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A few highlights amidst the higher education news this week:
- The NYT ran a front-page feature on student debt this past Sunday. Many noted the misleading focus, common in popular press coverage of student loans, on individual students with abnormally high loan amounts, but more surprising was the claim that 94 percent of all students owe money at graduation. The correct figure is 2/3rds. The NYT has corrected the piece and explained that they misinterpreted Department of Education data, but the figure is happily bouncing around the internet and probably will be for some time.
- With another growing budget gap in California, the Governor’s revised budget contains additional cuts to higher education if voters don’t pass a tax hike at the polls this November. The UC and CSU system will face $250m in new state funding cuts if the tax package is not approved.
- Several top tier institutions are experimenting with creating humanities PhDs that feature shorter time to degree and prepare students for potential careers both inside and outside of the academy.
- The College Board made an interesting choice in their next leader, 42 year old David Coleman. Coleman was the co-founder of the nonprofit Student Achievement Partners, which helped develop and promote the Common Core Standards, which define what a student should learn and know in english and math through the 12th grade.
- MIT Provost and longtime faculty member L. Rafael Rife will replace Susan Hockfield as MIT President when she steps down. Reif was a leader in the development of MIT’s open courseware and online education efforts including the development of both MITx and the new edX partnership with Harvard.
The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released a report addressing the effects of state disinvestment on enrollment rates in Californian higher education institutions. California high school graduates, despite applying and being eligible for enrollment, are less likely to enroll in the UC or CSU system today than five years ago. The report blames this decline on state cuts in higher education spending, which has led to skyrocketing tuition and enrollment limits at California schools. While California community colleges have absorbed some of this decrease, the report finds that students are increasingly going out-of-state or not enrolling in college at all.
Highlights from the report include:
- Enrollment rates of Californians at UC and CSU have fallen by one-fifth in the past five years, from 22 percent of CA high school graduates in 2005 to 18 percent in 2010.
- UC and CSU have rationed enrollment and increased tuition in order to blunt the effect of decreasing state support on educational quality. Tuition rose by 50 percent between 2007 and 2011 at UC, and by 47 percent at CSU. Tuition at CA community colleges has also almost doubled in that time.
- UC has reduced its campus enrollment targets and places students not accepted to their campus of choice into a referral pool, which grants them admission to less popular campuses where they are less likely to enroll. CSU now requires a higher SAT/GPA combination for CA students that live further from their chosen campus in an effort to limit enrollment. Community colleges cannot officially deny enrollment, but they have increased class sizes and decreased program offerings which effectively limits slots.
- Most students accepted to UC who decide not to enroll there, go to private institutions, usually out of state (34 percent). 30 percent enroll at CSU, 12 percent to community colleges in California, 8 percent to public schools out of state, and 10 percent do not enroll in college at all.
The report finds these trends troubling, since it represents a great loss of human capital to California. Estimates say that two out of five jobs in CA in 2025 will require a bachelor’s degree; if current trends continue, California will be short one million bachelor’s degree holders by that time. The report recommends locking in tuition for four years for each incoming class, offering deferred tuition payment plans, reinvesting in higher education and increasing the availability of financial aid to students in order to combat decreasing enrollment rates. To read the full report, click here.
The Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) at UC Berkeley has released a new report calling for a modernization of the UC system’s governance structure. Today, the UC system is run as one university with multiple campuses, and most decisions are made by a single, system-wide Board of Regents. The Center contends that the UC system has undergone huge changes in the past 50 years and that this centralized governance system is outdated. The campuses face individual challenges and opportunities: less funding from the state of California, increasing complexity, more diversity in the student body, and special programs, faculty and capital projects. The report contends that a more localized system of governance would be responsive to the needs of the campuses, would promote more efficient decision-making, and would allow the Regents to better capitalize on the unique opportunities of each campus.
The authors recommend that the UC system shift towards a hybrid system of governance, maintaining the Board of Regents while creating individual campus governing boards. The UC Board of Regents would continue to provide system-wide coordination and planning, preserve the UC-wide state budget, ensure access, and protect the reputation for academic excellence the UC system has cultivated. The local campus boards would approve campus budgets and allocate financial aid monies, set tuition for graduate and out-of-state students as well as for resident undergraduates (within Regental limits), set total enrollment capacity, decide on faculty cost-of-living adjustments, and approve campus construction projects.
The plan is controversial, and has received mixed reviews from UC authorities. While UC President Mark Yudof does not endorse the CSHE proposal, he concedes that the system should have further conversations about governance to make the system more flexible and efficient. Robert Birgeneau, one of the report authors and the current UC Berkeley Chancellor, defended the proposal, claiming it provides the necessary autonomy for campuses to address their individual challenges and opportunities.
To read more about the proposed structure of the campus boards, or the specific responsibilities they would hold, check out the full report here.
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This week, UPenn’s Institute for Research on Higher Education (IRHE) released a report assessing the state of higher education policy in Washington State. While satisfactorily describing the key facts and long-term trends and potential future problems for higher education in Washington State, the report is somewhat unrealistic in its recommendations. It seems to assume that, absent any change in state funding trends, policymakers can dramatically alter educational attainment via structural changes in governance.
Read the latest OPB brief for more information.
With the special legislative session wrapped up here in Washington, and regular session not set to begin until January 9th, here is some of what has been happening in higher education elsewhere.
Federal Budget Agreement Preserves but Alters Pell Grants: It appears that a last minute FY2012 budget agreement in Washington DC will avert a federal government shutdown. It is reported that this agreement, which cuts billions of dollars and increases NIH funding by a modest one percent, preserves the maximum Pell Grant amount of $5,500 (a priority for Democrats), but alters eligibility. Under this language, Pell grants could only be used for 12 total semesters, not 18. Additionally, the annual income threshold at which a student is automatically determined to have zero Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is lowered from $30,000 to $23,000. Stay tuned to the Office of Federal Relations for frequent updates on these budget negotiations.
Berkeley Unveils New Aid Program: UC Berkeley made big news this week for announcing a new financial aid program aimed at middle class Californians. Students from families making up to $80,000 per year already attend UC schools tuition-free in California. Under this new plan, UC Berkeley students from families making between $80,000 and $140,000 will have to contribute a maximum of 15 percent of annual income toweard the total cost of attendance at Berkeley (currently $32,000, including room and board). The student would also have to contribute about $8,000 per year via loans, work study or scholarships. According to the New York Times, based on current costs, this programs represents a discount ranging from 10 to 37.5 percent for families that fall within the specified income range. A number of private insitututions have similiar programs, but Berkeley is reported to be the first large public institution to follow suit.
Lariviere Out, Berdahl in at Oregon: After less than three years, Richard Lariviere has been fired by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education as President of the University of Oregon following a year in which he found himself at odds with the state System as he pushed for greater independence for the University of Oregon. The controversial move to oust a President who enjoyed student, faculty, and alumni support, was immediately followed by the appointment of Robert Berdahl as interim president. Berdahl is a former long-time University of Oregon professor and Dean, and has also served as the President of the University of Texas, and UC Berkeley Chancellor, among other roles. Berdahl recently ended his tenure as AAU President and took a highly publicized position as a part-time advisor to Lariviere at the University of Oregon.
More Higher Ed Cuts in CA: California Governor Jerry Brown announced another billion dollars in mid-year state budget cuts this week as yet another growing budget deficit loomed. The mid-year cuts include another $300 million reduction for the state’s three higher education systems (UC, CSU, and community colleges), which comprise the largest public higher education system in nation. While UC hopes to use temporary funds to bridge this latest cut for a year, further capped enrollments and tuition increases may be likely throughout the system.
VA Announces New Investments in Higher Ed: Meanwhile, Virginia is one of the only states increasing higher education funding. Governor McDonnell announced a new $100 million in funding for higher education, alongside new capital funding for longer term growth. The money is intended to support the goals contained in legislation passed last year, including increasing college attainment in Virginia, increasing affordability, and increasing the number of STEM and health related degrees awarded.
A new telephone survey, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, suggests that although Californians appreciate the quality of their higher education system, they are concerned about the direction in which it is headed. In fact, only 28 percent of Californians think that the system is headed in the right direction, while 62 percent claim it is headed in the wrong direction. While respondents still believe higher education is integral to future success in the workplace, they are worried that affording higher education is becoming increasingly difficult.
Californians’ main concern for the future of higher education is affordability. 61 percent believe affordability is a big problem. Among parents of college students in California, 77 percent are very concerned about the increasing tuition. Fully 69 percent of Californians do not believe we should increase fees to fund higher education. Furthermore, only half of respondents agree that financial help is available for those who need it, and 75 percent believe that students must borrow too much for college.
Respondents mainly blame California’s government for the declining affordability of higher education. Only 29 percent think Governor Jerry Brown is handling higher education well, and only 14 percent think the legislature is doing a good job. 74 percent say the state does not fund higher education adequately. This assertion breaches the ideological divide, with 58 percent of Republicans agreeing that more funding is needed. However, respondents are split on their willingness to pay higher taxes to support higher education (52 percent unwilling, 45 percent willing).
To read more about the survey, check out the full report here.
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The Times Higher Education/Thomson Reuters World University Rankings for 2011-12 were released today and the University of Washington ranked 25th, one of only five public US institutions to make the top 25 (UC Berkeley was the highest ranking US public at 10).
US News and World Report recently ranked the UW 42nd among all national universities in the US, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked the UW at 16.
These rankings help to validate the world class teaching, research and service that take place here at the UW every day. However, it is good to cast a critical eye on the business of ranking universities in general, and this column published by Inside Higher Education does a great job of summarizing some of the questions we should always ask of such ranking endeavors.
The controversial US News and World Report University Rankings have been released for 2012 and are freely available online for a limited period of time. The University of Washington slipped one spot to 42nd among National Universities in the US. The UW, however, comes in at the 10th best public institution in the nation.
Although the US News rankings have long been dominated by endowment-rich private institutions, it is notable that no public institution makes the top 20 anymore. A recent Washington Post article reported that, over the past 20 years, the five highest ranked public institutions have each dropped seven or more spots in the rankings.
In previous posts we have laid out the massive resource gap between public and private institutions that has widened over several decades and is reflected in these rankings:
Across the US, deep cuts in state funding for public higher education have accelerated this trend dramatically over the past three years. In response, the Seattle Times Company and several partners have formed to create the Greater Good Campaign to highlight the risks this trend poses to public higher education in Washington State and to the future of Washingtonians.
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Inside Higher Ed published a feature today detailing an ongoing process that has 27 universities, US and abroad, competing for a gift of land in New York City plus $100 million in exchange for the creation of a new tech-centered campus. Several New York based universities are submitting proposals, due in October, but notable universities from elsewhere such as Stanford and Chicago are also competing for the opportunity, as well as universities based in other countries.
As pointed out in the article, New York already has 110 institutions serving over 600,000 students. However, engineering and tech programs in the region have lacked the success and reputation that the city would like. While institutions with an existing presence in NYC or in the region may make more sense as a partner in this project, Stanford appears to be aggressively pursuing the opportunity, touting its role in the creation of Silicon Valley in California. If successful, this would be Stanford’s first campus outside of Palo Alto.
The absence of public universities on the applicant list is stark. Purdue is the only one. However, this is perhaps unsurprising given the billions of dollars likely required to build a fully operational campus from scratch in a short period of time, and the state-centered history of public institutions in the US.
For the lucky institution with the right amount of resources, this will hopefully be a great opportunity with long lasting effects for the institution and the city of New York. For all of higher education, it will be fascinating to see if this kind of partnership between government and institutions can work to create a new, physical campus that can quickly produce innovation and education while building and maintaining a reputation for excellence.
We’ve blogged previously about the controversial reforms being aggressively pursued by Governor Perry and various of the appointees he has placed on Texas higher education governing boards and in university administrations. The reforms were initially developed by the conservative think tank the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), and are centered around placing the student in a stronger consumer role, basing professor pay and tenure more directly on student evaluations, creating a bright line between teaching and research funding, and changing the state funding model from one that subsidizes institutions to one that provides grants directly to students. Many may recognize these as reforms long advocated for in the K-12 sector for some time.
After a protracted battle between a variety of interested parties (academics, administrators, legislators, state leaders, alumni, lobbyists and more), the University of Texas System Board of Regents unanimously approved what they called ‘A Framework for Advancing Excellence Throughout the University of Texas System‘ at their May meeting. An action plan released last week provided a glimpse at the compromises made to quell strong opposition.
More flexible than initially feared, the action plan allows institutions to tailor the reforms to their institutions. Major system-wide goals include:
- Increased degree production
- Increased use of online and blended instruction
- Development of performance incentives for professors
- Strengthening of post-tenure review for professors
- Creation of external review for schools and colleges within the institution
- Critical review of PhD programs and decreased time to PhD
- Increased research collaboration, especially with non-academic partners
- Increased research and philanthropic funding
- Increased administrative efficiency through standardized systems, sharing of services, and better space utilization
Although much less divisive than the specific reforms championed by TPPF, these goals are ambitious enough to put Texas in a category of its own nationwide. How individual institutions endeavor to implement the action plan in the near future, and the extent to which they engage faculty in the process, will likely determine the mood and direction in Texas public higher education for some time.
In the meantime, Florida Governor Rick Scott is indicating a desire to follow Rick Perry’s lead on this issue.
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