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Beyond the News


University Business, Apr 2009

ALTHOUGH MOST OF THE MONEY in the new stimulus package is focused on K-12 initiatives, during his February 24 address to Congress President Barack Obama called for America to once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. He added confidently, “That is a goal we can meet.”

The consensus: It’s a noble, achievable goal. But how to meet it is causing some consternation among higher ed leaders, and even comparisons to the moon landing.

“We strongly support the president’s goal,” says Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the Division of Government and Public Affairs at ACE. “The nation will be enormously better off ... and colleges and universities are prepared to do their part.”

But Hartle’s enthusiasm is tempered. “It’s fairly easy to establish ambitious goals. Reaching them is harder,” he notes. This, of course, is not the first recent lofty education goal. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush and the nation’s governors called for a 90 percent high school graduation rate. In 2002 came the No Child Left Behind Act with its expectations of continuous improvement.

“We landed a man on the moon, but it took a nationwide effort,” Hartle says, adding that even if every current high school graduate who goes to college graduates from college, we wouldn’t reach Obama’s goal.

Graduating more students of both traditional and nontraditional age would certainly help. “The state, and our institution, is making adult education part of our strategy in increasing the number of college graduates in Kentucky,” says Doug Whitlock, president of Eastern Kentucky University. Focusing on adult learners will help offset the predicted decline in the high school age population. There’s also an increased focus in the state on preventing K-12 dropouts and encouraging college attendance.

Community colleges, accustomed to enrolling both adults and underprepared students, are bracing for increased enrollment as students flee from four-year institutions’ high tuition rates. Miami Dade College (Fla.), where enrollment rose 15 percent in the last year, is sharing tutoring and life-skills classes with local schools to better prepare students for college, explains President Eduardo J. Padr?n. “Both President Obama and Secretary Duncan have asserted that community colleges will play a major role in rejuvenating our ailing economy,” he says. “As costs continue to rise and universities limit enrollment, and many retain an elitist admission policy, community colleges will be a more critical asset than ever in extending the possibility of a college education.”

But nothing can happen without funding. Hartle praised the resources Obama has committed, pointing out that a 25 percent increase in resources will be needed to add 1 million more graduates to the 3 million our country already produces annually. Budget stabilization funding may provide capacity to begin ramping up to accommodate new students, Whitlock adds. “But we have to be careful not to get recurring expenses tied to nonrecurring dollars.” ?Ann McClure

SEVERAL INSTITUTIONS HAVE TERMINATED apparel licensing agreements with Russell Corp., after the clothing company closed a unionized factory in Honduras in January.

After a university Advisory Committee on Labor Standards and Human Rights recommendation, the University of Michigan officials ended its license. Spokesperson Kelly Cunningham says U-M has contracts with a number of licensing companies to produce and distribute similar university-branded products through similar channels. These vendors will target Russell’s accounts, following the expiration of its contract in March.

Cornell University (N.Y.) announced that its decision was made after review of a study of the factory closing. Mike Powers, director of operations, says, “Russell’s actions in this case are a clear violation of the codes of conduct that Cornell licensees agree to follow when they become licensed.”

The University of Minnesota’s Russell contract will also expire in late March. Daniel Wolter, director of news service, says administrators don’t foresee problems in filling this gap with three other brand vendors the university currently uses. He estimates revenue from sales of the university apparel made by Russell in 2007 was more than $26,000.

At least eight others are severing ties to Russell, including Purdue (Ind.), the University of Washington, the University of Montana, New York University, Columbia (N.Y.), Georgetown (D.C.), Penn State, and Rutgers (N.J.). ?Michele Herrmann

AT THE AMERICAN COUNCIL ON Education’s annual meeting in February, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), an education secretary under Pres. George H.W. Bush and a former University of Tennessee president, suggested that higher ed leaders develop three-year baccalaureate programs so students could finish college in less time and at less cost. Two weeks later, Hartwick College (N.Y.) announced such a program, to begin next fall.

The timing of these events was coincidental. Yet they indicate a shift in thinking about the path to a bachelor’s degree. As students and parents struggle to afford college, the nation is realizing that a stronger economic future depends on having an educated population.

Hartwick’s program will be available for 22 majors, and as long as students take 18 credits per semester and four credits during the January term, they can complete their degrees in three years, without summer school.

The college joins other schools with three-year options in place. Students in Manchester College’s (Ind.) Fast Forward program take 16 credits per semester, a course in the January term, and a part-time summer course load offered online. Every major is eligible. At Judson College (Ala.), the “2-10 option” (two years and 10 months) allows students to finish a year early by taking classes during the regular school year (September through April) and then in a concentrated May-June term. In place since the 1970s, the option has proved popular. “A lot of students want to get their undergrad as quickly as possible so they can go on to grad school,” says Charlotte Clements, VP for admissions and financial aid and herself a former 2-10 participant. Other schools offering three-year programs include Ball State University (Ind.), Valparaiso University (Ind.), and Middlebury College (Vt.).

Individual institutions aren’t the only ones looking to streamline the higher ed process. In 2008 the state of Ohio piloted Seniors to Sophomores to help give qualifying high school seniors the chance to complete a year of college at any University System of Ohio institution while still enrolled in high school. “Students actually spend their senior year on the college campus,” says Michael Chaney, chief communications officer for the Ohio Board of Regents, which administers the program. That first year of college comes at no cost to program participants.

More recently, Rhode Island legislators introduced a bill that would allow students to complete their degree at the University of Rhode Island or Rhode Island College in three years, with credit granted for advanced placement and dual-enrollment courses taken during high school. If the bill becomes law, a three-year pilot program will be launched in 2010. ?Don Parker-Burgard

Generational Shockwaves and the Implications for Higher Education

Edited by Donald E. Heller and Madeleine B. d’Ambrosio

Edward Elgar Publishing,, 2009; 191 pp.; $100

PART OF THE TIAA-CREF INSTITUTE SERIES on Higher Education, this book explores the management of three generations of students, faculty, and administrators, considering their different values, perspectives, and priorities. Its 12 chapters, written by higher ed thought leaders, examine how administrators must rethink strategies to attract and retain faculty and to interest a new generation of learners.

In “As Baby Boomers Retire,” for example, Valerie Martin Conley, director of the Center for Higher Education at Ohio University, covers faculty transitions into retirement. Among her 10 recommendations: calculate a Retiree Benefit Risk index for groups of employees; consider benefits for all employees, including part-time faculty; and invest in education and services to increase individual knowledge on retirement planning. Another chapter on boomers examines how their retirement will affect colleges.

Chapters on Generation X cover redefining the academy’s norms and the impact of young faculty on academe. Millennials are the focus of two chapters, on attracting and retaining students, and on the overall impact of this generation on higher education. ?Melissa Ezarik

EVER SINCE A UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE PROFESSOR TOOK EIGHT students to France in 1923, study abroad has been touted as a way to expand a student’s understanding of the world.

Most research on the benefits of study abroad has focused on the individual benefit to participants, such as language acquisition. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence about [study abroad] experiences,” says Gerald Fry, professor of International and Intercultural Education at the University of Minnesota. He and fellow professor Michael Paige recently completed research examining the long-term effects of study abroad and the benefits to “society at large.”

The researchers surveyed 6,391 people from 22 higher education institutions who had studied abroad during the last 50 years. They found a high level of global engagement, which they define as civic engagement, philanthropy, knowledge production, social entrepreneurship, and voluntary simplicity.

Fry says there are generational differences, with more recent graduates showing a high level of volunteerism, while graduates from the 1960s and ’70s are in a financial position to be philanthropic. “It was gratifying that study abroad attendees attributed these behaviors to study abroad. It was their perceptions,” Fry says, adding that respondents’ behavior reflects their attitudes.

Although foreign institutions would prefer American students to come for yearlong or semester-long programs, the researchers say it is the “intensity and quality” of a program that matters, not the duration.

The Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Foundation Act, which has the goal of increasing to 1 million the number of students studying abroad in 10 years, was originally introduced in 2007, when it passed the House. Although it failed to reach a vote in the Senate when the last session of Congress ended, it was reintroduced in February. “We certainly think these data will inform how much funding should be given to this project,” Fry says. “Our data is pretty timely; we have hard empirical data, not just anecdotal.” ?A.M.

FREECYCLING, THE PRACTICE OF EXCHANGING unneeded items at no cost, is catching on at Northern Arizona University. An Office of Sustainability program for sharing office supplies aims to save money and curb waste.

NAU employees are being encouraged to not only clean out their offices but also to recognize what items may just be collecting dust. Administrators hope the program will be an easy, effective way to keep budgets in check and conservation efforts going. Sustainability Coordinator Heather Farley says the university spends on average $560,000 a year on office supplies, and the goal is to reduce that amount by 10 percent.

The first swap occurred in January at the university’s Applied Research and Development building, a facility that has earned LEED Platinum status. Employees from different offices brought in items and placed them on tables. They then took whatever they wanted that had been brought by other employees. Leftover goods were taken to the school’s Surplus Property department.

“Everybody was able to clean out their closet a little bit,” says Farley, who picked up some marketing folders with the university’s logo for her own use.

The Office of Sustainability is working on bringing the program to other buildings on campus, and a second swap is in the works for July. ?M.H.

IN AN OCTOBER FEATURE, UNIVERSITY BUSINESS will highlight the best campus dining facilities and programs in the nation. As campus dining professionals know, success depends on a variety of factors?from food quality and atmosphere to operations that are environmentally and financially sustainable as well as service-oriented. Dining Halls of Distinction will recognize excellence in each of these areas?adding up to a complete campus dining experience. Know of an institution that deserves this designation? E-mail for information on applying. Nominations will be accepted electronically only, through June 10.

JIM YONG KIM, A GLOBAL HEALTH EXPERT, will become the first Asian-American to head an Ivy League school when he assumes the presidency at Dartmouth College in July. His predecessor, James Wright, will step down in June in order to promote educational opportunities for wounded veterans.

A Korean-born physician and anthropologist, Kim currently chairs the Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. He is known for his efforts in bringing health care to developing countries and his leadership in the fight against diseases affecting impoverished countries.

Dartmouth’s trustees cited his groundbreaking work and his commitment to teaching as having led to their decision. “He has had a profound impact on students, faculty, colleagues, and fellow health professionals,” stated board chair Ed Haldeman in a media release. “As a leader in the field of global health, Jim has helped to transform efforts to bring health care to the world’s poor.”

His career track speaks volumes. Appointed director of the HIV/AIDS department at the World Health Organization in 2004, he launched an ambitious initiative to expand access to treatment for patients in low- and middle-income countries. While still a medical student at Harvard, he helped to found Partners In Health in 1987, a global nonprofit supporting community health programs.

At a ceremony at Dartmouth last month, Kim explained that his presidential priorities would include strengthening the college’s global influence and securing its future in a rapidly changing global landscape. He has recently gained an additional priority: His second son was born three days before his appointment was made public. ?M.H.

WHAT’S HOT (REALLY HOT) FOR TODAY’S ENGINEERING STUDENTS? THE EMERGING FIELD of assistive technologies. Combining disciplines that include robotics, electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science, and occupational health, a new breed of polytechnic programs is serving up state-of-the-art, adaptive technology courses for civically engaged engineering students who want to make the world a better place for the disabled. Believe it or not, this human dimension thrives at such venerable engineering universities as Worcester Polytechnic Institute; the University of Massachusetts, Lowell; the University of Minnesota; MIT; and the University of Michigan.

Engineering students are actually designing and building cool stuff like voice-activated control centers, digital talking photo frames, and customized iPods?adaptive devices that have a life-changing impact on their clients. Importantly, these assistive learning programs provide a teachable moment for engineering students who dare to think outside the geekbox?real students, creating real engineering solutions, for real people with profound disabilities.

For decades, WPI, UML, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan faculty have led by example in blueprinting transformative service learning experiences for their best and brightest engineering students. In response, these students are breaking down barriers for the disabled.

For more on how colleges and universities are approaching the field of assistive technologies, see the full version of this column at

? James Martin and James E. Samels, Future Shock columnists, are authors of Turnaround: Leading Stressed Colleges and Universities to Excellence (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009). Martin is a professor of English at Mount Ida College (Mass.) and Samels is president and CEO of The Education Alliance.

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