Risk management personnel at institutions don't think twice about insuring school buildings and inventory like computers. Catastrophic events like Hurricane Katrina make an even bigger case for insurance policies that can replace these assets, despite the costs involved.
University Business surveyed 160 chief information officers and IT directors from colleges and universities nationwide to find out how and where their IT dollars were being spent. (For UB's companion feature story see "Smart IT Spending Strategies," December 2005.)
Professor and Chair of ESL/Developmental Writing and Reading. Continuing Education Program Director. Advisor, International Students. Professor and former Chair of Chemistry. Director of Workforce and Economic Development. Three women and two men.
The spotlight of attention has swung right toward community colleges in recent years, thanks in part to high-level public mentions. Yet as more people look to community colleges to churn out students-particularly those from low-income and minority backgrounds-some logistics need to be ironed out, including how to improve transfer rates between two-year schools and elite four-year institutions.
A study sponsored by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and the University of Southern California found that less than 1 percent of incoming students at the nation's private elite four-year schools transferred from community colleges in 2002. Another project, Equity for All, also explores transfer rates. Of more than 400 under-represented minority students eligible for transfer at one California community college, less than 20 percent did so.
Improving transfer rates remains in the interest of two-year and four-year institutions: Community college leaders see helping students obtain degrees as part of their mission; administrators at four-year institutions want to increase the numbers of low-income and under-represented minority students at their schools. Talented community college students provide the perfect pool of future leaders. Honors colleges and special programs at two-year schools can help in that endeavor.
For example, Houston Community College, one of the largest two-year systems in the country, is introducing an honors college that will maintain rigorous academic standards and provide scholarships as well as intensive guidance to students.
For admission to the honors college, students need a minimum 3.5 GPA and an 1800 score on the newer three-part SAT. The college will be modeled after one at Miami Dade College, which has been recognized nationally and sent graduates on to such prestigious institutions as Cornell, Yale, Johns Hopkins (Md.), and Middlebury College (Vt.).
"Traditionally, community colleges have taken everyone from a GED graduate to someone who has been in the workforce and wants retraining," says Maria Straus, director of learning initiatives at HCC. "Honors has never been an area of development, but I think it's time now." These programs offer an opportunity for low-income families who have academically talented offspring but can't afford four years at a private university.
In launching its honors college, HCC is ramping up its efforts to work with potential transfer destinations, such as the University of Houston and its honors college. HCC deans will meet with UH faculty to discuss forming a seamless transition between the two schools. That type of collaboration needs to take place more often, says Alicia Dowd, an assistant professor at the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California and co-principal investigator for the Jack Kent Cooke study (titled "Threading the Needle of the American Dream").
A perceptual barrier keeps four-year school leaders from understanding and valuing the academic credits that community college transfer students bring. "There's a lack of familiarity about how the curriculum differs or is the same, and how pedagogy differs or is the same on the two types of campuses," Dowd says.
Aid officers from two-year and four-year schools should also interact to give potential transfers the most accurate information possible. "Students can be misadvised about their opportunities and the costs and potential benefits," says Dowd.
Honors colleges are rather new to community colleges, and more schools are developing programs that guide students through the transfer process. In both cases, private donations support program funding and scholarships.
South Texas College is a prime example. The school of 17,000 for-credit students serves two primarily low- and middle-income counties adjacent to the border with Mexico. STC has implemented a scholarship program to draw in talented students and encourage them to complete degrees.
The Valley Scholars program focuses on financing students' education and providing them with guidance. Students in the program-between 40 and 60 each year-cannot drop a class, withdraw, repeat courses, or change majors without approval from the academic excellence advisor or the Valley Scholars coordinator, according to Helen Escobar, coordinator of Public Relations for STC.
Valley Scholars Coordinator Marie Olivarez takes students on trips to four-year institutions, where they participate in meetings with admissions representatives, students, and administrators. Valley Scholars have transferred to 20 different institutions, including Texas A&M University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Emerson College (Mass.). STC's faculty now includes Valley Scholar graduates who completed advanced degrees and returned to teach at the institution.
Funding-about $2,000 per student -comes from community members and individuals employed by the college. When the program launched in 1997, Michael Metke, then vice president for Instructional Services, and Ramiro Casso, a political leader and physician, took people out to lunch to discuss the benefits of helping students. Now STC employees can donate to the Valley Scholars via payroll deductions. "The funding is important," says Juan E. Mejia, who currently holds Metke's position, "but we also want to see the retention rates and we want to see them continue to additional degrees."
Honors colleges and scholarship programs can provide valuable pathways. But in today's competitive admissions environment, how can administrators ensure that low-income and under-represented minority students not get left behind?
Community colleges should monitor the proportion of their students who are "transfer ready" (or close to it) and actually make the transition, says Estela Mara Bensimon, director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Southern California.
Community colleges can also recruit people who are dedicated to helping students get from two-year schools to four-year institutions. In her work on the Equity for All project, Bensimon has seen that the most important factor in transfer rates is the presence of individuals who take responsibility for helping students through the process. These "transfer agents" can be faculty members, counselors, administrators, or community members.
Shirley Levin, a college admissions counselor and president of College Bound in Rockville, Md., knows from working with many immigrant families that a community college can be an ideal place for promising students. "Community college is an easier, more comfortable transition for the children of many of these families. But the goal, in terms of the best route to the future, is the same no matter how they start off. The goal is the bachelor's degree."
Equipped with funds as well as opportunities for collaboration with four-year institutions, programs such as Houston Community College's honors college will likely help boost transfer rates between two-year schools and elite institutions.
The ball is already rolling: The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced in March the investment of $27 million for eight elite four-year institutions to improve access for low-income community college students. That helped USC, for one, establish a transfer partnership with East Los Angeles Community College and Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.
In Maryland, the Maryland Transfer Advantage Program is flowing more students from Prince George's Community College and Montgomery College (both of which serve large numbers of minority students) to the University of Maryland.
And in Virginia, a new program smooths the transfer process for community college students.
Watch these efforts, and more, to see how higher education can offer greater access to promising students from all kinds of backgrounds.
Laptops are a modern marvel. They are portable, able to process amazing amounts of data, but, oh, so easy to steal. At least 600,000 laptops are stolen every year, according to a technology firm that helps protect data and locate missing machines. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, 97 percent of those stolen laptops are never recovered.
That means a lot of data ends up in the wrong hands.
Several software companies specialize in recovery and security, making products that either lock thieves out of certain files or destroy stolen data. Some recovery services even trace stolen laptops and help recover them.
Given the proliferation of laptop programs in higher education, it makes sense that IT managers are looking to these services to protect assets.
The recent headline-grabbing case of the laptop flinched from the Department of Veterans Affairs was notable, in part, because the machine contained 26.5 million personnel records. In a rare turn of events, the laptop was recovered.
In the world of higher education, there have been dozens of IT security incidents, including one at California Polytechnic State University, located in the town of San Luis Obispo. A laptop, stolen in July from a physics professor's home, contained the names and Social Security numbers of 3,020 students. University officials had to send out warning letters to all students who had been enrolled in particular physics and astronomy lectures between 1994 and 2004.
While all such breaches are serious, it is especially problematic when Social Security numbers are involved because thieves can use them to obtain credit cards and make unauthorized purchases.
Last year, University of California, Berkeley, issued a notification about the theft of a laptop that contained data on 98,000 graduate students and applicants. The laptop, which had been left alone for only a few minutes, was taken from a restricted area, according to reports. The university paid a reported $2.4 million in notification costs to those whose data may have been exposed.
The topic of data theft was "interesting, but not really compelling, until privacy rules from California required disclosure," notes International Data Corp. analyst Chris Christianson.
In 2003, the state of California adopted legislation that requires all companies and organization doing business there to protect data and to notify those whose information has been compromised by a security breach. Since 2003, 32 states have adopted similar legislation, and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) continues to work on passing a federal law.
One campus of William Penn University (Iowa) began using LoJack for Laptops last year. The program is one of several IT security products produced by Absolute Software. The company also offers Computrace, which helps secure data and track lost or stolen portable machines. This particular WPU campus, located in West Des Moines, is geared to non-traditional students, such as adults coming back to school and working executives. Laptops are an integral part of every academic program, notes Curt Gomes, IT supervisor.
To date, this campus has outfitted 500 laptops with IT security programs. "We figure we will take any steps to help prevent a theft," Gomes says. The policy is key, considering that students are financially responsible for the laptops issued to them. Gomes estimates that the cost to replace a university laptop and related software is $2,000.
No sooner did WPU become an Absolute customer in October 2005 than the software was put to the test. A woman had her laptop stolen midmonth. Through the company's installed tracking protocol, the police were able to locate the laptop and return it within a week.
The Computrace program works as a "digital security cable," explains John Livingston, Absolute's CEO. If the stolen laptop is connected to the internet, it will call back an Absolute office every 15 minutes to reveal its location. The internet communication-undetected by the thief-also allows Absolute to send back commands that can erase files, if instructed by the laptop's owner.
This particular software, and similar programs, depends on password protection. Any user has to be correctly identified through a multiple series of passwords and other identification codes in order to enter any protected files. It is the combination of fumbled passwords and the report that a machine is stolen that sets the tracing software into action.
The software also prevents thieves from doing more mischief, like erasing the hard drive and all the software on it. Basically, Absolute's LoJack program works with computers at the BIOS stage (the basic input/output system), which kicks in before the OS, or operating system, goes to work. This means the OS is protected at all times.
"Someone may think they are deleting everything on the hard drive or all the software, but they can't," says Gomes. Absolute's security goes as far has helping to issue search warrants or subpoenas for stolen machines.
Another company, CyberAngel Security Software, offers data protection to the University of Toledo (Ohio) and Brown University. Toledo became a client after two laptops were lost last year, compromising thousands of faculty and alumni files.
The company offers five software programs, including the CyberAngel Security program and Laptop Locks.
"Our main focus is data protection," explains Bradley Lide, president and CEO. Laptop users have to not only enter a password to gain access, but must also correctly fill in the codes for secondary and even tertiary prompts. Those who fail to log in correctly at all the various stages are denied access to files that have been pre-designated by the users as to be off limits.
"We don't disable the computer, because we don't want to notify the thief," explains Lide.
The IT team at the University of Miami (Fla.) is taking a different approach by creating a homegrown proprietary encryption system that will seal sensitive data on employees' laptops and PDAs.
The university is rolling out the program later this year to protect the information stored on the laptops of admissions counselors, attorneys, and other administrators, says Tim Ramsay, associate vice president of computer operations and telecommunications. Users will have to fill out several "scripts" of passwords and site key information to gain access to information about applicants, their SAT scores, and other data.
Two UM engineers have worked throughout the year developing the tools, which will also be used to protect the data used by the personnel at the university's medical school. Ramsay estimates that 1,000 employees carry sensitive data on laptops and portable devices.
Absolute's pricing is based on a subscription model. William Penn pays $55 annually per laptop for the recovery services, says Gomes. Education pricing is $125 for three years of coverage.
CyberAngel charges education customers $47.95 annually to protect a single laptop and $95.90 for a three-year contract. This represents a 20 percent discount off regular pricing, says Lide.
Gomes notes another benefit of the security program: Students are far less likely to "forget" to return their laptops when they graduate or leave the school, given that they will be reported as missing almost immediately.
In retrospect, it is clear that Wake Forest University Health Sciences (WFUHS) has been on a quest for more than six years. The goal?
Already popular with websites looking to offer visitors the ultimate browsing experience, live chat support has gotten a major makeover of late, offering universities a number of new sophisticated online tools to interact online more effectively.
If you have recently taken a look at the faces of the students on your campus, you have probably noticed that they are looking older than they used to. That's because the fastest growing segment of the higher education market is reported to be non-traditional working adults.
The potential applicant pool for colleges and universities is going to grow significantly in some states between now and 2014, according to data gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics.