Behind the News

Behind the News

The tornadoes that ripped across the South in April devastated everything in their paths. Some institutions had to close their doors before semester’s end.

In Tuscaloosa, Ala., home of the University of Alabama, an April 27 tornado killed at least five UA students. Officials cancelled classes, scheduled to end two days later, and exams, scheduled for the week of May 2. Students were given the option of accepting their grades as of April 27, or taking a final exam at a later date, shares Cathy Andreen, director of media relations at UA. “Faculty worked directly with students who requested to take an exam to make arrangements to do so.” Commencement ceremonies, originally planned for May 7, have been postponed until August 6.

Further north, Saint Augustine’s College (N.C.) closed briefly after a tornado touched down in Raleigh April 16. But, nearby Shaw University had to cancel classes for the rest of the semester after some dorms and the student center were damaged.

Dealing with how to repay students after classes or semesters are cancelled is a difficult decision, and what’s best for the institution and the students must be taken into account, explains Tulane University (La.) President Scott S. Cowen. The school is still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, which hit in August 2005 and caused it to become the first major university to close for an entire semester since the Civil War.

Tulane cancelled its fall semester when some students had paid and others had not. Officials worked with other institutions and organizations to ensure students had somewhere to study in the interim, and to ensure credits would transfer back to Tulane. Anyone who paid fall 2005 tuition could register for an extended summer term in 2006. The university lost $650 million as a result of Katrina, but “since then, we have grown at a very fast rate on all metrics that are important to the university,” says Cowen.

While Cowen explains he can’t speculate what Tulane would do if a semester needed to be cancelled partway through, he does have advice for others who may be affected by a natural disaster.

“If you don’t give them refunds, you probably need to think about what we did, extending the summer term, or some other vehicle for earning credits from your institution,” he says. --Kristen Domonell

Landmark College is helping other institutions address student learning challenges.

Any administrator knows that students who struggle academically are more likely to drop out. While colleges and universities might have programs in place to address these challenges, another perspective is always helpful. “I think the presidents and deans are looking at it as a retention problem, not a learning problem,” suggests Steve Fadden, a vice president at Landmark College (Vt.). Serving students with AD/HD, anxiety disorders, Asperger’s syndrome, and other “invisible disabilities” is Landmark’s mission, and now Landmark is providing workshops and training to K-20 educators to help them better serve this population through the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training. “We go to individual institutions and help them identify what they are doing well and where they need to improve,” Fadden says, adding that the Institute “helps raise awareness about what we are doing, but also raise the issue that ‘learning disabilities’ aren’t unique to students with labels.”

He says that, as medical science becomes better at diagnosing and labeling these challenges, it is easier for educators to address them, such as through teaching strategies like Universal Design, which are meant to address learning challenges and will often benefit the general population, as well. But serving this population is not always easy. One reason might be the workload in the disability office, another is that students might not be requesting help. As Fadden points out, coping mechanisms they used in high school don’t always work for college. Serving these students is also an ADA-compliance issue.

And then there’s the notion that simple steps, such as providing students with testing accommodations, can be what’s needed for them to graduate, get jobs, and become alumni. “If instead, they drop out, that hurts all of us,” Fadden says. For more information on the Landmark College Institute for Research and Training, see www.landmark.edu/institute. --Ann McClure

The cast of MTV's Jersey Shore is taking over historic Florence, Italy, forcing one local institution to relocate students.

In Florence, Italy--where about 7,000 Americans enroll in study-abroad programs each year--there’s a new set of “ugly” Americans to deal with. Jersey Shore, the MTV series controversial for the way many critics say it plays into negative American and Italian stereotypes, is currently shooting its fourth season in the Renaissance city, and one Italian institution’s reaction could serve as a model for what to do when reality television takes over.

The Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici (LdM), a college for international students in the heart of Florence, is opting for the route of total avoidance. When officials learned in early May that the cast members from the show would be filmed in an apartment building where some of its students live, they immediately sent an email warning students not to fraternize with the cast or crew. It stated where the taping would take place and said, “We advise you to NOT sign any paper, let anyone in, and keep us informed.”

News websites exploded with the news in early May, wrongly stating that the cast members were being filmed in LdM dorms. Carla Guarducci, managing director of LdM, says students were living in a rented apartment on another floor of the same building where the cast is living and “due to potential noise and security concerns, this apartment has been deemed unsuitable as a good study environment.”

Initially, institutional officials believed the show would only be filming in the apartment building occasionally and offered assistance to students who wanted to move out because of the situation, or refunds for students who wanted to leave Florence altogether.

“When we learned that the cast would be moving into the apartment building full-time, we decided that it would be impossible to guarantee a peaceful study environment for our students and the only option was to relocate the students,” says Guarducci.

Here in the states, another institution, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, had a run-in with reality TV at the end of April. A helicopter shooting footage for an episode of Campus PD, a show that films police breaking up college parties, crashed between apartment buildings near the university, injuring three film crew members on board. --K.D.

Marc Compeau, here with student Matt Turcotte, heads the Young Entrepreneur Award program at Clarkson U.

There are many stories of entrepreneurs dropping out of college to launch a successful business. Clarkson University (N.Y.) has launched a new program to meet the needs of young business owners who understand they still have a lot to learn. Through the Young Entrepreneur Award program, these students can sell the university an ownership interest in their business in exchange for tuition.

“This wasn’t designed for the university to get rich. We want to fill our classes with fantastic young people,” explains Marc Compeau, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, adding that the agreement Clarkson’s attorneys created is very favorable to the students.

In addition to regular college courses, the students are paired with alumni mentors who are successful in a similar business who help guide the student and grow their business.

The program started after Clarkson President Tony Collins met Matthew Turcotte, who started a successful internet business at 16. Compeau says the pilot program with Turcotte, who was a Presidential Scholar both semesters, has gone so smoothly they are already looking to expand. Students have to be admitted under the traditional enrollment process, after which they are screened for the program.

“Our challenge will be managing five to 10 of these young people at the same time,” Compeau says. Although the program is labor intensive for the advisors, he says he finds it’s also exciting to watch the students grow. “It’s amazing to have Matt in the classroom with 18-year-olds who want to do what he’s done and have him chime in with his real world experience.” --A.M.

 

We are just back from campus info visits, during which we gained a fresh perspective on what today’s college students like best to learn, where they want to live, and how they want to engage in the global higher learning experience. What we realized from our campus tours is that today’s students are keenly interested in study abroad programs, international field practicums, and exposure--indeed, immersion in foreign languages and cultures.

Our first stop takes us to Suffolk University in Boston, founded in 1906 and located steps away from the historic Statehouse on Beacon Hill. With students recruited from 103 countries, Suffolk has positioned itself as a foreign-student -friendly university--ranking 7th for the “Best College for International Students Attending Master’s Programs in the Northeast” by U.S. News & World Report. Uniquely, Suffolk’s commitment to international families begins long before prospective students arrive on campus. What Suffolk does differently is establish direct family-to-family networking. Through study abroad programs, Suffolk students are exposed to countless natural, scientific, cultural, and artistic wonders on several continents of the world. At the end of the tour, Suffolk University vice president of enrollment and international programs, Marguerite Dennis, put it nicely: “We consider it our responsibility to train students to be citizens of the world. That is our mission and our students’ destiny.”

Our next Boston area visit was Tufts University where the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy stands out as one of the premier graduate schools of international affairs in the world. Students from over 70 nations choose from concentrations in diplomacy, economics and international business, history and politics, and international law and organizations.

Our last stop in Beantown was Northeastern University, where the International Student and Scholar Institute coordinates programs and services for students and faculty representing 125 different countries. Beyond its well recognized institute, Northeastern sponsors a Global Connections program that links international students with alumni in over 100 nations.

Fresh off the Beltway shuttle, we next visited Georgetown University (D.C.), which provides a broad variety of international and intercultural education opportunities in 40 nations. Through its office of international programs, Georgetown hosts students and faculty from more than 130 countries.

Our last stop was The George Washington University (D.C.). With competitive programs in international affairs, global communication, international law, business and policy, and medicine, George Washington is a major player in the international student marketplace.

What the above contemporary global institutions have in common is that they get it--that the future of higher learning is in the diversity of global learning experiences, languages, and cultures which students will face in the brave new world.

--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.

In Louisiana, where gambling is only legal on water, a state representative has proposed a bill that would apportion some funds from a new casino riverboat to higher education. State Representative Franklin Foil (R-Baton Rouge), who represents the area surrounding Louisiana State University, Southern University at Baton Rouge, and Baton Rouge Community College, has asked that some of the revenue generated by the soon-to-be-built Pinnacle Casino Riverboat go toward supplementing their funding. The state already legislates that some revenue from the 14 other riverboat casinos in operation be put in a trust fund for educational purposes, which Foil says is spent mostly on K-12 education.

 

“Instead of assessing an additional fee, I wanted to take some of the money that would normally go to that state fund for education and redirect it to higher education in the Baton Rouge area where the boat is located,” Foil explains. If passed, revenue would be funneled into foundations that support new construction costs and professors’ salaries in a time of across-the-board funding cuts. “This legislation will provide a means of funding our local higher education institutions without having to raise taxes or pass along the expenses to students,” he says, estimating the revenue could be as much as $4 million per year.

At press time, Ernie Ballard, director of media relations at LSU, said officials did not yet have a stance for or against the bill.

Increased revenue from the Pinnacle Casino Riverboat could help offset some of the $310 million that has been cut from state funding for colleges in the last two years. Coinciding with this bill is an $88 million or more increase in student costs for the 2011-12 school year. Gov. Bobby Jindal has also proposed an additional $98 million in price increases that requires approval. ?K.D.

Cal State system officials have supported assisting undocumented students in the state and nationwide.

Legislation that will determine if undocumented students can attend college and whether or not they’ll pay in-state tuition continues to wind its way through state governments across the country. Undocumented students, of course, face the same challenges of paying for classes as any other student once enrolled, without the benefit of federal financial aid. A bill in California would allow undocumented students to apply for scholarships that receive funding from nonstate sources if approved.

“This legislation would enable academically qualified students who have been educated in California, but have not yet become legal residents, to secure financial aid from private sources to attend UCSF and other colleges and universities. If approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, this policy change will broaden access to higher education and contribute toward strengthening the state’s economy,” comments Joseph Castro, vice chancellor of student academic affairs at the University of California, San Francisco.

The California State University System has stated support for the Dream Act at both the Federal and California levels, says spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp. He says this new legislation would allow undocumented students to apply for “institutional” scholarships that are funded through endowments or annual gifts. For the 2009-2010 academic year, 11,700 students received institutional scholarships totaling $25.7 million. “It’s about 5.7 percent of our total awards,” Uhlenkamp says. If the legislation is approved, it would create more competition for those scholarships, but eligibility criteria varies, depending on the campus, so there is no way to know the true impact. College and university officials will have to wait and see. --A.M.

This April, the University of CaliFornia, San Diego was home to the fourth annual Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) meeting, which brings together students from institutions in 99 countries to address global challenges. Nonprofit leaders, celebrities, and entrepreneurs--who this year included Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron, UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox, and actor and humanitarian Sean Penn--work with students at the event in efforts to create positive change. Each attendee makes a detailed Commitment to Action related to education, the environment and climate change, peace and human rights, poverty alleviation, or public health. This year’s higher ed-related commitments included:

  • Maclen Zilber of UC San Diego, who commits to partnering with the UCSD bookstore, the student government, and the financial aid office to disseminate information about how students can apply for the tax credit for higher education, which now covers books. Students will receive automatic email reminders of what they purchased and how they can write off the purchases on their taxes. His goal: Save UCSD students at least an additional $2.5 million per year.
  • Corey Metzman and Jacob Blumenfeld-Gantz of the University of Pennsylvania, who commit to establishing an intercultural dialogue between American and Middle Eastern college students through videoconferencing. Their recently formed organization, Dorm Room Diplomacy, will facilitate weekly videoconferences addressing cultural stereotypes, American foreign policy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and other topics. Through a partnership with the U.S Department of State, the group will host online sessions during which students from multiple countries can pose questions to prominent U.S. policy makers.
  • Tyler Spencer of Oxford University (UK), who commits to expanding his Grassroot Project, which he initiated in 2009 by recruiting fellow Division I soccer players from his school, the University of Virginia (his alma mater), and other nearby universities to spend two summers establishing HIV prevention programs in South African DeBeers diamond mining communities. He plans to train 150 athletes from the University of Maryland and four universities in the District of Columbia to facilitate a sports-based eight-week HIV prevention/life skills program for middle-school students in the area. --Melissa Ezarik

Michael K. Young

Michael K. Young will bring extensive law and higher ed leadership experience with him when he takes over as president at the University of Washington July 1. Currently, Young leads the University of Utah, where he has helped grow the annual budget by $1 billion since starting there in 2004. He was previously a dean and law professor at The George Washington University Law School, a professor of Japanese law, and director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies, the Center for Korean Legal Studies, and the Project on Religion, Human Rights and Religious Freedom at Columbia University. ... Jill Tiefenthaler, provost and professor of economics at Wake Forest University (N.C.), will lead Colorado College beginning July 1, replacing Richard F. Celeste, who is retiring after nine years as president. Under Tiefenthaler’s leadership, Wake Forest established the Institute for Public Engagement, the Humanities Institute, and a number of interdisciplinary research centers. ... Henry “Hank” M. Huckaby has been named chancellor of the University System of Georgia, to begin July 1 following the retirement of Erroll B. Davis Jr. ... Donald J. Farish will lead Roger Williams University (R.I.) beginning July 1. Ronald O. Champagne has served as interim president since August 2010. ... James M. Danko, dean of Villanova School of Business (Pa.), has been appointed president of Butler University (Ind.) to begin July 1. ... Robert A. Alsop will take over as the 16th president of Waldorf College (Iowa). ... Martha A. Smith, president of Anne Arundel Community College (Md.), has announced she will be retiring next summer. ... Eric W. Overström is now provost at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Mass.). ... Veronica Marrero is now vice president of enrollment management for the Accelerated Degree Program at Post University (Conn.). She previously served as a director. ... George L. Hanbury II is now president of Nova Southeastern University (Fla.). ... Susan West Engelkemeyer will begin serving as president of Nichols College (Mass.) on August 1. ... Jeffrey S. Allbritten, president of the Collier County Campus of Edison State College (Fla.), will lead Macon State College (Ga.) beginning July 1. --K.D.

As institutional marketers are aware, a compelling so-cial media presence is a necessary part of recruitment. Social media sites are certainly a part of students’ daily lives, but in what ways are they using these tools to engage with colleges of interest? According to the “2011 College Decision Impact Survey” from Maguire Associates and Fastweb.com, more than half of 21,000-plus high school seniors surveyed said they’ve explored “fit” with colleges through a web service, searched for scholarships via social media, watched a school-created YouTube video, or read posts on a social media site about a school or a student blog on a college website. Data was collected in January from Fastweb members.

Tara Scholder, senior vice president of Maguire Associates, says the research validates social media as part of an integrated strategy. With 22 percent of respondents saying a college’s online presence made them more interested in applying, Linda Maguire, vice chair of the firm, stresses there’s no real downside. “When you get an advantage--22 percent of the market--that’s where [officials] should be looking.”

 

Maguire shares what she sees as dangers to social media involvement. Students may get desensitized as this kind of outreach becomes expected; it will no longer “wow” them. Another danger is colleges using the wrong approach. “Students can sniff out a person who really doesn’t understand the medium in an instant,” she says. Rather than planting content from another medium on social media sites, it’s better to more subtly identify communities and determine how to connect, she explains.

The least popular action in the list of 15 items is “post negative feedback about a school on its Facebook wall,” with 2.8 percent of respondents saying they had. “I thought that would have been higher,” Maguire says. “Maybe professionals are worrying about it too much.” She hopes administrators are thinking about building social media into a coordinated strategy. “One of the beauties of social media is that it’s so viral, but one of the problems is that it’s so viral,” she notes. “If different pockets are using social media in all different ways across an institution, there’s the potential for confusing the market.”

The full survey, which also covered the Class of 2015’s concerns about the economy, how they’re using net price calculators, and how they’re choosing where to attend, can be found online at www.maguireassoc.com. --M.E.

The National Association of College Stores (NACS) is embroiled in a battle with Amazon over alleged deceptive advertising practices. The online bookselling giant has filed a lawsuit against NACS, claiming the association is trying to prevent it from offering students an alternative to high textbook costs.

NACS, a trade organization representing some 3,100 college and university stores, says Amazon misleads students with claims that they can “save up to 90 percent on used textbooks,” and that they can “get up to 60 percent back” when they resell to Amazon.

NACS spokesman Charles Schmidt says the association initially approached Amazon directly, asking them to substantiate their advertising claims. “When they would not respond to our satisfaction, we filed a complaint with the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, as we have successfully done in the past with other companies, ... asking them to investigate Amazon’s advertising claims,” he says.

NAD issued a formal challenge against Amazon, charging that its advertising violates Federal Trade Commission rules. Amazon claims used textbooks can be purchased for up to 90 percent less through its website. Yet the company offers no way to substantiate the claim, and it is unlikely it ever could, NAD charges. The bulk of used textbooks are not sold directly by Amazon but through third-party vendors not under the company’s control. NAD also says the “get up to 60 percent back” claim for reselling books to Amazon doesn’t provide necessary supporting information. Does the boast refer to 60 percent of the price originally paid for the book, 60 percent of the list price, or 60 percent of Amazon’s sale price? Also, the refunds aren’t paid by cash or check, but by Amazon gift cards.

Rather than responding to the challenge, Schmidt says, “Amazon answered back with this lawsuit, which we feel is unnecessary if they would just let the administrative process of the NAD run its course. It makes us wonder why they did not want that process to go forward.” And, because of the lawsuit against NACS, NAD has halted its investigation.

The next move belongs to NACS, which at press time was expected to respond to Amazon’s lawsuit by the end of May. --Tim Goral


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