Behind the News

Behind the News

When Adam Wheeler was charged with 20 criminal offenses this spring, the world was shocked as the allegations against him came to light. Wheeler, a transfer student admitted to Harvard College in 2007, was accused of forging transcripts, claiming he had received straight As from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, producing documents stating he had a perfect score on the SAT, and writing his own letters of recommendation. In reality, Wheeler had attended Bowdoin College (Maine) and received far from perfect SAT scores. Despite the holes in his application, Wheeler was admitted—and only caught when Harvard officials noticed his Rhodes Scholar application contained work that looked like that of a colleague's.

Wheeler's attempts to advance himself are the far extreme. "It wasn't just getting into Harvard. He was asking to get caught because he kept trying to build on top of the deception," says Jim Jump, president of the National Association for College Admissions Counseling. After his Rhodes Scholarship application was studied in depth and the source of his application material was challenged, Wheeler withdrew from Harvard and applied to transfer to Yale and Brown, which ultimately led to his arrest.

Wheeler's case, though shocking because he had gotten so far without being stopped, is not entirely atypical. Others have been accused of forging admissions documents to such prestigious colleges and universities as Princeton and Yale. According to Jump, the culture of applying to selective universities may be partly to blame. "I think Ivys are more prone to it. People see college as about the credential and not the experience. Colleges have allowed this culture of people to believe you need an outlandish resume to get in places. I think that encourages students to plagiarize," he says.

Jump points out that the overall admissions process opens up the possibility of falsified documents. Historically, he says, that process has been based on trust. "You trust the material you get is accurate. If we suddenly see a rise in the number of cases, that's going to cause everyone to reconsider the amount of verification needed."

Applying to college is obviously not the only area in which students falsify documents or academic material, and it seems this trend may be on the rise. At the University of Colorado, Boulder, academic dishonesty could be up as much as 40 percent this year. The sharp increase in such a short amount of time may be due to vigilance on behalf of the university community as well as improved software for catching plagiarists, officials say. "Sometimes high achievers tend to be people with a lot of pressure to do well and are therefore possibly more tempted to cheat or do things that are inappropriate," says Steve Loflin, founder and executive director of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

In light of cases such as Wheeler's and academic dishonesty in the classroom, college and university administrators are attempting to implement counteractive measures to discourage cheating. The National Society of Collegiate Scholars, for example, works with colleges and universities to bring in speakers and organize programs to encourage students to take pride in their own work. Within the admissions process itself, Jump says that, in cases like Wheeler's, "consequences will be a deterrent. The admissions offices are doing some inner-self searching to see if there's anything they should be doing. Everyone will be vigilant." —KeriLee Horan

Michael Hogan

Michael Hogan comes to his next presidency during a difficult budgetary time for the University of Illinois. The three-campus institution has to operate without millions in state appropriations that can't be paid, and with a working group recently completing an administrative review and recommending cost-saving measures. Hogan plans increased fundraising and alumni relations efforts. The former University of Connecticut president specializes in post-World War II diplomatic history and the Cold War.

Other new presidencies include Richard A. Hanson, who has been leading both Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College (Minn.) since July. He had been interim president of North Dakota State University after his predecessor stepped down over what was considered exuberant spending on building projects. Hanson is the former president of Waldorf College (Iowa). Taking over at NDSU is Dean Bresciani, a former Texas A&M vice president for student affairs. ... John H. Garvey, dean of the Boston College Law School, has begun presiding over The Catholic University of America (D.C.) ... Tony Atwater has ended his presidency at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to take on a leadership role with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. ... Justin Draeger has assumed the presidency for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. ... Jo Ann Rooney has become the sixth president of Mount Ida College (Mass.) after leading Spalding University (Ky.) for seven years. ... South Carolina State University's Board of Trustees has reinstated George Cooper as president, reversing an earlier decision. ... Tennessee State University President Melvin Johnson will retire at the end of the year, with plans to become a tenured professor in the College of Business. ... Roy J. Nirschel has resigned as president of Roger Williams University (R.I.), citing a need for change in leadership. ... The American Association of Community Colleges has chosen Walter Bumphus, professor in the Community College Leadership Program and chair of the Department of Educational Administration at The University of Texas at Austin, as president. ... Seton Hall University (N.J.) Provost A. Gabriel Esteban has been named to a one-year term as interim president. ... Frederick M. Lawrence, dean of the George Washington University (D.C.) Law School and a leading expert on civil rights and free expression, will become president of Brandeis University (Mass.), effective Jan. 1, 2011. —Michele Herrmann

 

By mid-summer, 25 states had adopted the Common Core State Standards (www.corestandards.org) released by the National Governors Association and State Education Chiefs in early June. The standards provide guidelines for English-language arts and mathematics knowledge and skills students should receive during their K-12 careers to be prepared for success in college and work. "As states adopt the standards and move into full implementation, colleges and universities should experience a concomitant decrease in remediation need in their freshman classes," says Paul E. Lingenfelter, State Higher Education Executive Officers' President.

The hope is that all states will eventually adopt the standards. Supporters say the current initiative is different from past alignment efforts because it is state-driven and developed by a variety of stakeholders, including representatives from higher education. Higher ed institutions focusing on teacher education will probably be the first to experience an effect from the new standards as they retool their curriculums in response. "Teacher preparation programs will be able to use the standards framework to assure that their graduates have the appropriate aspirations and expectations for the students in their classrooms," says Lingenfelter.

When higher ed can expect to see the standards reflected on incoming freshmen is unclear, since adoption is voluntary. Also, "for full implementation, the development of curriculum, instruction, assessments, and teacher professional development aligned to the standards will need to follow standards adoption," explains Lingenfelter.

"Across the nation, colleges and universities, as well as state agencies of higher education, are deeply engaged in conversation about what it truly means to be college-ready without remediation need," he says, urging postsecondary leaders to continue the collaboration that went into developing the standards. "Postsecondary voices are critical to ensure that college-ready levels are set realistically, such that students who earn a college-ready designation upon high school graduation are truly ready to be successful without remediation in entry-level college courses." —Ann McClure

By D. Bruce Johnstone and Pamela N. Marcucci; Johns Hopkins, 2010; 322 pp.; Hardcover $60, Paperback $30; www.press.jhu.edu

 

As tuition fees rise, student loan debt grows—and governments are shouldering less of the burden—who should pay for higher education's surging costs? That's the question behind this examination of cost-sharing, which leaves students responsible for a greater share of the cost of college. The book considers the impact of this cost-sharing on institutional finance, capacity, and quality, and also its effect on higher education access and how socially equitable that access is. Author D. Bruce Johnstone is a professor of higher and comparative education at the State University of New York at Buffalo, and Pamela N. Marcucci is project manager of that institution's International Comparative Higher Education Finance and Accessibility Project.

The book's charts include comparisons of student loan programs and comparisons of higher education costs in countries around the world. It concludes with a look at five major forces shaping the future of higher education and how we pay for it. —Melissa Ezarik

 

A lack of documentation is not a deterrent from pursuing higher education. Research conducted by the National Association for College Admission Counseling finds that 60 percent of colleges and universities are receiving applications from undocumented students. More than 70 percent of public institutions said that they were, compared to more than half of private schools. Eighty percent of medium- to large-sized institutions reported getting applications from this group of students, with 86 percent of the most selective ones doing so.

The study comes out as two states are making news on matters involving immigration. Arizona has made headlines with a state law that allows law enforcement authorities—including campus police—to ask those suspected as being illegal to verify their legal status. In Georgia, the university system's Board of Regents mandated all 35 state schools to conduct a campus review of all fall semester admission applications to make sure undocumented students are not receiving in-state tuition or other benefits prohibited under law. By October, a committee of four university presidents and five regents will establish strong methods for checking residency.

John Vanchella, director of strategic communications, says the audit will help institutions better determine how many students may not reside in Georgia, are nonresident aliens, or are on visas. The goal is for the policy to have more clarity so that each institution understands what is required, he adds.

The recheck follows the arrest of a Kennesaw State University student who was found to be in the U.S. illegally. Admission records had her registered as a Georgia resident and she had been paying in-state tuition. Undocumented students are allowed to attend public college in Georgia, but they are required to pay out-of-state tuition. Roughly 100 undocumented students are estimated to be enrolled in Georgia's public institutions.

At Georgia Perimeter College, Vincent June, vice president for student affairs and enrollment, says about 614 applications had still yet to be reviewed as of early July. So far, 30 had to have their tuition status changed. The two-year college has an international students admissions department that is reviewing applications, as well. "In a nutshell, we will be required to scrutinize the application process more," says June about the audit.

At Southern Polytechnic State University, Ron Koger, vice president for student and enrollment services, says their audit of about 600 new freshmen and 600 new transfer applications has been completed. No changes had to be made.

Koger adds that about three SPSU students expressed worry over facing legal consequences due to their residency status and are "concerned about what's going to happen to them." —M.H.

With a $71,097 difference in median spending in favor of athletics over academics in Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions in 2008, it's hard not to be a bit curious about where the money's going. It seems, then, that the recommendation by the recent Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics report, "Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values, and the Future of College Sports," in favor of greater transparency in athletic spending comes at a good time.

"Financial data ought to be transparent and readily available to students, parents, trustees, and taxpayers who have a stake," said William E. Kirwan, co-chairman of the Commission and chancellor of the University System of Maryland, at a press conference held at the release of the report. NCAA Interim President Jim Isch, in a prepared statement, agreed, saying that "the NCAA's Dashboard Indicators provide presidents and chancellors a standardized look at their respective financials as compared to their peers."

A good start, but is it enough? There's only so much that a set of numbers can explain, and true transparency requires much deeper analysis than a quick survey can provide.

 

Morgan Burke, the athletic director at Purdue University (Ind.), gives insight into this "apples-to-apples" dilemma. A capital project, he explains, such as the current stadium construction Purdue is undertaking, will appear on the report as an operating expense. But, he asks, in what normal business is a capital project like this considered an operating cost? Money set aside to pay for this kind of endeavor should fall under a different category, he argues. "Mixing your ongoing recurring operating expenses with anything you do to update facilities creates a year-to-year distortion." That's why a quick glance at the numbers is not enough, Burke believes.

The report also calls for 8 to 10 fewer scholarships at FBS schools from the current 85. Burke is concerned that a reduction in scholarships would mean a reduction in opportunities for student athletes. In response to the common accusation that athletic scholarship amounts increase at an unreasonable rate, he notes that scholarship awards grow in relation to the increase in tuition—so his hands are tied when it comes to allocating the monetary amount attached to athletic scholarships.

"The American public reads headlines of conference expansions and the NCAA's $10 billion dollar television deal and assumes that football and basketball are generating profits for universities to use for academic purposes. This is a myth," says Amy Perko, executive director of the Knight Commission. More often than not, the report shows, athletic programs are hardly breaking even. But in the nature of true transparency, decision-makers must be careful that when they make spending cuts—and there are many places where this is both possible and advisable—they have the interest of the student-athlete in mind, the report stresses.

"Everybody thinks it's about the trophies and the rings, and they're nice, but they tarnish," Burke says. "It's about the [student athlete] experience."

The full report can be found at http://restoringbalance.knightcommission.org. —Eric A. Clayton

Every college orientation aims to help incoming students transition to the next phase of their lives and education. For those who are first in their family to attend college, that transition can be particularly challenging. As Kirsti Paolini, who is starting at West Virginia University this fall, explains, "My parents have no idea what college is like either. It is new for my whole family."

Like many institutions, WVU offers extra support for first-generation students. For the past few years, anyone from this group takes the required University 101 and English 101 courses from the same professor, explains Courtney A. Jennings, coordinator of New Student Orientation. This summer, her office took first-generation support to the next level by organizing an orientation day specifically for them. Held June 14, the session was attended by 200 students and their families. Approximately 22 percent of the incoming freshman class falls into the first-generation group, and they're given the option of attending the special orientation or another one.

Jennings says the idea was discussed last fall, and that implementing it didn't cost extra because the number of orientation sessions remained the same. The program is also mostly unchanged. The big difference: Speakers take extra care to avoid acronyms (e.g., FAFSA) and explain everything fully.

Introducing this year's session was Barbara Copenhaver-Bailey, assistant vice president for student affairs, who knows first-hand what it's like to be a first-generation student. She reminded families of their children's potential and suggested they reach out to each other (such as through the Mountaineer Parents Club) and encourage their children to get involved on campus.

Other institutions that are putting out the welcome mat for first-generation students include:

    • The University of Iowa: The Iowa Edge, a five-day, post-orientation program held in August, caters to both this group and minority students. Students must apply, and the program is capped at 120.
    • Lake Forest College (Ill.): The First Connection Pre-Orientation Program takes place a week before orientation and facilitates the transition for traditionally underrepresented and/or underserved students, including first-generation students.
    • Loyalist College (Ontario, Canada): The day-long First Generation Orientation, held in August, helps students develop a plan of action for the upcoming weeks and year. —M.E.
 

This fall, Stephens College (Mo.) will devote an entire residence hall to inhabitants of the furry, feathery, scaly, or four-legged kind. Students selected for Searcy Hall, aka "Pet Central," will share a single room with their dog, cat, or other creature complying with Stephens' pet program.

Since 2004, the women's college has allowed family pets to stay in either selected rooms or wings in dormitories. At the time, then-new president Wendy Libby had her two Labs with her during her stay on campus while her house was being finished. Students noticed this and expressed interest in bringing their pets from home. Stephens has had a history with animals (having an equestrian program since the 1920s) and the pet program has provided students with a sense of comfort.

"There are students who choose us because of this program," explains Media Relations Manager Sara Fernandez Cendon. "It's allowed us to use this love and passion for animals to fulfill our educational mission as well."

Other institutions have similar policies for accommodating pet owners while maintaining order. Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.) designates a building for pets, while SUNY Canton provides a pet wing. MIT and CalTech will let felines stay in certain residencies, but both require cat registration and consent by roommates. Like at Stephens, a pet council at Eckerd College (Fla.) administers requirements and rules of conduct.

To bring Fido or Fluffy to Stephens, student owners first undergo a screening process and are asked to consider what their pet's temperament would be like. A three-week grace period at the beginning of the semester allows for a pet's adjustment to a residence hall setting. A $200 pet deposit is required and refunded if there's no room damage. Only twice in the program's length have pets been removed due to perceived neglect.

This fall, the dorm will have "Doggie Daycare," employing student-workers to dog sit while owners are in class. Cats and the other allowed pets—which include birds, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, mice, and lizards—are apparently self-sufficient. (As for snakes and spiders, they must stay home.) —M.H.

Silver linings are hard to come by, especially in economic times like these. But Richard Fry, senior researcher at the Pew Research Center, claims to have found one in the recently released report, "Minorities and the Recession-Era College Enrollment Boom." The report found that freshmen U.S. post-secondary enrollment increased by 144,000 students—a 6 percent increase and the largest in 40 years—from the fall of 2007 to the following fall of 2008. The "silver lining"? Almost three fourths of the enrollment boom came from minority populations.

The first academic year of the recession, 2007-2008, saw Hispanic freshmen enrollment grow by 15 percent, black freshmen enrollment by 8 percent, Asian enrollment by 6 percent, and white enrollment by 3 percent. While there are other reasons to consider, the report points to the increased difficulty in finding jobs as a primary cause.

"What's happening to the teen and youth labor market?" Fry asks. Teenagers who would have entered the workplace right after high school graduation in many cases no longer have that option. Many enter college.

But the enrollment boom is not evenly spread, Fry notes. "Given the boom in enrollment, you wouldn't expect it to be so concentrated in particular kinds of universities." The greatest increase was 11 percent, seen at two-year institutions and private, for-profit institutions. Four-year and less-than-two-year institutions only grew 4 percent and 5 percent, respectively. Geographic location also plays an important role. Compare, he says, the young adult labor markets in states like California that have been hit harder by the recession with ones like Texas that have weathered the storm more effectively.

As Fry reminds, "Very few college students pay the full cost of what it costs to educate them. Most students are subsidized in one way or another." If students are being subsidized even when they are paying full tuition, this boom in enrollment could be costly to state legislatures and others.

What's more, a recent study on low-income young adults' education by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) found that, while 60 percent of young adults from low-income backgrounds attended or earned a credential from a post-secondary institution in 2008, only one in 10 was able to immediately find work and shrug off the shackles of poverty.

Of course, Fry notes, whether or not minority freshmen get the degrees and eventual jobs they seek is "an open question."

The Pew Research Center report can be found online at http://pewsocialtrends.org/pubs, and the IHEP study is at www.ihep.org (click on Publications). —E.C.

 

We thought at first it was the bounce that book authors get when the timing is right for their titles—in our case, Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Yet, we sensed a micro-trend among small, religious institutions looking for everlasting spiritual redemption and long-term economic viability. This new breed of contemporary Christian college has developed new revenue streams, providing financial replenishment for faith-based, liberal arts residential campuses.

As Florida's first Catholic university, Saint Leo University offers a traditional, residential campus and a Benedictine learning experience. That said, it is easy to forget that Saint Leo once teetered on the economic brink. Under new leadership over the last decade, it achieved a stunning reversal of fortune fueled by online program expansion, new opportunities for place-bound student audiences, and learning sites on U.S. and overseas military bases. President Arthur Kirk notes, "It is very much about striving to achieve maximum potential."

Wittenberg University (Ohio), a campus in the finest Lutheran tradition, generates non-tuition revenue through savvy grantsmanship. As President Mark Erickson suggests, they must continue to bring the world to Wittenberg and Wittenberg to the world. With an internationally recognized program in East Asian Studies now over 40 years old, the university has established the East Asian Institute, an initiative connecting the historic strengths of the East Asian program with business and economics programs.

Beyond the Catholic and Lutheran examples, William Boozang, Eastern Nazarene College's (Mass.) director of adult and graduate studies, cites ENC's 2+2 partnership with Massasoit Community College (Mass.) as a major source of non-traditional revenue—critical resources to preserve ENC's Nazarene heritage for the betterment of ENC and its traditional, full-time, residential students.

What do Saint Leo, Wittenberg, and Eastern Nazarene have in common? Each has cross-subsidized its religious mission and classical liberal arts programs, demonstrating strong Christian values and an abiding commitment to ethical stewardship and faith-based social entrepreneurship. To read more on this topic, see the full version of this column here.

—James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, 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.), and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.

 

Grief counseling on campus is usually thought of in terms of big events like the shootings at Virginia Tech or Northern Illinois University. But people on campuses experience day-to-day grief, as well. "In my research, and the research of others, we've learned that in any given year about 22 to 33 percent of any student body is suffering a loss," says Illene C. Noppe, professor of human development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Faculty and staff might also be coping. "If we do the typical American thing of sticking grief in the closet, we are setting up retention issues."

Noppe is the faculty advisor for Students of AMF at UW-Green Bay (www.studentsofamf.org), a peer support group for college students grieving the illness or death of a loved one. Noppe aided the efforts of students Ashley Durand, Nicole Hoagland, and Amanda Brodhagen to create a memorial garden on campus, which was dedicated in April. "We were trying to find a way to be visible without serving pizza," Noppe explains.

Campus administrators gave the project "phenomenal" support, she adds, by providing space outside the student center, offering design services from the master gardener, and ensuring the garden is watered over the summer. During the dedication ceremony, perennials were planted in honor of campus members and attendees planted annuals for loved ones. The location outside the student center ensures people can easily visit the garden any time. The planting ceremony will be an annual event.

Even though students are young they still suffer loss, which is often sudden, Noppe says. "I think it is a significant problem and campuses and administrators have to become aware of the significance of college student bereavement. Anything you can do to acknowledge it is important." —A.M.


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