BEHIND the NEWS

BEHIND the NEWS

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COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES are sparing more than dimes these days. Several are creating financial incentives for state residents, especially those who lost their jobs due to the economy.

Last month Syracuse University’s (N.Y.) School of Information Studies unveiled “Upstate IT Scholarships,” which will cover 50 percent of tuition costs for the 2009-2010 academic year. Applicants must submit a 500-word essay on how their education will help them play a role in enhancing the upstate New York region’s workforce. “We have companies ... that need people trained in information technology and residents that need jobs, and we’re a school that can teach IT,” says Dean Elizabeth Liddy. She anticipates the effort will lead to strengthened relations with area businesses, improved curricula to fit current job needs, and students who stay in the area after graduation. “I think of it as an investment for the long term.”

At the Sacramento Center for Graduate Studies in California, part of Drexel University (Pa.), officials have cut tuition in half for laid-off workers enrolling in graduate programs in September. Called “Bridge to the Future,” the program aims to help the region’s workers prepare for a recovering economy. Applicants must have been laid off after December 2007 from a full-time job and currently unable to find new employment. Carl “Tobey” Oxholm III, dean and CEO, says the program is like an insurance policy for the area. “It keeps the ‘brains’ of its region here,” he explains. “It’s an investment in the region, [an] investment in the people who are going to be driving the economic wave when it returns.”

Other initiatives include the following:

? Missouri State University: Unveiled in February on the Springfield and West Plains campuses, the RENEW (Renewed Employability Now Education Waiver) program helps unemployed Missouri workers obtain a degree. Scholarship applicants must have lost full-time jobs since October 2008 and be eligible for admittance to a degree program. Also, four new programs to assist returning students who want to continue their education will begin this fall.

? Benedictine University (Ill.): The “Displaced Earner Program” provides assistance to students affected by a family financial situation. University staff work with families to develop an affordable college financing plan and provide free career development services to students’ parents who have lost jobs.

? Southern New Hampshire University: The Alumni Assistance Program includes a 50-percent tuition discount for up to two graduate courses for two consecutive terms. Available during the March and June graduate terms, the program is open only to new graduate students. Unemployed alumni and/or their unemployed spouses and children are eligible. Participants must have lost their jobs on or after September 1, 2008.

? Pennsylvania Highlands Community College: In January, the college offered a 12-credit tuition waiver to the recently unemployed, covering up to 12 credits in tuition for the spring 2009 semester. Applicants must have been laid off from a full-time position within the past year and had to present proof of the actual layoff date and having lost their job due to the economy.

? Oakton Community College (Ill.): In January, the college announced that five career programs would be available tuition free to local residents who lost a full-time job in the last year. To qualify, students had to have lost that job since January 1, 2008.

Whether any of these programs will need to be renewed, of course, remains to be seen. But institutional officials are surely watching. ?Michele Herrmann

JUST ABOUT ANYONE WOULD ASSUME THE ONLY NEWS LAST YEAR from those who solicit donations was bad news. And some reports have indicated a decline of direct mail-based fundraising results for nonprofits in 2008, particularly in the fourth quarter. Yet in one area at least, there is reason for optimism.

A study of nearly 200 nonprofits in several industries indicates positive growth related to online marketing. The study measured data related to gifts made through a system from Convio, a provider of constituent relationship management software for nonprofits. The study’s purpose: Examine the nonprofit sector from a macro level, using 14 subgroups, one of which was higher ed. Sixteen colleges and universities were part of the study.

A few results stand out. Between 2007 and 2008, online revenue growth was greater for higher ed than for the other verticals combined. While online revenue was less for higher ed in total dollars brought in, “colleges experienced the highest growth in fourth quarter online revenue,” says David Lotz, who heads up the higher education business for Convio. The average online gift for higher ed was $143.17, compared to $67.47 for all verticals.

Overall, the results indicate a “tremendous potential for higher ed to raise a lot more money online,” says Lotz. However, institutions are “not taking full advantage of the technology.” For example, more segmenting could be done with e-mail newsletters.

In addition, Lotz says, colleges may be too focused on bringing in major gifts, which are generally a good return on investment, but can’t build “that base for the next generation of support.” He suggests colleges look to subgroups where there is a closed constituency?such as Jewish faith-based organizations?or to any organization where there is a strong affinity, for ideas. Request a copy of the study at www.convio.com/resources. ?Melissa Ezarik

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE CONSIDERS MANDARIN CHINESE AND ARABIC "critical languages” and sponsors a program to bring native speakers to the United States to teach. Yet according to the 2008 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education, the Middle East drew only 1 percent of American college students studying abroad during the 2006-2007 school year. (China drew 25 percent, landing it in the top five.) By comparison, 22,549 Arab students came to the United States in 2007-2008, as noted in the more recent white paper, “Expanding U.S. Study Abroad in the Arab World: Challenges and Opportunities,” from IIE.

The paper examines this imbalance and addresses concerns ranging from academic and cultural differences to safety concerns. Solutions include creating an organization of higher education institutions in the Arab world to address academic issues and creating scholarships to encourage American students to travel to the region. The full report is available at www.iie.org//Template.cfm?Section=Study_abroad_white_papers. ?Ann McClure

FARMERS MARKETS HELD ON OR NEAR A campus don’t just bring fresh fruits, veggies, and baked goods. They can enhance town/gown relations, promote sustainability, and provide a place to hang out.

One example of the trend: the Trojan Fresh Market at the University of Southern California. Opened in February 2008, it features businesses owned by USC alumni or area vendors. Others offering markets or involved with markets include Portland State University (Ore.), Brown University (R.I.), the University of Arizona and the University of Minnesota, as well as the University of California in Davis, Santa Cruz, and San Diego.

USC aims to have products that are “environmentally friendly, health conscious, or sustainable,” says Lore Oehmichen, senior manager for USCHospitality. Sellers are recruited through student referrals and through visits to area farmers markets. The university’s culinary department has a booth for selling portable edibles.

On the other side of the country is the more established, student-run Greening Princeton Farmers’ Market, which first sprouted up at the New Jersey Ivy in the fall of 2007. It now touts approximately 14 local vendors. A hit with students and faculty, the market serves the community too. Kristin S. Appelget, director of community and regional affairs, says one is as likely to see “a parent pushing a stroller or a retiree at the market stalls as ? a student with a backpack.” ?M.H.

My Word!

Plagiarism and College Culture

By Susan D. Blum; Cornell University Press, 2009; 240 pp.; $24.95

THIS BOOK IS LIKELY TO PROVIDE FUEL for both sides of a tricky debate, because Blum, as interviewer, remains a neutral observer. She doesn’t condone plagiarism, but neither does she endorse what she calls outdated academic policies that treat all infractions the same way. Is the student who mistakenly omits a citation as guilty as one who copies paragraphs from a website, or who buys a paper online and turns it in as original work? As Blum says, it’s not a black and white issue, but one of many shades of gray. And it’s not just plagiarism?Blum presents a picture of an entire culture that believes that the occasional incidence of cheating is not a big deal. Many of the students that Blum interviewed in the book said they did what they did only as a means to get to “the next step.” They know it’s wrong, but an “until-I-get-caught” attitude persists. That’s where the conversation really needs to start, and, Blum argues, that is what must change. ?Tim Goral

THE NEED TO QUICKLY ALERT constituents to campus emergencies has led many college and university leaders to install a range of solutions. Webster University (Mo.) personnel saw firsthand the power of these systems to disseminate information, especially when combined with social media, when a test message about a shooter on its Orlando, Fla., campus was sent on April 1.

Fortunately, there was no shooter. Unfortunately, it was April Fools’ Day, which led to some confusion.

Through a function of e2campus, the emergency messaging platform Webster uses, the notification went not only to the single test cell phone as planned but to the university’s Facebook page and Twitter account as well. Because Webster’s main website was not changed automatically by e2campus, anyone trying to verify the “tweet” by checking the main website was left wondering. Adding an alert to the home page is a manual process and part of Webster’s emergency response plan, explains Larry Haffner, vice president of IT.

Some of Webster’s Twitter followers passed along the message, which quickly reached an estimated 5,000 people. “We learned that Twitter works very well. It got the message out and got it out fast,” says Patrick Powers, interactive media manager and overseer of the university’s Twitter presence.

An effort then followed to recall the message and have people delete their “retweets.” As Webster had over 500 followers, the Twitter equivalent of online friends, on April 1, the message could have reached even more people?if some people hadn’t thought it might be the work of a hacker. Yet after the recall was issued, the incident reached a broader audience as people began speculating about whether the first message had been a bad joke.

“The copy used for training sessions will not in any way refer to an actual emergency. And we probably won’t test again on April Fools’,” says Polly Burtch, director of news and public information. Burtch personally phoned Twitter followers who are reporters to explain the situation as events unfolded.

“We have stepped back and reviewed the usefulness [of broadcasting messages on Twitter],” Haffner says, adding that it could still be useful because Webster has 100 campuses worldwide.

More than 2,785 people?community members and parents as well as students, faculty, and staff?have signed up to receive Webster’s emergency broadcasts via cell phone. Haffner says the system is used solely for weather and life safety messages. ?A.M.

"SNEAKER CULTURE IS A HUGE PART OF American culture and urban culture,” says Elliott Curtis, a Carnegie Mellon (Pa.) senior majoring in social and design science. So why not have a class about it? Thanks to CMU’s Student College, for which students develop and teach classes, Curtis and fellow “sneakerhead” Jesse Chorng, an economics major, share their passion through Sneakerology 101. The class explores the footwear’s impact in “fashion, identity, and culture throughout the world.”

Sneakers are having an impact on the students’ lives as well. When Curtis scored an internship with Reebok over the summer, he jumped at the chance to pitch a design?and the “Sneakerology 101 x Reebok Reverse Jam” was launched on April 15 during the student-coordinated Kicksburg event, which serves as a final exam and celebrates sneaker culture. The limited edition (101 pairs) sneakers feature a slate gray nubuck body representing a backboard, yellow stripes for chalk, and a felt tongue reminiscent of blackboard erasers. Red laces and accents pay tribute to CMU, and a custom-designed plaid insole includes text from a Sneakerology lesson.

But it’s not all for fun. Proceeds from sales of the custom sneakers will benefit an association that provides educational programs in the Pittsburgh area. ?A.M.

AFTER EXPLORING SEVERAL GREEN "MYTHS" ON CAMPUS OVER THE course of this year for an upcoming book on sustainability and higher education leadership, we now focus on some of the broader challenges related to the institutionalization of sustainability thinking and, this month, the importance of linking that thinking to the regional accrediting process.

Sandra Elman, a shaper of the national conversation about sustainability and quality assurance in her role as president of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, offers this comment as a way to address the issue: “From an accreditor’s perspective, sustainability is no longer simply about making the campus green, or greener. It is far more comprehensive than this.

“Sustainability must permeate the institution’s short- and long-range planning processes more authentically than even some enlightened leaders realize. In our resource constrained, highly competitive environment, presidents, faculties, and governing boards need to realize that sustainability is no longer a tangential concept but rather is integral to the viability of a higher education institution to serve both its students and society’s needs effectively.”

-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.

THE ECONOMY IS TAKING ITS toll on college sports programs. For example, Kutztown University (Pa.) canceled its men’s soccer and swimming programs to save $100,000 over the next year. After racking up more than $85,000 in travel expenses last year, the University of Minnesota, Crookston iced its hockey program, even though it had already broken ground on a new $14.5 million arena (still under construction) for the team. The University of Tennessee at Martin showed no love for its men’s tennis program, which ended this season. Baseball will also be out at the University of Massachusetts, although critics say the $180,000 savings is nothing to an athletics program that had $21 million in expenditures in 2007. And MIT, which once claimed to field more varsity teams than any university, announced that it too will cut some sports to shore up sagging budget numbers.

So just what is left for students who have tasted the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat? Well, there are always video games.

Students at Youngstown State University (Ohio) can get their Halo on in an intramural video game league that features the top-selling shoot ’em up game, as well as Madden NFL and NBA 2K9. Sixty-four gamers battled it out in the last competition during exam week, with cheering crowds to root for them. The program has become such a success that other schools, including Ohio State, Michigan State, and Bowling Green State (Ohio) are looking to YSU for advice on running their own leagues. If enough institutions plug into the idea, maybe one day we’ll all tune in to see the Pretzel Bowl. ?Tim Goral


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