ plans. For instance, Rubio’s plan for decreasing the debt burden of graduates is to peg their payments on their student loan debts to their current income—and thereby to extend the period over which they can make payments on the debt: that is, under his plan, many graduates will be paying off their student loans over much, if not all, of their working lives. In contrast, Clinton is calling for tuition-free educations at public colleges and universities. Likewise, although Clinton’s proposals for “innovation” sound discouragingly similar to the endless, unquestioning faith in technological solutions that has characterized the Department of Education under Arne Duncan, Rubio’s idea of innovation is to de-regulate accreditation so that institutions can “innovate” with many fewer restrictions; in effect, he is opening the door to a more wholesale version of the abuses perpetrated by many of the online for-profit colleges and universities.

The editors of the Fayetteville Observer have applauded the likely legislative and gubernatorial approval of a $2 billion bond issue to fund new construction and building improvements on state properties throughout North Carolina, including many of its public colleges and universities. But they are mystified that the legislature has remained adamantly opposed to generating new revenues for the repair and construction of the state’s highways. They note that the highway fund has been repeatedly pillaged to cover budget shortfalls created by tax cuts and that the increase in vehicles’ fuel efficiency over the last three decades has meant that the revenue produced by the long-unchanged fuel taxes would be insufficient to meet current needs, even if the legislature had not gotten into the habit of allocating those revenues to other purposes.

According to a recent article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state of Georgia’s restrictions on immigrant enrollment in the state’s public colleges and universities is actually not saving the state money as intended but is, instead, will likely cost the state about $10 million in tax revenue each year, for starters. The state prohibits the enrollment of undocumented immigrants in any state institution that has not been able to accommodate all academically eligible applicants from the state who are U.S. citizens or legal residents. That policy effectively has barred undocumented immigrants from attending the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech University, and Georgia State University. Even more punitively, the state requires that undocumented immigrants pay out-of-state tuition rates even if they have established residency in the state. A large percentage of the undocumented immigrants at issue here are covered by the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, program, which applies immigrants who were illegally brought here as children, but have completed their K-12 schooling in this country, and have not been convicted of any felonies.

The editors of the Topeka Capital Journal have asked “What [Kansans Are] to Make of Reduced College Enrollment?” Total enrollment at the state’s public universities has declined in Fall 2015 by 890 students. At two of the universities, enrollment has  increased (at the University of Kansas, by 108 students and, at Fort Hays State University, by 358 students) But at the other four universities it has declined (at Kansas State University, by 620 students; at Wichita State University, by 508 students; at Pittsburg State University, by 235 students; and at Emporia State University, by 20 students). So, enrollment at three of the state’s public universities has declined by 1,363 students—something that the editorial writers do not highlight. Instead, they note that enrollment at the state’s technical colleges has increased by 433 and a program promoted by Governor Brownback to provide industry training certificates to high school students has seemingly been a major success, with 711 students earning the certificates in 2012-2013, 1,419 students earning them in 2013-2014, and 1,692 earning them in 2014-2015. So, while acknowledging that declining university enrollment will be a major problem for the state if it continues, the editorial writers seem content to accept that students may simply be choosing more direct educational routes to available employment and that many of those students might not have been in the right mindset to succeed in college.

The editors of the Saint Joseph News-Press have expressed support for Gov. Jay Nixon’s proposal to increase the state support for higher education in Missouri by $55.7 million in exchange for a tuition freeze. The one condition attached to the proposed increase in state support is that 9% of the revenue must be dedicated to STEM programs. The increased funding will mean that the state’s funding of higher education has finally returned to pre-2009 recession levels.

Central State University, the only public HBCU in Ohio, has had a troubled financial history over the past two decades. The new Department of Education College Scorecard is not going to help the institution recruit students. According to an article in the Dayton Daily News, the university ranks very low in students’ degree-completion rate, very high in the debt that they accrue while enrolled, very low in the average salaries earned by alumni, and very high in the student-loan default rate among its former students. The article does point out that the ten worst-performing universities are all HBCUs, which, in their defense exist in large part to serve financially and academically disadvantaged students. These students include many so-called “independents,” or students who are at least 24 years old and single parents.

In an article for the New York Times, Michael J. de la Merced reports that the large private-equity firm Warburg Pincus has announced that it will invest $60 million in Civitas Learning. Now serving more than 850 campuses that enroll approximately 2.7 million students, Civitas Learning “specializes in using cloud-based computing to help schools examine which students are struggling and why, as well as improving graduation rates and other educational initiatives. Those analytical services underpin what Civitas is trying to fashion into an ecosystem of apps, meant to help subscribing schools improve student education and engagement.” Four years ago, the company had just a half-dozen institutions as clients, but earlier this year, it bought the London-based company BlikBook to facilitate its expansion into the European market.

The most amusing item of the day comes from Rochester, Minnesota, where the Rochester Community and Technical College is celebrating its centennial. The installation of the college’s newest president has become a centerpiece for the broader celebrations. A local newspaper report on the festivities has focused extensively on the college’s purchase of a mace—providing a brief overview of the history of maces as weapons, explaining the mace’s function in formal academic ceremonies, breaking down the cost of the mace from a manufacturer ($6,800), and communicating the college administration’s reassurances that the mace is a fairly basic model and that it will be able to be used for a very long time, offsetting what might seem an extravagant and unnecessary expenditure at a time when the cost of higher education has become a national concern.

Bibliographic List:

Davis, Janel. “Report: Tuition Policy Costs Georgia.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 29 Sep. 2015: B, 1.

URL: http://www.pressreader.com/usa/the-atlanta-journal-constitution/20150929/282570196918666/TextView

De la Merced, Michael J. “Warburg Pincus to Invest Up to $60 Million in Civitas Learning.” New York Times 29 Sep. 2015: Dealbook.

URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/business/dealbook/warburg-pincus-to-invest-up-to-60-million-in-civitas-learning.html?_r=0

Editors. “Hold College Cost Steady.” St. Joseph News-Press [MO] 29 Sep. 2015.

URL: http://www.newspressnow.com/opinion/editorials/article_7ac772f1-e3ff-5679-9c78-e4ee9bc3db6b.html

Editors. “New Buildings Will Rise, but What about Roads?” Fayetteville Observer [NC] 29 Sep. 2015.

URL: http://www.fayobserver.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-new-buildings-will-rise-but-what-about-roads/article_8a131f24-6112-5414-9d03-1534bdf69694.html

Editors. “School Reform Proposals.” Deseret Morning News [Salt Lake City, UT] 29 Sep. 2015.

URL: http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865637798/New-education-reform-proposals.html?pg=all

Editors.  “What to Make of Reduced College Enrollment?” Topeka Capital-Journal [KS] 29 Sep. 2015.

URL: http://cjonline.com/opinion/2015-09-28/editorial-what-make-reduced-college-enrollment

Furst, Jay. “What’s an Academic Mace? RCTC Is about to Find Out.” Post-Bulletin [Rochester, MN] 29 Sep. 2015.

URL: http://www.postbulletin.com/news/local/what-s-an-academic-mace-rctc-is-about-to-find/article_140ba5d9-152e-50b9-9c79-ea208bba1603.html

Lambert, Lance. “CSU’s Student Debt Highest; New Federal Website Shows Debt, Earnings to Prospective Students.” Dayton Daily News 29 Sep. 2015: A, 1.

URL: http://www.pressreader.com/usa/dayton-daily-news/20150929/281509339996725/TextView

Womack, Christi. “Over President’s Objections, SCF Boards Ends Faculty Tenure.” Sarasota Herald Tribune [FL] 29 Sep. 2015: A, 1.

URL: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20150922/ARTICLE/150929876/0/search

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Posts in This Daily Series from the Last Seven Days:

September 21, 2015: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/22/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-21-2015/

September 22, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/25/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-21-2015-part-1/

September 22, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/25/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-21-2015-part-2/

September 23, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/26/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-23-2015-part-1/

September 23, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/26/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-23-2015-part-2/

September 24, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/28/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-24-2015-part-1/

September 24, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/28/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-24-2015-part-2/

September 25, Part 1: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/29/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-25-2015-part-1/

September 25, Part 2: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/29/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-25-2015-part-2/

September 26: https://academeblog.org/2015/09/30/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-26-2015/

September 27: https://academeblog.org/2015/10/01/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-27-2015/

September 28: https://academeblog.org/2015/10/02/u-s-higher-education-news-for-september-28-2015/

2 thoughts on “U.S. Higher Education News from September 29, 2015

  1. Pingback: First Eliminate Job Security; Then Have Faculty Bid on Their Salaries | The Academe Blog

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