Behind the News

Behind the News

The federal Dream Act, which would have created a path to citizenship for immigrants who obtained a college degree or had two years of military service, did not include provisions for in-state tuition, but it is still a flash point in the discussion. State legislatures in Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado, and Georgia, among others, have been debating laws allowing undocumented students to pay in-state tuition.

Ten states currently extend in-state tuition to undocumented students. Published reports indicate most bills would require students to attend a local high school for three years before graduating and prove their parents have paid taxes. In Oregon, students have to prove they are working toward citizenship, while the Maryland bill, on its way to the governor, requires the student to also have 60 credits at an in-state community college before transferring to a four-year at the in-state rate. By contrast, a bill was introduced in California to rescind in-state tuition rates, but it died in committee.

Policies in Georgia have progressed from more stringent guidelines for verifying residency status last summer to an October decision by the Board of Regents to deny admission to undocumented students applying to Georgia College & State University, Medical College of Georgia, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and The University of Georgia, if those institutions have turned away academically qualified, documented residents.

"We've been accused of playing games with semantics for using 'undocumented'," says John Millsaps, associate vice president for media and publications for the University System of Georgia. "Our job wasn't to check if you were illegal or not. Our job was to check that you were a lawful Georgia resident for in-state tuition." Students can be judged undocumented for a variety of reasons, including not submitting the proper paperwork as well as not having the proper paperwork. The committee that studied the situation reported 501 undocumented students enrolled in the system. As Millsaps points out, that number is far lower than the thousands of undocumented students critics claim are flooding campuses.

A second concern, also debunked by the committee, is that allowing undocumented students to attend colleges, even if they pay out-of-state tuition, are costing taxpayers money. "If you are being charged out-of-state tuition we're making money off you," Millsaps says. "So clearly Georgia taxpayers are not subsidizing people paying out of state tuition. If anything, they are subsidizing people paying in-state tuition."

The third concern is that undocumented students will take seats away from legal residents. As any admissions officer knows, there's not a simple one-to-one formula. But Millsaps turns the argument on its head. "Every year, thousands of students apply to The University of Georgia and they aren't accepted," he says. "Does that mean they are barred? No, they can go to another institution." There are 35 institutions in the Georgia system.

In response to the new regulations enacted in October, applicants now have to request in-state tuition rates, instead of it being the default. That option triggers a series of additional questions meant to verify residency status. Millsaps says the regents have no plans to revisit any of the policies until the legislative session has ended, a stance no doubt adopted by leaders in other states. —Ann McClure

 

Identity theft is always a concern when large amounts of personal and financial information are stored. What about when that theft is from within? That's what happened at Eastern Michigan University when two student workers allegedly stole sensitive information to share with a third party. Walter Kraft, vice president for communications at EMU, says the university learned of the incident in early March, when department of public safety personnel were investigating an unrelated incident of a student stealing a laptop. He says the student employees—who are no longer employed by or students of EMU—worked in office positions where they had access to "information and a limited amount of student records." The investigation is ongoing, and the university is working with federal authorities and the IRS to completely resolve the issue.

The student workers took Social Security numbers from at least 58 students or their dependents. Kraft says the institution believes the information was taken so a third party could fraudulently file tax returns. EMU is taking steps to work with those identified as having their information stolen to address any issues with the IRS or through credit monitoring.

EMU already has a rigorous background check system in place for student employees, but "as a result of this, we're evaluating all of our systems that might apply to this situation to make sure we're doing everything we can be doing to ensure something like this would never happen again," says Kraft.

Upon learning of the theft, Kraft and his staff immediately notified the campus community. A Data Security Breach Information portal was created online (www.emich.edu/securitybreach-march-2011). It features updates, a question and answer page, and information about what students can do to monitor if their information has been compromised.

"We wanted to make sure that everybody was aware of this and knew it was happening so that they could let us know if they were in any way a victim," says Kraft. —Kristen Domonell

 

If you are a fan of Jeopardy!, then you probably watched in February as all-time champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter battled it out with an IBM computer named Watson. Built around IBM's Deep Question Answering technology, Watson is capable of parsing "natural language" clues in the Jeopardy! categories. Although it had several missteps, Watson emerged as the winner.

In late March, Watson went to Carnegie Mellon University (Pa.) to participate in the first of several symposia exploring real-world applications for the technology. Faculty and students from CMU and the University of Pittsburgh discussed the potential of the technology in the areas of medicine, law, business, computer science, and engineering—and tried their hand at Jeopardy!.

But Bernie Meyerson, vice president of innovation and university programs for IBM, says, "The events aren't just about Jeopardy!. They are about the natural language processing world and what its implications are for society. This is a game changer."

IBM chose Carnegie Mellon for the initial symposium because of the school's key contributions to Watson's development, and the university's role as a leading center for computer science research and education. In addition, the University of Pittsburgh has a long and productive partnership with IBM in research projects such as cloud computing, carbon nanotubes, and smarter healthcare research around pandemic disease outbreaks and tissue regeneration.

"At the end of the Jeopardy! program, what everyone saw was the sausage, but they didn't see what went into making the sausage, which was quite incredible," Meyerson says. The project started as "a crazy bet," where engineers were challenged to build a machine that could ultimately compete on the quiz show.

"The nerve it takes to claim that you can innovate your way past all the issues that stopped us from getting there in the past is extraordinary," he says. "It took four years and an astonishing amount of work on natural language, on codification, how you parse a question, even how you deal with humor and sarcasm—things that no machine learning system has ever tried to tackle. And it had to be done numerically, so at the end you can issue a level of confidence in the answer." —Tim Goral

John J. Petillo

John J. Petillo, who has brought his executive and educational experiences to the top spot at Sacred Heart University (Conn.) as interim president since October 2010, is officially the Catholic university's sixth president. He is the former dean of the John F. Welch College of Business at Sacred Heart, past chancellor and CEO of Seton Hall University (N.J.), and past president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He has been an executive with Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and the Newark Alliance. ... Barbara K. Mistick has been hired to lead Wilson College (Pa.), starting July 1. Her current role is president of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, which serves approximately 1.2 million people and includes 19 locations and other facilities. She will succeed Lorna Duphiney Edmundson, who will retire June 30. ... Cleveland State University (Ohio) has named Craig M. Boise dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, to begin July 1. Most recently, Boise served as law professor at DePaul University in Chicago, where he was director of the Graduate Tax Program. ... Mary B. Marcy will lead Dominican University of California beginning July 1. She will succeed Joseph R. Fink and become the ninth president of Dominican. ... David B. Williams, former president of The University of Alabama at Huntsville, is now dean of The Ohio State University College of Engineering. ... Thomas Maher is now vice president of finance and administration at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. ... Ivy Tech Community College (Ind.) has named Darrell L. Cain as vice chancellor of student affairs for the Central Indiana region. ... D. Michael Lindsay has been named the eighth president of Gordon College (Mass.), to begin July 1. ... Dean L. Hubbard is now officially president of Saint Luke's College of Health Sciences (Mo.) after serving as interim president since October 2010. ... Karan L. Watson has been named provost and VP for academic affairs at Texas A&M University. Nancy Cantor, chancellor and president of Syracuse University (N.Y.), received the 2011 Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award from the American Council on Education. —K.D.

Fake ID workshops for bar, restaurant, and store employees—like this one for the Sacred Heart University community held in fall 2010—are a way to get both town and gown involved in tackling fake ID use.

Officials at Fairfield University (Conn.) are trying to crack down on underage drinking by heading to the source—restaurants, bars, and liquor stores where alcohol is sold.

In April, Fairfield Corps Coalition, a group dedicated to curbing underage and excessive drinking in the university community, hosted a fake ID awareness program, educating area businesses about techniques for recognizing bogus IDs. Coordinator Pam Paulmann says the program is a "step toward educating businesses about some of the problems." Representatives from 20 businesses attended.

Fairfield Corps is funded by a grant from the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and its members include trained professionals and student interns from across the campus community, as well as residents from the town of Fairfield, where the university is located, who have experience with underage drinking prevention. While she believes fake ID use is not a tremendous issue at Fairfield, her coalition believes in approaching the issue of underage drinking from a number of angles. "Our goal is to use environmental strategies where we aim to facilitate and help students make healthier choices by enhancing their decision making skills," Paulmann says.

Not only did the program educate about fake IDs, but a representative from the Connecticut Liquor Control Commission addressed the laws governing the sale of alcohol. "That is something that I know many people have questions about," she adds.

Nearby Sacred Heart University (Conn.) hosted a similar program in fall 2010 that inspired this effort, Paulmann explains. For now, Fairfield's program was a one-time event, but, she says the university will likely do it again. "We just think this is a way that we can help people in the community and enhance safety for our students and the community," she says. —K.D.

As these images taken for the class by Stephen Vujevich (top) and Bambi Girafalco (bottom) show, cell phone photography is an art form.

You would be hard pressed to find a cell phone these days that didn't have a camera. Social media sites and news organizations encourage photo sharing, but don't ask contributors to think through the consequences of sharing. A new class at Immaculata University (Pa.) looks at the art and ethics of taking pictures with a cell phone. "Professor [Sean] Flannery has emphasized that our contemporary digitally enhanced social society must include critical thinking in regard to intent," says student Bambi Girafalco. "I am amazed at how quickly we, as a society, have adapted to and implemented these photographical changes and uses."

The course is for students interested in design or digital media. Photographer Hunter Martin teaches students principles of composition, maximizing the capabilities of their phone cameras, and the use of photo editing tools available. Students selected their three best pictures for an April art show. Flannery also addresses the ethical use of these cameras in today's culture.

The course covers the responsibility of students as "citizen journalists," the social and legal consequences of "sexting," public/private space issues, and national security. "The protection of private space is gone," says Flannery. "The ability of people to take pictures of you at any moment exists. [We examine] the idea of people as commoditized objects." The discussion about images on Facebook resonates the most with the college students, he adds. Student Stephen D. Vujevich says, "The fact that online personal and professional lives are now one and the same goes overlooked by untold masses of young adults and young professionals unfamiliar with the complexity of the technology and the repercussions their actions can have on themselves or others."

There were no restrictions placed on devices used for this class, but Flannery says future classes may require iPhones or Androids. He has already received four requests for the syllabus and a request from a nonprofit to speak to adult employees. "Late adapters might be caught up in the trend and be as unaware of the implications as the young people," he says. —A.M.

 

Darwin put it this way: "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that's most adaptable to change." This simple truth in nature describes the evolution of higher ed ownership models in the 21st century. The previous decade produced a number of nonprofit colleges that transitioned into for-profits, whether by choice or exigent circumstances. These proprietary colleges and universities have emerged as a new breed of customer-centered, career-driven institutions—placing students and employers first.

Daniel Webster College (N.H.) provides an instructive case in point. Chartered in 1965, it evolved into a small, tuition-dependent campus. Over time, Daniel Webster faced irreversible financial challenges, and was threatened with loss of accreditation and inevitable closure. In 2009, ITT Educational Services purchased the institution and invested tens of millions of dollars to cover its debts. Through the for-profit acquisition process, DWC was able to preserve its core mission, and the preponderance of its faculty, staff, and programs. As a result, the college was eventually successful in recruiting new leadership, culling outdated and under-enrolled programs, and putting in place an adaptive management structure.

Consider as well the New England College of Business and Finance in Boston. Facing hard times, the college was acquired in 2005 by the Whitney University System. Through private, for-profit investment, the college has expanded its market and now offers online courses in a variety of business-related programs.

Similarly, Waldorf College (Iowa) faced daunting economic challenges and was sold to the Mayes Education group, a for-profit education company, in 2010. Today, Waldorf offers accelerated and innovative hybrid bachelor's degree programs.

Having witnessed these turnaround stories, the for-profit conversion process has not been a bed of roses. Take the case of Ashford University (Iowa), purchased by for-profit Bridgepoint Education in 2005. At that time, Ashford had an enrollment of 300 students. Today, Ashford enrolls a reported 78,000 students and $216 million in annual profits. Along with Ashford's exponential growth came allegations of wrongful admissions, staff incentivization, improper retention of federal financial aid funds, and decreased per-student instructional expenditures. And, Ashford is not alone. The list of for-profit conversion targets seems to grow nearly every quarter.

Institutions like Daniel Webster, Waldorf, and the New England College of Business and Finance have survived the Darwinian economic downsizing that has forced many similarly situated colleges to merge or go out of business. These institutions have been transformed by their corporate benefactors from endangered species to best-of-breed higher learning organizations.

—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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