Behind the News

Behind the News

The stories making headlines in higher education.

Who are you and how did you find us? That's what admissions officers at colleges and universities all over the country are asking this year as "stealth applications" proliferate.

"Two years ago we had a handful of stealth applicants," says Raymond Brown, dean of admissions at Texas Christian University. "Last year we had 14,000 applications and around 3,500 of those were stealth applicants. And we're seeing large numbers of stealth apps this year too."

Stealth applicants are persons whose first contact with an institution is an application to enroll. They have not gone through the usual admissions "funnel." Traditionally, students learn about a college through a college fair or a high school visit, or by receiving mailed literature. They make an inquiry to the school for more information, or visit campus to get an admissions tour and perhaps an interview. And finally, they apply. But that model is under siege.

Schools have made it so easy to apply online that most prospects do--often without any previous contact at all.

At Messiah College (Pa.) where stealth apps are running at just under 17 percent this year, John Chopka, vice president for enrollment management, says, "It is perplexing for admissions officers everywhere to think that one in six applicants is showing for the first time when they apply."

Why is that a problem? TCU's Ray Brown explains that colleges--especially private colleges--look favorably on students who demonstrate that their school is the right place for the applicant--not a second choice. Since stealth apps have zero history with the institution before applying, it is hard for admissions officers to gauge their true level of interest.

"For stealth applicants, we don't have much time to build any rapport when this is our first contact," adds Lee Ann Afton, dean of admission and financial aid at Sewanee: The University of the South (Tenn.). "We need to encourage them to visit campus and ask the questions that are important to them."

Not all schools count stealth applications the same way. Western New England College (Mass.) hasn't seen an increase because it counts as stealth applicants only those persons outside the universe of names the college has gathered on its own. "Last year the total was 132, or less than three percent," says Charles Pollock, vice president for enrollment management. He attributes this to the fact that at the start of the admissions cycle, every name gathered from various sources (the College Board, etc.) is entered into the database to receive information.

Pollock says some colleges now use third-party processors, which may lead to the appearance of more stealth applicants because they aren't entered into a college's system until the student makes some sort of inquiry, even though the college has contacted them.

At Albright College (Pa.) Greg Eichhorn, dean of admission, says the trend makes website quality absolutely essential. "You just need to be cognizant and make sure you know people are evaluating and shopping you all the time."

"I think students are really redefining how they conduct their college search process," concludes Sewanee's Afton. "There is so much in the media about college admissions and students are often bombarded with publications and e-mails from colleges, that stepping away from the traditional approach is a way for them to have more control over the search. These students are tuned in but have chosen to tune out many of our traditional approaches. They are dealing with the process on their terms." --Dick Jones

The Global Perspective Institute has formed a committee of 12 national leaders to work with GPI and the Association of American Colleges and Universities to craft a recommended national action plan on civic learning and democratic engagement in higher education. That plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.

Administrative members of the committee include Richard Guarasci, president of Wagner College (N.Y.), Donald Harward, president emeritus of Bates College (Maine), Brian Murphy, president of De Anza College (Calif.), and David Scobey, executive dean of The New School (N.Y.). The team is establishing five national roundtables to be held during the first three months of this year, to bring together leaders and experts in a variety of areas, including those from campus-based civic engagement centers, faculty whose scholarship focused on civic and democratic learning, college and university presidents, and public higher ed system leaders.

For more information on the initiative, visit www.civiclearning.org. --Melissa Ezarik

Degrees of Inequality: Culture, Class, and Gender in American Higher Education By Ann L. Mullen; Johns Hopkins, 2011; 248 pp; $50

 

Two miles?10,560 feet. It doesn't seem like a very great distance. But when it comes to two respected Connecticut institutions, the distance can seem worlds apart. Ann Mullen says Yale University and its nearby neighbor Southern Connecticut State University have similarly stated missions, but differ dramatically in how they are perceived on the outside and experienced on the inside.

"While access to college has become more egalitarian," Mullen writes, "where a student attends college and what he or she studies have become increasingly tied to social background and gender."

Mullen backs this assertion with hundreds of interviews among students from both institutions on their backgrounds, their high school years, and their expectations of the college experience. (Hint: Yale students wanted the full, life-shaping, liberal arts experience. Southern students, by contrast, were more interested in getting a degree and moving on with their lives.) --Tim Goral

Steve Porter

Faculty unionization brings to mind a host of perceptions (and misperceptions), but a new study examining the influence of unions on institutional decision-making provides hard data in place of heat. Conducted by Iowa State Professor Steve Porter and Graduate Assistant Clinton Stephens, the study examined the influence of unions on 15 institutional decision-making areas, from faculty salaries to teaching loads, curriculum, and budgetary planning. Unions have the strongest influence on salary--not surprising--but the study also surfaced a clear impact on department chair appointments and on institution-wide committee selection.

"There did not appear to be any negative effects for unionization," says Porter, who is associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies. "I went in thinking you'd see a strong effect for salary [and], perhaps negative effects in other areas."

The study underscores with data what many administrators and faculty know: these stakeholders can work together effectively. "I do believe that most administrations work with the faculty on tough issues," says Claire Van Ummersen, a senior advisor at the American Council on Education, who works with campuses on leadership and capacity-building issues. "They don't expect the faculty to make a decision, but they do expect the faculty to have input into the decision that's being made."

The American Association of University Professors is planning to circulate the study to its membership of about 48,000 faculty, librarians, and academic professionals. "It's important for effective decision-making and for the effective implementation of policy for there to be consultation with faculty," says General Secretary Gary Rhoades.

Whether unions and administrators work well together depends on a myriad of factors--but as the Iowa State study shows, it needn't be negative. When the University of Cincinnati moved to shift from a quarterly to a semester calendar, faculty involvement cleared the way for quick progress. "We moved way out ahead on the conversion process," says spokesperson Greg Hand, noting that the institution moved faster than others in the state. "For a while we were kind of setting the pace." --Caryn Meyers Fliegler

This fall, after decades of close cooperation and years of discussion, two associations serving independent colleges and universities formally merged. The Foundation for Independent Higher Education is being folded into The Council of Independent Colleges. CIC President Richard Ekman notes that combining the two organizations, which had overlapping memberships, will give independent higher education "a far stronger national voice." Former FIHE President Myrvin Christopherson adds that the "merger has an enormous capability to create more and better services for private colleges and universities nationwide." Grants from FIHE's $36 million endowment will provide support to state funds for scholarships and consortial programs and leverage additional fundraising by the state funds. FIHE has supported 32 state associations that raise money for independent institutions, plus raised money for national projects to be administered through those state funds.

In addition, the merger will enhance relationships among college presidents who are the principal participants in both CIC and the state funds. FIHE's network of state partners will help promote CIC programs and services. --M.E.

Students at Waldorf College

With financial need among incoming students at record levels, scholarships are even more valuable than ever. But awarding them doesn't have to be boring. Here are two unique approaches.

Realizing that the cost of textbooks can be a hurdle for some students, leaders at Waldorf College (Iowa) expanded their Scholarship Day awards to include one full-tuition scholarship, five $2,000 scholarships, or free (borrowed) books for the first semester. Students compete by writing an essay and completing an interview.

Scholarship Day started in 1987 and usually attracts about 75 prospective students from around the nation. Approximately 50 students attended this year's event, says Carl Childs, director of admissions, noting that some attendance was probably lost due to inclement weather. Historically, more than 65 percent of attendees eventually enroll. But the day isn't just about the money. "Prospective students hear from the president, the academic dean, the director of the Honors College," says Bob Alsop, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college. Families also meet with faculty, learn about financial aid opportunities, and receive a tour.

Bryant & Stratton College's (N.Y.) new "Pay It Forward" scholarship, meanwhile, is being used to reward students who share the college's commitment to giving back. "The Pay It Forward Scholarship program is a natural extension of our culture as a college and our belief that higher education has the power to transform the lives of our students and the people around them," says Scott Traylor, associate campus director for online education.

Students will complete an application and an essay. Videos will be created for 10 finalists selected by administrators, and then the public will vote. The five students with the most votes get a full-tuition scholarship for an online associate's degree--plus a second one to award to a friend (or community organization). The remaining five finalists will receive a $5,000 online learning scholarship.

Launched in October, the competition has been well received. "We have been overwhelmed by the stories of generosity and caring these scholarship applicants have shared. Almost all can immediately think of someone whose life they'd like to change with higher education," says Traylor. "The applications and the essays reinforce how important access to higher education can be and the impact it can have on someone's life." --Ann McClure

Antioch College (Ohio) re-opens next fall with a new president. Mark Roosevelt, superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools system, is described as an agent of institutional change who pushed an aggressive reform agenda and founded The Pittsburgh Promise, which has provided college scholarships for more than 1,800 graduates. A former Massachusetts state representative, he chaired the Education Committee, steering passage of a reform act in 1993 that provides necessary resources and accountability measures for improving schools. His college is now under the ownership of Antioch College Corp., a nonprofit. Once part of the Antioch University system, the campus' operations were suspended due to a low enrollment and small endowment two years ago.

Andrew A. Sorenson

In other Antioch news, Antioch University Los Angeles (Calif.) President Neal King has contributed to the national "It Gets Better" campaign, which supports gay youth, by creating a video that appears on the AULA YouTube page. King is one of only a few openly gay college presidents. ... A two-time president will be Ohio State University's new chief fundraiser. As senior VP for university development, Andrew A. Sorenson will oversee a $2.5 billion comprehensive campaign, and will preside over the university's foundation. He led the University of South Carolina and the University of Alabama. ... B. Kaye Walter, former executive VP and chief learning officer at Valencia Community College (Fla.), is now Ivy Tech Community College's (Ind.) chancellor for the Central Indiana region. ... Joe DiPietro, chancellor of the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, will preside over the University of Tennessee system. ... Bobby Fong will finish his term as president of Butler University (Ind.) at the end of this academic year to lead Ursinus College (Pa.). ... Connecticut State University System Chancellor David G. Carter retires next year after more than two decades in the state's higher ed system. He guided Eastern Connecticut State University's physical and academic transformation during his presidency. Legislators had criticized him over the sudden removal of Southern Connecticut State University President Cheryl Norton. ... Miami Dade College (Fla.) President Eduardo Padròn will chair the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. ... Former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers returns there to teach after stepping down as head of the National Economic Council. --Michele Herrmann

This spring, the nearly 300 faculty and staff and 1,500 students at Hiram College (Ohio) will be the first campus community to take advantage of MyChoice, a new subscription-based service that electronically links people's fingerprint or identification number to their medical data. The service and its patented technology were introduced in 2009.

Developed by My LifePlan Healthcare Technologies of Ravenna, Ohio, roughly 15 miles south of the college, the company is offering school rates and individual subscriptions ($3.95 per month or $29.95 per year). It's being marketed as a way to offer parents peace of mind when their children are attending college away from home and to help students take control of their own health care.

When students or employees have an accident or become ill, a college's onsite emergency response team can either enter the person's identification number into a wireless laptop, or place his or her finger on a reader, which pulls up their vital medical information. First responders and other healthcare providers, such as hospitals, that belong to the same "healthcare ecosystem" can then access the data, explains Ruth Skocic, the company's founder and CEO and Hiram graduate. The medical data also includes personal directives, emergency contact information, a healthcare power of attorney, and whether the person is an organ donor. Hiram is likely the only U.S. college or university campus with a program like it.

Located 20 minutes away from the nearest hospital, Hiram is offering the voluntary service free to staff and students. It's also HIPAA compliant and its technology is only accessible to emergency personnel, notes Eric Riedel, vice president and dean of students at the college. He believes half of the campus' population will initially sign up, and expects 100 percent participation down the road.

The college's emergency response team "will be pushing this on everyone," says Riedel, adding that the service will also be mentioned in the college's promotional materials. "The reassurance to parents and others that when and if something unanticipated happens, [emergency personnel] is going to have the information it needs, is worth an awful lot." --Carol Patton

 

As high school, college, and NBA basketball seasons power up, we harken back to one of the best sports movies of all time: Hoosiers. In the film, the small-town Hickory High basketball team is about to do battle with the behemoth South Bend squad for the 1952 Indiana High School state title.

Upon entering Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler University for the state title game, the players are nearly paralyzed by the overwhelming scale and grandiosity of the iconic sports arena. Once inside, Hickory Head Coach, Norman Dale intoned, "Welcome to Indiana basketball [boys]."

Hinkle Fieldhouse

Today, campus sports experts would call the original Hinkle Fieldhouse a "museum"--a grand old barn that has become a National Historic Landmark. So, why would Butler, along with so many other schools, colleges, and universities, look to create a Fieldhouse of Dreams? It's simple. Today's students are looking for upscale, full-service campuses where they can have the best in residence life, entertainment, athletics, recreation, and fitness facilities--all high demand amenities in a one-stop campus-based location.

In a time when many colleges and universities are strapped for cash, capital outlay, and debt capacity, campus officials are leveraging unencumbered real estate--co-developing state-of-the-art athletics and recreation amenities through partnerships with private development companies.

Today's Fieldhouse hosts world class family amenities and provides high-quality auxiliary services. Just ask Jerry Good, president of The Fieldhouse USA, America's first nationally branded youth athletics facility of its kind--an ultra modern basketball practice, competition, and post-season tournament Fieldhouse.

Located in Fishers, Indiana, the prototype Fieldhouse is a global leader in basketball excellence. Recognized as "the finest basketball facility in the United States" by the U. S. Specialty Sports Association and Amateur Athletic Union officials, Fieldhouse USA has jumped out in front of the curve by offering unique, family-friendly, destination-basketball experiences.

Jerry Good puts it simply: "Fieldhouse USA represents a unique opportunity to partner with communities, schools, colleges, and universities and provides a safe, quality environment to develop young athletes with character and integrity by teaching the virtues of mutual respect, diligence, fair play, discipline, competition, and teamwork."

Today, college campuses are held up to rising student and parent expectations by paying heed to the famous quote--"If you build it, they will come"--to a campus near you, equipped with a state-of-the-art basketball Fieldhouse of Dreams.

--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.

 

Eastern Mennonite University has dedicated the largest solar photovoltaic project built so far in the state of Virginia. The installation on the roof of EMU's library includes 328 high-efficiency photovoltaic panels made by SunPower Corporation. The project will cut EMU's dependence on local utilities, helping reduce reliance on energy from coal and other fossil fuels. It will eliminate more than 6,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the projected 35-year life of the solar panels. In addition, EMU will adopt today's electrical rates over the 20-year term of its agreement with Secure Futures, protecting the university from electricity rate increases. --T.G.

Protecting the environment through sustainability initiatives is an ongoing effort on most college and university campuses. Although a driving reason is because it's the right thing to do, no one will argue that it is popular with students, and can even save money in the long run. Since 2006, the College Sustainability Report Card (www.greenreportcard.org) has been recognizing these efforts and providing a collection of best practices.

"We hope that institutions are able to use the [latest] Report Card to help determine where to allocate their resources and efforts to improve the sustainability of their operations and endowments," says Rob Foley, senior research fellow with Sustainable Endowments Institute, which administers the report card.

The Report Card is based on responses from 322 schools that responded to questions about campus operations, dining services, endowment investment practices, and student activities. An increased focus on green efforts in recent years resulted in over half the respondents receiving an overall grade of "B."

 

Of course overarching programs on campus are more successful with administrative support, so it's no surprise that 49 percent of respondents received an "A" in the administrative category, which focuses on demonstrations of commitment through policies and committees devoted to sustainability, among other standards.

"We were excited to see such growth in sustainability programs, especially looking back to our initial data from 2006," says Foley. "The growth in administrative support for sustainability is especially promising, with a 55 percent improvement in sustainability committees since 2006 and 41 percent improvement in commitments to carbon emissions reduction."

Sustainability committees are far more prevalent, with 95 percent of schools reporting their existence in 2011 compared to 40 percent in 2006. "Many institutions have seen how effective a multistakeholder sustainability committee can be at improving the sustainability of an institution's operations," Foley says. Committees can oversee programs and improve the culture of sustainability on campus. "A campus-wide committee also resonates with the value of many institutions to approach complex problems with an interdisciplinary perspective." --A.M.


Advertisement