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Large donation to a small community college changes the outlook on fund-raising by two-year institutions
Cape Cod Community College has little in common with John Hopkins University.
The small public institution in New England has an open admissions policy, while Hopkins is a renowned private institution that accepted just 12 percent of 27,094 applicants for fall 2016. It receives more federal funding for research than any other university in the nation.
The community college, located in West Barnstable, Mass., has an endowment of $9.8 million. The university in Baltimore has a $4.3 billion endowment.
The two institutions are worlds apart in almost every respect -- except one. Each received a head-turning donation in recent months from individual, longtime benefactors who want to expand access to higher education and economic opportunity.
The $1.8 billion donation to Hopkins in November by well-known philanthropist Michael Bloomberg made national headlines and was widely celebrated for its generosity and potential long-term impact, even as some critics suggested the money would have been better spent at institutions that weren't already rich. The $5 million donated last month to Cape Cod by a less familiar multimillionaire named Maureen Wilkens received only modest news coverage in the Boston area, but it was no less noteworthy. While both gifts were the largest single donation by an individual in each institution’s history, the $5 million was among the largest individual gifts to a community college in the nation.
Although the $1.8 billion gift represents a whopping 41 percent of Hopkins’s total endowment, the $5 million donation from the elderly widow of a former investment manager is equal to 51 percent of Cape Cod’s endowment.
The median family income of a Cape Cod student is $65,000; 22 percent come from households whose incomes are in the top 20 percent and 14 percent come from families in the bottom 20 percent, according to the Equality of Opportunity Project. The median family income of a student at Johns Hopkins is $177,300; 72 percent come from the top 20 percent and 2.9 percent from the bottom 20 percent, according to the report. About 2.2 percent of students at Johns Hopkins came from a poor family but became a rich adult. At Cape Cod, about 44 percent of students are eligible for Pell Grants.
Large donations by wealthy alumni to prestigious higher ed institutions are not unusual. Large gifts to small community colleges without national reputations are very unusual.
“It’s not the largest gift in the country to a community college, but it is significant and certainly rare,” said Geoff Green (right), chief executive officer of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation and a board member of the Network of California Community College Foundations. “In any given year, you might get a dozen gifts in that general range.”
Santa Barbara, or SBCC, was among the community colleges that received big gifts last year. A donor gave the college $6.2 million. Ventura College, also in California, received $12 million, which was reportedly the largest gift ever to a community college in Southern California and surpassed the record $10.1 million given to Los Angeles City College in 2016.
The $5 million donated to Cape Cod, or 4Cs, as the college is locally known, will go toward construction of a new science and engineering building on campus.
“The college is so important to our community,” Wilkens, the donor, said in a written statement prepared by the university. “It provides outstanding higher education opportunities for our neighbors on the Cape and Islands and beyond. A new science building has been needed for a very long time.”
In an era of mega-gifts by billionaires to higher ed institutions, a $5 million gift would amount to little more than a rounding error on Bloomberg’s $1.8 billion donation. But seven-figure gifts to community colleges are hugely consequential, especially at a time of declining enrollment and dwindling state and federal funding.
Cape Cod’s enrollment fell from a high of 4,452 in fall 2008 to just 2,840 students in fall 2018, the kind of decline common at community colleges in areas where the population is not growing. The majority of students are women (68 percent) age 20 through 34. State appropriations to the college increased by only $1 million in the past decade. The college does not receive any funding from the local county government.
“Absolutely, this is a transformational gift,” said John L. Cox, president of the college. “It is extremely meaningful. Mrs. Wilkens could have given this gift to anyone, to the Harvards of the world, but it would have gotten lost in the mix of a $39 billion endowment.”
Instead, the $5 million “will be a driver in transforming the institution and even our role in the region,” Cox said. “It will change the trajectory of this institution and the community and what we can ultimately build out for future students.”
Wilkens declined, through the university, to be interviewed. According to the written statement released by the college, she made the donation as an impetus for others to contribute toward the construction of the new building.
The new building is expected to cost $38 million and will be partially funded by a $25 million state bond. The college is contributing $3 million toward construction costs, and its fund-raising foundation is leading a $10 million capital campaign to raise the rest.
Wilkens’s donation was not her first gift to the college, but it was her largest. She and her late husband, Frank Wilkens, a former pensions funds manager with his own firm, established the Wilkens Family Trust Scholarship in 2007 to help single parents attending the college. It annually awards 10 students $4,000 apiece.
Kathy McNamara, CEO of the Cape Cod Community College Educational Foundation, said Wilkens, who lives on Cape Cod, was inspired to create the annual scholarship by a former housekeeper, a single mother who Wilkens could see was smart and ambitious. Wilkens understood that a scholarship could change the lives of similarly situated people, McNamara said.
“It was a real epiphany about how important that CCCC is to the local economy and how it gives so many people a pathway to success,” she said. “There’s a lot of need here.”
Cox noted that community colleges in New England are among the most expensive in the country. Annual tuition and fees at CCCC total $6,330, or $211 per credit, for full-time students taking 30 credits per year. The national average is $140 per credit, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.
“We’re the most affordable in the state,” Cox said, “but nationwide we’re more expensive than most.”
The Wilkenses have given the college nearly $11 million in total. Bloomberg, a former New York City mayor and Johns Hopkins alumnus, is inarguably in a class by himself. He has given Hopkins a total of $3.3 billion over the years, including his latest gift, which will likely influence the lives of countless generations of young people. Wilkens’s recent gift stands out because neither she nor her late husband attended CCCC. (Maureen Wilkens is 1956 graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston, where she has also made major donations -- a new science center building is named for her, as is an atrium in the student center building.)
Institutional development professionals say the size and pace of donations to community colleges are starting to increase, but the shift is occurring slowly and not nearly as methodically or efficiently as the money raised by four-year colleges.
Community colleges are still relatively new to fund-raising, and as they increasingly face budget deficits, steep state funding cuts and shrinking student rolls, their presidents are recognizing the potential of rich donors as untapped sources of financial support and stepping up their institutions’ fund-raising capacity.
“The Ivies figured this out 100 years ago,” Green, of Santa Barbara City College Foundation, said of Ivy League institutions. “The big four-year colleges developed their fund-raising in the last 20 to 30 years. For community colleges, it’s more like last Tuesday. That’s really what it feels likes. Many of them either don’t have fund-raising foundations or they have them at a shell level where they’re not really professionally staffed, fully self-functioning, philanthropic organizations.”
Green, who is also a member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s National Committee for Institutionally Related Foundations, said community college leaders aren’t always aware of the important role of foundations in helping raise the profile of an institution in the eyes of potential donors, or in establishing or nurturing existing relationships with them.
“That’s because it’s often just not in the DNA of the institution,” he said.
Not so CCCC. It established its foundation in 1983, and successive administrators have made sure to nurture the college’s relationship with the Wilkenses.
Cox was the incoming president of the college when he was introduced to Maureen Wilkens in the summer of 2012 by the outgoing president.
“I learned that her husband had passed away and that they were a team in deciding what to support,” he said.
He also learned about their motivation for giving.
“She said, ‘We’re here, we’re committed to the community and we want to help our community continue to thrive,’” Cox recalled. “Social awareness was a driver in their charitable giving.”
Cox researched the relationship between private giving and state funding for his prize-winning doctoral dissertation at George Washington University and found that donors are not influenced by state funding decisions; they give, as Maureen Wilkens did, simply because they want to.
“In a way, it’s a certain recognition by someone who lives in the community of the need to be committed to the teaching and learning of others around us,” he said.
Although CCCC’s foundation is 35 years old, Green said the average community college foundation is about 20 years old. Santa Barbara’s foundation has been in existence for 42 years.
“The college was founded in 1909; we were one of the original community colleges in the country,” he said. “Our foundation was not started until 1976, a full 67 years later. And we were one of the earlier community college foundations.”
As a result, Santa Barbara has a relatively sizable $60 million endowment.
“In the community college world, that number is considered a real monster,” Green said. “But if you lay it next to the endowment of a four-year institution, even the less prestigious ones, it’s not really all that high.”
If the Wilkenses’ history with CCCC is any indication, they were less interested in helping grow the college’s endowment than in providing support for capital improvement initiatives -- such as the renovations of a nursing program lab and a dental clinic and other construction projects on campus -- that serve the academic needs of students and prepare them for jobs in the local labor market.
“The college is a hidden gem and offers local students an excellent and affordable education. Faculty will be able to provide the best possible science education, supported by a modern, state-of-the-art facility,” Maureen Wilkens said in the written statement about her gift. “The faculty and students deserve this, and our local economy will benefit from it with a well-educated workforce.”
One might expect the 1,132 community colleges in the U.S. to be more regular recipients of such largess given that they educate 49.2 percent of the nation’s college students. Instead, these institutions are routinely overlooked by philanthropists interested in higher education.
Just last December, philanthropist Ron Perlman, a billionaire banker and businessman, announced that he was giving Princeton University $65 million. He and his family members have also given millions of dollars to the University of Pennsylvania.
Colleges and universities have raised unprecedented amounts of money in recent years -- $43.6 billion in 2017 alone -- but just 1.5 percent of the dollars raised go to two-year institutions, according to the Council for Aid to Education.
To date, there has not been a single nine-figure donation to a community college. Green said this is partly due to how community colleges are viewed by image-conscious donors looking to put their personal stamp on an institution.
“There’s a sexiness factor to a high-profile research institution, whereas a local or regional college doesn’t offer that high-profile recognition for the donor,” he said.
He said community colleges are routinely disadvantaged by this lack of prestige, even though “A $100,000 gift is enough to get your name on a building at a community college.”
The Wilkens name is ubiquitous at CCCC. There’s the Wilkens Library and the Wilkens Family Dental Hygiene Clinic, which is located in Maureen M. Wilkens Hall. A nursing clinic that was renovated and expanded in 2017 will soon be renamed in honor of Frank Wilkens. And Cox is seeking approval from the state Board of Higher Education to name the new science and technology building for both Frank and Maureen Wilkens.
Community college fund-raisers are optimistic that more philanthropists will follow the Wilkenses’ lead as the colleges get more conspicuous gifts. They say as mega-gifts by mega-millionaires and billionaires have become the norm, some donors are worried about their money being squandered by big, bureaucratic university foundations. Fund-raisers at two-year colleges insist community colleges offer donors the best value for their money and are more prudent and practical about spending -- and more apt to use the funds for tangible and direct expenses that donors can easily see.
“There’s very little administrative overhead, and this has a real effect,” Green said. “The dollars go into the direct educational mission.”
That mission includes providing students with housing assistance, food aid and other special programs for first-generation college students, single parents and students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds or who were previously incarcerated.
“Our student support programs are 100 percent funded by the private support that we get,” Green said. “Whether it’s extra tutoring, or emergency rent funds, or to help students enroll and to stay enrolled and to succeed, it’s very often funded through philanthropy.”
While the absence of the various assistant deans and vice chancellors found at universities can make for less bureaucracy, it can also make it harder for community colleges to build up their fund-raising infrastructure.
“You can call that efficiency or a shortcoming,” Green said. “It’s less bureaucracy, but it also means less capacity.”
Still, he points to high overhead costs at institutions that raise large sums as reason for donors to consider whether it makes more sense to give to already wealthy institutions such as Hopkins, or to institutions of more modest means like CCCC or SBCC.
“It depends on how many students you want to reach, how life-changing you want to be,” he said.
In the meantime, CCCC’s administrators are hoping the $5 million gift to the college spurs other potential donors to set aside negative notions they may have about giving to community colleges.
“We’re trying to change this,” Cox said of donor bias against community colleges. “It’s been slow going, but this is certainly one of those moments when we are enjoying our success.”Editorial Tags: Fund-RaisingImage Caption: Maureen Wilkens, a local philanthropist, recently donated $5 million to Cape Cod Community College.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Cape Cod Community College
UNC Chapel Hill interim chancellor appointment dredges up questions about academic freedom and sports ties
Some faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are raising concerns because the flagship’s newly named interim chancellor was previously involved in what they see as a case of academic censorship sparked by outside considerations.
Such worries resonate strongly at Chapel Hill in light of bruising battles between the systemwide UNC Board of Governors and campus executives over a range of issues -- such as whether the Silent Sam Confederate monument should be removed from the flagship’s campus and whether a center for civil rights should be prevented from engaging in litigation. Both the system president and Chapel Hill's chancellor have departed amid these struggles, opening a leadership vacuum that faculty advocates say must be filled by interim leaders who can be trusted to defend the traditions of academic freedom and shared governance.
On Wednesday, the University of North Carolina System named Kevin M. Guskiewicz interim president at Chapel Hill. The appointment was being closely watched after the system Board of Governors ushered former chancellor Carol Folt out the door soon after she decided last month to remove from campus the remaining pieces of the felled Silent Sam Confederate monument.
Guskiewicz, an expert on sports-related concussions, has been dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Chapel Hill since January 2016. In announcing his appointment, the system noted that he had been in charge of Chapel Hill’s largest academic enterprise and that his research work has been credited with influencing concussion practices in the National Collegiate Athletic Association and National Football League.
“As I’ve said, UNC-Chapel Hill needs its interim chancellor to be a leader of stature -- someone who knows the institution, knows the state, and is ready to drive the university forward,” said the system’s interim president, Bill Roper, in a statement. “Kevin is that leader.”
But Jay Smith, a professor in the history department at Chapel Hill, soon called Guskiewicz’s record into question. The interim chancellor was involved in a disagreement over whether Smith could teach a course in the fall of 2017 titled Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, 1956 to the Present.
Smith had taught the course over the previous fall and summer after co-writing a 2015 book, Cheated, documenting an extensive scandal at UNC over “paper” classes that never met and benefited many athletes. Students gave Smith's class mostly positive reviews, The News & Observer reported.
Although Smith taught the course last spring and is teaching it now -- it has more than 160 students, he says -- he was not permitted to teach it in the fall of 2017. That prompted him to file a grievance alleging that the decision not to offer the course violated his academic freedom and didn’t follow history department procedures. Guskiewicz was one of four leaders he alleged improperly interfered with the decision.
A Faculty Grievance Committee report from October 2017 found that the course in question had received “an extraordinary amount of attention” from Guskiewicz and a senior associate dean, that a department chair interpreted that attention as pressure to keep the course off of the regular academic schedule and that the pressure was “inconsistent with the university’s commitment to academic freedom” and a department tradition of deferring to faculty for course selection choices.
The university’s provost declined to accept those conclusions due to what the university called “multiple factual and procedural errors.” The grievance was deemed unnecessary because Smith ultimately received permission to teach the course in question in the spring 2018 semester.
In the university’s telling, no pressure was placed on anyone over the class’s scheduling. It maintains the issue at hand was Guskiewicz’s responsibility as dean to review course offerings and meet curricular needs in light of budget constraints. The history department needed Smith to teach an honors course students had signed up for, it said.
Smith retorted that the conflict played out in an “atmosphere of veiled threats” and that he had offered to meet the requirements for an honors course by teaching the class on college sports as an honors program.
“All who care about UNC-Chapel Hill, and who worry about the state of public higher education in North Carolina, need to ask some questions: Why would the leaders of UNC engage in such naked duplicity, and display such shoddy reasoning, simply to avoid accepting the common-sense recommendations of a faculty grievance committee?” he wrote in an op-ed published by The News & Observer in May. “Why does academic freedom scare them so?”
The case raises questions about how Guskiewicz will act as interim president when outside pressures bear down, Smith said in a telephone interview Thursday.
“My course, in the grand scheme of things, should not have been very controversial,” he said. “It should not have drawn that much attention. We’re a big-time college sports institution. Of course such a course should be taught here. If he could not stand up to boosters and sports fans, what is he going to do when legislators are breathing down his neck, or when the Board of Governors gets really testy?”
Smith and some other faculty critics also worry Guskiewicz is too closely associated with athletics at a time when Chapel Hill is coming off of an embarrassing scandal over no-show classes. The NCAA decided not to punish UNC for the classes in 2017, reasoning that it couldn’t conclude the courses in question were designed solely to benefit athletes.
That spared the university and its cash-cow athletic programs from sanctions, but it didn’t restore the faith of faculty members. Now, they are uneasy that the university has an interim president whose concussion research is linked so closely to the revenue-generating sport of football.
“It does bother me our interim chancellor is yet another person who has shown in the past a willingness to work with athletics,” Smith said. “Many of us were ashamed by the university’s refusal to acknowledge fault and fraud in its dealings with the NCAA in 2017, and Guskiewicz was part of the leadership team then. So at the very least, he shares some guilt by association with the rest of the team who decided to take that approach.”
The reasoning might strike some as unfair or counterintuitive -- guilt by association can be shaky ground, and research into concussions has arguably helped to imperil the future of football as a sport. But faculty skeptics wonder why the university didn’t avoid the association altogether.
Chapel Hill released a statement from Guskiewicz on academic freedom mirroring the arguments it made last year.
“As a member of the Carolina faculty for 23 years, I take our commitment to upholding academic freedom very seriously, and I value our system of shared governance between faculty and administrators,” his statement said. “Under that shared governance structure, course offerings are a shared decision between the faculty and the leadership, based on the University’s strategic priorities.”
Nonetheless, critics remained worried. Sherryl Kleinman, professor emerita of sociology, wrote in an email that she is disappointed in the choice of Guskiewicz as interim chancellor after the case.
“Anyone in that position should have an impeccable record in standing for academic freedom,” she wrote. “Yet the Faculty Grievance Committee concluded in its report in 2017 that Dean Guskiewicz acted in a manner 'inconsistent with academic freedom' in his attempts to keep the course Big-Time College Sports and the Rights of Athletes, created by history professor Jay Smith, from being taught. As the FGC put it, 'University officials should not interfere in individual course selection decisions made by department officials nor should they pressure department officials [in this case, the chair of the department of history] in favor of or against particular courses. University officials should not state or imply that a department will lose financial resources or otherwise suffer negative consequences if it were to approve a particular course so long as in the aggregate the department is consistently supporting the University's strategic plans.'"
Not all faculty members are opposed to the appointment. Chapel Hill released a quote from Leslie Parise, a professor and chair of its department of biochemistry and biophysics who is UNC-Chapel Hill faculty chair, supporting Guskiewicz.
“I have known Kevin well for many years and I know he will make an excellent leader for the University,” it said. “As a faculty member, Dean of the College, and accomplished researcher, Kevin has shown his ability to work across schools and departments and lead with both compassion and critical thought. I know he has the very best interests of our students, faculty and staff in mind and his energy and focus will serve us well.”
The system president, Roper, consulted with many stakeholders -- alumni, students, faculty and staff -- before appointing Guskiewicz, said a spokesman, who termed reaction since the appointment “overwhelmingly positive.”
It should be noted that Guskiewicz is stepping into a difficult position. Folt’s departure was highly controversial. Margaret Spellings left the system presidency in January after less than three years amid long-simmering governance tensions. Some see a power vacuum at the top and are suspicious of it being filled by outspoken conservatives on the Board of Governors and an athletic department that still needs to win back trust after two decades of no-show classes that benefited many athletes.
It’s unlikely candidates were clamoring for the job in such circumstances.
Guskiewicz, though, has expressed interest in being a candidate to hold the chancellor job permanently. Both the chancellor and system president are “on record” saying the Silent Sam monument should not be on campus, Roper said, addressing at least one major issue.
Smith acknowledges that in many ways Guskiewicz would have looked like an obvious choice under the circumstances. He’s a longtime faculty member who knows the institution and has been a dean at a time when the pool of candidates likely wasn’t deep.
“But those sensible reasons don’t trump the very deep concerns that I have,” Smith said.Editorial Tags: GovernanceNew presidentsImage Caption: Kevin M. GuskiewiczIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The growing amount of student loan debt has been labeled a national crisis as more low-income students seek to attend colleges and universities where the cost of attendance continues to rise. But some researchers are questioning whether the ballooning amount of student debt is truly a crisis if it helps students reach their academic goals and leads to well-paying jobs.
A new study published in Education Next by Benjamin Marx, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Lesley Turner, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Maryland, College Park, found academic benefits for community college students who got loans after their institutions informed them of the amount of money they could borrow.
“The loans helped students take more classes, but that doesn’t seem to be the only or main effect,” Marx said. “Students actually did better in their classes when they had a student loan.”
The researchers learned that students who were given a loan offer with a dollar amount in their financial aid letters were more likely to borrow. And they academically outperformed their peers who did not borrow. These students earned 3.7 additional credits and raised their grade point averages by more than half a grade on a four-point scale by the end of the 2015-16 academic year.
Students at the unnamed community college where the researchers conducted the study were also 11 percentage points more likely to transfer to a four-year institution one year after receiving the loan offer compared to those students who did not receive an offer. The researchers said it was unclear if students who re-enrolled one year after not receiving a loan offer either transferred after their second year or graduated. Marx said they are following up with the college for more results.
The study challenges the conventional wisdom that student debt is a problem. U.S. secretary of education Betsy DeVos warned last year that the growing $1.5 trillion federal student loan balance demanded the attention of Congress. Only 24 percent of borrowers are paying down both principal and interest on their federal loans, she said.
Marx said there may be two explanations for why student borrowers outperform their peers.
“Now a student knows they have to repay a loan in the future, and they take their studies seriously,” he said. Loans also provide students with additional financial resources, which means they don't have to spend as many hours working to earn money and can take more classes instead.
“We know a lot of these students are working part-time while taking classes, so having some money available allows them to deal with negative situations that may arise, like if someone in their family is sick,” Marx said.
Marx and Turner examined thousands of community colleges and learned that about five million students attend institutions that do not offer or package loans in financial aid award letters, nearly another five million attend institutions that do notify students of available loans, and about one million attend colleges that don’t participate in the federal loan program.
As part of their study, the researchers in 2015 examined a large community college that chose to remain anonymous. The college charged about $3,100 a year in tuition and fees, and about 45 percent of students at the institution received federal financial aid. Twenty-five percent of students at the college received federal loans. Nationally about 19 percent of community college students get federal loans.
The college divided financial aid-eligible students into two groups of about 10,000 students each. One group received award letters that detailed up to $4,500 in loans they could receive. The other group received letters that didn’t list a specific loan offer.
The results resembled those of the renowned City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs, or ASAP, Marx said. The CUNY program provides free tuition, textbooks, public transportation and regular contact with an adviser for students. After three years, 40 percent of ASAP students graduated from CUNY colleges, compared to 22 percent of students who didn't participate in the program. Three Ohio community colleges that have adopted the ASAP initiative also have seen graduation rates increase, from 7.9 percent to 19.1 percent. But many colleges don’t have the money and resources to replicate ASAP on their campuses, Marx said.
Although they don't have graduation data, the researchers expect the loan effect to also increase graduation rates. They noted that students who get degrees increase their earning power and are better able to repay loans. The study estimates graduates will earn, on average, $370 more per year if they took out a $4,000 student loan.
Marx said informing students about how much they can borrow and how the money must be repaid to the federal government may be a cost-effective strategy for colleges that want to see students taking more classes, earning more credits, transferring to four-year institutions and graduating.
“From a college's perspective, it is essentially free,” he said. “Students are borrowing from the government. They’re not borrowing from the colleges.”
Some colleges, however, have chosen to stop participating in the federal loan program because of the risk that their graduates won't repay the loans. A few California community colleges have even turned down state money for free tuition because of a requirement that they participate in the federal loan program. The colleges don’t want to risk increasing their institutional default rate because they can lose access to federal funds when their default rate exceeds 30 percent. The national default rate for public community colleges is 16.7 percent.
“It’s understandable some colleges have chosen to opt out of the loan program, but that is not good for students,” Marx said.
Colleges that don’t package loans in an award letter don’t necessarily prevent the neediest students from borrowing. Those students will take out loans but are also less likely to repay in the future, Marx said. The college would be in a better position by packaging loans so they could get more borrowers, who in some cases may be less needy and thus lower their default rates, he said.
The ideal situation would be ensuring students don't need loans in the first place, said Debbie Cochrane, executive vice president at the Institute for College Access and Success.
“The findings of the study are very important and need to be considered carefully by colleges when deciding whether to offer loans and how to talk to students about loans,” she said. “But the best-case scenario for students is to afford college costs without needing to borrow. Borrowing is not the ideal outcome for any student at any type of college.”
Cochrane said colleges should tell students about how much in student loans they can borrow if they don't have any other financial options. But default rates indicate there may be more problems at colleges than whether graduates can repay or not.
“Student default rates at community colleges reflect a couple of things,” she said. “One is that too few students are graduating, and certainly more colleges could be doing more to focus on student success. It’s also true community colleges often invest less in financial aid administration, including default prevention, than other types of colleges.”
Loans may be one solution for helping students afford college and increase achievement, but grants that don't have to be repaid is another. The researchers are working on a new study that examines the academic effects of federal loans versus grant aid and agree that the effects of the federal Pell Grant may be stronger on academic performance, Marx said.
“There is a mountain of research showing grant aid or need-based aid certainly increases the chances of low-income students graduating from college,” said Mark Huelsman, associate director of policy and research at the think tank Demos. “If our goal is to maximize the amount of credits students are taking or maximize their attention to academics, then it’s still pretty clear that grants are better than loans, but student loans, if they are the only or last resort for students, can be beneficial.”Community CollegesEditorial Tags: Financial aidLoan programsPell GrantsFinancial aidIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
The Oregon College of Art and Craft announced late Thursday that it will cease all degree programs at the end of this academic term.
"While this was a difficult and painful decision, the board explored numerous options in hopes of continuing OCAC’s 112-year legacy, ultimately determining that closure is the only responsible option," said a statement from the board. "The board made this decision now to prioritize the well-being of students, faculty and staff, and fulfill its fiduciary obligations to the institution. In the board's best business judgment, a thoughtful and orderly closure process offers the best possible outcomes for all affected, and is therefore the right and only responsible thing to do."
The statement added, "The path to closure was paved with years of restructuring, none of which could sufficiently eradicate the rising costs of running a private arts college in the 21st century. Since the most recent financial recession, it has been difficult to sustain our high level of academic programming in the arts and, unfortunately, we are not alone in this struggle."
According to federal data, the college has 112 undergraduates.
Many free-standing art colleges, especially those with enrollments under 500, have struggled in recent years.
The college has been exploring merger options, but they fell through twice -- Portland State University in January announced that it would not continue discussions on a possible merger of the Oregon College of Art and Craft into the university. Portland State officials said a merger was "not financially feasible." The art college earlier tried to arrange a merger with the Pacific Northwest College of Art.
Oregon College of Art and Craft is not unique in seeking merger or facing closure. The New Hampshire Institute of Art is in the midst of merging into New England College.
The Memphis College of Art announced in October 2017 that it would be closing and has laid out plans to shut down after graduating the last of its students in May 2020. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reached an agreement to have its educational operations acquired by Tufts University in 2016. The Art Institute of Boston, which merged with Lesley University in 1998, moved from Boston to Cambridge to join its sister colleges in 2015, taking on the new name of the Lesley University College of Art + Design along the way.Editorial Tags: ArtsIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
A Christian student group at the University of Iowa can’t be stripped of its affiliation with the institution, even if its members follow a “statement of faith” that bans those in LGBTQ relationships from leadership roles, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
The decision by Judge Stephanie M. Rose has alarmed advocates for queer men and women. They are worried it would open the door for a challenge of a U.S. Supreme Court case from 2010 that allows colleges and universities to enforce antidiscrimination policies, even when student religious organizations claim those policies infringe on their beliefs. That ruling requires colleges that want to enforce such antibias rules to apply them to all groups equally. Judge Rose's decision, however, suggests that her ruling may be relevant only to circumstances at Iowa.
The clash between Iowa officials and Business Leaders in Christ began in 2016.
A gay student had approached the then president, Hannah Thompson, about becoming vice president and, during a discussion, disclosed to her his sexuality.
The student, whose name has never been publicly released, was denied the leadership post. Thompson said this was because of his “desire to pursue a homosexual lifestyle/relationship,” according to court documents.
In 2017, the gay student filed a complaint with the university, asking administrators to take away Business Leaders in Christ's status as a recognized student group unless it followed the university’s antidiscrimination rules (which include allowing LGBTQ students to be club leaders).
Officials investigated and deemed the organization out of line with the university’s human rights policy, which bars discrimination based on “race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, pregnancy, disability, genetic information, status as a U.S. veteran, service in the U.S. military, sexual orientation, gender identity, associational preferences, or any other classification that deprives the person of consideration as an individual.”
Group members in response created a “statement of faith” that all club leaders would need to sign -- in part, it noted the members’ belief that any sexual relationship other than a man and a woman is “not in keeping with God’s original plan for humanity.”
Administrators urged group members to strike the piece of the faith statement that prohibited same-sex relationships, but they refused, and their university recognition was revoked. This meant they could no longer reserve spaces on campus to meet or use student activities funds or universitywide communications services.
Business Leaders in Christ sued the institution and three administrators in December 2017, alleging their constitutional rights of free speech and religious freedom had been infringed.
Rose wrote that while there was nothing illegal about the university’s human rights policy, it had been inconsistently applied.
Rose, an appointee of President Obama, wrote that other student groups seem to have rules that violate the policy. The Chinese Students and Scholars Association limits membership to Chinese students. The Iowa Hawkapellas, an a capella group, only accepts women. And Iowa’s chapter of the National Lawyers Guild excludes students with certain political viewpoints, an administrator testified.
“The court suspects that some observers will portray this case as a fundamental conflict between nondiscrimination laws and religious liberty,” Rose wrote. “Appealing as that may be, it overinflates the issues before the court. The human rights policy promotes valuable goals for both the university and society at large. There is no fault to be found with the policy itself. But the Constitution does not tolerate the way defendants chose to enforce the human rights policy. Particularly when free speech is involved, the uneven application of any policy risks the most exacting standard of judicial scrutiny, which Defendants have failed to withstand.”
Rose granted Business Leaders in Christ a permanent injunction that forbids the university from rejecting the group based on the human rights policy.
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which represented the student group in the case, called Rose’s decision “a win for basic fairness.”
“It is also an eloquent plea for civility in how governments treat Americans in all their diversity,” Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement. “As a governmental body bound by the First Amendment, the university should have never tried to get into the game of playing favorites in the first place, and it is high time for it to stop now.”
Iowa did not respond to request for comment but told The Des Moines Register it was reviewing Wednesday’s decision.
Despite Rose’s warning that the case was more free speech oriented, some LGBTQ activists view the ruling as an attack on protections for queer students.
SoulForce, a nonprofit dedicated to ending LGBTQ discrimination in the Christian faith, has found that these “statements of faith” often tend to target specific people or issues, said Yaz Mendez Nuñez, its director of programs and communications.
While on their face they may seem innocuous, often the statements contain dangerous language against LGBTQ people or reproductive rights, without much other substance, Nuñez said. “We know there are so many ways to read the Christian Bible that do not promote spiritual violence and do not back up that particular belief between one man and one woman,” Nuñez said.
Nuñez said the group was concerned that the decision would create more legal opportunities for discrimination.
The issues at hand in the Iowa case tend to mirror those decided in the Supreme Court ruling in 2010, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.
Christian Legal Society, which rejects gay members and others who do not fall in line with its beliefs, had filed a lawsuit against the Hastings College of Law of the University of California, testing its antibias rules. In a 5-to-4 ruling, the court backed the institution. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority that public institutions can impose antidiscrimination policies that are consistent for all student groups.
Because the Martinez case was decided on such a tight margin, some legal experts have questioned whether these issues will be tried again, said Peter F. Lake, professor of law and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University.
If the Iowa ruling isn’t elevated to the Supreme Court, then it is a harbinger of a case that will, Lake said.
“I don’t think this is the last of these cases; unless this is the one that goes up, other people will test these issues,” Lake said.
Kevin Kruger, president of NASPA: Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education, wrote in an email that this case represents a stark contrast between legitimate First Amendment principles and a desire by colleges and universities to prevent discrimination.
“Restricting membership or leadership on the basis of a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation feels antithetical to the core values of most colleges and universities,” Kruger wrote. “So Iowa’s fight against discriminating against the LGBTQ community is laudable. However, just as in cases where speakers whose viewpoints may be inconsistent with a college’s core values must have a forum for their voice to be heard, this case reminds us that the same protections need to be provided for student organizations as well.”DiversityEditorial Tags: Gay rights/issuesReligionIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of Iowa
Virginia is facing a political crisis over several of its political leaders having worn blackface while attending various colleges and universities.
As more yearbooks are scrutinized and more images are becoming public, questions are also being raised for the colleges involved. None of the images are recent, although many colleges nationally continue to see blackface incidents.
But the images -- the latest are from 1968 (at Virginia Military Institute) and 1980 (at the University of Richmond) -- show that colleges that in theory desegregated were for years after hostile to African Americans and others -- at least to the extent that yearbooks with racist images were not seen as cause for concern at the time.
Colleges and universities in Virginia and elsewhere have for years debated how to talk about their ties to slavery and Jim Crow. These images, coming in theory after the fall of Jim Crow and slavery, are setting off new discussions.
The VMI images come from the yearbook, Bomb. As detailed in The Virginian-Pilot, images in the 1968 yearbook featured blackface, Confederate imagery, the N-word, anti-Asian slurs and lines such as this with regard to one student: “He was known as the ‘Barracks Jew’ having his fingers in the finances of the entire Corps.”
A spokesman for VMI, in an email to Inside Higher Ed, said, "We can’t go back and change what has appeared in past issues; rather, we want to learn from past mistakes so we can avoid mistakes in the future. With recent events, I met with the yearbook advisers yesterday to review procedures, especially those related to training the yearbook staff and the review process. I am confident the procedures developed over the last few years are solid."
The Richmond image, featuring people dressed as Ku Klux Klan members, appeared in the 1980 yearbook.
Ronald Crutcher, president at Richmond, issued a statement condemning the images and saying that they pointed to the need for Richmond to continue to consider its history.
"Last night we became aware that a racist yearbook image had been shared on social media. The image that was shared from the yearbook is repulsive to use. Images of this sort, and the behavior and attitudes they represent, are appalling and antithetical to the values of the university today. No one should have to experience the pain caused by such vile images or evidence of such behavior, either at the time the incident occurs or thereafter."
Crutcher, the first African American president at Richmond, added, "Such images reflect a past that must be reconciled and understood. We do not intend to forget or erase those moments. Rather, we must examine and understand our history so that we may become the more inclusive community we aspire to be."DiversityEditorial Tags: Racial groupsImage Caption: Photos from VMI yearbook (right) and University of Richmond yearbookIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: University of RichmondVirginia Military Institute
Condenan a un colegio con 4.000 euros por no controlar la asistencia al comedor de una alumna que sufrió anorexia
It’s no secret that private, nonprofit art colleges have been showing cracks in recent years.
In just the last several months, the Oregon College of Art and Craft explored mergers with two different institutions, only to have talks fall apart. The University of New Haven decided in August to end degree-granting programs at Lyme Academy, whose academic programs it took over under an agreement five years ago. Last week the Cornish College of the Arts announced it is cutting tuition by 20 percent in the 2019-20 academic year, adopting a tuition-reset strategy that’s frequently been deployed by institutions seeking a shot of attention to help boost enrollment. And the New Hampshire Institute of Art is in the midst of merging into New England College.
A bit further in the past, the Memphis College of Art announced in October 2017 that it would be closing and has laid out plans to shut down after graduating the last of its students in May 2020. The School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reached an agreement to have its educational operations acquired by Tufts University in 2016. The Art Institute of Boston, which merged with Lesley University in 1998, moved from Boston to Cambridge to join its sister colleges in 2015, taking on the new name of the Lesley University College of Art + Design along the way.
Also in 2015, the Montserrat College of Art explored merging into Salem State University, but the two sides ultimately ruled out the move. That decision came the year after George Washington University decided to acquire the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington.
Those cases alone mean that about a fifth of the 43 institutions that were members of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design as of the start of 2014 have attempted to merge, closed, relocated or drastically changed their tuition structure in the last five years.
They’ve done so while facing some pressures unique to art schools, according to leaders in the sector. Curricular changes make it more difficult for some students to take classes before they graduate from high school, meaning art schools must work harder to reach prospective students at an early age. Meanwhile, art schools remain capital-intensive operations to run, as supplies, equipment, small class sizes and generous faculty-to-student ratios keep expenses high.
But art schools have also been under pressures that cut across the higher education landscape and are bearing down on many liberal arts colleges. Population and demographic shifts are changing where high schoolers are graduating in the greatest numbers, who those students are, what they can pay and what they value in a college education. And as the cost of providing students with a good education rises annually, many small institutions struggle to keep costs in line without the benefits of efficiencies of scale.
“I often say we are a microcosm of the higher ed environment,” said Deborah Obalil, president and executive director of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design. “There are challenges in particular to the very small, under-500-student institutions. I think that is applicable across all of higher ed, because the challenges they face are not special to them because they are art and design institutions. It is really about their scale.”
The art school market is bifurcating based on institution size. Although enrollment remains strong across a core group of institutions, those with more than 500 students are much more likely to see their fortunes rise than are those with smaller enrollments, observers say. Some of the best known larger institutions, like the Rhode Island School of Design and California Institute of the Arts, are considered to be doing quite well, even though they are not huge, with reported enrollments of about 2,500 and 1,500, respectively.
The pressures playing out at colleges of art may resonate particularly strongly at this moment in time because some struggling private liberal arts colleges have been taking steps that could make them resemble art schools. Strategists sometimes counsel endangered liberal arts colleges to find an area of focus or a special niche to fill -- paralleling art schools, which arguably embody the ideal of specialization.
Now, that ideal has been called into question after Green Mountain College, which had carved out a niche in environmental liberal arts, decided last month to close in the face of financial challenges.
Backers of art schools say the personalized education they provide and creative thinking they inspire are more important than ever in a world where students from all disciplines will need to be able to adapt their skills to a fast-changing workplace. But as pressures play out in the market, it’s become increasingly clear that some institutions have been able to continue to attract students and pay their bills, while others have fallen behind.
It’s also growing more and more clear that small institutions with negligible endowments and other disadvantages can’t always count on clever strategy alone to save them -- whether that strategy is merger, debt reorganization or specialization. Art school presidents think sound decisions can still strengthen most institutions, but they need to be deployed with increasing levels of sophistication.
Specialty institutions can remain viable if they examine their business models and revenue streams, said Kurt T. Steinberg, president of the Montserrat College of Art and a former executive vice president at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design who spent a year as acting president there. Only they must be making the right choices quickly “and defining who they are and why they have a competitive advantage.”
How Strong Is Enrollment?
By some measures, art schools are enrolling more students than they did a decade ago.
As a group, the institutions in the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design enrolled 34,466 undergraduates in 2018. That’s an increase of 2.4 percent from 2008, which would be roughly in line with projections showing very little growth in the number of high school graduates over the same period.
But the data only include 32 institutions that are based in the United States, fully independent and still enrolling new students. They don’t include small institutions that merged with larger institutions in recent years, nor do they include closing institutions, like the Memphis College of Art.
Enrollment data measured at the institution level can’t include closures and mergers, according to the association’s assistant director in charge of research services, Joanne Kersh. Students in a merging or closing institution don’t disappear, but the association can’t account for them, so it provided data only on those institutions that remain open and independent.
“Our institutions that have closed were very small, and had seen declining enrollments for years, and generally they do teach-outs as they prepare to close their doors,” Kersh wrote in an email. “Students enrolled at the merger schools, well, I think they mostly stay where they are, or the enrollment change is gradual. I've even seen enrollments rise after a merger, as the previously small independent school now has more resources available. But, as we can't account for the movement of students between schools, I think a cleaner look at stable institutions over time offers the most accurate perspective.”
While that may be the case, it also arguably means the statistics screen out institutions that have been forced to go through major changes -- and they are likely to be the weakest, experiencing the greatest enrollment declines.
With a few exceptions, most of the association’s member institutions that enroll more than 500 students have seen enrollment rebound in the last few years, while those with fewer than 500 have seen it fall, Obalil said. It’s not clear whether 500 is a firm dividing line or just happens to be the current level at which institutional fortunes are diverging.
“In terms of the schools that have actually closed or merged, each picture is unique, to some degree,” Obalil said. “What commonalities I’ve seen often line up, again, with size and the inability to scale.”
Such institutions have failed to differentiate themselves from the rest of the marketplace, or they have not reconsidered their curricula in five, 10 or even 20 years, she added. Some can’t add another program because they are too small to afford it, and others are faced with a high level of debt.
Art schools don’t tend to have large endowments, so a combination of high debt and a failure to attract enough students can be a fatal combination.
Closing or Clawing Back
Such a combination helped to bring down the Memphis College of Art. The college saw its undergraduate enrollment fall from 362 in 2009 to 338 in 2016, according to statistics in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. By 2017, enrollment had fallen to 278.
The college struggled to attract students in the postrecession era, said its president, Laura Hine. Students and families were questioning the value of a four-year art degree and emphasizing job skills even as the college grappled with its identity.
“There was a sense that we’re a fine arts school, and we can’t abandon our history and our roots,” Hine said.
Looking back, Hine thinks the college could have built sustainable programs while balancing the need to stay true to the fine arts with new investments. It could have used its animation program, which is the only one of its kind in the region and was in demand, as a foundation.
As it faced new challenges related to enrollment and programming, the college’s past decisions caught up to it. The college was struggling with debt from real estate purchases made in the past, Hine said. Although leaders attempted to reduce debt levels and secure lower interest rates, they couldn’t do enough.
In October 2017, the college announced that its board decided to stop recruiting new students, dissolve the institution’s assets and teach-out existing students. At the time, it cited “declining enrollment, overwhelming real estate debt, and no viable long-term plan for financial sustainability.”
Without a large endowment to draw upon, the college had been relying on revenue from enrollment and the philanthropic community, which had been exceptionally generous, Hine said. Major donors were tapping out, though.
Soon after announcing its plans to close, the college staged a transfer fair, encouraging new freshmen to enroll in another institution, Hine said. It moved to teach-out remaining students, which has been a challenge because tuition revenue shrinks as students leave and new classes aren’t recruited. The college expects to graduate its last students in May 2020.
Larger colleges with more diversified funding from states or other sources might be better positioned to survive or thrive in the face of pressures, Hine said. Some college presidents worry that too many art schools being affiliated with states could diminish students’ freedoms, however. State funding brings in political considerations that budding artists don’t always appreciate.
Hine also worries about the students who are “born artists” and would have enrolled at the Memphis College of Art, were it not closing.
“We were attracting and have attracted kids -- a lot of kids -- that were coming out of poverty,” Hine said. “Some of our kids live with their family members. They can’t up and move to Sarasota, Fla. They don’t have the capacity to do that and the support to do that.”
The experience leaves Hine, who has worked in work-force development, worried about the future of art schools and education more generally.
“The disparity between people’s ability to pay for college now and what it used to be, I think, is growing increasingly greater,” she said. “And in a situation where colleges and universities today have a lot of costs -- technology, security, Title IX compliance, accreditation burdens that have become more and more onerous on the cost side -- and you don’t have it being offset by this burgeoning middle class or upper middle class that can send their kids to school, I think it’s a crisis brewing.”
Other colleges are still fighting to grow and improve their fortunes. At the end of January, the Cornish College of the Arts announced that it will reset its tuition from $40,442 this year to $32,160 for all new and returning students in the 2019-20 academic year. In doing so, it believes it is the first fine arts school in the country to put a tuition reset in place.
The move comes after Cornish, a college located in Seattle that typically enrolls about 700 students and offers a bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of music and postbaccalaureate artist diploma in early music, compared itself to competitors. It found that it was attracting low-income students who receive Pell Grants or state grants, as well as students who could afford to pay $40,000 in annual tuition. But it was struggling to enroll those from middle-income families, according to Raymond Tymas-Jones, the college’s president.
Cornish does not have any graduate programs and enrolls few international students, Tymas-Jones said. About half of its students come from the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, a price point that middle-income families can afford is critical, and will hopefully improve the college’s enrollment prospects.
“We really believe that with the reset, we will be competitive,” Tymas-Jones said.
Cornish’s tuition discount rate was 39 percent, Tymas-Jones said. It’s expected to drop to 23 percent with the reset, a change that is in line with many other colleges making such moves, although both rates are relatively low by private college standards.
Recruiting more students in today’s market requires sophistication, presidents said. Students who might consider an art school go to their art teachers for advice first, not their guidance counselors, said Steinberg, president of the Montserrat College of Art.
Reaching students also means telling them as early as middle school that art school is a viable option, Steinberg said. With more and more being packed into high school curricula, many students are being forced to choose between taking classes in the visual arts and other subjects, like music, as freshmen.
Steinberg has seen remarkable changes in enrollment during his career as students’ interests evolve. When he left the Massachusetts College of Art and Design last year, 70 percent of students were enrolled in design programs and 30 percent were in fine arts, he said. A dozen years earlier, when he arrived at the institution, the split was 50-50.
“The fine arts-only institutions, those institutions that didn’t add design to their offerings, are the ones that are suffering early,” Steinberg said.
Unfortunately, more programs means spending more money, particularly in the world of art schools. Computers have to be replaced frequently, and software is constantly updated. Meanwhile, institutions must maintain what amounts to industrial facilities while keeping class sizes small.
“The amount of airflow that a print-making shop has to have is huge and is equivalent to exhaust systems that might be on large pieces of equipment in a factory,” Steinberg said. “In a hot shop for glass, you can only have that class be a certain size. Otherwise, someone is going to get hurt.”
Is massive growth or merger the only way a small struggling art college can stay on top of it all? Not if they’re making the right moves and the hard choices, presidents say. When Montserrat failed to merge with Salem State, it forced a period of soul-searching and decision making that has allowed the institution to strengthen itself after an initial hit, even as it enrolls only 370 or so students, said those who watched the situation.
Steinberg, who joined the college after the merger discussions were long since over, said he hopes to grow Montserrat to have 400 or 500 students. That will allow it to have enough scale to stay strong while also keeping its founding vision of being a small institution.
“I don’t want to lose the idea that the differentiation in the kind of education we have is important,” Steinberg said. “Only having 10,000-student institutions is not, necessarily, I think, a good idea.”
Back on the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest College of Art (at right), in Portland, Ore., wants to grow to 1,000 students over the next several years. It has about 600 today, said its president, Don Tuski.
Last fall, the college had been in merger talks with the 140-student Oregon College of Art and Craft, which is also in Portland. The two sides called off the deal, and Oregon College of Art and Craft went on to discuss merging into Portland State University. Those talks died at the end of the month, with The Oregonian reporting that the Oregon College of Art and Craft would continue examining opportunities for partnerships and revenue streams in the face of financial struggles.
Tuski didn’t go into detail on the merger discussions, other than to say that it didn’t make sense from a curricular standpoint. The Oregon College of Art and Craft did not return requests for interview by the deadline for this story.
The Pacific Northwest College of Art is trying to recruit students by articulating a strong value proposition, Tuski said. Going from studio to gallery is still a pathway, but it wants its students to be able to make a living in multiple ways, including through entrepreneurship.
Faculty members in client-based fields, like illustration and graphic design, already think that way, he said. Others have been receptive, especially when the discussion is raised in a broader conversation about student debt and the fact that not all students can go on to get M.F.A.s and become art professors.
“We still want students to do great, experimental, edgy artwork,” Tuski said. “But if they learn to apply that creativity in multiple ways, that’s what society wants and needs, and that’s why I think art schools, if they get their business models together, can be leaders in society.”
It’s a compelling pitch, although other art schools have made it. A generic liberal arts college has also likely made that argument to students.
Yet to be seen is whether it will work for the Pacific Northwest College of Art -- or any other art school seeking to hit enrollment targets in a competitive market.
If he is worried that other specialized institutions have tried similar strategies and failed, Tuski isn’t showing it.
“Part of being distinctive is also doing something better than other people -- doing something different but also doing something everybody else is doing, but doing it better,” he said.Editorial Tags: ArtsEnrollmentImage Source: Memphis College of ArtImage Caption: The Memphis College of Art is winding down operations and plans to close after May 2020.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
Tenure is again at risk in Iowa, which saw a major threat to academic freedom over margarine during World War II
It's winter, which means that tenure is under attack in Iowa, where academic freedom and tenure were once central to a fight over controversial research on margarine. (Yes, really. More on that later.)
The Republican state senator behind the consistent -- and thus far unsuccessful -- attempts to end tenure in Iowa is Brad Zaun.
Zaun didn’t respond to a request for comment about the new iteration of his proposal. But, similar to bills introduced in legislative sessions past, Zaun’s 2019 antitenure bill seeks to prohibit any tenure system for any public college or university employee. Acceptable grounds for termination would include, but not be limited to, just cause, program discontinuance and financial exigency. And each institution governed by the Board of Regents of the State of Iowa “shall adopt a written statement enumerating employment agreements, annual performance evaluations of all faculty members, minimum standards of good practice,” faculty discipline and more.
Unlike in past years, Zaun's proposal passed the State Senate's education committee in a 2-to-1 vote.
College deans, under the authority of the state board and their presidents, would “employ faculty as necessary to carry out the academic duties and responsibilities of the college,” the bill says.
Zaun has spoken previously about why he wants to end tenure, saying that he supports institutional flexibility, not a “guaranteed” job for life for professors. He’s also expressed concern about undergraduates being taught by teaching assistants.
Faculty advocates in Iowa are quick to point out that tenure doesn’t mean a job for life, and that having teaching assistants has little to nothing to do with tenure.
Katherine Tachau, professor of history at the University of Iowa and president of its campus advocacy chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said that Zaun “might find it reassuring” to hear that “tenure is not a gift, but a contractual relationship that requires many years -- usually six to 10 years -- for faculty to earn.” And those who are willing and able to run the tenure gauntlet “tend to be strongly motivated internally to continue doing the high-quality work through which they earned tenure,” she said.
Even so, tenured faculty members at each of the state’s three public institutions overseen by the board are reviewed annually already, and more extensively every five years, Tachau said. Faculty members can lose tenure or be fired for failing to do their jobs, with due notice and a fair process.
Most significant to the debate, though, is that the majority of Iowa’s faculty members have contingent positions and aren’t eligible for tenure anyway, she added.
As for teaching assistants, Tachau said that they have no relation to tenure, except that they represent -- necessarily -- the faculty of the future.
“We tenured faculty teach students at every level, freshmen through Ph.D. students, and do so willingly,” Tachau said. But in addition to their professors, undergraduates benefit from TAs who have relevant teaching or research experiences before enrolling in their graduate degree programs, she added in an email.
Tachau’s colleague at Iowa, Loren Glass, professor of English, said he thought the bill wouldn’t go anywhere. That’s probably likely, given that previous bills failed, even in a newly Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature last year. Still, Republicans maintained majorities in both chambers in 2018, and tenure is undoubtedly part of the resurgent culture wars.
Like Tachau, Glass said he thinks the antitenure bill based on a “misunderstanding of what tenure is and does.” He cited the AAUP’s official definition, which says, in part, that a tenured appointment “is an indefinite appointment that can be terminated only for cause or under extraordinary circumstances such as financial exigency and program discontinuation.” AAUP says that tenure exists primarily to “safeguard academic freedom, which is necessary for all who teach and conduct research in higher education.”
When professors can lose their positions “because of their speech or publications research findings, they cannot properly fulfill their core responsibilities to advance and transmit knowledge,” AAUP says.
Some tenure skeptics believe that academic freedom is more about protecting professors' political rants or underperformance than protecting research to advance the public good. But examples of how academic freedom has affected the latter abound -- including a slippery World War II-era case in … Iowa.
The Margarine-Butter Wars
By 1943, Iowa State College-- now Iowa State University -- had attracted a bevy of economists dedicated to researching hard subjects and then translating what they'd learned into policy suggestions. O. H. Brownlee, a graduate student at the college suggested in one of his pamphlets that Americans should eat more margarine as part of the war effort, in light of a dairy shortage among service personnel. In a pre-I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter moment, he also asserted that margarine was comparable to butter in taste and nutrition.
Iowa’s dairy industrial complex, which lobbied against margarine right down to its color, challenged the recommendation and urged Iowa State to get rid of the some the people involved. The butter lobby also waged its war against margarine, Iowa State, and Brownlee through the press, calling the graduate student “unstable” first for being an economist.
Iowa State’s president convened committees to review Brownlee’s work. Bowing to public pressure, the president eventually asked Brownlee to rewrite his report and even sought to reorganize . The department chair, Theodore Schultz, left Iowa for the University of Chicago in protest, but wrote a very public, very scathing resignation letter on his way out. Some 16 of 26 economists left Iowa by 1945. Schultz, along with another former Iowa economist, George Stigler, was later awarded a Nobel Prize (not for margarine).
David Seim, an associate professor of history at the University of Wisconsin at Stout, wrote about the margarine-butter wars for the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Annals of Iowa in 2008. He said this week that during the Great Depression, Iowa State invested in attracting agricultural economists who “were at the cusp of lifting Iowa State’s reputation to the very top.”
They “encouraged courageous objectivity, that they need not fear whatever research conclusions they might find,” Seim said, calling that kind of fearlessness “rare.” Moreover, he said, those economists saw tenure as an “efficiency mechanism” that would promote more ideas from which to choose -- not a reason to slack off.
Seim said that so many years later, “We ought to do better work reminding as many people as we can of some lessons from this episode.” Despite assertions otherwise, the institution of tenure “actually enables certain efficiencies that are less likely to happen without tenure,” he said -- namely “reasonable and wise risk-taking” and the “leadership and service that society needs.”
It seems Iowa’s board agrees. It opposed Zaun’s 2017 bill and opposes this one, too, said spokesperson Josh Lehman.
“Tenure allows our institutions to recruit and retain the best faculty to teach, do research and provide service to advance the institutional missions of our public universities,” he wrote in an email.
Barbara A. Cutter, associate professor of history at the University of Northern Iowa and the campus’s faculty chair, said she hoped Zaun’s bill would fail, but that threats to tenure should be taken “very seriously.”
Without the academic freedom that tenure ensures, “professors can’t do their jobs properly,” she said. “Professors have an obligation to teach and conduct research honestly, competently and ethically. They aren’t supposed to be swayed by public opinion -- just the evidence they study.”
But the topics they study, such as race relations and climate change, can be controversial, Cutter said. And as scholars talk and write about those things within the boundaries of their fields, “tenure protects them for being fired for saying or writing things others disagree with.”Academic FreedomFacultyEditorial Tags: Academic freedomIowaTenure listImage Caption: At left, Iowa's Capitol. At right, Theodore Schultz. In center, margarine.Is this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending:
While staying the course in Saudi Arabia, MIT says it will strengthen processes for reviewing projects in "problematic countries"
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will not terminate existing projects with Saudi Arabia, but its leaders say they will seek to strengthen their internal processes for approving or renewing projects with countries where governments are engaged in serious human rights violations.
MIT president L. Rafael Reif commissioned a report on the university’s Saudi connections last fall after the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and journalist, was killed in a Saudi consulate in Turkey in a crime that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded was ordered by the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The crown prince was received by Reif when he visited the MIT campus last March.
Reif addressed the decision to host the crown prince in a letter that accompanied the report, which was released Wednesday. In the letter, Reif wrote that he agreed with the report’s recommendations, including the recommendation that faculty should be free to continue existing engagements with Saudi Arabian entities. Reif also condemned the killing of Khashoggi.
“When I agreed to host the Saudi state delegation at MIT last spring, I shared the hope of many in the U.S. and around the world that the visit and official engagement were an important part of an ongoing process of reform and modernization. I know some of you were and remain disappointed with that decision, and I understand that disappointment,” Reif wrote.
“As many of you have made plain, in the present situation, if MIT simply continues to work with Saudi state entities without comment, we risk having our silence taken as an endorsement of the regime’s behavior -- an unacceptable result.
“For the record then, let me be clear: MIT utterly condemns such brutal human rights violations, discrimination and suppression of dissent, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.”
The report on MIT’s Saudi activities was written by Richard K. Lester, MIT’s associate provost for international activities. The final report issued Wednesday followed a preliminary report released for comment in December.
Lester wrote that he had received 111 separate comments since December from faculty, students, postdocs, administrative staff and alumni. Many of these commenters, Lester wrote, “are appalled by the conduct of the Saudi government and are deeply troubled that MIT’s relationships with this government might in any way be enabling such behavior. They find it very difficult to reconcile MIT’s mission to work effectively for the benefit of humankind with what is occurring on the ground in Saudi Arabia and in neighboring Yemen.
"The words some respondents used to describe their views -- ‘sickened’, ‘outraged’, ‘embarrassed’, ‘ashamed’ -- make clear the depth of feelings elicited by the situation," Lester wrote. "These reactions are linked partly to the Khashoggi assassination and attempted coverup but also to the atrocities perpetrated against civilians in Yemen, and the repression of human rights, the absence of basic rights of self-determination for women, the persecution of Saudi LGBTQ citizens, and the attacks on free speech in the Kingdom."
Beyond the comments, the student newspaper, The Tech, also published an editorial in response to the Lester report calling on the university to cut ties with the Saudi government and government-linked entities.
The Lester report does not concur with that recommendation, recommending instead that the decision to continue projects sponsored by Saudi state entities should be left to the individual faculty members who are leading such projects. According to the report, MIT received in the most recent fiscal year a total of about $7.2 million in sponsored research support from five Saudi sources, including two state-owned companies, the Saudi national science agency and laboratory, and two Saudi universities.
“The principle that our faculty should be permitted to pursue their intellectual interests and objectives without interference is among the most fundamental operating principles of our Institute,” Lester wrote. “Of course, this is not an unalloyed right. Sometimes the administration does say no to faculty research proposals. But for ongoing research projects that are initiated and led by faculty, as is the case here, I expect our faculty would broadly agree that the bar for administrative intervention to terminate such projects should be set very high.”
Going forward, Lester wrote that new relationships in Saudi Arabia, and renewals of existing relationships, will be considered by MIT's International Advisory Committee, which recently was reconstituted as a faculty-led standing committee, as well as by a group of senior administrators tasked with reviewing "all major international engagements that may pose significant institutional risks to MIT."
In his report, Lester suggested that future proposed Saudi collaborations may be subject to a higher bar than in the past. He reflected on the view of one commenter who recommended that "engagements that do not allow MIT community members to participate fully and equally in all activities and opportunities should receive the highest level of scrutiny."
"I agree with this recommendation," Lester wrote, "especially as it applies to projects that require travel to the kingdom by MIT investigators. In at least one previous case involving such travel, full participation in the project required some participants to hide certain aspects of their identity; opportunities to participate in social events linked to the project were restricted by gender; and in a variety of settings female MIT faculty researchers were not accorded the same civil rights as their male MIT faculty colleagues.
"When a proposed project only involves a single investigator, that individual can decide for him or herself whether such restrictions are acceptable. But if a project involves the expectation of travel by multiple MIT investigators, the principal investigator should be required to present for consideration by the reviewing committees a written explanation of why such restrictions should be tolerated, and a plan for managing them. In general, such cases will not pass muster."
Of course, Saudi Arabia isn’t the only place where MIT has collaborations where there are concerns about the actions of the government and potential reputational risk to the university.
Last month Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Liberty reported that MIT had to remove a Russian billionaire, Viktor Vekselberg, from its board after the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on him as part of a move to punish a group of Russian oligarchs who were deemed to have benefited from the government of President Vladimir Putin or to have played "a key role in advancing Russia's malign activities." Vekselberg is president of a foundation that contracted with MIT for a large-scale project to help develop a science and tech-focused university near Moscow, the Skolkovo Institute of Technology, known as Skoltech.
The second phase of MIT’s collaboration with Skoltech -- which Lester said is focused on faculty research collaboration -- is coming to an end soon. “If there is a proposal to renew that, [it] is a serious one and we’re not at that point yet -- we haven’t got to that point yet -- but if there is it will be subject to the same set of reviews that we would expect any renewal of the Saudi projects would also be exposed to,” Lester said in an interview.
Reif said in his letter that MIT is also constituting an ad hoc committee of faculty and staff members and students to further consider how the university might engage in "problematic countries," including questions about how to better tap in to faculty expertise and whether there is a general standard that can apply. The ad hoc committee will report to the MIT administration by September with proposed guidelines.
“This exercise, which was triggered by the situation in the Kingdom, is extremely helpful for us,” Reif said in an interview. “I anticipate we will be facing these kinds of issues over and over again, and we need to better anticipate when to engage, why to engage and where.
“It is really a painfully complex issue,” Reif said. “Universities want to have a global footprint because we have people from all over the world at MIT, and these people want to interact and find collaborators in different countries. Once you start doing that … these kinds of risks occur, and managing this or preventing this is a serious issue.
“There are many progressive people that we want to engage with because it’s helping the country, and how do we distinguish helping the people who want to help the country versus helping the regime? How do you sort all those things out? It’s not trivial. It’s complex. We are setting a path to figure it out for themselves, and maybe for others, too.”GlobalInternational Higher EducationEditorial Tags: Academic freedomInternational higher educationImage Source: Getty ImagesImage Caption: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud at MITIs this diversity newsletter?: Newsletter Order: 0Disable left side advertisement?: Is this Career Advice newsletter?: Magazine treatment: Trending: College: Massachusetts Institute of Technology