Behind The News

Critics blast Arizona plan; Diversity by the numbers; Book Review: The Quiet Crisis: How Higher Education is Failing America; No change for Pell; Free tuition in New Jersey; New file-swapping threat; U Akron drills for gas; TV network aims at college kids; SEVIS sets final fees; Costs rise at private schools; EduComm Conference features latest AV products
 

Community colleges and other critics want more say-so

Arizona's population is booming and college planners expect enrollment to follow suit. By 2015 the state's four-year schools will enroll 90,000, up from 55,000 this year. Regent Chris Herstam, along with Arizona State University President Michael Crow and others, drew up a plan this spring to ready the state system for expansion, but not all are happy with the blueprints.

For one, leaders of the state's community college association are upset that they weren't consulted about such possibilities as the relocation of 15 ASU schools or colleges from ASU Tempe into downtown Phoenix, or the renaming and expansion of three other campuses. And they, along with higher ed faculty at the four-year schools, have sounded off at public hearings. Where, they ask, does the plan leave the 400,000 students being served by the state's 10 community college districts?

Critical comments made at a hearing in late June drew a rebuke from Regent Gary Stuart, a former liaison with the community college system. "They want to be an equal partner," Stuart said of the community college system, "Well, everyone wants to be an equal partner." He added that his concern was for baccalaureate education and that his patience was limited for those who would block the redesign process.

Regents have noted that the state's higher education model might mirror Michigan's, with ASU being divided into central, southern, and northern campuses, each offering their own four-year degree programs with the University of Arizona remaining a full-fledged research institution and ASU adding more research efforts.

In mid-summer, Regent Jack Jewett issued a letter to quell discontent and assure faculty and staff that their jobs are safe and that anyone with a counter plan had a 30-day extension to submit it for study. Whether that's enough to calm the critics remains to be seen.

 

When the Supreme Court ruled last summer that race and ethnicity can be considered in the admissions process, Juan Gilbert, assistant professor of computer science and software engineering at Auburn University (AL), saw hope for diversity on campuses.

"I'm glad they ruled that diversity is a worthwhile cause," he says. "But they didn't tell us how to get it." Gilbert then took matters into his own hands and created a computer program designed to enhance the diversity of enrolled college students. Using algorithms to compare aspects of an application, the program, known as Applications Quest, is designed to group students with similar attributes into clusters. By accepting students from each cluster, a school can obtain a diverse student population, Gilbert says. Of course, diversity isn't race alone. The program considers other attributes such as GPA and hometown when clustering similarities. "It is a tool that admissions officers can use to get a different perspective of their application pool; it doesn't tell you who should get in."

Gilbert has started a pilot program for institutions interested in trying out the software.

 

By Peter Smith, Anker Publishing Co. Inc., 2004, 174 pp., $39.95

From nursery school to post-graduate work, 21st-century American education closely resembles education of the 14th century. But far from being a tribute to staying power, this statement is a reason for concern, especially when considering college completion rates. On average, only 18 percent of students who begin ninth grade will graduate with a college degree within 10 years, with minority rates even lower.

The Quiet Crisis examines how higher education is failing the very populations that it most needs to serve, and how the academic mindset must change if education is to make its first major leaps forward since Gutenburg built his printing press.

--Jennifer Patterson Lorenzetti

 

Lower-income students counting on higher Pell Grants to help pay for rising tuition costs will be disappointed this year. Despite some debate and glimmers of hope throughout the year, a House subcommittee in mid-summer wrote a bill proposing that the maximum federal Pell Grant remain at $4,050 per student. Higher ed associations expect the proposal to become law by fall.

If approved the appropriation will keep Pell at the same rate for a third consecutive year.

Critics are quick to note that Pell Grants--which are issued to lower-income students--covered 84 percent of tuition at a four-year public university in 1975. Today, the Pell Grant covers just 35 percent of these costs.

There is some good news buried in the paperwork. The total that the government proposes to appropriate to Pell may increase by $823 million, to $12.8 billion. So, while each student receiving a Pell Grant will get only $4,050, a larger number of lower-income students will be receiving them.

 

California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger created a stir this spring when he proposed cutting the number of freshmen admitted into the University of California system and the California State system to save money. Their consolation prize? Those students who graduated in the top 12.5 percent of their classes--and who would have qualified to attend the UC or Cal State systems in previous years--would get a free ride in community colleges, with the promise of eventual seats at UC or Cal State schools.

Trouble is, California's legislators were still wrangling over this budget point at press time, leaving thousands of redirected students wondering if they even would be able to attend community college for free this fall. Many other students rejected the plan altogether, choosing instead to attend out-of-state schools.

Meanwhile, New Jersey has quietly embraced the idea. Gov. Jim McGreevy launched the NJ STARS program in late June, granting free community college tuition to students who ranked in the top 20 percent of their graduating high school classes. The program already has 1,700 high school seniors opting to attend Camden County College, Warren County Community College and other schools, thus saving the state student subsidies to Rutgers University and other state schools, but allowing each student to pocket $2,000 or more per year.

 

Although a study by the Pew Internet & American Life project (www.pewinternet.org) indicates that the threat of legal action from the recording industry has led to a decline in illegal file sharing, a new service could give higher ed administrators something to worry about--and this one packs a punch. The new service, called i2hub, takes advantage of Internet2, the super-fast broadband network favored by researchers.

Although the i2hub Web site (www.i2hub.com) promotes the legitimate uses of the service (such as research collaboration), it's hard to ignore that its speed could be abused by file traders. How fast is it? About two years ago, a team of researchers sent almost seven gigabytes of data (equivalent to two full-length, DVD-quality movies) across 6,821 miles of fiber-optic network in less than a minute.

Internet2 (www.internet2.edu) was developed by a consortium of universities to transmit extremely large data files and high-definition video, unhindered by the traffic that normally affects heavily used broadband networks. It is currently in use at 207 colleges and universities. Unchecked, some fear that i2hub may lead to new legal challenges that could hamper Internet2's legitimate use. A recent i2hub usage report showed about 2,000 people from 100 schools logged onto the service in one afternoon.

 

To paraphrase a Rolling Stones song, the University of Akron's (OH) proposed revenue plan is all right-- in fact it's a gas. That's because the university will begin drilling natural gas wells around campus in coming months and selling the gas to local energy companies.

Roy Ray, UA's vice president for Business and Finance, says the Board of Trustees has approved the plan. "We have preliminary sites for three wells on the main campus," he says. "We're just waiting for the availability of drilling rigs. As soon as we get them, we're ready to drill."

The school predicts the gas wells will become a steady revenue source in a few years. Each well costs about $325,000 to drill but, after three to six years, is expected to produce $60,000 to $120,000 annual profit. There are 50 wells located in the region around the university campus, Ray says. "One of those wells produces at the rate of about 10,000 gallons per month, and has been for the past 10 years," he says. "And about 95 percent of the wells that have been drilled in Summit County have been successful."

 

Students all over the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. are tuning into a new television network designed by and for them. The University Network (www.theuniversitynetwork.net), or TUN as it is known, provides a variety of shows with topics ranging from art and politics to drama and comedy. "Programming for the college-age population has really been dummied down," says Shane Walker, founder of TUN. "We think students will find our network much more intelligent and stimulating."

The network features the first national collegiate news show as well as reality TV programs. One will follow the lives of four different students at the Julliard School of Music; another will show the first student films created by celebrity directors such as Ridley Scott. TUN is being very selective about its programming, which is free to all colleges and universities. "We've already had some really great pitches. There are a lot of very talented student artists out there that haven't gotten the exposure they deserve," Walker says.

More than 100 schools, including Brigham Young University (UT) and Ball State University (IN), are allowing student access to this network.

 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has passed one of the final hurdles to full implementation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)--setting the fees that will help finance the system. Beginning September 1, foreign students will pay a one-time $100 processing fee when they register for student visas.

The fee applies to F, J, and M visa applicants--and is in addition to the fee students must pay for a U.S. visa. Certain J-1 students, such as those who work as au pairs or camp counselors, will pay a reduced fee of $35 or, in some cases, no fee at all.

SEVIS has long been plagued by troubles, including software glitches, poor training, and inadequate help desk services. Between January and June 2003, more than 20 critical and high-priority system change requests were reported in a six-week period. But a year later, a U.S. General Accounting Office report indicates that DHS has made significant improvements in the system. According to the report (available as a PDF download from www.gao.gov), improvements include the use of new software and greater collaboration with educational representatives.

Already more than 730,000 students and exchange visitors are registered with SEVIS at over 8,700 approved schools and programs nationwide.

 

Tuition costs for private colleges and universities are going up 6 percent for the 2004-2005 academic year. The average price will be $18,000, according to a survey conducted by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (www.naicu.edu), which cushioned the news by adding that 86 percent of students attending private colleges and universities pay less than full tuition price.

Public universities will be raising their tuition prices by 10 percent, across the board, bringing the average price to $5,100, according to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (www.aascu.org).

The American Association of Community Colleges (www.aacc.nche.edu) also expects that students at its constituents' schools will be paying more, perhaps 12 percent more, bringing the average annual tuition to $1,560.

In classrooms across the country, collaboration among audiovisual and information technology professionals is essential as the use of videoconferencing, remote monitoring, and data collection--utilizing network connectivity--continues to grow.

That is the conclusion of a survey of AV manufactures and end-users from universities, government, and other large enterprises, conducted by the International Communications Industries Association (ICIA), the trade association representing the professional audiovisual industry.

The survey found that applications are driving networking as a product requirement, more than networking as a product feature is driving adoption. Although buyers deem networking capabilities important in their buying decision, manufacturers are less enthusiastic because of the viewpoint that adding networking features increases cost without providing additional revenue. However, both end-users and AV dealers express some willingness to pay a premium for networking capabilities.

At the June EduComm at InfoComm Conference, held in Atlanta, some 600-plus AV companies displayed a wide variety of products and their networking capabilities and technologies. Below are some of the new products announced at the show, and many more can be found at www.universitybusiness.com.

AMX (www.amx.com) introduced an interactive collaboration tool that provides on-screen annotation capabilities for any Modero Touch Panel. The company also unveiled its new 802.11g-enabled Modero Touch Panel that supports next-generation digital content applications.

 

Barco (www.barco.com) launched its new Ilite 6XP and Ilite 3 LED display technologies, as well as a new, high-definition, network-centric projector. The company also displayed its new show control system, Encore.

Christie Digital Systems (www.christiedigital.com) introduced its new Roadie 25K projector, built for large audience venues, that utilizes 2-chip DLP technology, featuring 2K-resolution. The company also expanded its NetMaster FRC series display-wall controller with its new FRC-5100 model, which offers expanded functionality and features.

 

Crestron (www.crestron.com) unveiled LightSource, a comprehensive lighting control and automation solution consisting of a control processor, software, remote dimmer, and switch options.

Da-Lite Screen Company (www.da-lite.com) introduced its Multi-Mask Imager, the latest addition to its line of masking printers. The Multi-Mask is a fixed-frame screen that features both horizontal and vertical masking, and is available with a choice of 11 projection screen surfaces.

Draper (www.draperinc.com) introduced a new Ultimate Folding Screen that features a larger tube structure and corners engineered to increase stability.

 

Extron Electronics (www.extron.com) displayed two new products for sending computer video and serial communication signals over a single CAT-5, CAT-5E, or CAT-6 cable. The MTP 15HD RS transmitter and MTP R 15HD RS receiver are compatible with resolutions up to 1600x1200 and support bi-directional serial communications.

Elmo Manufacturing (www.elmousa.com) launched the HV-C1000XG, a new high resolution XGA output document camera designed for ceiling-mounted applications that permit the camera to capture overhead images of documents. The company also unveiled the HV-7100SX SXGA Visual Presenter, which includes software to simplify handwritten annotation and highlighting using its built-in mouse-controlled annotation system.

 

Epson (www.epson.com) announced two new members of its lightweight PowerLite line of projectors that began shipping in June. The PowerLite 61p and 81p both feature 2,000 ANSI lumens, four video inputs, and two computer connections.

Hitachi (www.hitachi.us/digitalmedia.com) unveiled its new StarBoard T-15XL interactive 15-inch TFT display with XGA-quality graphics and an integrated electromagnetic sensing digitizer for wireless pen-driven operation.

InFocus (www.infocus.com) launched two new mobile projectors, the InFocus LP70+ and the ASK Proxima M2+, that combine high image quality and seamless connectivity and wireless capabilities with intuitive design.

JVC Professional Products (www.jvc.com/pro) displayed its new high-definition camera, the KH-F87ou HD-CMOS, which uses three next-generation CMOS chips, providing HDTV performance for a wide range of applications including point-of-view shooting for broadcast TV, live conferencing, speaker enlargement, remote sporting events, and distance learning.

Mitsubishi (www.mitsubishi.com) showcased a variety of projectors and displays and touted a "virtual reality" installation it helped create at Purdue University's (IN) new Envision Center.

NEC (www.necvisualsystems.com) introduced a new series of projectors, including the MT 1075, the newest in its MT line of desktop/portable projectors. NEC also unveiled two new lines of plasma displays.

Panasonic (www.panasonic.com) introduced a new family of ultra-compact XGA micro-portable LCD projectors. The superslim projectors are just 2.9 inches high and weigh less than five pounds.

 

Sharp (www.sharp-usa.com) introduced new models of its AQUOS liquid crystal high definition television line, including a 45-inch version the company says is the world's largest LCD widescreen.

SMART Technologies (www.smarttech.com) displayed its new Rear Projection SMART Board 4000i Interactive Whiteboard, a touch-sensitive display that delivers high resolution in a rear-projection interactive whiteboard with integrated projector. With a 2500-lumen projector and a 7,000-hour lamp, the 4000i is suited for command-and-control, simulation, research, design, and broadcast applications.

Sonic Foundry (www.sonicfoundry.com) unveiled a more compact MediasiteRL, the rack-mount version of its rich-media presentation system. The system is currently in use at York University in Toronto, where faculty record and archive classroom presentations for online viewing.

Sony (www.sony.com/professional) unveiled two new "4K" large-venue projectors featuring 4096x2160 pixel resolution and a high contrast ratio. The projector builds upon Silicon X-tal Reflective Display (SXRD) technology.

 

Toshiba (www.toshiba.com) introduced three new projectors--the TDP-T90U, TDP-TW90U and TDP-T91U--based on a DLP technology platform. They offer wireless capabilities and detachable document cameras to deliver high performance and flexibility.

ViewSonic Corp. (www.viewsonic.com) displayed two front projectors and a plasma display designed to meet varying user demands. The PJ225D is just two pounds, while the 14-pound wall-mountable PJ1165 provides 3,500 lumens of brightness.