You thought your child was doing well in school. A report card comes home saying that he just received an F. At school you learn that of the 50 students in the class, 36 received Fs and 11 received Ds. Only 3 students received C- or better.
You thought your child was doing well in school. A report card comes home saying that he just received an F. At school you learn that of the 50 students in the class, 36 received Fs and 11 received Ds. Only 3 students received C- or better.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Want a college diploma without ever enduring the inconvenience and cost of attending a college? Plenty of providers are out there, ready to oblige.
For example, there's BackAlleyPress.com. Its spiel? "Our novelty diplomas are designed to look 100% authentic! We produce over 1,000 replica novelty degrees, diplomas, and transcripts from universities all around the world. Our designers have gone through painstaking efforts to try to make each of our documents look as exact as possible. Each document is customized and printed individually to your specifications, including degree, major, and school." Last year a reporter wrote of obtaining a Harvard diploma and transcript from BackAlley's Thailand office. Printing, the reporter said, was done by the Shun Luen Company of Shenzhen, China. A check of the internet as this was written found BackAlley still alive and kicking.
Lest some potential customers are too dumb or ignorant to track down a website on their own, the fraud merchants are reaching out on e-mail. This writer received the following exclamation-laden e-mail message in early summer:
Other e-mails arrived at about the same time, each bearing substantially the same message but with differing phone numbers. My associate called two of these numbers. Dialing the first, despite the promise of "24 hours" availability, resulted in a recorded message that the number was no longer in service. The second number led her into a voicemail box, requesting her name and number and promising a return call. The call came about a week later.
The caller identified himself as representing "Haywood University" in London. He offered my associate a "beautiful diploma" for $2,000, with a $500 discount if she "signed up right now." The diploma would be delivered within 10 days of receipt of payment.
How could she qualify for this "beautiful diploma?" she inquired. The degree would be based upon her work experience. "You create the credentials." But what sort of degree would it be? What field of expertise should she claim? "Are you a reporter?" he asked at this point. The discussion was ended soon after that.
A search of the name "Haywood University" produced two "Sponsored Sites." Both "www.e-degrees.org" and "www.internetcolleges.org" were compilations of online higher-education organizations, organized by the states where their services are available. The first of these sites says, "If you are interested in attending an online college you have come to the right place. We have identified the best ones in each state." The list of "Featured Schools" didn't include a Haywood University. And, in fact, a Netscape search of "English Universities" also failed to turn up a Haywood University. A Google search came back with the query, "Did you mean 'hayward university'?"
In short, if a Haywood University exists outside of cyberspace and the telephone lines, we couldn't find it.
Backalley.com and Haywood U. are only the most brazen of the barbarians massing at the gates of higher education's ivory towers. Unaccredited schools at all levels of legitimacy--or illegitimacy--comprise the less menacing bulk of this barbarian horde. They are rampaging not only on the internet, but in nations such as India, where regulation of higher education is weak or nonexistent.
In a world teeming with billions of "Spare Parts and Broken Hearts," to borrow a Bruce Springsteen tune title, the desperately unqualified will turn to these diploma mills for their sheepskin equivalents of the emperor's new clothes. When they do, they are not the only victims of such scams.
Cristovam Buarque, Brazil's minister of education, recently said, "In the face of [global] upheavals, the university still represents the intellectual heritage [that makes it] the most appropriate and prepared place to guide the future of humanity." Stirring words, but true only if the global network of legitimate colleges and universities protects and defends its integrity and reputation against the barbarians at our gates.
Jim Castagnera, a Philadelphia journalist and lawyer, is the Associate Provost at Rider University and author of the weekly newspaper column "Attorney at Large."
It's not enough to add shops. It's not enough to build housing. As universities all over the country are discovering, university-led urban revitalization is all about creating an environment where an institution and its neighboring community cannot only coexist, but also benefit from one another.
The University of Pennsylvania has occupied several core blocks in West Philadelphia since 1870 and has steadily revitalized and expanded its 269-acre campus over the past 134 years. Until the 1950s and the advent of "urban renewal," West Philadelphia had been a thriving neighborhood of Victorian homes and small businesses. Then, it gradually slid into decay in the 1970s becoming dilapidated and dangerous. As little as 15 years ago, it was not uncommon for students to be warned against venturing into certain parts of West Philadelphia. "The 1992-93 year was rock bottom," recalls Omar Blaik, senior vice president for Facilities and Real Estate Services at Penn. A student was killed and a professor was stabbed. Local businesses were closing, and students had to be bused downtown just to grocery shop. "The neighborhood was empty," Blaik recalls. About that time, Penn made the decision to engage in urban renewal in its pure sense, recreating a neighborhood of local shops and homes.
First, Penn had to address its campus issues. The Ivy League campus was designed to face inward toward the central tree-lined walkways and common areas and toward other campus buildings. "The buildings didn't even have street addresses. We were saying 'We're not part of this neighborhood,'" Blaik explains. Existing buildings were re-designed to have their main entrances on the city streets. The campus turned itself around and looked out over the neighborhood instead of turning its back on the streets. "We realized we cannot exist in a desert and imagine we are not part of what surrounds us," he says.
At the same time, the university put into effect its West Philadelphia Initiative, a five-pronged plan, developed with neighborhood input, to revitalize the struggling neighborhood and make it a livable, workable community. All five were implemented concurrently. The first issue was to make the environment cleaner and safer. The newly formed University City District, in partnership with other large entities like the University Hospital, began patrolling the neighborhood and organizing cleanup of graffiti and garbage.
To increase home ownership and decrease absentee landlordism, the university paid mortgage incentives of $15,000 to university employees who bought a house in the neighborhood, and $7,500 to homeowners who improved their existing property. By making ownership and beautification a priority, Penn hoped to increase the stability of the whole neighborhood and create a sense of pride in West Philadelphia instead of the perceived stigma. Penn also went out of its way to contract with local businesses for goods and services required by the university, such as laundry and catering. This policy of economic inclusion kept neighborhood money in the neighborhood, and went a long way toward convincing skeptics that Penn was sincere in its desire to do right by West Philadelphia.
"It took a lot of hard work to get the community to believe we weren't pulling a fast one," says Blaik. Building a new elementary school and turning it over to the public school district, while continuing to fund $1,000 per child helped, the cause. Creating a neighborhood where university employees would want to live goes a long way toward cementing the relationship between Penn and the neighborhood. "We live in the community. My kids go to the new public school. I am the community," says Blaik.
But the cornerstone of the entire approach was retail. In the 10 years since the initiative began, almost 40 new businesses have opened on Penn property. One development is located on what used to be the university border on West 40th Street, and the other is along the north side of campus, an outdoor urban shopping center called University Square. It contains the Hilton Inn at Penn above and shops like Urban Outfitters, Ann Taylor Loft, and Barnes & Noble below. The university funded and built the $100 million project, which it now owns and operates. The latest addition, Cereality, a new food-service concept that touts "all cereal, all day, all ways," is opening its first sit-down cafe in University Square in November. The university acquired money to construct the project by floating bonds, while acquiring debt. Fortunately, the revenue from the retail rent is helping to pay the debt service.
Also on 40th Street, a 24-hour grocery store, movie multiplex, parking and restaurants, surround Smoky Joe's bar, a campus landmark. "When we initially put out the red carpet to the big grocery store chains," says Blaik, "no one wanted to come. We had to build an independent grocery from scratch." Penn knew that the purchasing power of the population was bigger than it looked on paper.
Neighborhood census numbers may have had the annual average income of the surrounding neighborhood set at $15,000, but that was only because so many of the residents are students and technically have no income. That didn't mean they didn't have money to spend. Now there's 24-hour activity. Hospital workers grocery shop after their shift, and students and residents come and go at all hours. This is a complete turnaround from the previous decade's "don't go out after dark" policy.
The new grocery store is earning $750 per square foot and the gross sales per year from the two developments has topped $200 million. Retail rents have gone from $7 per square foot to $20 per square foot with Penn owning the majority of space. "We've proved the concept, and now [retailers] are flocking to us," says Blaik, but it's not like the neighborhood had suddenly gotten rich. It was the result of diverting the money that had previously been leaking out to the shopping centers downtown and outside the city.
Penn worked with retail planners to recruit and maintain diverse and local retail tenants, and helped create a rich neighborhood tapestry by keeping unique buildings and creating new structures in harmony with the existing architecture. Despite all efforts, however, there are still mixed reactions to Penn's policies. Joyce White, a 30-year resident of West Philadelphia and an employee of the university's museum, is enjoying the benefits of increased property values and cleaner, safe streets. "I often feel I live in a heaven of some sort: sitting on the back deck of a home with three fireplaces and three sets of pocket doors, listening to the crickets and birds under old-growth trees, chatting with neighbors across adjoining yards, all within walking distance of my job at Penn," White says. Though she admits that she couldn't afford to buy in now that house prices are catching up with the rest of the city, she's glad the university is creating greener, safer streets. Others question Penn's right to "revitalize" a neighborhood that was in many ways already a vital and functioning community, and accuse Penn of co-opting the neighborhood and creating, in effect, a Penn colony. Those who can't afford to buy into the neighborhood, like George Poulin, a Drexel University architecture student, criticize Penn for creating "a yuppie enclave. It's great to see a neighborhood become so popular and well-maintained, but it's disheartening to know that I'll be left out of the picture because of my income level," Poulin says.
It isn't just the university benefiting from the retail boom on campus. Companies that set up shop on campus reap the rewards of not only the built-in foot traffic from students but from the neighborhood as well. Ken Redding, vice president of Business Development at Starbucks Coffee, says that Starbucks approaches a campus location as it would any other potential retail location. "It's all about studying traffic patterns," he says. "The two sources of traffic--student life and neighborhood--make them a good market." There are roughly 100 Starbucks on college campuses nationwide.
Redding sees the real potential for campus retailing about five years out. At the rate Starbucks is growing, the need for employees is getting dire. Starbucks is "looking to take a more holistic approach" to coffee on campus by setting up reciprocal arrangements with a university to develop cross-programming with the school and make Starbucks an attractive place for students to work. The hope is, that by having Starbucks on campus, it will be a way to get students into a Starbucks management track and use Starbucks as more than a way to sell coffee but as a management training ground.
When the University of Illinois at Chicago was looking to expand its campus and increase its profile as a desirable place to go to college, they looked south to a dilapidated area of boarded-up buildings and warehouses. The university had been slowly acquiring property over the years, but there was no coherent plan for what to do with it. "We wanted to give people a reason to stay on campus," says Ellen Hamilton, director of Real Estate at UIC. "The campus was virtually lifeless after 4 p.m. We wanted to populate it and create a 24-hour environment," she says. The university needed to become a neighborhood instead of just a school.
To that end, in 1995 UIC secured a master developer and created an overall plan for the purchase and development of the 80-acre area south of the existing campus. The redevelopment agreement was approved in 1997, and in January 2000 UIC started acquiring the property they did not yet own and began demolition and construction. Two 750-unit student apartment residences, a 750-unit dorm, 120,000 square feet of office space, and 80,000 square feet of retail space have all been built, as well as parking structures for hundreds of cars and 600-plus private for-sale housing units, all but 20 of which have already sold. As of now, the estimated $750 million project is currently 75 to 85 percent complete, with full completion, including the reservation of two land banks for future expansion, expected in 2008.
As a state university, UIC had to jump through several hoops and endure many rounds of approvals before the plan could go ahead. Permission had to be obtained before any land could be sold to a private developer. But UIC could clearly show that its expansion would help the city by increasing property tax revenue; the money from the taxes on the development would pay for the infrastructure of the entire project, while the housing and retail were funded by auxiliary bonds. The university took things one step at a time, meeting with neighborhood groups and making sure it was doing right by everyone involved.
To maintain the look and feel of the Chicago cityscape, eight unique old buildings had their facades adapted and restored instead of demolished. "They took them apart brick by brick and then put them back together on the face of the new building," says Hamilton. Style elements like these helped give the whole development a pleasing appearance that blends nicely with the surrounding area.
UIC also planned to attract big retail and create a mix of shops. "It isn't as if there weren't retail outlets in Chicago. It's not that we created a unique opportunity for shopping, it's just that now people didn't have to go and find it. It's right here," Hamilton says. And what's here? Caribou Coffee, Jamba Juice, Cold Stone Creamery, Cingular Wireless, 7/11, Post Net, Wells Fargo Bank as well as MidAmerica Bank, restaurants, a dry cleaner, a haircut joint, a mattress store, and more. The faculty especially is thrilled that Barbara's Bookstore, a Chicago institution, that holds author's events and generates a lot of traffic, is in a key location.
"I took a potential tenant on a tour of the South Campus," says Hamilton, "and took the risk of asking the tenants we met, 'How do you like being on South Campus?' I didn't know what they were going to say. But they all said it's great. It's nice to see people out walking with their babies. One tenant said that it had been difficult being the first in a new neighborhood but now things were going very well." It's clear that the new development is good for the city, good for the university, and good for the students and faculty to have a lively, more well-rounded campus. As Hamilton puts it, "We're proving we're in this for the long term by creating a real live-learn campus."
Kean: We're spending too much time on that. You can't be a good president doing all that. I might be a little old-fashioned, but I think the business of the college and the university is education. If you're being pulled off education, you're going to have trouble. You've got to do the others. You've got to get into the technology issues, they're too important for a president not to be aware of them. You've certainly got to do fundraising; it's too important for the university. But if they become your primary occupation, I think it probably hurts the academic enterprise.
Well, first I might say that I was fortunate enough to have six or seven universities or colleges who were interested in my coming for one reason or another, once I decided this was a direction I was interested in. I liked the idea of a small liberal arts college with an emphasis on teaching and mentoring as well as research, and where professors really can get to know students. I picked Drew because it very much had that philosophy and had a very strong commitment to the liberal arts. And because, frankly, it enabled me to come to a place that was a short distance from my home.
Well, you get hit with some real problems that have to be solved and you can't put off. And they become your priorities for a while because they have to be done. And then you have a long-term vision, but you're not able to get at that for a year or two until you solve the more immediate problems.
When I came, we had a budget deficit. You can't have a budget deficit. I had to immediately get a hold of the budget and straighten it out. And we haven't had a budget deficit since. We also had a gym which was like a high school gym. And it was an embarrassment: an embarrassment when the other teams came, here, and an embarrassment when prospective students visited. Students had been promised a new gym for, oh, 15 years, and it wasn't ever going to happen. So, in my first year or two, I had to say we're going to have a first-class gym because I want to attract great people to this university to speak. We had no place for them to speak. So we build a forum on top of the gym that holds about 1,000 people. So I've been able to have ex-presidents and Colin Powell and Tom Brokaw are coming this year. That was the beginning of putting a little bit of my own priorities on things.
Any student who wants to come in and chat with the president can do so any week. We hold them at different times because we don't want to do it when students have classes or athletics or whatever, so every week it's a different time.
Yes, whatever they want to talk about. And students are wonderful. They talk about everything and ask me why I haven't been to a rugby game this year...to a student who talked about his father being very sick and lost his job and the student didn't know if he'll be able to graduate now because his family can't afford it. It's everything. It enables me to put out small fires before they become large fires because the students will come in and say--this is a problem. And you find out about it, you bring in the resources to eliminate it before it becomes serious.
You need interventions, particularly in those first couple of years. I think this goes for all schools. More and more students have some kind of a problem. It can be a learning disability, for example. These are not things that they have put down on their admissions applications, so you find out about them when they get here. Unfortunately, more and more students are picking up bad habits, particularly alcohol habits, back when they were 14 or 15 years old. So they come into college already with a drinking problem and you've got to deal with that. Some students have, unfortunately, some very difficult family problems. We find here that students who come from an inner city, often on scholarship, really need somebody there for them every day and if you are there for them every day, they will stabilize; they will do well and they will graduate, often with honors. But if you're not there, you lose them and we work very hard at that.
I believe, we were one of the first, before it became fashionable, to give every student a computer. We've been technologically wired on this campus for a long time. It is very common for faculty and students to correspond at 10 or 11 o'clock at night. For a student who has a problem, he or she feels they can message that faculty member and get a message back. In the course that I teach, I can tell you which students are into theater, which students are into sports, which students may or may not have a problem. I can intervene if there's a problem and that's the philosophy here. I think we have a very good graduation rate because of that.
Was every professor really into it by the time I got here? No. When I came here, people said the theological school is going to be a problem for you on technology. Well, the theological school, thanks to an energetic dean, took the leadership...first ones here to have online courses, a cyber cafe--the theological school jumped ahead of everybody else. Because of that early leadership, I didn't have the kind of problem that many other university presidents have had. I mean, by the time I came, we'd been into it (technology) for 10 years,
It's always a combination, I think, but the skills are very transferable. I mean, you've got to have skills to work with the faculty and the alumni and the students and the trustees, and they're all different groups. I had many more constituency groups than that to work with as governor. If you think the faculty is difficult, try working with the state legislators of the other party. The faculty was easy compared to that. I had no problems ever with the faculty. We've always gotten along well because we understand the idea of shared leadership. I mean, I understood very clearly, as governor, that when I was dealing with the Democratic state Senate that I wasn't going to say, "This is my idea and you'd better deal with it."... I had to bring senators in and say, "What do you think of this idea, would you buy into it?" If they'd buy into it, you give them the credit for it and it's their bill, not your bill. So it's a very interesting set of skills, but they're the same. They're really the same.
Let me tell you the biggest change, and this is not just in the 10 years or so that I've been here, although part of this change has occurred in that period. The biggest change from my own time as a student was when we wanted to make change, we marched, we demonstrated. I marched with Dr. King. We would go down to Washington and we'd march, and we'd come back home again and we'd go back to our classes or whatever. This bunch of students is not interested in that because they don't think it matters. They don't think you make much of a difference that way. What they do think is that you make a difference as individuals.
We have a very large chapter of Habitat for Humanity here where kids go to take their vacations. We had another group that volunteers to work at an orphanage in Honduras. We have students who tutor kids in Newark. We have other students who teach English to immigrants. They believe in individually working with people.
They do feel helping kids grow up decently and get an education does make a difference.
The change that is negative is access because of overcrowding, and combined with the rise in cost it is very dangerous right now because I think it is starting to price-out people who are qualified. Now, we've gone from grants to loans. If you're poor, you can't get the loans. I think that's wrong in a democracy. In the past, you were in trouble if you didn't have a high school education. Now, if you haven't got a college education, you're condemned...you're condemned to a less than satisfactory life, for you and for your family.
For any president, the most important and valuable commodity you have is your time. Because of the complexity of the job, you can get pulled off in 15 different directions every day and end up working very, very hard but not being terribly productive. And as a new president, you have to understand the people you're going to be working with. Faculties have their own personalities and you've got to get to know them.
Faculties all have leadership individuals, the people who just simply are listened to more in faculty meetings either because of their age or their competence or the respect they have among their colleagues. Make sure that you get to know them a bit. I think presidents neglect students who are, after all, the customers. I think because they get pulled so far in other directions. I don't think presidents are spending enough time on their campuses with students and student activities.
And, by the way, I differ from some university presidents, but I think teaching is important. I think teaching is what the institution does.
Yes, and I think that's what we do. First, teaching enables you to understand the faculty better, and they love it when they see me with a pile of papers under my arm, grumbling that I have to correct them all tonight. Second, teaching gives you a group of students that you know particularly well and talk to you about what's going on at the university. It keeps you intellectually going. I know some presidents do that, some don't, but I would recommend to any new president to think seriously about teaching.
I teach one three-hour seminar on Mondays because if I tried to do it another day, I would get pulled off campus too much and I might miss classes. I don't ever miss a class, so I just set aside three hours on Monday, every Monday.
Absolutely. I think, in a university atmosphere, you've got to have transparency. You have to be able to explain, particularly to the faculty, what you're doing, why you're doing it. You have to work with the faculty on committees in order to put together their budget so that they buy into it. It's a totally open process so that everybody knows every dollar coming in and every dollar going out. The final budget here is placed on e-mail so that every student can look at it, every person in the community can look at it, before it's adopted. Then we have a town meeting and people can come and weigh in. So, by the time the budget comes to the Board of Trustees, the whole community has an opportunity to have an input into every bit of it. And the result is I've never had a problem or a fight about the budget since I started that method.
Yes. When I came here, the previous philosophy was the budget was a secret.
The difficulty was that as the Commission started taking more and more time, my first impetus was to say to the trustees, maybe I ought to take a sabbatical. So I just decided that I couldn't have done the Commission work unless I had hired very, very well.
I have a group of administrators here which I would match against anybody's. So if I was in Washington and I called in twice a day, I knew the place was going to run like a top and it had one of its best years last year. I came back and said, you do better without me. But I think that's one of the things also that presidents have got to recognize--they've got to know how to delegate and they've got to bring in the right people.
If you're really good at who you bring in, you don't have to spend as much time on a lot of these issues. If you've hired well, people know what your priorities are, they will do it for you. They will take care of the priorities.
I actually am very disappointed in most of my colleagues in this respect. Not in the respect of being great college presidents necessarily. There are a lot of them out there who are. But in years past, you could think of a number of college and university presidents who took major roles in the life of this country. And I don't see that anymore.
I've mentioned that point to some of my colleagues and what they tell me is that, you know, if you say something to the right, your students are mad at you. And if you go to the left, the trustees get mad at you.
That's not an excuse. I believe that university presidents are some of the finest and most able people in this country. And not to take public positions on important issues, not to take leadership of important commissions and committees, not to get out there in the life of the democracy, I think that's a terrible example for their students.
I've said this to my colleagues, telling university presidents that once you get outside of your campus, you really are quite respected. And you could make a difference. You could make a real difference.
They're in those positions because they are positions of strength. I know university presidents who are among some of the most able people I've ever been associated with. Great backgrounds. They have to get out there into the light of the democracy because if they don't, they're poorer for it, the universities are poorer for it, and certainly the students are getting a bad example.
For a university president to say I'm not going to get involved in this issue because it might make somebody mad is not leadership, really not leadership. These are institutions of change.
I've taken on more controversial stuff. Personally, I don't believe people should be running around with guns, the semi-automatic weapons. I've taken very strong positions on that.
I get letters from alumni saying they'll never contribute to the place as long as I'm there. But they're your principles. Is that a reason for a university president not to say anything because two or three alumni are going to get mad? I think it's a way to engage the debate. And if we're not going to speak out, who is?
That's my only criticism. I wish they would be out there more, taking more positions on more issues and showing leadership, not only in the university but outside the university.
I don't know. I've been the university president longer than I've held any other job. And I decided about a year ago that this should be my last year because the university is in better shape than it's ever been in. I'll see what comes along. I've got probably one more job left in me. What it'll be, I just don't have any idea.
If I could help, yes. Full-time, probably not. I don't think I want to go down to Washington, but if it's a part-time thing or something where I could be an advisor or help government in some way, yes. It's an obligation as a citizen to help out.