Articles: UB Archive

IN THE NEWS: Robert King, chancellor of the State University of New York, surprised and frustrated New York officials, including Gov. George Pataki, when he refused to quit his job.

There are many people in this country--and around the world--who assert that oil is the underlying motivator for the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The justification behind the uses of servers on college and university campuses is as simple as "more is never enough."

Leon Pastalan of the University of Michigan calls the upcoming sweeping demographic shift in America "mass longevity." Pastalan, who is director of the National Center for Housing and Living Arrangements for Older Adults, is talking about the tsunami of our population age 65 and over that will surge from 35 million today to a whopping 80 million by 2030. And here's the kicker--six out of 10 boomers age 48 to 52 are likely to move to a new home for retirement, according to the annual "Baby Boomer Report," conducted by the Del Web company. Pastalan, who authored University-Linked Retirement Communities (Haworth Press, 1994), says his book garnered only a ripple of sales when it was released, but in the last five years, the book has received renewed interest.

Given the data--and the potential revenue--it is no surprise that more IHEs are now considering or planning to build retirement communities on or near their campuses, either independently or in partnership with developers.

University-linked retirement communities (ULRCs) are not new. There are some 50 such communities scattered throughout the country, at both small and large institutions, attracting retired faculty and alumni, parents of faculty members, or the population at large, who desire a lifestyle that is tied to both a college community and academic environment.

And ULRCs come in all shapes and sizes, from large country club for-profit single-family housing developments that cater to the active and the affluent, to small nonprofit austere apartments or condominiums that provide continuing care for the lifetime of the residents.

So what is the incentive to consider a ULRC? Revenue. Whether you earn revenue by selling or leasing vacant land, or form a partnership with a developer, or even license your school name to a developer, the bottom line is that such investments can add significant and recurring sources of revenue.

In addition, there are ancillary revenue benefits. Campus retirees spend money on campus events and activities. They are a welcome addition to the community because they pay taxes and do not burden the school system. They also are a reliable source for fundraising and bequests. And, the URLCs can provide employment opportunities for students.

But revenue aside, Pastalan, who is a semi-retired professor of architecture and a principal with Collegiate Retirement Community Consultants, asserts that it is "critical" that IHEs recognize changing demographics and providing services to older Americans should be "first and foremost and extension of their mission," he says. Moreover, Pastalan observes that because alumni who have a presence on campus are IHEs staunchest supporters, "a lot of development officers are missing the boat and don't realize what a goldmine they are." He cites Iowa State University, which has received some $3 million in support from the residents of a URLC that has only 100 units.

Robert Chellis, senior advisor and principal of Chellis-Silva Associates Senior Housing, in Wellesley Hills, Mass., points out the one resource that many IHEs have at their disposal is land.

"Most schools have empty land, and you can build a several-story retirement complex on as little as 13 acres, depending upon your zoning requirements," says Chellis. He mentions Lasell College (Mass.) as an example, where a 107-unit facility was built on 13 acres.

Chellis notes that retirement complexes can be very profitable, generating long-term income in the millions of dollars, depending on the size of the complex. IHEs can make money from the outright sale of the land, leasing land, or setting independent partnerships with developers that can contribute long-term income. He also notes that many CFOs are looking more at real estate opportunities as a way to expand their school's investment portfolio.

"If you lease land for a complex, for example, you earn annual income, and at the end of the lease term, say 50 years, you can decide to continue the arrangement, or use the building, which you now own, for other purposes," Chellis explains. He mentions that IHEs can also earn income from reselling the units, depending on the terms of the contract with the developer and the complex management.

Campus retirees are
a welcome addition
to the community
because they pay taxes
and do not burden
the school system.

Gerald Badler, managing director of Campus Continuum, a research, consulting and real estate developer focused solely on campus-affiliated retirement communities, says IHEs should focus on the age 55-plus age group for a number of reasons.

"This group is more likely to participate in community life," he says, "and they can provide some non-financial benefits to the school and community, such as volunteering at area hospitals and elementary schools, or museum guides and library aides, or mentoring."

The Kendal Corp., based in Kennett Square (Pa.), is one of the largest non-profit developers of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), and has proven success in establishing CCRCs on or near colleges and universities. Kendal has established CCRCs at Ithaca College and Cornell University in New York, and Oberlin College and Denison University in Ohio, for example.

Steeped in the Quaker tradition of respect for the individual, social responsibility and fiscal integrity, Kendal President and CEO John Diffey sums up the difference between for profits this way: "Some IHEs want elitist projects; some egalitarian... We happen to be egalitarian and target our communities first to the ex-faculty and staff members, then to such retirees as secondary-school teacher librarians, for example, who want to be able to reside and afford to live in a college environment."

Kendal will purchase or lease land from an IHE, or buy property in the open market, to build a CCRC. The company then will establish informal ties to the IHE for its residents to take classes and utilize campus facilities, and participate in other school activities. Since many of the residents are ex-faculty members, there is a natural continuing relationship with the school. At Oberlin College about 37 percent of the residents are alumni or former faculty and staff.

"Our values and the college's values have to resonate," says Diffey. "Our mission is to make something good happen for the school and the community," he adds.

Although the extent of the Kendal business model is the land transaction with an IHE, the secondary benefits are closer ties with alumni, which helps fundraising, and fosters interaction and life enrichment between the two communities.

There is a growing surge of for-profit private real estate developers--and even major hotel chains--that see opportunity in the URLC market. The Melrose Company, based in Hilton Head, S.C., is one such developer that is currently constructing two high-end golf-centric, single-family home developments: The Georgia Tech Club and Traditions at Texas A&M.

The business relationship between Melrose and both Georgia Tech and Texas A&M centers on licensing agreements of the respective school names and access to their alumni mailing lists. In return, the schools receive 5 percent of golf club membership sales and 10 percent of annual gross operating revenue from the club. The Georgia Tech Club is estimated to generate $1 million annually for the athletic and alumni association. In addition, Melrose built at no cost two state-of-the-art golf facilities for the Tech and A&M golf teams, which helps recruiting top players and enhances the caliber of both programs.

The Georgia Tech club is located about 12 miles from the Tech campus. The A&M development is about two miles from campus.

Unlike the non profits, Melrose is marketing their developments to alums of all ages who want to live in an upscale community, enjoy golf and the amenities of a country club setting, and have an infinity for the institution.

According to Jeff Quinn, executive vice president of Melrose, the company has 30-year licensing agreements with each school. The Tech and A&M developments are the company's first ventures into the ULRC market but Quinn adds that "trust" is key to developing a successful relations with a university.

"We've been in the resort development business for 21 years and our communities are always centered around golf," Quinn says, noting that the swelling numbers of retirees makes such developments attractive to people who want upscale communities and also closer ties to the alma mater.

Quinn also notes that at Georgia Tech's request, golf club memberships were substantially reduced for residents age 32 and under in an effort to have young alums intermix with older alums. For example, a "junior membership" costs $5,000, while a "founders" membership runs $60,000 and "charter" membership cost $30,000.

Retirement communities can be very profitable, generating long-term income in the millions of dollars.

In addition to the direct revenue each school will earn from the licensing agreements, the bet is that these alums will be a boon to fundraising campaigns and bestow gifts and bequests to the institutions.

Because there is risk in any real estate development project, the last thing an IHE needs is to partner with a developer that could cause headaches for the university if there are problems with the development, lawsuits over shoddy construction, or any problems that could tarnish the reputation of the university. "Obviously the institution has to protect its reputation, so there are clauses in the contracts that allow for either party to terminate the relationship. The key is to partner with reputable companies to create a comfort level for both parties," he says.

The Hyatt Corp., under its Classic Residences division, has been developing and managing continuing care retirement communities since 1987. The company leased 22.4 acres from Stanford University (Calif.) and announced plans in 2001 to construct a 388-apartment center, which includes a community center, cafe, spa, art studio, pool, underground parking, and biking and walking trails. The facility will also include 106 units offering assisted living, nursing care, Alzheimer's, and skilled nursing care.

The complex, which is set to open next year, is first being offered to some 300 leaseholders who own houses on land leased from the university. In addition, some 5,000 faculty and staff members who are age 60 and over were targeted as potential residents of the complex. Units will be offered to the general public after the initial offering to the university community.

The complex offers apartments that range in size from 900 square feet to more than 2,000 square feet. There is an entrance fee that ranges from $600,000 to $1.7 million. Ninety percent of the entrance fee is refundable if residents leave the facility, or it will be refunded to their estate. Hyatt charges a monthly fee ranging from $2,700 to more than $5,000 per month, depending on the number of individuals in an apartment. The fee includes a variety of services, including meals.

There are many options that IHEs have today to consider when thinking about entering the retirement business. Whether it is just a straight-up land sale or leasing deal, or an actual partnership, there are more choices than ever before. And as Pastalan at U Michigan notes, there are numerous secondary benefits to bringing alums and retirees back to campus that can help enrich both campus and community life.

Professor Steve Jones admits being concerned that his students were paying more attention to their computers and to each other than to his teaching. He needn't have worried.

Jones, professor and head of communication at the University of Illinois, Chicago and a senior research fellow on the Pew Internet & American Life Project, is teaching a course this semester simultaneously to students at the University of Illinois' Chicago and Urbana-Champaign campuses. With an Apple iBook laptop computer on each end using Apple's $129 iSight camera and microphone, Jones is able to tie together the two classrooms in real time.

An unexpected development was that students began bringing their laptops to class and having conversations during the lesson with each other--between the two sites. "I started to feel they weren't paying attention in class," remembers Jones. "But I talked to a couple students and found out that what they were doing was class-related. They were asking questions and pointing things out. They couldn't get enough conversation in verbally."

Even on the same campus, users may have different specific computer needs. A botany student may want a handheld device that has add-on components to take samples while in the field. A history student may use video and audio instant messaging to interact with researchers or research primary sources on another continent. Music instructors may be looking for software applications to help them compose new works.

Despite those differences, there are some very clear trends in computer use on campuses large and small, religious and secular, upper- and middle-class: Mobile computers such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), cell phones, laptops, and tablets are taking over as school staff and students use them to create mobile lifestyles. In particular, students are exploiting the technology to work, research, and entertain themselves nearly anywhere on campus at any time.

A related trend across all campuses is that schools are looking for ways to use their students' access to the technology to increase students' interaction with their coursework. That often means communication with students via wireless connections or wired links to give them course plans, research material, online "laboratories" for conducting classes or discussions, or even delivering entire classes and testing to the student online.

Institutions are working hard to keep up with their students' needs by upgrading their infrastructure (usually by installing high-speed communications technology throughout the academic buildings, the residence halls, and common areas, and by increasing the number and the power of servers on campus). Vendors such as Dell Computer, Gateway, IBM, and Microsoft offer software or hardware packages to colleges and universities, and in some cases make grants of technologies for specific programs.

Institutions are also boosting their help desk staff available to offer technical support to the student population, usually through a mix of paid staff and student volunteers. Though some schools try to offer as much support as students and faculty need, others limit their support to technology that meets specific school parameters and then direct the students to the manufacturers for help with unsupported hardware and software.

The College of New Rochelle (N.Y.) is implementing a comprehensive strategic plan. As a part of that, incoming freshmen to two of its schools are being given laptop computers. It also is renovating its computer labs and technology classrooms, making each classroom a potential wireless workplace for students. In fact, wireless access has been expanded to almost all academic and public areas on the campus. Plus, more than 1,500 students and faculty use a web-based course management system.

New Rochelle's students are using "technology as a tool for communication and collaboration," says Emory Craig, the college's director of academic computing. "This fact, along with the increasing miniaturization of the devices, is making technology personal and portable, and more embedded in everyday life. Students come to us with an expanding array of communication devices and the expectation that they will be able to use them."

The University of Miami (Fla.), which recently inked a deal with Dell Computer to streamline its technology purchases, reports that 95 percent of its outdoor areas and 60 percent of its campus buildings are enabled for wireless computing. The school offers free wireless accounts to its students, 4,000 of whom have taken advantage of it so far.

With the rise of laptops, tablets,
and PDAs, desktops may soon be a
thing of the past on campuses.

Through the Pew Internet project, Jones has been researching students' use of technology and the internet since 1999. During that time, he has seen students use the internet and their computers to increase the number of people--faculty, other students, and people peripherally connected to a class--with whom they interact. For example, students sign up for e-mail-based discussion groups, even those not run or assigned by the teacher. Three-quarters also said they were going to the library less and were doing more research online. While Jones laments the loss of the social interaction from less library time, new patterns are emerging in which computer labs are becoming a drop-in center for students, even if they have their own computers and internet connections.

"We thought that with so many students using their own computers, the use of computer labs would decline," says Brian Rust, communications manager for the University of Wisconsin, Madison's division for information technology. But at a school in which almost all incoming freshman already own a computer (see sidebar), computer lab use remained steady and even increased at a couple sites. "They consider it a place to check their e-mail and manage documents. That way, they can leave their computers in their homes."

That wasn't the case at Loyola University (Ill.), where declining use of the computer labs has allowed the school to begin eliminating lab seats and reclaiming that space for other purposes, according to Daniel Vonder Heide, director of information services.

Schools are finding similar trends, especially in the student preference for laptop computers. About half of the students at UW-Madison have laptops. Colorado University-Boulder has found that a majority of its students preferred to purchase laptops instead of desktops.

Desktops are still found in many students' rooms, but they may soon be "a thing of the past on campuses, especially for commuter or nontraditional students," says Michael Schmedlen, a regional manager in IBM's education division. He says students "are really nomadic" in the way they go about their campus lives, and they are able to do that because of the long-lasting batteries in today's laptops and tablets, which can be used throughout a day's worth of classes without recharging. The near-ubiquity of wireless access on campuses is another factor in these portable computers' popularity. Tablet computers hold one very important edge over laptops for some students: improved handwriting recognition software makes them the favored choice over laptops for students who prefer to write their notes instead of type them.

University of California, Los Angeles junior Tony Pallatto, the owner of a vintage 1999 Apple G5 desktop, agrees that laptops are more popular than desktops and that laptop speeds are a good match for the internet, word processing, and other uses popular with students.

"It's really helpful if you have a presentation in class. A lot of times students will use their laptops to enhance their presentations with PowerPoint and graphical presentations, creative stuff," Pallatto says.

Vonder Heide notes that he's also seeing more laptops than tablets on his campus. And with PDAs that combine the functions of small handheld computers with telephones, he says cell phones are dropping out of favor.

By January, Coppin State University (Md.) plans to add 12 more classrooms to the 25 it has already converted into "smart classrooms." These rooms have ceiling-based projectors, wireless connections, DVDs, VDRs, and CD players--"all the things teachers can use to enrich their presentations with multimedia," says Ahmed El-Haggan, vice president of information technology.

As part of its ongoing strategic plan, New Rochelle is making all classrooms wireless-ready, so students and teachers can access the internet--and each other--during lessons.

UW-Madison has not gone all-out in the classroom conversion craze. Most classrooms have not been made wireless-friendly. "Some faculty prefer we don't have another distraction during classes," says Rust. But a handful of classrooms and lecture halls have been wireless enabled, mostly to be at the disposal of the lecturer. Instead, the UW's wireless transmission points have been installed in the libraries, the student unions, and other common areas.

Some teachers may even be ahead of their students in their integration of technology into the classroom. Pallatto recalls an algebra teacher who used Microsoft's presentation software, PowerPoint, to create about 90 percent of his lessons. "He walked you through all of the problems, and he had sound effects for all of the steps," remembers Pallatto, a Japanese major, who adds, "He was kind of eccentric."

For those schools taking a go-slow approach on creating smart classrooms, the opinions and experiences of faculty and staff could have the decisive weight. "I'm simply happy that students are engaged with one another in learning," says Jones, recalling his students interacting with each other during class. "Whether or not we know yet whether the learning outcome is better or worse--and I don't think we do--I'm more than willing to try this for a while until we know."

John Burton is UB's San Francisco-based contributing writer.

Francesca Karpel, a mother of twins, sent her son to Case Western University (Ohio) and her daughter to Trinity University (Texas) last fall. While neither university is a short jaunt from her Belmont, Calif., home, she feels closer to Trinity. Part of the reason for this is Parent Talk, Trinity's parent-only listserv, of which she is an active member.

Developed four years ago and boasting about 600 subscribers, Parent Talk hosts discussions on a variety of topics--from meal plans and alcohol abuse to finding a reliable mechanic to ordering birthday cake. "I've found Parent Talk a very helpful way to feel connected to Trinity and to learn more about Texas," Karpel says. "It has helped me to let go, feel reassurance about the student body, and laugh--as I've read the perspective of more experienced parents," she says.

The Trinity listserv was created to foster better parent relations with the university. "Parents had been complaining that the only time they heard from us was when it was time to pay the bills," says David Tuttle, Trinity's dean of students and director of Residential Life. "The listserv is a very personal way for us to interact with parents and for them to interact with each other." Tuttle not only moderates the listserv, but also responds to inquiries and discussions, and sends out weekly updates which are often injected with funny anecdotes as well as real insight into student life from an administrator's perspective.

"You never know
what's going to fly
with parents
and what's not
until they bring it up
on the listserv."
-David Tuttle,
Trinity University

Parent Talk also attracts many onlookers, known in the Trinity cyber-community as "lurkers." One lurker, Andrea Shelton, is a Trinity grad whose eldest son does not attend Trinity. His school does not offer a parent listserv. "I felt very disconnected to what my son was going through. That's when I turned to TU," she says. Shelton had even gone to the school's administration and made her case for a parent listserv. She received little feedback. "I am very disappointed and frustrated with this aspect of my son's college. There's so much camaraderie on the TU listserve. I am envious," she says.

But as in any open forum, there are bound to be conflicts of opinion. While parents tend to get grouped together as a "homogenous contingent," Tuttle says, they in fact have very different mindsets. He learned this when The Vagina Monologues were being shown on campus. Some parents wrote in that they "expected more out of Trinity than to let this happen. Others wrote, "This is exactly what I expect from Trinity--to expose my child to such things." "You never know what's going to fly with parents and what's not until they bring it up on the listserv," Tuttle says.

But listservs are just one of the many tools that IHE's are using to create good will among parents and encourage their participation. At the University of New Hampshire, parents can sign up to receive a monthly e-mail from their child's hall director detailing campus events and floor programs, and suggesting timely topics to discuss with their kids. "Parents really appreciate the individual attention," says Shannon Marthouse, assistant director of Residential Life at UNH. "It gives them peace of mind to know they have a name and an e-mail address if they have questions or concerns." Currently, more than 2,900 parents have signed up to receive the monthly e-mail. Only a handful of parents request information via snail mail. UNH, however, is heading towards a purely technological approach, she says.

Before the monthly e-mails, Marthouse describes parents' behavior as very reactive. "They had to go through a lot to track us down if they had a problem. We decided that we wanted to be more proactive," she says. To increase parent communication, Marthouse and her staff wrote to the parent association and requested a $6,000 grant (which they received) in March 2002 to increase outreach to parents.

The University of Southern California is another institution that welcomes collaboration with parents. The university prides itself on its parent website, which can be accessed from a simple click of the parents icon off the homepage. "We felt it was important to offer a tool that responds to parent needs, especially now that they are much more involved in their child's decision-making process," says Beth Saul, director of parent programs for USC.

In fact, it has become a rarity for an institution not to have a parent site, says Jim Boyle, president of College Parents of America, a Virginia-based advocacy group. "It is going to have to become standard operating procedure because this coming generation of parents is very used to utilizing the web for communication," he says.

"Often parents
don't get involved
until it's too late,
and that's when they
become overbearing
and overinvolved."
-Tracy Howe,
GoalQuest

USC's "Ask a Question" section is a good example of the university's innovative web programming. Parents can pose all sorts of questions and then submit them electronically. Typically, they will get a response within a few hours. Saul says questions range from light to serious. Anything from "Where's the local dry cleaner?" to "I haven't heard from my son or daughter in a few days. Can you help me locate them?" is fair game.

Between the Q & A (also offered on the site) and the Ask a Question feature, Saul believes parents have access to all the information they need. A parent listserv, she says, could be problematic. "Parents don't know exactly how a university operates. There's the concern that they might give incorrect information to other parents," Saul says. Instead, they have a 30-member parents council, whom parents can freely contact.

The University of Vermont, though similar to others in its use of technology to aid outreach, reaches parents on many different levels. Using Parent Connection software developed by GoalQuest, a company specializing in web-based communication tools, UVM is strengthening parent relations while encouraging participation in the university's fundraising campaign. Parents are e-mailed periodically and directed to the site hosted by GoalQuest where they can read about "Supporting Your Student from Home" or "Building the Ultimate Care Package." One of the sessions with the highest readership is called "How do you get along with your son or daughter when they come back home?" says Alan Ryea, director of UVM's alumni and parent programs.

"The goal is to arm parents with smart and relevant things to say to their son or daughter. It's a service approach," says Tracy Howe, co-founder of GoalQuest. "We understand the needs of parents--from the anxieties that freshmen parents face to the concerns over job prospects that parents of graduating seniors face."

Parent Connection especially seeks to quell the concerns of "helicopter" parents, those who hover over their children. "We give parents the resources they need to confront problems before they become crises. Often parents don't get involved until it's too late, and that's when they become overbearing and overinvolved," Howe says.

"Parents don't know
exactly how
a university operates.
There's the concern
that they might give
incorrect information
to other parents."
-Beth Saul,
USC

But there is also a solicitation element to the site. Parents can click on a link directing them to the institution's advancement site. This tactic has proven successful. Donor participation rates among parents was 28.9 percent last year, but it is now up to 37.4 percent (among parents who read at least 50 percent of the Parent Connection sessions). For parents who read less than 50 percent of the sessions, their participation rate is 31.9 percent. "We're not using this merely as a solicitation vehicle," Ryea says. "But we are interested in seeing a return on investment."

However, some institutions believe that money should be raised in the development office only. "It's a conflict of interest," says Rodney Johnson, director of parent services at George Washington University (D.C.). "If you were a parent who just asked for more scholarship money and then you got an e-mail asking for money, you are not going to be happy," he says. Instead, Johnson says parent programs should be purely service-oriented. "If you do good communication and offer good services to parents, they will give eventually. But which do you do first? Make sure their students are happy and successful or ask them for money?"

This leads to the question: What department should handle parent programs? Parent relations is often scattered among different departments, everywhere from Residential Life to Student Affairs to the Development Office. "I see it migrating more towards Student Affairs," says Boyle of College Parents of America. "Yes, parents are a major player in advancement. But they are also very important in recruitment and retention." Parents play a critical role in choosing a college, and if they're not satisfied, they'll easily pull their children out.

Many believe that parents are an important constituency that perhaps in the past has gone undervalued. Johnson, of GW, says the university recognized this 13 years ago when it was one of the first schools to create an Office of Parents.

"We realize that the baby boomer parents are helicopter parents. They're the soccer moms and dads; they had the 'Child on Board' stickers," he says. "But even though they hover, dive in, and hover some more, they are wonderful parents. They just expect more interaction and services."

Are higher ed IT budgets on the rebound? It seems so.

Pages