Behind the News

Behind the News

A recently enacted state law requires all institutions in the California State University and University of California systems -- plus community colleges that maintain student housing facilities -- to provide students raised in foster care with priority campus housing year-round. Luckily for these schools, they've gotten a head start on providing housing and other support services for this group.

"The main issue for foster youth is that they lack the family and social safety nets that typical students have," says Ray Murillo, CSU's associate director of student programs. Once a foster care youth turns 18, he or she is emancipated from the system. During college semester breaks and summer vacation, these students often don't have a place to stay off campus. They have had to live in their cars or temporarily move in with friends. With CSU, staff negotiations have allowed for foster youth to remain on-campus during move-out periods, says Murillo. Administrators have also worked with county social services to find alternative solutions.

A foster care youth's needs can equal those of a first-generation college student with requiring guidance through the college process as well as lacking support from home, finds Kevin Kruger, associate executive director of the organization NASPA - Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. "The percentage of foster care youth who enroll in college is quite low."

For those who do so, completion rates are also low. "Supporting Success: Improving Higher Education Outcomes for Students from Foster Care," a 2008 study published by Casey Family Programs (http://budurl.com/cekh), found that only 7 percent to 13 percent of students from foster care enroll in higher ed and about 2 percent obtain bachelor's degrees, in contrast to 24 percent of adults, generally. Some states, including Kansas and Massachusetts, offer tuition waiver programs for foster youth, while others, including Washington and South Dakota, provide financial scholarships, both for attending state schools.

Prior to the California law being signed in October 2009, most CSU campuses had foster youth-centered programs already in place. Other schools in the state offer similar initiatives. For example, San Diego State University's Guardian Scholars program guides foster students through every step, from application to graduation. "It is absolutely critical that they develop connections to people at the campus," says Reginald Blaylock, director of educational opportunity programs.

In 2009, the Cal State system had 1,120 enrolled students who identified themselves as foster youth, while the University of California system had 300. At the state's community colleges, Murillo says it's estimated that roughly 4,000 to 5,000 foster youth may have been registered last year.

Along with housing, there are other ways institutions can help. Murillo recommends designating a campus employee to work directly with foster youth to maintain consistent contact. This advisor can make certain they connect with key departments such as financial aid and the registrar to resolve any issues (e.g., changes in course scheduling) that might occur. --Michele Herrmann

From Campus to Capitol

The Role of Government Relations in Higher Education

By William McMillen, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 168 p.p., $40, www.press.jhu.edu

 

During a time when state appropriations are declining, enrollments are surging, and economic uncertainty is a fact of life, government relations has become a necessary function for just about every U.S. college or university.

William McMillen, vice president for government relations and chief of staff at The University of Toledo (Ohio), offers his reflections and research on the multifaceted aspects that the position of government relations officer carries. He describes how the position has developed over time and how those with the title can best approach their working relationship between government and higher education. Included are anecdotes and interviews with fellow officers on the on- and off-campus challenges they often face.

McMillen also provides recommendations on negotiating effectively with community associations, mayors, and lobbyists while ensuring that the institution's best interests are met. "These relationships are complex and often difficult," he writes, "but in the end the payoff to the university can be great." -M.H.

 

The good news: A study by the Council of Independent Colleges of chief academic officers revealed relatively high levels of job satisfaction. Still, their periods of service are relatively short, with CIC CAOs averaging just 4.3 years on the job. "We're really puzzled by the short tenure," says Hal Hartley, senior vice president at CIC and the study's co-author. At the same time, presidential terms among CIC colleges are getting longer. "Trustees may be inclined to stick with the president if things are going well, but the president may feel the need to reinvent his presidency for the next phase," Hartley speculates. CIC, which examined 2008 data from the American Council on Education's survey of 1,140 CAOs (358 of whom are at CIC institutions), is planning some focus groups to explore the issue.

Supervising and managing personnel is the most time-consuming task for all CAOs. Despite the administrative demands of their roles - which include overseeing curriculum and academic programs, faculty hiring, strategic planning, and budgeting - these campus leaders also frequently perform functions related to teaching and scholarship, from conducting research and writing about higher ed issues to teaching courses.

As far as moving up to the top spot, many CAOs are not interested, with 30 percent overall (and just 24 percent from CIC colleges) planning to seek a presidency. Yet CAOs do tend to get along well with their presidents. When asked to assess five types of relationships and indicate which are best and most challenging, the top response for best relationship was "president." "They have the closest working relationship," Hartley notes. The strength of that relationship varies by institution type, with CIC CAOs, who are typically the number two leader behind the president, being far more likely to name that as their best relationship compared to campuses where the CAO is one of many vice presidents or where someone else serves as number two.

And what is the most challenging relationship? Of the choices given, CAOs most commonly name relations with the faculty. CIC President Richard Ekman explains that when faculty see one of their colleagues go "over to the dark side" to become CAO, "they forget that they have 20 years of friendship with that person.  It's a difficult job to [become] the person who not only represents the views of the faculty, but also has to enforce the decisions that often these days don't reflect an ideal world." For example, the CAO may have to communicate that there's less money for faculty conference travel. Still, in a question about the most frustrating aspects of the CAO's work, notes Hartley, "curmudgeonly faculty" did not rank high. (The lack of sufficient funding, not surprisingly, did.)

When responses from those choosing the CFO or other vice presidents as most challenging relationships are combined, the total for each institution type is higher than the faculty response. The study recommends creating opportunities to foster better relations among CAOs, CFOs, and other vice presidents. One such opportunity is the council's CAO/CFO Institute. "We encourage every CAO to bring his CFO with him," Ekman says. "We talk about them as teams." The institute provides the time these campus leaders don't always have back home to figure out more effective ways of working together or consider how the situation on one campus compares to another.

The full report can be found at www.cic.edu/CAOReport. --Melissa Ezarik

Deborah A. Freund

Scott E. Evenbeck, a psychology professor and Dean of the University College at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, will be overseeing just about every aspect in the launch of The City University of New York's new community college, which aims to serve as a model for improving student performance and graduation rates. The college is set to open in fall 2012. Evenbeck, chosen as its founding president, has played a role in retention initiatives for Indiana higher education. ... A health economist who has been vice chancellor and provost at Syracuse University (N.Y.) will become Claremont Graduate University's (Calif.) first female president this fall. Deborah A. Freund also has been the distinguished professor of public administration and economics at Syracuse's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs since 2004. She is a senior research associate at the Center for Policy Research, as well. Once a front-runner for the UCLA chancellor position, Freund has a strong track record in fundraising and sponsored research. ... New Cleveland State University (Ohio) Provost Geoffrey S. Mearns helped to create the Center for Health Law and Policy, as dean of CSU's Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, and supervised an $8.8 million law school renovation. As the special assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, he participated in the prosecution of convicted Oklahoma City Federal Building bomber Terry Nichols. ... Thayne McCulloh is the first non-Jesuit elected to lead Gonzaga University (Wash.). ... College of Saint Mary (Neb.) has chosen former Dana College (Neb.) President Janet S. Philipp as chair of its health professions division. ... Ralph Hexter has announced his intent to transition from his presidency at Hampshire College (Mass.). --M.H.

It should come as no surprise that today's students are demanding newer and more innovative technologies as part of their college experiences. But just how important is a tech-savvy campus? Shedding some light on that is CDW-G's third annual "21st-Century Campus Report," a survey of more than 1,000 college students, faculty, and IT staff members.

"What really spoke volumes was the expectations that students have for using technology on campus," says Julie Smith, CDW-G vice president, higher education. "The way that people are learning has changed."

Comparing the technological wants of college students with high school students provides perspective on tech needs today and tomorrow, Smith stresses. "One of the upcoming technologies that [54 percent of] high school students want to use today [is] interactive white- boards," Smith says, but only 47 percent of colleges are able to provide this opportunity. And while IT professionals may want to incorporate new technologies, their hands may be tied by curriculum needs, lack of access to content, and a stubborn faculty, Smith explains.

Indeed, faculty members aren't always quick to jump on the technology bandwagon. While 72 percent of IT professionals saw online collaboration as a vital component of a 21st-century education, only 31 percent of faculty members agreed, for example. More than two-thirds of IT staff described visual learning as a necessary part of 21st-century higher education, while just over one-third of faculty agreed.

Yet, the importance of technology today in higher education is undeniable, and, Smith cautions, institutions that don't heed this trend will suffer declines in incoming classes.

 

"Ask your students what they want [the campus] to look like," Smith advises, "because they're going to give the most accurate and most useful information." Involve student government associations and student focus groups in tech decisions, she suggests.

And don't ignore upcoming trends. Smith highlights the usage of social networking sites by students. While only 54 percent of college students connect with classmates to study via social networking, 76 percent of high school students do. It's tech trends like these, Smith suggests, that administrators would do well to heed.

To view the full report, visit www.cdwg.com/21stCenturyCampus. --Eric A. Clayton

Internal accident reports are a good place to learn about potential risks on an individual college or university campus. A broader view can be found in the "Student Claims Report" issued in April by United Educators Insurance, which specializes in higher education institutions. The report is the result of an analysis of claims from 2004 through 2008 for both General Liability and Educators Legal Liability. Twenty-nine percent of student GL claims related to bodily injury from slips and falls, while 20 percent were from assaults.

Alcohol consumption was a factor in many of the claims, indicating the importance of continuing education efforts in this area, says Constance Neary, VP of risk management. Better facilities management to reduce student access to roofs and other high places is another important preventative measure institutions can take, she says.

Under ELL, claims discrimination (usually related to disabilities) accounted for 52 percent, while breach of contract counted for 33 percent. The remaining 15 percent were "other." These claims tend to be in situations where decision-making was done at the institutional level rather than by an individual student. "Breach of contract can come out of programs that were discontinued," cautions Neary. For instance, if a course of study is ended while students are still enrolled, careful consideration needs to be given to either finishing the cohort or making other arrangements for those students.

The report can be downloaded from the Risk Management Library section of www.ue.org. --A.M.

Wharton's Jon. B. Huntsman Hall

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania has created a new position that combines admissions and career placement. Alumnus and administrator J.J. Cutler is making Wharton School history as the first-ever deputy vice dean of MBA admissions, financial aid, and career management.

"We think this is better for our students and better for employers," Cutler says. The main advantage? "In admissions, you get to see trends in the students -- [things] employers really want to know about ... as early as possible," he explains.

The continuity inherent in the new model is another benefit. "[Typically] admissions at some point ‘turns the class over' to student services," Cutler explains. At Wharton, there won't be any need to transition - students will learn one system, and then be able to rely on the same people and resources throughout their MBA experience. Through preterm meetings with Cutler's teams, as well as incoming class surveys, students can look forward to being matched with employers earlier in the MBA process.

With a title as long as Cutler's, it's not surprising that he's managing a lot. "On the admissions side," he says, "my responsibilities include recruiting students, overseeing how we evaluate and select students, managing the class profile, and overseeing the financial aid budget and allocation of funds." And of course, he adds, he has strong teams to assist with these tasks. "On the career management side," continues Cutler, "I will be working with students on career management plans, both in the long-term and short-term." He'll then work to match students with employers.

In addition to being able to better serve students and employers, Cutler counts among his personal goals better efficiency. While the vision for how the departments will come together is still evolving, he points to the opportunities for better collaboration and information sharing between the offices as a positive sign that they're heading in the right direction.

As Deborah Little, president of the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling, explains, "Admissions offices can scarcely afford to work in silos any longer. We have a responsibility to cross-train, while respecting each others' expertise areas, and to be knowledgeable of the many areas that influence students' decisions to attend an institution of higher education." --E.C.

 

Facilities directors know that as students return to campus along with their bedding and school supplies, they could be bringing a variety of creepy crawlies. The current pest du jour? Bed bugs.

According to research by Michael F. Potter, a University of Kentucky entomologist in the College of Agriculture, they are being found across the country from private residences and hotels to clothing retailers and even movie theaters. It's not a matter of cleanliness but rather our global lifestyle, says Michael R. Linford, president of TPE Associates, which licenses ThermaPure (www.thermapure.com), a disinfection method relying on extremely high heat. Institutions with active study abroad programs or large numbers of international students should be most on alert. Adult bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed and very portable, so people can spread an infestation without realizing it. Students' tendency to pick up discarded furniture isn't helping, he adds.

Bed bugs have become fairly resistant to traditional pesticides and their eggs have a 30-day gestation period, so schools opting for a chemical solution should be prepared for multiple applications, Linford cautions. Properly trained bed bug sniffing dogs are one useful preventative measure when they are used for regular inspections, he adds. During a heat treatment, like one offered by ThermaPure, everything in the room is treated at once.

Placing bedding and fabric in a clothes dryer on high heat for at least an hour should kill any bugs that weren't eliminated during the room treatment.

One roadblock to extermination: People react differently to bites, making it hard to track an infestation's source. "One school treated a dorm room not realizing the source was three rooms down" because those students weren't developing welts, Linford says. The lesson: Don't assume all roommates are on the housing list.  -- Ann McClure

 

Watching the Woolly Mammoths reunite in "Ice Age Meltdown" on a 95 degree scorcher on July 4th, our thoughts turned to global warming and its cataclysmic challenges for our next generation.

UB readers who missed the Ice Age trilogy should know what the Chief of U.S. Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead said on a recent visit to Boston: "All I know is that there's a lot more water out there. The melting Arctic creates all kinds of issues as more water is freed up for fishing, shipping, and mineral exploration. ... The Arctic belongs to all the people around the world as no nation has sovereignty over it. These burgeoning sea issues mandate that the United States sign the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention Treaty so that we have a seat at the table. The Arctic makes it imperative." Admiral Roughead recognizes that the campaign for achieving long-term sustainability lies beyond Gulf oil spills, urban smog, and even rain.

Gradually, over the last 50 years, there emerged several leading circumpolar universities, each with a special Arctic niche. Just consider the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the University of Alberta (Canada), and the University of Lapland (Finland). So what logically joins these several unique circumpolar focused universities? At their epicenter, these institutions share a common sense of northern place, cultural affinity, and ecological fragility, and the largest outdoor co-laboratories in the world.

Founded as a Federal Agricultural Experiment Station during the Klondike Gold Rush era, UAF originally focused on agriculture and mining. The university's main campus is ideally located just 200 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Known as "America's Arctic University," UAF is one of the few land, sea, and space grant universities in the world. Defined by its academic rigor and leveraging its circumpolar niche, UAF is renowned for its pure and applied research in the mission-critical fields of Arctic biology, Arctic engineering, geophysics, super-computing, and aboriginal studies.

UAF Chancellor Brian Rogers summed it up nicely this way: "There is no organization better poised to do [global warming research] than UAF, where our acute, scientific research powerfully identifies and calibrates those effects and how best to deal with them." For more on this topic, read the full version of this column <a href='/viewarticle.aspx?articleid=1651'>here.</a>

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.


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