BEHIND the NEWS

BEHIND the NEWS

By:

BILLIONS IN FEDERAL FUNDING FOR “higher education facilities modernization” seemed within reach.

But then it was gone.

Despite $787 billion being pumped into U.S. infrastructure projects, renewable energy development and conservation, and other areas to help with jobs in the short term and economic viability in the long term, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 wound up not including any dedicated dollars for campus facilities. Public higher ed institutions are the only ones left hoping for a piece of funding?but they’ll have to get in line with school districts (and could be forgotten altogether) when a general fund for the support of education is doled out.

For a few weeks leading up to Presidents’ Day weekend, campus leaders thought they had a good chance of being allocated funds earmarked for modernizing, renovating, or repairing higher education facilities. The initial version of the House bill provided $6 billion, and the initial Senate bill provided $3.5 billion.

As Judy Marks, associate director of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities, explained on February 4 during a virtual conversation organized by SCUP to discuss the higher education facilities funding, the U.S. Department of Education would allocate money to each state, using a formula based on the total number of full-time undergraduates there.

The states could then give sub-grants to individual institutions for use on approved projects?anything from fixing building systems or bringing them to code, to increasing energy efficiencies or boosting security. Projects had to involve facilities used primarily for instruction, research, or student housing, and certain types of facilities (e.g. stadiums and chapels) would not qualify.

It appeared that there would be preference given to campuses in areas affected by major disasters, and, probably, to projects related to energy efficiency.

Of course, there was a catch?in the timing. All projects would need to be “shovel ready,” and funds not used within 120 days would be recovered by the state. SCUP even provided a virtual resource, at http://tinyurl.com/cvtvl6, so that the higher ed facilities community could get up to speed on the funding and get projects submitted to their states.

Marks said campus leaders should be realistic in the scope of submitted projects and should expect competition for funds from other states. “It’s not going to be huge pockets of money to go to.”

But no money at all? That wasn’t the scenario on higher ed leaders’ minds as they raced to dust off projects in need of funding, many that were a “go” until the economy’s shivers really set in this past fall.

One of many institutions to do more than just take a look at their facilities wish lists is Northwestern Michigan College. Officials at the community college submitted plans for $28 million in potential projects, including a $22.5 million renovation to the former dormitory West Hall.

Plans call for transforming the building into a student learning center operated in a sustainable manner. Other projects included $4.8 million to help conserve energy in 10 campus buildings.

By the time Congress agreed on a final bill, however, hopes were dashed. Or as The State, a South Carolina newspaper, put it, higher education is one of the stimulus package losers.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), one of only three Republicans to vote for the final stimulus bill, said she was concerned about the precedent that would be set if a new federal program for school construction were established, since historically state and local governments have taken responsibility for that area.

The final bill, signed by President Barack Obama on February 17, does include a $53.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for the support of education, as well as about $8.8 billion “for public safety and other government services, which may include assistance for elementary and secondary education.”

As a SCUP newsletter reported, “the dollars intended for ‘shovel ready’ renovation and upgrading projects seem to have turned into something like a handful of snowflakes in July.” ?Melissa Ezarik

MIAMI DADE COLLEGE (Fla.) PRESIDENT EDUARDO Padr?n wears many hats in higher education through his service on a number of policy forums and leadership boards. His latest hat has made him the first Hispanic, Floridian, and community college president to be appointed chair of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Padr?n has worked closely with AAC&U to implement its Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) campaign at Miami Dade, the largest U.S. higher ed institution. A 10-year initiative, LEAP focuses on a set of learning outcomes considered essential in today’s global workforce and promotes the importance of these outcomes for all students and every field of study.

“Padr?n is inviting our society to ‘think again’ about the necessary connections between liberal learning and ‘success’ beyond the academy,” says AAC&U President Carol Schneider. “We look forward to his leadership in making LEAP a compass for every college student.”

Schneider explains that by challenging departmental silos, LEAP can help educators make these outcomes a guiding framework for integrative learning from school through college and from two-year to four-year institutions.

Padr?n cites the global economy’s demands for a better-educated workforce and the importance of more minorities and nontraditional students attending college. “College cannot function as an ivory tower only for those who can afford to attend. We need more doors opening to higher education, not less,” he says. ?Michele Herrmann

THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE STUDY OF TRANSFER STUDENTS WAS FORMED IN JANUARY as a way to formalize the activities of the National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students at the University of North Texas. The national dialogue on improving transfer student success began to increase two to three years ago along with an increased focus on graduation rates, explains Executive Director Bonita Jacobs. “We’re getting calls from [institutions] all over the country.” The administrators making those calls tend to be seeking guidance on working with internal and external partners to improve services for transfer students.

Adding to the urgency to understand this unique demographic, many military veterans will fit the transfer profile as older students with some prior college education. “Higher education is going to have an onslaught of veterans coming in because of the new GI Bill,” she predicts. A goal of the association is to bring people together to raise the profile of transfer issues. Information on the institute and its new association is available at www.transferinstitute.unt.edu. ?Ann McClure

SIGNIFICANT TUITION INCREASES?some reaching double digits?have become a common way for higher ed institutions to handle cuts to state appropriations and a shaken economy. Missouri leaders have taken another route to help keep funding in their state stable and in-state students from absorbing higher tuition costs. Under an agreement reached by Gov. Jay Nixon (D) and leaders of Missouri’s public two- and four-year colleges and universities, in fiscal year 2010 the institutions will have the same state appropriation received in fiscal year 2009. In return, the institutions have pledged not to raise tuition or academic fees during the 2009-2010 school year.

Missouri State University President Michael Nietzel explains the governor wanted to begin to reverse “what had been a history of chronic underfunding” for Missouri institutions. He says public universities have yet to regain the level of state funding they received in fiscal year 2002, despite six years of inflation and an increase in full-time enrollments.

Eyebrows were raised, however, when Nixon proposed cutting funds for the University of Missouri Extension system during the 2010 fiscal year by $14.6 million?about half of its state allocation. After much protest, Nixon found a way to reallocate $10.1 million from another project, and reduced the Extension’s cuts by just $5.3 million.

At press time, the Missouri proposal awaits passage in the state’s General Assembly. As for the end result?in June 2010 when the pledge technically expires?only time will tell. ?M.H.

Tapping the Riches of Science: Universities and the Promise of Economic Growth

By Roger L. Geiger and Creso M. S?; Harvard University Press, 2008; http://tinyurl.com/c82hxr; 254 pp., $39.95

IN THESE CHALLENGED ECONOMIC TIMES, many colleges and universities looking for revenue sources are turning to technology transfer as a possible answer. Geiger and S? say that, done right, higher education institutions can indeed enjoy lasting rewards from the fruits of science and technology research in the form of patents, spin-off companies, incubator programs, and corporate partnerships. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that this road to financial reward can be full of potholes.

This book presents a realistic, balanced view of the subject, drawn from statistical data, interviews with campus researchers, and a critical eye at profit/loss statements. Notably, the authors are aware of how swiftly data can become obsolete once it has been published. So, as with many books in the information age, this one has a web component to keep readers up-to-date with the current research; see the website above. ?Tim Goral

MOST COLLEGE ADMISSIONS OFFICERS KNOW BY NOW THAT THEIR target audience is very invested in the online world of social networking. Turns out admissions officers are not only familiar with these networks but are starting to use them as well.

A new survey from the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, tracked changes in social media adoption between 2007 and 2008 at four-year accredited higher ed institutions in the United States.

Familiarity with social networking sites (e.g., MySpace and Facebook) among the 536 institutions whose admissions officers were surveyed increased from 55 percent in 2007 to 63 percent in 2008, while use of those sites skyrocketed to 61 percent from 29 percent. The use of blogs, which can be a quick and easy way to get in the game, inched up from 33 percent to 41 percent.

Despite these adoption rates, “there is also evidence that these powerful tools are not being utilized to their potential,” conclude researchers Nora Ganim Barnes, director of the center, and Eric Mattson, CEO of Financial Insite, a Seattle-based research firm. Admissions officers are still dropping the ball on the “conversation” aspect of social media, with less than half providing subscriptions to blogs via RSS or e-mail and only 72 percent accepting comments. “They need to do a better job of being interactive and accessible,” Barnes advises.

Admissions officers who are still finding their place in the online world can keep in mind that the effort is worth it. According to the 2007 E-Expectations report from Noel-Levitz, 61 percent of surveyed high school seniors said they were in favor of colleges and universities posting information on social networking sites. The full UMass study is available at www.umassd.edu/cmr. ?A.M.

A NEW REPORT FROM THE DELTA PROJECT ON Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability looks at revenue and spending at U.S. higher ed institutions from 2002 to 2006. The report, “Trends in College Spending: Where Does the Money Come From? Where Does It Go?” says that higher education finance hasn’t yet transitioned “from cost accounting to cost accountability”?despite there being enough data out there to inform strategic decision making and to show the public how institutional money is spent.

In a separate document, the Delta Project has outlined five steps for more accountable spending at institutions:

1. Set ambitious, measurable goals for educational attainment to reverse the downward trend in the number of American young adults with college degrees. This is the starting point for discussions about higher ed spending.

2. Examine spending patterns and align spending with strategic priorities. Readily accessible and transparent measures of spending should show where the money is coming from, where it goes, and what it buys.

3. Reduce excess credits taken by students and the time it takes to earn a degree. Efforts such as improving advising, streamlining the transfer credit process, and managing curricula better can reduce costs for current students and free up space for new ones.

4. Strengthen public accountability. The public and policymakers are growing more skeptical about higher ed costs, so IHE leaders must show they’re using resources wisely.

5. Improve governing board oversight of spending. A 2005 survey by AGB and NACUBO revealed that although boards are involved in budget review, their discussions focus on specific areas (e.g. faculty salaries) rather than broader issues such as educational spending relative to performance.

The report and other related resources can be found online at www.deltacostproject.org. ?Don Parker-Burgard

WITH ENDOWMENTS SHRINKING AND FINANCIAL AID budgets stretched as never before, what are higher ed leaders to do? Many have either frozen new hiring or plan to. Augustana College (Ill.) is instead hiring faculty at an aggressive pace. More accurately, it is continuing an ambitious hiring process begun four years ago, which has already increased the size of its faculty from 143 to 181, commensurate with an increase in the size of the student body. Both are key parts of the college’s strategic plan. Augustana is now poised to hire faculty for another 12 tenure-track positions for the 2009-2010 school year.

For Jeff Abernathy, the college’s vice president and dean, it’s an ideal time to be hiring. Simply put, the supply of qualified candidates is exceptionally high, due to so many closed doors at other higher ed institutions. Abernathy gives an example: “Last year in psychology we had one position and 15 applicants. This year we had two positions and 53 applicants.” Augustana can now grow its faculty with top-notch scholar-teachers.

How can a school that has seen its endowment drop from $110 million to $80 million afford to hire? Abernathy says Augustana has budgeted conservatively over the years and for the past six has built a reserve for this purpose using 3 percent of the college’s annual budget. Practicing fiscal discipline in other areas has also helped, he adds.

Whether officials played their cards right remains to be seen, but either way they will have strengthened Augustana’s position for years to come. ?D.P.B.

ONE FOCUS DOES NOT FIT WITH ALL EFFORTS TO HELP STUDENTS become active global citizens. The winners of the Institute of International Education’s eighth annual Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education demonstrate the variety of ways colleges can, and are, accomplishing that goal. Being honored are:

? Champlain College (Vt.) and Universidad de Monterrey (Mexico), co-winners for “Internationalizing the Campus.” Highlights: At Champlain, online projects link students in 12 countries; at Universidad de Monterray, a goal for 2020 is reaching 50 percent study abroad participation.

? Clemson University (S.C.) and the University of Kansas, winners for their joint program, and Vanderbilt University (Tenn.), honorable mention, for innovation and accessibility in study abroad programs. Highlight: In an immersion program, Clemson and KU education majors can spend a “Maymester” in Carpi, Italy classrooms.

? Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, winner, and Ohio University, honorable mention, for “International Exchange Partnerships.” Highlight: An IUPUI program has increased international student dialogue and created more international course content.

? Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.), winner, and Chaffey College (Calif.) and Salt Lake Community College, honorable mentions, for community college study abroad. Highlight: Scottsdale’s program connects American students to Maori and Aboriginal cultures while fostering understanding of Native American culture in the United States.

Profiles of the winning programs are posted online at www.iienetwork.org. ?M.E.

ADDING TO OUR LOOK AT SOME OF THE CONTINUING MYTHS AND FAILED promises in the sustainability movement, today we travel to the site of many early successes, the main campus dining room for green myth no. 2. (We have a new book on sustainability and higher education leadership in the works.)

As director of the Rural Life Center at Kenyon College (Ohio), Howard Sacks presides over one of the nation’s most influential local food programs?Food for Thought. As a “special initiative to explore food, farming, and rural life,” the program builds a sustainable local market for foods produced in and near Knox County. Yet even with years to develop a comprehensive dining system for campus, things do not always go according to plan?especially when they involve pigs. In Sacks’ words, “Kenyon students eat acres of bacon, and local farmers produce plenty of fine hogs, but peeling a thousand slices of bacon, strip by strip, is a highly impractical task, and the local meat processor could not afford the expensive machine to make preparation easier. So no local bacon.”

In Sacks’ view, “the devil of going local lies in the details,” where success is not a simple process. It must still be achieved by overcoming challenges one step, and strip, at a time.

?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.

Check next month’s Behind the News section for more information on the University Business Dining Halls of Distinction award program.


Advertisement