THIS YEAR'S EARLY SUMMER SEA-son might need to be renamed "the giving season" in higher education. Stock market volatility, warnings about the housing market, and other cautions about leading economic indicators didn't prevent high-profile donors from making some lavish gifts to universities. T. Boone Pickens, oilman and entrepreneur, captured the most attention with two $50 million gifts to two medical centers that are part of The University of Texas System. The twin gifts-given to the Southwestern Medical Foundation and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston-do not exactly have strings attached, but they do come with some interesting stipulations.
Each medical center must grow the $50 million into $500 million during the next 25 years, or none of the money can be spent.
Further, if the investment teams do not make $500 million out of $50 million, the money must be given to Oklahoma State University, Pickens' alma mater and a recent recipient of $165 million from him to help expand the athletics program.
The stipulations are unusual, to say the least. "The time frame for keeping the gift and not spending it is extraordinarily long," says Rae Goldsmith, vice president for communications and marketing at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Pickens' added requirement that the money be given to another institution if the investment teams fail to reach their goals is unheard of in higher ed. "We haven't seen anything like this either," adds Goldsmith.
The foundation staffers at the UT facilities are confident, though. Obviously, large gifts like this are usually planned in advance and they were probably well aware of his expectations. Still, the investment team will have to achieve an estimated 9.6 percent annual rate of return to meet the requirement. General wisdom usually pegs good investment growth in higher ed at 9 percent, says Goldsmith.
1,375-Number of freshmen who will enroll in Tulane University this fall. The total is 56% higher than last year's, which was a year after Hurricane Katrina.
"He wouldn't have given the gift if he didn't think we could meet the goal and I don't think we would have accepted it," says Paul Bass, president of the Southwestern Medical Foundation.
As for Pickens, his response is tied right to the bottom line. "My foundation will get a 10 for one yield on its money, and that's good for all of us," he says. -Jean Marie Angelo
Not to be outdone, other philanthropists and business executives are giving generously to higher ed this year. Some recent announcements include:
Sanford I. Weill, now chairman emeritus of Citigroup, is part of a team of donors giving
$400 million to Cornell to study diabetes, obesity, cancer, and diseases related to aging.
Bill Gates is giving $105 million to the University of Washington through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a global health institute. The university is kicking in an additional $20 million for the project.
Washington and Lee University (Va.) received a pledge of $100 million-one of the largest sums ever given to a liberal arts institution-to boost need-based aid.
An anonymous donor wants the University of Chicago to give full scholarships to 800 lower-income and deserving students. The money will also pay partial tuition for another 400 undergraduates. "Our donor is someone who himself felt his life had been transformed by the nature of the education he had," President Robert Zimmer told the press.
William Franke, the former CEO of America West Airlines, is giving $25 million to Northern Arizona University's College of Business, a school he neither attended nor had any previous connection to.
Thomas Siebel, former chairman of Siebel Systems, pledged that the University of Illinois will receive $100 million when he dies. He has previously given $40 million to the public university.
Dorrance Hamilton, the Campbell Soup Co. heiress, will give $25 million to the University of the Arts (Pa.) to grow the endowment fund.
Philanthropist Connie Lurie has given $10 million to San Jose State University's College of Education (Calif.), while Washington & Jefferson College (Pa.) will use $10 million given by trustee John Swanson to build a new science center. -J.M.A.
... OR AT LEAST THEY DON'T IF they get caught. Which is what happened to 38 students in Duke University's Fuqua School of Business at the end of April. According to official statements, the school's Judicial Board ruled that nine students should be expelled, 15 should receive a one-year suspension and a failing grade, nine students should receive a failing grade in the course, and one student should receive a failing grade on the exam.
The students had the right to appeal, and 24 did, with some of the international students claiming cultural differences led to a misunderstanding when it came to admissions of guilt. In media reports, a lawyer representing 16 students from Asian countries said that admitting guilt is a way of apologizing. In June, the Appeals Committee upheld all the decisions by the Judicial Board.
Mike Hemmerich, associate dean for marketing and communications, says the appeals committee carefully considered cultural differences. He dismisses the idea that the investigation singled out international students. "We recruit heavily internationally and will continue to do so," he says. "One of our strengths is our diversity." Hemmerich called the situation "unpleasant" but said feedback from students and alumni has been supportive of the school and the honor code process. He says in the last five years there have only been eight convictions for honor code violations.
Fuqua students are exposed to the honor code in multiple ways, including when they apply and during orientation. The preamble hangs in every classroom and a summary is attached to individual exams. So the students in this case couldn't claim ignorance of the code.
"Research strongly suggests that people planning careers in business are more likely to cheat," says Elet Callahan, a professor in the Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University (N.Y.). She adds that no one has a definitive explanation, but it is attributed to the "bottomline" mentality of the business world.
' 'Lots of things that were seen as acceptable three months ago are no longer regarded that way.
-Terry W. Hartle, senior VP, American Council on Education, on student loan scandals.
Research by Rutgers professor Donald McCabe found that 56 percent of business school students admitted to cheating. Callahan points out that in another study, McCabe found that when presented with a list of 20 behaviors resulting in honor code violations, 70 percent of undergraduates and 50 percent of graduate students admit to some of the behaviors. "Clearly most undergraduates cheat everywhere and a sizable number of grad students do as well," she concludes.
"Counting cheating infractions is counterintuitive," Callahan says. Her reasoning is that since everyone knows students cheat, a high number of infractions would indicate that the institution is doing a good job addressing the issue.
For practical advice on dealing with the issue, Hemmerich offers, "Keep people informed, let them know it's not a secret hearing. Be forthcoming." -Ann McClure
WITH HUMAN CURIOSITY IN MIND, THE University of Minnesota has launched a campaign to answer life questions while raising its profile as a top research university. Begun last fall, the $2 million effort features TV, print, and radio ads- plus sidewalk messages on campus- that drive people to the Driven to Discover website, www.discover.umn.edu.
U of M experts are called on to answer questions such as:
- Why doesn't water drain out of lakes? (It actually does, according to limnology professor Jim Cotner's response.)
- Do we have memories from before birth? (Yes, but most early memories are locked away, notes cognitive development specialist Kathleen Thomas.)
There wasn't a great understanding of research and its value to the institution, the state, and the world, says U of M's Director of Marketing Ann Aronson of the reasons for the campaign. Developed with Olson, a Minneapolis-based marketing agency, its first-year objective is explaining research. Next year will focus on how education and research intersect.
Market research indicates campaign success, Aronson says. External audiences exposed to it were 19 percent more likely to recall hearing that U of M discovers cures for chronic diseases compared to those with no exposure. Of U of M's 17 colleges, 15 have integrated the campaign into communications efforts.
Higher ed marketing experts praise the campaign's originality. Its commercials "make you wonder," says Principal John Stapleton of Paskill Stapleton & Lord. "It is fun enough to be viral." As Lipman Hearne Managing Partner Robert M. Moore notes, research often seems "dry and distant." Here, "it comes down off the pedestal and gets into the swamp of discovery," he adds. -Melissa Ezarik
WHERE CAN YOU GO TO SIT IN on a conversation with the Dalai Lama, get a guided tour of the work of photojournalist David Seymour, hear Freeman Dyson discuss Darwin, attend a lecture on modern theoretical physics, and see a panel discussion on podcasting in classrooms?
It's all on the updated iTunes U, a distribution system for colleges and universities within Apple's iTunes Music Store. And it's all free. Apple launched iTunes U a couple years ago as a service within education but has now made the content available to anyone, anywhere.
So far Arizona State University; Bowdoin College (Maine); Concordia Seminary (Mo.); Duke; Michigan Tech; MIT; New Jersey Institute of Technology; Otis College of Art and Design (Calif.); Penn State; Queen's University in Ontario; Seattle Pacific University; Stanford; Texas A&M; UC, Berkeley; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and University of South Florida have joined the iTunes U ranks. Others are expected to follow.
"We've taken something that was already of great value on college campuses and made it available to the world," says Chris Bell, director of worldwide marketing for iTunes. "This is a great step in the evolution of online learning. It reaches the iTunes audience with some incredibly compelling materials for education, lifelong learners, and even [K-12] teachers."
For example, the Distinguished Speaker series produced by Duke's Fuqua School of Business features conversations with leaders of the corporate world. "It's all HD [high definition] video," notes Bell. "It's some of the highest quality stuff you'll see on iTunes in general."
And MIT's OpenCourseWare project, once all text-driven, now includes video and audio clips to supplement its course content library. "It's the evolution of what they created on their own," Bell says. "What we bring to the party is the iTunes experience and ease of use." -Tim Goral
THE STUDENT LOAN INDUSTRY INVESTIGATION BEGAN WITH A FOCUS ON COLLEGE AND university lending practices, but the probe has expanded into the lenders themselves. At press time, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Chairman of the House Education Committee George Miller (D-Calif.), and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced they would look into allegations that private lending firms may have engaged in "redlining" practices that discriminate against minority students.
Universities have prided themselves on making strides in racial diversity, but for the most part they have avoided the larger issue of class inequality.
-Richard D. Kahlenberg, senior fellow, Century Foundation.
Redlining refers to an illegal practice in the mortgage industry in which lenders set less favorable rates to people based on their race. Miller said his probe would determine whether a similar practice affected students at predominantly minority colleges, such as historically black colleges and universities. Miller said Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wachovia Corp., SunTrust Banks Inc., PNC Financial Services Group Inc., Regions Financial Corp., Student Loan Xpress, and others have been contacted for information. -T.G.
Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education
By Peter Sacks
University of California Press; 376 pp :
"America's education system is driven by class distinctions," contends author Peter Sacks. With some IHEs dispensing with the SAT and others favoring merit over need based aid, this book is a timely addition to the discussion. Sacks shares stories of economically disadvantaged families, with overworked and undereducated parents who can't help their children negotiate the education system. The middle and upper class families come off casually entitled. The "cultural capital" that affluent students have and poor students lack influences their experiences in high school and the quest for college, Sacks argues. He shows how the trend continues in the postsecondary arena. To enroll students with high SAT scores, who tend to be wealthier, schools provide scholarships and tuition discounts to students who don't necessarily need it.
The last few chapters focus on "gatecrashers"-efforts made to bridge the gap between the classes. A high school in California is working to create an atmosphere supportive of going to college, for one. Then there is Texas' "top 10 percent law," which guarantees top high school graduates admission to public state universities.
In the end, the book focuses on an often suspected but rarely discussed issue: The class divide is the new affirmative action. -A.M.
IN THE WAKE OF THE VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTINGS THERE HAS BEEN MUCH FOCUS on text messaging systems that can push emergency alerts to cellphones. Such alert systems have been available for a while but received new attention-and signed new clients-after the April incident. A student at New Jersey Institute of Technology, though, knows that the expense of such systems keeps them out of reach for some users. She has dedicated her studies to the use of "grassroots" texting to spread the word during emergencies.
Elizabeth Avery Gomez, who received her doctorate this spring from NJIT on this subject, advocates teaching everyone text messaging as the "lowest common denominator" of crisis communication. It might be time, she says, to rethink the simple telephone tree used by school systems and workplaces for so long, to ensure that everyone learns how to text and to spread the word in this new way. After all, almost everyone uses a cell phone these days. Some just do not realize that texting is an option. As for other problems that might arise, such as a communication chain breaking because of human error, Gomez has no easy answers, but vows to continue her scholarship.
"My real focus is in helping those who don't have, and who can't afford, the sophisticated resources," says Gomez. -J.M.A.
AFTER STUDENTS HAVE FLED THE RESIDENCE halls and commencement is over, St. Lawrence University (N.Y.) professors convene at their very own Faculty College. Three days of classes cover everything from the esoteric to the practical. Here's where faculty can frankly discuss better ways to reach underrepresented students, or compare the best tools for creating podcasts.
It's admirable that professors would opt to attend Faculty College. (The program is not mandatory, but 60 percent of the university's approximately 180 full-time and part-time professors attend. Each receives a $250 stipend.)
It's also necessary to the future of instruction in higher ed, says Macreena Doyle, associate director of university communications. "We've really moved from an old model-big lecture halls with professors answering questions-to students engaged in group discussion and free-writing assignments," she says, as well as more technology for professors to manage. Spending three days sharing nothing but advice and best practices is refreshing, adds Karl Schonberg, an associate professor of government. "This gives us a chance to get together as a faculty and look at the big picture," he says.
What's the takeaway from this year's Faculty College? Online tools-especially Google Earth, which gives viewers a virtual tour of any area, with the ability to zoom, do flybys, and even chart a travel route. This certainly adds a dimension that e-mail notes and even blogs can't provide, he adds.
St. Lawrence, a small liberal arts college with religious ties, is in line with a larger trend. Recently Harvard's administration announced its intention to put a new focus on instruction and pedagogical models in higher ed. -J.M.A.
COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AREN'T EXACTLY KNOWN FOR THEIR real estate prowess. So it's not surprising that only one higher ed institution entered the 2006 Real Estate Board of New York's Sales Brokers' Most Ingenious Deal of the Year Awards. Yet it was New York Law School's entry that came out on top. Brokers Woody Heller and Howard Nottingham received the award this April for helping NYLS, which was founded in 1891, make four quick moves that will ultimately result in an additional 200,000 square feet, a 70 percent expansion.
The deal was spearheaded by Dean and President Richard A. Matasar, who joined the institution in 2000. "We've been looking at doing this project since the '70s but couldn't afford doing it," he says. It involved:
- Selling the most marketable building of NYLS's five-building complex for $136 million.
- Using those funds (plus fundraising dollars) to increase the endowment from $60 million to about $230 million.
- Securing favorable fiscal ratings to obtain $145 million in low-interest, tax-exempt bonds.
- Designing and constructing the new buildingover an underutilized campus parking lot.
While originally officials thought that moving the school from its Tribeca neighborhood to Downtown Manhattan would be the best way to fulfill space needs, an economic analysis showed otherwise. Selling a portion of what NYLS already owned and being able to stay put, Matasar explains, is "what people would say is the ingenious part." The new building is set for September 2008 completion and will be the first major institutional project to open in Lower Manhattan since 9/11. Existing NYLS buildings will then be renovated, with completion scheduled for 2010.
"It will be great to have buildings with all the fanciest bells and whistles," says Matasar. But he adds that the program enhancements mean more. "It's an exciting prospect to be able to fulfill your educational promises in ways we've never been able to do before." -M.E.
EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT SCHOLARSHIPS based on grades, athletics, and major, but what about scholarships for less mainstream interests? The staffers at FastWeb.com have sifted through the 1.3 million scholarships listed through the service to come up with the 10 most unusual ones.
Scholarships are available for talents ranging from making the best prom dress out of Duck brand duct tape to the practical skill of welding. The scholarships for tall people (5-foot 10-inch women, 6-foot 2-inch men) and people with specific last names (Van Valkenburg), seem a little narrowly focused. Tara Murray, public relations director, says they hope the list encourages students to explore their options. She adds that most of the website's traffic is from institutions of higher ed referring students to the free service. Which leaves one to wonder: The money spends the same, but does winning a duck calling contest hold water with the admissions office? -A.M
GEARHEADS HAVE BEEN GETTING REVVED up about the University of Northwestern Ohio's High Performance Motorsports program since its establishment in 1992. The program is reportedly the first of its kind in the United States. Close to 900 students are presently enrolled, says Andy O'Neal, dean of the College of Technologies. Harry Hibler, past publisher of Hot Rod Magazine, encouraged UNOH President Jeffrey A. Jarvis to establish this type of program, O'Neal says.
In addition to high-performance engine work, students work on actual race cars. They build engines and roll cages, select and install drive line components, fabricate sheet metal, and do the initial setups at Limaland Motorsports Park, a quarter-mile dirt track owned and operated by UNOH.
In January 2006, UNOH unveiled its 70,000 square-foot High Performance Motorsports Complex, with classrooms and training areas. Just outside is a 500-foot launching pad used for drag racing classes, an eighth-mile asphalt oval for stock car testing, and an obstacle course/rock crawling hill for testing off-road technology.
Through relationships with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA), United States Auto Club, and DIRT Motorsports, students work with race teams from these sanctioning bodies each week, giving them the opportunity to apply what they learn in the classroom.
"Students go out on the weekends and race with ARCA and they are back in class Monday morning," says O'Neal. -M.H.
IN THE HOPE OF BRINGING stability to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, its trustees selected James Ammons to become the 10th president in the university's history. He took over July 2.
Ammons, who has served as the chancellor of North Carolina Central University in Durham for six years, is a former FAMU provost and an alumnus. He will succeed Interim President Castell Vaughn Bryant, an alumna whose aggressive approach in taking on FAMU's financial and organizational troubles since her appointment in January 2005 has garnered mixed reactions.
During her leadership, Bryant has had some success stories, such as fixing an athletic department rocked by NCAA sanctions, removing the names of "ghost employees" from the payroll, and restoring the university's standing with the National Science Foundation. Unfortunately, FAMU's ever growing and unresolved financial mess shadowed her presidency.
In March, the Florida Board of Governors formed a task force to examine spending at Florida's only historically black public university, according to media sources. Also that month, sources reported that the state's lawmakers called for taking more drastic measures, including a possible criminal investigation, during a discussion of an audit of the university's operations. Bryant departed from her position on May 31.
FAMU's board approved paying $4.3 million to four IT consulting companies that have worked without contracts or payment since January 1, according to a news release; it notes that Chief Operating Officer Larry Robinson and the trustees didn't know about the obligation until a meeting, during which Chief Financial Officer Grace Ali apologized to the board and said the debt would be paid from the current budget. -M.H.