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Economy

Future Shock

So, what do the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, the State University of New York at Binghamton and Berkshire Community College have in common? If you are searching for an answer, just consider the role higher learning has played in the transformation of America's river mill cities into contemporary collegetowns.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.

Charles Dickens penned the opening lines of "A Tale of Two Cities" to describe French Revolutionary times, but they could easily apply to the modern world of student refunds. Or, more specifically, to two of the primary alternatives to paper checks.

One is simple, secure and smart. The other can be convoluted, controversial and painful for students.

Nearly a decade ago, Oklahoma City Community College installed state-of-the-art administrative system technology from Datatel that linked its student, finance, and human resources information systems together. It worked wonderfully - until staff turnover and training lapses diminished its utility.

As a reader of this magazine, you were probably not surprised--much less chagrined--by the 2009 publication of a three-volume set of books entitled, The Business of Higher Education (Praeger Publishers, 2009). Nor, I would wager, do you find University Business an unusual magazine title. As the CEO of a college, neither do I.

But we need to recognize that, for many constituencies of the academy not among University Business readers, the phrase "university business" may sound odd, if not oxymoronic. And that is true for at least two reasons.

Year-end statements for pensions, 403(b) accounts, and mutual funds aren't as frightening to open as they were this time last year. University endowment managers usually wait until their fiscal year ends in June before they really look at their statements, but interim surveys indicate that performance has improved.

Although there are glimmers the recession could be ending, the unemployment rate is expected to stay high for some time to come. College enrollments will probably keep pace, especially at community colleges, where older adults looking to brush up their job skills are joined by traditional students looking to avoid high tuition for a few years.

The economic crisis has dominated the headlines since September 2008 and taken its toll on individuals and institutions alike. Few have been immune to the effects of a volatile stock market, low interest rates, rising unemployment, tight credit markets, and plunging real estate values.

Charles Dickens penned the opening lines of “A Tale of Two Cities” to describe French Revolutionary times, but they could easily apply to the modern world of student refunds. Or, more specifically, to two of the primary alternatives to paper checks. One is simple, secure and smart. The other can be convoluted, controversial and painful for students.

Saving the environment isn’t just a goal at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. It’s a way of life. Concerned about its impact on the environment, the college is taking aggressive steps to reduce its energy consumption.

Blinn College has been in the business of educating students since 1883, a point of pride for its administrators. Even as it honors its pioneering roots, the college also has evolved to meet the needs of students. Founded initially to train young men for the ministry, Blinn became the first county-owned junior college in Texas and one of the largest of the state’s 50 community/junior college districts.

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