Behind The News

Behind The News

During the annual National Student Leadership Congress, TRIO students learn about policy and share their experiences with legislators, who in turn see the impact TRIO programs make.

In his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Obama pledged ambitious education goals for his administration, particularly to ensure that by 2020 America will have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.

His administration's proposed 2011 budget includes $2.1 billion for higher ed programs. It would provide $125.9 million for International Education and Foreign Language Studies programs and 5 percent increases in funding for both historically black colleges and universities and the Developing Hispanic-serving Institutions program. To help close the gap in enrollment and degree attainment between minority and low-income students and others, $508.5 million in discretionary funding for the Aid for Institutional Development programs would be provided, an increase of $23.8 million over the 2010 level.

However, there is concern over a proposal to level-fund federal TRIO programs in Obama's 2011 budget request and the unfunded mandate for the Talent Search program included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. Obama's budget would provide $910.1 million in combined discretionary and mandatory appropriations to maintain college prep and college student support services for participants in TRIO programs. The Council for Opportunity in Education is requesting slight increases, arguing that demand for their programs continues to rise.

TRIO is a set of seven federally funded educational opportunity outreach programs and a staff training program that aids mainly low-income, first-generation students. TRIO funding has substantially decreased since the early 2000s, resulting in dropped services, according to Heather Valentine, vice president of government relations for the Council. "We're very concerned that all this new investment money in education comes from one-time only innovation funding and the budget is ignoring programs like TRIO that have a [lengthy] history." Started in the mid-sixties, TRIO now involves nearly 850,000 students across the nation.

"The president's budget request for the TRIO programs is an example of asking campuses to do more with less," says Becky Timmons, American Council on Education's assistant vice president for government relations. She argues that efforts "cannot be sacrificed to a future hope that improvements in elementary and secondary education will eliminate the need for such services."

The Student Aid Alliance, a coalition cofounded by the American Council on Education and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, recommends that TRIO funding be boosted from $853.09 million to $1 billion.

A TRIO fact sheet explains that an investment in the 2011 fiscal year would:

  • Allow 15 percent of Talent Search students to receive services that promote their success in rigorous secondary curricula ($35.8 million).
  • Expand the Student Support Services program to improve retention, transfer, and graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients.
  • Sustain Upward Bound for 12,000 students in 187 programs ($57 million).
  • Expand programs within the Educational Opportunity Center by 30 percent ($14.5 million).
  • Restore services lost as a result of stagnant funding and provide opportunity for nearly 43,000 students ($42.7 million). --Michele Herrmann
 

Most of the discussion of e-readers in higher ed focuses on textbook substitutes, so it was a surprise to hear Valley Library at Oregon State University is using Kindles for novels. Patron demand for popular novels inspired the project. "We're committed to trying out new technologies," says Loretta Rielly, interim head of collections. The library even had a Rocket Book in the late 1990s. Rielly admits they didn't do much research on the Kindle beyond a staff member's personal experience and the fact that other e-readers were newer to market when the program launched last summer. But, demand has been high, with more than 100 people on the wait list for 17 circulating units. "It's been successful," Rielly says. "But we probably won't invest in any more e-book readers because we think the future is in personal units."

Units are lent for two weeks, cannot be renewed, and have to be returned before school breaks. No special tracking is being done beyond normal circulation records, which is how laptops and other electronics are checked out, as well. No Kindles have gone missing, and if one did, "the person [would be] charged replacement costs and a heavy fine," Rielly says.

Since they are interested in overall program costs, the librarians found it faster and easier to use gift cards to get the e-books rather than the normal acquisitions process. "My advice is be prepared for a lot of initial interest," says Rielly. "We're really pleased we could offer this option at a low cost and we can let the students select what books to purchase." --Ann McClure

 

Although there is still room for improvement, American higher ed has a pretty good handle on access for most students. Now the focus is on getting students to stick around long enough to either graduate or obtain a certificate. Although the legislation supporting the American Graduation Initiative still hasn't passed, the public and private sectors recently launched efforts focused on completion rates.

Complete College America (http://completecollege.org) is a new nonprofit tackling the issue in public institutions at the state policy level. Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Ford Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Lumina Foundation for Education are all partnering on the effort. CCA will work in tandem with existing completion initiatives because they all have the same goal and will help get policies implemented that support best practices, explained Jamie Merisotis, Lumina President, during a conference call launching the initiative. Participating states are being encouraged to set goals and publicly report progress. "We're focused on the number of students coming into college who are not completing," said Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen. "If you are running a retail store that isn't doing well, you look at the people who came in and didn't buy anything," he says.

Tennessee, one of 17 states to sign on, recently passed legislation developed with the assistance of CCA that addresses improving the transfer process and changes the funding formula from enrollments to completion rates. Bredesen said because colleges all have different missions they aren't expected to have the same graduation rates. "Changing the funding formula isn't an investment, it's using the same money to reward different things."

According to CCA President Stan Jones, Indiana, Ohio, and Washington are also considering enacting performance funding. Jones said the reporting CCA is encouraging it based on data institutions already have. "Until the right information is available, you can't get people to focus on the problem."

Building Blocks to 2020, the effort launched by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities and the Council of Independent Colleges, also encourages higher ed institutions to set goals and publicly report on progress. "If you want to move the needle on college retention and completion, the wholehearted participation of America's private colleges and universities is essential," points out NAICU president David Warren. Building Blocks to 2020 will provide a venue for institution leaders to share information and has obtained funding to expand existing programs. Institutions can sign up at www.naicu.edu. --A.M.

This past fall, campus leaders heard from The Center for Public Integrity that one out of five women will be sexually assaulted during their college years, with more than 95 percent of cases going unreported. A new report from the Sexual Assault on Campus project highlights universities' responses, which, more often than not, are inadequate and result in angry and victimized students, potential lawsuits, and high instances of repeat offenses. Universities rarely, if ever, expel students convicted of sexual assault, resulting in a high number of repeat offenders, the research found.

 

"There needs to be a fine balance struck to ensure that victims as well as the accused are treated fairly," believes Jonathan Kassa, president of Security On Campus, Inc. "It's quite clear with this piece that victims get the short end of the stick. This pattern has been repeating itself for decades."

Regarding repeat offenders, the research found this group responsible for a significant number of sexual assaults on campus?"contrary to what those who adjudicate these cases on college campuses believe," the report notes. "Authorities are often slow to realize they have such 'undetected rapists' in their midst." What can administrators do? Make appropriate responses to sexual assault cases a priority. "Every campus community [has] crime like any other community across America, and [campuses aren't] exempt to providing the same rights as if victims were outside the university community," Kassa notes. "That demonstrates the problem. Students in this process might as well be second-rate citizens."

For more on the Sexual Assault on Campus project, visit www.publicintegrity.org/projects. --KeriLee Horan

Mary Jane Saunders

Florida Atlantic University's newly elected president, Mary Jane Saunders, plans to tackle concerns such as poor graduation rates and faculty discontent to turn FAU into a leading science and research institution. Saunders is currently provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Cleveland State University. She joined CSU in 2003 as director of the Biomedical Health Institute and professor. She was the College of Science's founding dean. During her career, she has also directed the Institute of Biomolecular Science at the University of South Florida and was an assistant professor at Louisiana State University. ... Another new appointee is John A. Fry, who will lead Drexel University (Pa.) starting August 1, following the sudden death of President Constantine N. Papadakis. Now president of Franklin & Marshall College (Pa.), Fry is a former University of Pennsylvania executive. Other higher ed leaders are stepping down. Retiring this August is Steven B. Sample, University of Southern California's president since 1991. During his term, USC completed the largest higher ed fundraising campaign; created a global network of scholars and programs; built local economic/educational development partnerships; and became the largest private employer in Los Angeles. USC's new leader was found internally. C. L. Max Nikias is currently executive vice president and provost. ... Erskine Bowles, president of the University of North Carolina system, will retire by the end of 2010. ... Jack Wilson, president of the University of Massachusetts, will leave in June 2011 after nearly eight years. ... As of July 1, Joseph R. Urgo, a literature professor and administrator at Hamilton College (N.Y.), will preside over St. Mary's College of Maryland. ... R. Bowen Loftin, interim president of Texas A&M University since June 2009, was named president in February. -M.H.

As any president or advancement officer knows, some donors prefer to be anonymous. In some cases, existing privacy laws help preserve giving secrecy, but open-records laws could make things sticky for government entities. Vermont almost became the 20th state to pass a law granting donor records an exemption, but the legislature fell short of acting on the proposal before the end of its session.

"We'll have time to regroup," says Enrique Corredera, director of university communications for the University of Vermont, which supports the exemption. It has also been supported by Vermont State Colleges and The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation. The proposed legislation caused vocal opposition from Vermont newspapers, which ran op-ed pieces and sent at least one publisher to testify in front of the legislature. Arguments were that the exemption would further weaken the public records law and that large financial transactions would not receive proper oversight if they happened in secret.

"We maintain a healthy relationship with our local and state media," Corredera says. It is understandable the media "would not be enthusiastic" about changes to the opens record laws, he concedes, adding that he also feels it's reasonable for a public institution, which relies heavily on donations to fulfill its mission, to seek donor protection. UVM was thinking in terms of future fundraising strategies when supporting the exemption, he says. "We believe there is protection in place, but it's not specific." --A.M.

 

For some time, it has been common for administrators to inform parents when their under-21 son or daughter commits a major alcohol violation or faces suspension. Now, more institutions are notifying Mom and Dad about even minor offenses. The letter home is thought to help curb underage drinking before it becomes a huge problem.

In January, Virginia Tech began informing parents or guardians any time a student is found responsible for an alcohol or drug violation. With the former three-strike policy, officials found more cases of minor offenses were occurring, and parents complained about not being informed until after there was a serious problem.

"Any parent would prefer to get a letter from us than a phone call that a student has died from alcohol poisoning," points out Edward Spencer, vice president for student affairs.

Changes in laws and attitudes support parental notification policies. Spencer points to the stronger parental involvement with today's students than before. Plus, FERPA enables officials to inform parents of underaged students about alcohol or drug violations.

The University at Albany, State University of New York began notifying parents of any alcohol offense about four years ago as part of its alcohol prevention measures. Director of Residential Life Laurie Garafola partly credits the policy to a decline in violations overall, and she says students are talking with their folks about policy offenses more, before a letter reaches home.

Schools such as George Washington University (D.C.), and the University of Kansas share similar policies. In 2008, Tennessee passed a state law for public institutions to notify parents of alcohol violations. --M.H.

 

As spring semester 2010 draws to a close, a new generation of aspiring students are plugging into Facebook, Twitter, and importantly, student activities portals -- pumping out concert tickets, premium movie seats, and gourmet pizzas (critical nourishment for burning the midnight oil for spring semester cram sessions).

Looking at next fall's entering freshmen enrollment pool, chances are the student's online inquiry has triggered a personalized text message within five minutes, and a personal follow-up telephone call within 24 hours -- so he or she knows that their college of choice is willing and able to facilitate a smooth admissions path. Indeed, today's virtual admissions office offers a range of services beyond recruitment, including career counseling, individualized learning assessment, class placement and academic advising and, significantly, financial aid and course registration.

Anyone who has recently navigated the student admission process knows that behind the voice is a well-oiled enrollment marketing enterprise that invites a one-stop admissions process, supported by 24/7 call centers and direct mail fulfillment. What is really amazing is that behind the scenes, this complex mix of student services delivered to an East Coast campus is being orchestrated by a 20-something outsourced admission pro on the West Coast who can relate to next-generation students.

Just ask John Hall, CEO of Greenwood & Hall, a California-based relationship management solutions provider. "The right outsourcing relationship may generate cost savings, but more importantly, it will create positive returns," he says. "Examples of those returns might be significant increases in student recruitment, more automation, financial aid efficiencies, better retention rates, higher levels of student satisfaction, lower default rates, or greater alumni involvement."

Columnists James Martin and James E. Samels are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.). Samels is president/CEO of The Education Alliance.

America has come a long way in aligning high school graduation requirements with the demands of college and the workplace - a goal that has gone from a radical concept to a new norm. Five years ago, the National Governors Association and the nonprofit education reform organization Achieve co-sponsored a National Education Summit to help bring about change, and Achieve has now launched its fifth annual report on states' progress.

 

"The best progress has been made in standards," says Nevin Brown, senior fellow for Achieve's postsecondary initiative. Five years ago, only three states had end-of-high-school standards aligned with the demands of college and career; today, 31 states have these standards in English and mathematics. And while only three states administered college- and career-ready high school assessments then, now 14 states do.

The report also details progress in requiring students to complete a college- and career-ready curriculum to earn a high school diploma, linking K-12 student data with similar data from postsecondary data systems, and incorporating accountability indicators identified by Achieve as critical to promoting college and career readiness.

"I think the big gap is still in the area of accountability," Brown says. Who should be held responsible for K-12 achievement? "In too many states, students [meet high school graduation standards], and then they get to college and find all of a sudden that they're in remediation," he explains.

Higher ed is certainly working on education reform. "You're hearing a lot not just about access but about success," Brown notes. Still, more can be done, and higher ed leaders have a vital interest in ensuring K-12 reforms work. "That means much more attention to teacher preparation and development, much more engagement in being sure the curriculum in high school is really aligned with the potential to get in and succeed in first-year courses," he says.

He also points to a conversation about a "medical model" circulating among college of education faculty and administrators - in which a "residency" requirement creates a longer integration process of teachers into the K-12 classroom. "There needs to be a rethinking about how you introduce teachers to their careers," he says.

To download the full report, visit www.achieve.org/ClosingtheExpectationsGap2010. --Melissa Ezarik

Small colleges may have smaller marketing staffs than large, big-name universities, but it seems they don't have to work quite as hard to engage alumni. That's one indication of a national survey of more than 2,000 alumni of colleges and universities from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The survey was conducted by the Close to the Customer Project, led by marketing professors Jim McAlexander and Hal Koenig at Oregon State University's College of Business. In earlier research, the professors developed the "brand community" model, which was applied to higher education with this study.

They measured four relationships: alumni's assessment of their education's impact upon their life, their connection to the institution's identity, their feelings about interactions with the institution, and the degree to which they value relationships with their alumni peers. Findings included:

  • Alumni of smaller schools tended to have more positive feelings about their education than those at large schools. However, there was no evidence that alumni had stronger or weaker connections to the brand based on institution size, and alumni from smaller schools reported having no more interaction with other alumni than those from larger schools.
  • Alumni of larger colleges and universities were more likely to desire logo clothing and were more likely to encourage friends and family members to attend their alma mater.

In analyzing the data, the researchers suggest that alumni of smaller schools have more opportunities to build tighter bonds with faculty and other institutional professionals while they are students compared to alumni of the larger schools. In addition, perhaps larger institutions could influence the brand affinity by having smaller classes or by paying more careful attention to the composition of class cohorts.

The Close to the Consumer Project's Building Community Initiative, www.oregonstate.edu/bci, helps universities build these connections and make alumni relations and giving stronger. --M.E.


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