BEHIND the NEWS

BEHIND the NEWS

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TALKING ABOUT GAS PRICES IS almost as clich? as talking about the weather. Although the national average for unleaded regular finally slipped below $4 a gallon in August, the winter months could bring new surprises. Higher energy costs are affecting everything from dining services to construction costs.

Higher ed institutions spent the summer implementing programs to give staff and students some relief. A number of IHEs had four-day workweeks during the season, including Eastern Kentucky University, Misericordia University (Pa.), LeTourneau University (Texas), Oakland University (Mich.), and El Camino Community College/Compton Center (Calif.). “We recognize it’s an issue,” says Reagan Romali, chief business officer at Compton Center. “We’ve heard other institutions are increasing their online options [for students].”

“There is already a lot of anecdotal evidence that enrollments online have increased, particularly at the community college level,” agrees I. Elaine Allen, director of research with the Sloan Consortium. A 2008 Sloan survey will ask “whether gas prices have impacted... online or face-to-face enrollments and/or the number of [planned] course and program offerings.”

Rose State College (Okla.) eliminated Friday classes for students in January in an effort to save its all-commuter population money. The new schedule will continue this fall and spring, says Lisa Pitsiri, executive director for institutional advancement, since there was no sign of gas prices dropping when the new schedules were set.

Public transit is another solution. University of Denver (DU) students, faculty, and staff can receive a free pass to the public transportation system, which stops in front of campus. Student requests jumped from 5,415 passes during the 2006-2007 school year to 7,399 passes in 2007-2008, with a 58 percent increase from May to July.

DU has also converted several campus vehicles to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) and installed a campus pumping station. CNG is better for the environment and less expensive. At press time Allan Wilson, director of building services, reported that they had paid $3.68 per gallon to fill the regular unleaded fueling station; the CNG equivalent was $1.25 per gallon.

What about the effects of gas prices on campus construction? Ronald Hall, executive vice president/San Diego for McCarthy Building Companies, says he hasn’t seen any campus projects that were ready for bid get postponed. But he has noticed companies adding fuel surcharges to projects. Luckily for campus clients, fewer construction projects in general leads to increased competition, which might help even costs out.

Hall says higher prices for steel, copper and aluminum are having more of an effect on campus construction projects than high gas prices. Perhaps the lesson for today’s times is this: if it’s not one thing costing more, it’s another. ?Ann McClure

THE COMMISSION ON THE FUTURE OF HIGHER Education helped to accelerate the urgency of the discussions of accountability that have long been taking place. Adding to the conversation, the Institute for Higher Education Policy has released “Learning Accountability from Bologna: A Higher Education Policy Primer,” the second in a series of reports looking at higher ed in a global context.

The report examines an ongoing effort in Europe that started in 1999 and offers suggestions for applying findings to U.S. institutions. Recommendations include: developing a degree qualification framework, adding a rating of academic challenge for each course’s credits, and developing a diploma supplement that summarizes individual student achievements.

Although challenging, the European effort proves that the suggestions can be implemented. And they won’t diminish an institution’s uniqueness, says Clifford Adelman, an IHEP senior associate. He believes that if implementation starts in a few states, others will follow. For instance, negotiating credit ratings might be easier at the state rather than national level. He agrees that capturing information for the diploma supplements will be labor intensive, but points out that France has developed software to aid the process. “The message is to open your eyes beyond your borders ? [and] to think about solutions from different perspectives,” says Adelman. The full report is available at www.ihep.org. ?A.M.

“ANY SPACE IS A LEARNING SPACE ON CAMPUS,” says Jeff Vredevoogd, Education Solutions Lead at Herman Miller, a furniture design and consulting company. “There are formal learning spaces on campus, but just as much takes place after students walk out of class.” Herman Miller teamed with the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) to conduct a survey of higher education planners to find out more about what is driving those learning spaces. The results were released during the 2008 SCUP conference.

“The big ‘ah-ha’ we had was the dramatic push toward student and faculty engagement,” says Vredevoogd. More than half of respondents said student and faculty engagement was the most valuable aspect of effective learning spaces, up from 29 percent in 2006. Under the same question, 16 percent thought peer collaboration was a valuable aspect, up from 1 percent in 2006.

This emphasis reflects recognition of the desire by students to engage with as many people as possible to get as much as they can from their learning experience, says Vredevoogd. He adds that Phyllis Grummon, director of planning and education for SCUP, has also attributed this trend toward employers’ desire to have employees who are collaborative.

Respondents said new needs on campus are now being driven by student expectations (36 percent, up from 9 percent in 2006) and technology (22 percent, up from 7 percent), as opposed to costs, which dropped to 10 percent from 46 percent on the previous survey. “They are still worried about costs, but it’s just a given,” Vredevoogd explains.

Survey results are available by writing to info@scup.org. ?A.M.

ABOUT 375 COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES have purchased either the faculty or student version of a new program aimed at teaching campus community members how to survive a shooting attack.

The program’s blatant title?Shots Fired on Campus: When Lightning Strikes?says it all. The odds of being involved in an “active shooter” situation are similar to those of being struck by lightning. Lightning does strike, however, and active shooter situations not only happen but are often catastrophic. Shots Fired is designed to empower students with knowledge and strategies for preventing, recognizing, and surviving an attack.

The full program costs $1,495 and includes a DVD, the video in Windows Media File format (for posting on an institution’s intranet), an instructor guide, a student note-taker guide, and related PowerPoint presentations.

As one might imagine, administrators are being strategic about how they present the program’s availability. In an e-mail alerting students, faculty, and staff to the video posting on the Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville website, Greg Conroy, director of public affairs, says, “We made it clear we weren’t trying to be alarmist, but we felt it was good information to have if something like this were ever to happen.”

Shots Fired has been marketed to members of URMIA (University Risk Management and Insurance Association), the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, and ASIS International, as well as directly to individual colleges and universities, says Randall Spivey, executive director of the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, creators of the program. For an evaluation copy, visit http://campus.shotsfireddvd.com/preview. ?Melissa Ezarik

GETTING FREE STUFF JUST FOR filling out a credit card application can sound enticing to a student, but interest groups and politicians are wary about the consequence that often follows?unwanted debt.

One response has involved a direct approach to educating students about money matters and warning about free come-ons. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has conducted the “Truth About Credit” campaign, a program designed to rein in irresponsible credit card marketing on campus, explains Christine Lindstrom, U.S. PIRG’s higher education program director.

The program was developed after members of the Student PIRG observed a number of campus marketing practices, such as having displays in high traffic areas or giving out freebies. The group conducted a survey, titled “The Campus Credit Card Trap” (www.truthaboutcredit.org), which found that three-fourths of students stopped at tables offering free gifts in exchange for filling out a credit card application.

“Some of these techniques we thought were a little over the top and needed to be controlled,” says Lindstrom.

The program, which began last October, works with student representatives at college campuses to set up tables with a display similar to a typical credit card marketing effort. The display is for FEESA, a fictitious company that parodies the name of a certain real company. Brochures and educational booklets about credit card fee pitfalls and tips to avoid debt are distributed. Takeaways are available, including lollipops that say, “Don’t be a sucker.”

Some institutions have restricted vendor activity or have completely banned credit card solicitors on campus.

Legislators have taken their own measures to protect students. In Maryland, a new law is set to take effect October 1 that requires higher ed institutions to develop guidelines for credit card marketers and the use of giveaways on campus. In May, Tennessee enacted a law prohibiting credit card issuers from recruiting students on campus or through university facilities or student organizations, with one exception: days when there are athletic events. The bill also requires University of Tennessee system institutions that receive funds from student credit cards or from the use of the school name or logo on credit cards to disclose the amount of money received and how the money was used.

Creola Johnson, a professor of law at Ohio State University who has studied campus credit cards, cites her concern about the impact of solicitation on students. “To me, the most important [measure] would be not to offer the trinkets to students to sign up for credit cards.” ?Michele Herrmann

MOST BUSINESS SCHOOLS TEACH ABOUT foreign currency exchange through lectures and textbooks, but the University of Scranton (Pa.) is letting students get their hands, virtually, on trading.

This fall, the university will open a simulated trading laboratory to help students learn what influences foreign currency trading by analyzing real-time data feeds and currency trading software to make “trades.”

“They will be acting during much of the course as real world traders,” says Ken Lord, associate dean of Scranton’s Kania School of Management.

Developed by Scranton adjunct professor Robert Colombo and Ioannis Kallianiotis, a Scranton economics/finance professor, the lab will simulate a stock market trading room floor with a dozen trading team workstations, overhead displays, and digital projection systems. Two accompanying courses are being created.

To enhance the “real world” simulation, the lab software will record international trading data (which occurs while American exchanges are closed) to play back in class. Students can then test their trading smarts as if it were in real time.

Scranton’s lab is considered an educational first. The program can be used to train staff at multinational financial service corporations. “There has not been a university program to fulfill that role in the corporate world,” says Lord. “This is an area where there has been a need for some time.” ?M.H.

YOU’VE HEARD ABOUT THE PROMISE OF using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace as recruitment tools, but many schools don’t want to invest time or effort into these paths until they know there will be results. Well, now there are.

Scott Minto, director of San Diego State University’s Sports Management MBA program, is successfully using Facebook as part of his recruitment arsenal. “We can target advertising to the kind of students we want. Maybe it’s in a country that is underrepresented, or an age group we want to build on. You can really hammer down your advertising to be as specific as you want it to be,” Minto says. He updates his Facebook “friends” with news about sporting events, campus happenings, class schedules, and more. “If I sent them e-mail each time there was an event, they would probably opt out and tell me to go away,” Minto says. Another advantage of using Facebook is access to user profiles, which reveal information beyond what’s included in a college application. Minto says that gives him a better sense of whether a prospect would be a good fit for his program. “I can see where they went to school, what their interests are, what groups they associate with, where they’ve worked before, and so on.”

But the best thing is becoming friends with the prospective students. “There’s a real value in keeping relationships going with these top prospects, the people we really want to target. In the past that hasn’t been the case,” Minto says. “And because their friends see it too, there is a viral marketing component at work.”

The success of the program may be because it is targeted to a specific group and not a university-wide approach. Minto says the school’s executive management program has taken an interest in the idea as well. ?Tim Goral

CONSTRUCTION PROJECT TEAMS throughout California now have specific guidelines for achieving energy efficiency. This summer the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC) became the first in the nation to adopt a Green Building Standards Code.

A press release from the Building Owners and Managers Association of California, which helped ensure the code is achievable and cost effective, praises the state?already considered one of the greenest in the nation?for taking the next step of building those practices into code. The organization will remain active in the process as the commercial codes move from voluntary to mandatory in 2010. After that, the code will be updated annually to keep it current.

Lest anyone think it duplicates the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED system, that organization has applauded the move, announcing in a statement that the system helped set the stage for stronger state and local building codes. USGBC President and CEO Rick Fedrizzi doesn’t expect the code to prevent local authorities from establishing even higher green standards.

Will other states follow suit? CBSC Executive Director David Walls says he is aware of others working on green building codes, but “many states do not have the statewide authority that California has”?meaning each city and county handles its own code adoption. For now, those elsewhere could always review the Golden State’s standards at www.bsc.ca.gov/prpsd_stds. ?M.E.

WHILE OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY-STILLWATER may be one of 50-plus colleges to go tobacco free, according to the American Lung Association, it is one of only a few to strive to be the healthiest school in America. “Tobacco Stops Here,” effective since July 1, is part of OSU’s Healthiest Campus campaign, a string of initiatives dedicated to promoting wellness through physical activity, proper nutrition, and the elimination of drug abuse.

Another campaign program, “Choose Orange,” encourages healthier food choices on campus, providing dietary guidelines that focus on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. Robin Purdie, director of the Seretean Wellness Center at the university, says the dining facilities and vending machines will be restocked to help steer students toward better food options.

The health center also holds monthly Wellness Wednesdays seminars on important health topics such as cardiovascular risk factors and bone strength. In addition, Purdie says the school is promoting exercise by implementing a bicycle rental program that allows students to rent a bike each year for their own use.

The tobacco ban “was a student government initiative from the get-go,” Purdie explains, adding that she’s confident in the campaign’s emphasis that the health of people is more important than anything. “There is no amount of secondhand smoke that is safe. People have the right to breathe clean air.”

Health care professionals are available at the center for smoking cessation assistance, including counseling and medication. ?Ginny Marr


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