Thursday, June 30, 2016

Make Higher Education great again

Trump U. and the for-profit higher education industry. From The Nation.

Take, for instance, the 2010 Senate testimony of Joshua Pruyn, a former admissions representative for Westwood College, a for-profit chain of, at the time, 17 campuses. Pruyn was technically an admissions advisor, but in reality his position was that of a glorified sales rep. “During the interview, we were taught to portray ourselves as advisors looking out for the students’ best interests and ensuring they were a good fit for the school. This fake interview would allow the representative to ask students questions to uncover a student’s motivators and pain points—their hopes, fears, and insecurities—all of which would later be used to pressure a student to enroll,” Pruyn testified.
The for-profit schools industry targeted people of color, poor people, and veterans because they more likely to be eligible for public financial aid like Pell Grants. This much-parodied Everest College commercial should be very familiar with anyone who watches daytime television. 
Students of color ended up forming the backbone of the industry’s explosive growth in the early and mid-2000s. In the 2010–11 school year, just as the Obama administration’s regulatory hammer started to fall on the industry, the for-profit system University of Phoenix was the nation’s top producer of new black undergrad graduates. The nation’s second-highest producer of new black baccalaureates that year was Ashford University, also a for-profit college. 
When the industry’s comeuppance came, it was devastating. In lawsuit after lawsuit, universities were accused of fleecing students of their federal student-aid money and saddling them with debt they couldn’t repay, and leaving students with an education and credits that weren’t transferrable or recognized as valid by other educational institutions. In December 2015, after multiple settlements in various lawsuits, Westwood College—where former admissions recruiter Pruyn worked—agreed not to enroll any more students.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Tennessee at 33

Our economy is below average. But, again, thanks for Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas who make us look good. Utah has the best economy but then you have to live in . . . Utah. From CBSnews.com.

Best and worst economies: Where does your state rank?
Utah, aka the Beehive State, is living up to its nickname, buzzing with economic activity and ranking as the state with the best-performing economy. 
That's according to analysts at WalletHub, who ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on economic activity, economic health and innovation potential.
With high levels of business startups, independent inventor patents and job growth, Utah placed ahead of Washington and California, which came in second and third, respectively, followed by Massachusetts and Colorado. 
North Carolina, which is facing lawsuits, boycotts and the potential loss of federal funding over its law limiting protections for LGBT people, placed 18th, while Illinois, a state contending with a huge budget shortfall, ranked 29th.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Keep that music streaming

For a boost of productivity at work. Just don't be distracted by the lyrics. From Inc.

Music makes repetitive tasks more enjoyable.
Music's effectiveness is dependent on how "immersive" a task is, referring to the creative demand of the work.
When a task is clearly defined and repetitive in nature, research from Applied Ergonomics suggests music is consistently helpful.
A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accrue from the use of music in industry. 
Assembly line workers showed signs of increased happiness and efficiency while listening to music, for example. 
More modern studies from Dr. Teresa Lesiuk would argue that it isn't the music itself, but rather the improved mood your favorite music brings that is the source of this bump in productivity. 
Music with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode, or key, had better results: "Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode." 
In a noisy workplace, music is an escape.
While the open-office debate rages on, one point has become clear: a noisy workplace can halt personal productivity in its tracks. 
Perhaps a pair of headphones may not be as distracting as some companies think, says Dr. Lesiuk, whose research focuses on how music affects workplace performance. In one study involving information technology specialists, she found those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and came up with better ideas than those who didn't, because the music improved their mood. 
Again, we see improved mood as the main argument made. 
While the open space encourages more collaboration, the noise can be too much for some people to handle when engaging in deep work. If there is no physical escape--such as a private room--then a pair of headphones may be the best alternative. 
Ambient noise is the creative sweet spot.
For those who do enjoy listening to music during creative sessions, an atmospheric presence seems to work best.
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research has shown that a moderate noise level can get creative juices flowing, but the line is easily crossed; loud noises made it incredibly difficult to concentrate. Bellowing basses and screeching synths will do you more harm than good when engaging in deep work. 
A 2015 study from the Acoustical Society of America found that when it came to sound-masking with ambient noise, "natural" sounds, such as waves at a beach, also improved subjects' ability to concentrate. Whether deliberately created or naturally occurring, a soft background noise is what you should aim for. 
Lyrics are often too distracting.
For low-immersion or physical tasks, music with lyrics can offer huge benefits. But for intensive work, lyrics are especially destructive for focus.
Research from Applied Acoustics shows "intelligible" chatter--talking that can be clearly heard and understood--is what makes for a distracting environment. Shifting focus to figure out what someone else is saying is the reason speech is often considered the most troublesome element of a noisy office; in one study, 48 percent of participants listed intelligible talking as the sound that distracted them the most.
Trying to engage in language-related tasks--such as writing--while listening to lyrics would be akin to holding a conversation while another person talks over you... while also strumming a guitar. Lyrics are often a no-go.
Lyrics might not have the same effect on creative tasks that don't directly deal with "verbal architecture." A 2005 study lead by Dr. Lesiuk that looked at software developers suggested music with lyrics helped their output while working.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Budget cuts in Oklahoma

The impact of the price of oil has been huge in Oklahoma. And it ain't rising fast enough to help anytime soon. Focusing on the impact at one HBCU, this article comes from News.OK.

How much will college tuition increase this fall in Oklahoma?
More than 70 percent of Langston University's students are the first in their family to go to college. President Kent Smith said the first question their parents ask is, "How much will it cost?" 
Smith and the presidents at all Oklahoma public colleges and universities are deciding what the answer to that question will be starting July 1. 
Tuition and mandatory fees — a big part of each institution's budget — are going up. College administrators have to determine how much is enough, but not too much.
"We will propose an increase of 5 percent to 8 percent," said Smith, who figures that will be among the lowest tuition hike requests statewide.

College administrators will present their proposed 2016-17 budgets and requests for tuition increases to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for approval June 29. 
Tuition didn't go up in 2009-10. In the six years since, the average annual increase for all institutions has been 5.2 percent. 
Affordable ranking 
This year, the higher education system took a cut in state funding of nearly 16 percent, and passed that along to each college and university. 
Langston's allocation is almost $2.9 million less than one year ago. 
It would require a 29 percent increase in tuition and fees to make up the difference, Smith said. 
"If you raise it too much, you start pricing yourself out of the market you're in," he said. 
Langston has increased enrollment the past two years by marketing itself to out-of-state students — about 40 percent of the student population — with "an affordability message," Smith said. 
The college rankings site AffordableSchools.net announced Wednesday its newest niche college rankings list, featuring the 25 Most Affordable Bachelor's-Granting Historically Black Colleges/Universities. 
Langston was third — after Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University and Clinton College, Rock Hill, S.C. — with annual in-state tuition at $5,042 and out-of-state tuition at $12,370. 
Efforts to keep tuition low next fall have included laying off 20 faculty and staff members, or nearly 10 percent of the workforce, Smith said.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Decreasing the surplus population

Of small, private, liberal arts colleges. Another one bites the dust. From the Chronicle of Higher Education.

St. Catharine College of Kentucky to Close, Citing Enrollment and Financial Woes
Administrators at the college said they had reached out to other institutions to establish teach-out plans for current students, and summer camps and classes will continue as scheduled, according to the statement. The college was expected to enroll a class of around 475 students in the fall semester. It employed 118 full-time faculty and staff members, as well as numerous part-time staff members and adjunct instructors. 
St. Catharine joins Dowling College, in New York, and Burlington College, in Vermont, on a growing list of small liberal-arts colleges that have closed their doors recently for financial reasons.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Regardless, I hate typos in emails

It's the old English teacher in me. Still, I never gave the gave the "power cues" a second thought. Until now. From Slate.

If you are a recent college grad and you pride yourself on your writing, you probably see yourself reflected in the letter writer’s obsessive attention to detail and wince at the feeling of being undone by a stray keystroke. 
I have good news for young, typo-averse job seekers: It gets better. As you advance in your career, you won’t have to care about making every sentence that you type absolutely perfect anymore, and it will be a huge relief.
In my first few years out of college, I was a stickler for grammar, spelling, and punctuation in my work correspondence. I proofread every email and deliberated over every semicolon. I remember being surprised and slightly alarmed when I began working with older, well-established, even semi-famous writers and editors who didn’t seem to give a damn about whether they capitalized proper nouns, used commas consistently, or accidentally typed teh instead of the in emails. I was concerned for them. Didn’t they worry about how they came across? 
Those emails were my introduction to the subtle power cues embedded in workplace correspondence.
Now I know the answer: No, they didn’t worry about how they came across. They were emailing an entry-level underling; why would they care whether I thought less of them for not proofreading their emails? 
Those emails were my introduction to the subtle power cues embedded in workplace correspondence. At best, informal, typo-ridden messages sent from the top of a professional hierarchy to the bottom reflect the fact that bosses aren’t particularly concerned about coming across as sloppy to their subordinates. At worst, they’re a deliberate power move—a signal to junior staffers that they aren’t worth the time it would take to correct the mistakes in an email before hitting send. Either way, the presence or absence of typos in an email—along with how polished and formal it seems—can usually tell you a great deal about the power dynamics between sender and recipient.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Helping first generation students

I feel like I know the author, since my hometown is 20 minutes from her Alma Mater. ETSU serves many first generation students. Each commencement, the president asks to stand all the first members of their families to graduate from college. It's always a lot. From The Atlantic.

Compared to their peers whose parents went to college, most first-generation students need more time to declare a major and are more likely to switch majors. As a first-year student, I pledged myself to the business school at Monmouth College in Illinois. It made sense. I’d grown up in a small family pest-control business. We lived in the country and grew corn, raised chickens, and sold firewood by the side of the road. I knew how to do whatever the job was and to make customers happy. But then I took an accounting class and ran from the major. I switched to government. An internship at a prosecutor’s office saved me from law school. The reading load in my classes was entirely manageable, but a summer spent at the Missouri State Archives showed me that I didn’t want to use my history degree to trace genealogies.
"When first-year students tell me they’re undecided in their field of study, I tell them it’s courageous not to know." 
When first-year students tell me they’re undecided in their field of study, I tell them it’s courageous not to know. They rub elbows with students who have clear career trajectories, who brag about their networks that will ensure employment after graduation. Instead, I tell them to try things on, to intern, to volunteer, to job shadow. The first time I designed a lesson plan and stood in front of a class, teaching thrilled me, but I needed to try on plenty of majors that didn’t fit to find one that did.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Tough times for my hometown university

I have three degrees from WIU, and I started my career in higher education there. I started teaching English and moved into continuing education administration. As I think about it, it was 40 years ago that I earned by B.A. Sigh. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Where Does the Regional State University Go From Here?
At Western Illinois, nearly 150 employees, including nontenured faculty members, have been laid off. As enrollment drops, the university is taking a closer look at its academic programs, reviewing those with low enrollment. To save money, some may be closed, merged with others, or reduced to a handful of courses offered in other departments. 
The fates of a relatively small cluster of majors and faculty jobs in this rural corner of Illinois hang in the balance, and so does the role of a regional public university in the 21st century. 
Without the athletics or research activities that draw public and legislative attention to flagships, regional publics have often been left to flourish, or falter, on their own. Unlike flagships, regionals can’t count on significant research funding, large endowments, or abundant out-of-state tuition to insulate them from the kind of budget cuts most states have handed down since the recession hit, in 2008. 
The neglect is no longer benign. The inattention to public regionals, and the limited spending on them, disproportionately hurts low-income and first-generation students, who make up a large portion of those colleges’ enrollment. And it threatens state and national goals for higher education, both those of broadening access and getting more Americans to a college degree. 
Illinois’s budget feud has grabbed headlines for the past year, but the deeper challenges that beset Western Illinois have been looming on the horizon. 
Like many other Midwestern states, Illinois is losing population. The total number of state residents shrank by 0.2 percent (about 22,000 in net population) in 2015, the second-biggest percentage drop, after West Virginia, last year. The number of high-school graduates in Illinois also is projected to decline over the next decade. Population losses have been especially steep in the rural counties of the state, including the sparsely populated farming region that encircles Macomb, where Western Illinois is located. 
The university has been successful in recruiting students from outside its immediate region — nearly half of its students come from the Chicago area — but its enrollment over the past decade has echoed recent state population trends. Fall enrollment for undergraduates has fallen steadily, from 11,284 in 2005 to 9,141 in 2015. 
It probably doesn’t help that tiny Macomb could be a tough sell for students interested in a more urban setting. The town boasts old-fashioned courthouse-square charm, but it’s sleepy and remote. The nearest Starbucks is nearly an hour’s drive on two-lane roads. 
At the same time, state appropriations, which up until this past year provided about 40 percent of Western Illinois’s instructional budget, have been effectively flat against inflation for most of the past five years. Tight budgets and enrollment declines have led to tuition increases, which in turn hurts the university’s competitive position in the market. Total tuition, fees, and room and board for in-state students rose from $14,977 in the 2008 fiscal year to $22,469 in the 2016 fiscal year, an increase of 40 percent. (Western Illinois offers incoming students a cost guarantee that freezes the amount they pay for four years.) 
Alphonso Simpson Jr. teaches "Introduction to African-American Studies" at Western Illinois, the most popular course in a department that could be downsized or even eliminated. Last year’s graduating class had just three students who majored in African-American studies.
When the university began the 2015-16 academic year with no state funds, administrators began laying the groundwork for furloughs and staff layoffs in case the budget impasse dragged on. In response to the enrollment losses and the accompanying revenue drops, administrators also began considering faculty layoffs and pondering what to do about academic programs with the lowest enrollments. The largest program on campus, law enforcement and justice administration, had 24 full-time faculty members and graduated 386 majors last year. Among those with low enrollments were African-American studies, which had five full-time faculty members and graduated three majors, and philosophy, which had five full-time professors and graduated two majors.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Really?

The Chancellor couldn't stay off his phone during Palo Alto College's Commencement? He knew he was on stage, right? From MySA.com

Photos show Alamo Colleges chancellor on phone as graduating students cross stage
Alamo Colleges Chancellor Bruce Leslie is facing harsh criticism on social media Monday after photos circulated showing him using his phone during a Palo Alto College commencement ceremony over the weekend. 
Tony Villanueva, president of Palo Alto's American Association of University Professors chapter, said the chancellor was on his phone for at least 40 minutes during Saturday's 3 p.m. ceremony.
"Somebody next to me timed it," said Villanueva, who was at the ceremony. 
Villanueva said that he has received emails from Palo Alto students and faculty who are hoping to take action by informing the Alamo Colleges Board of Trustees. 
Leo Zuniga, associate vice chancellor of communication for Alamo Colleges, said he doesn't have all the information regarding the incident, but said the chancellor may have been taking care of "something urgent."

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Gutting higher education in Kentucky

The Lexington Herald Leader is tracking the layoffs in public higher education in Kentucky. For example, Northern Kentucky is cutting 105 positions, Morehead State 64, and Murray State 42.

Layoffs, tuition hikes: Track budget cuts at Kentucky universities
Kentucky’s state universities are grappling with nearly a decade of budget cuts, about $170 million in all. Over the next two years, they’ll have to cut another 4.5 percent. As the schools prepare their biennial budgets, which have to be ready in June, they are announcing exactly how they will address deficits caused by decreased state support and increased costs for pensions and health care. Nationally, Kentucky is losing ground against other states, which are starting to reinvest in higher education.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Clearly, not all small colleges can survive.

But the struggle can go on a long time. From The New York Times. 

At Small Colleges, Harsh Lessons About Cash Flow
In the last few years, small liberal arts colleges have been under financial siege, forced to re-examine their missions and justify their existence. Even several established and respected ones — Bard College, Yeshiva University, Mills College and Morehouse College, among others — have received negative financial ratings. . . . 
Smaller colleges are especially hard-hit. Many of the endangered ones are in rural areas and have traditionally drawn from regional markets, but have lost market share as students become more willing to travel beyond their home territory. Often they have not been able to keep up with the demand for expensive science and technology courses.

Some are women’s colleges, historically black colleges or religiously affiliated — appealing to a smaller audience.

They also tend to be less selective, with anemic or highly restricted endowments that make them overly dependent on tuition. Their alumni do not provide as much support as those of elite small colleges like Amherst, Swarthmore or Grinnell, which have powerhouse endowments. 
“Everybody’s competing for the best and the brightest,” said Karen Kedem, vice president and senior credit officer for higher education at Moody’s Investors Service, whose ratings can influence fund-raising and accreditation. “It makes it harder when you go down the food chain.” 
Among institutions that have closed in the last two years: Sojourner-Douglass College, in Baltimore, a predominantly black college that is waging a court fight to reopen; Marian Court College, a 50-year-old Catholic commuter college 15 miles from Boston that had been squeezed by the crowded New England market; Lexington College, a Chicago women’s college specializing in hotel management; and Mid-Continent University, a Baptist institution in Western Kentucky, now in bankruptcy. 
Moody’s estimated last fall that the number of four-year, nonprofit public and private colleges going out of business could triple, to 15 from five a year, over the next few years. The merger rate would more than double from the current two or three.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Lipscomb moves off-campus

And downtown Nashville. They seem to be on a roll right now. From The Tennessean.

Lipscomb University to open satellite location downtown
Lipscomb University on Tuesday will announce plans to open a 20,100-square-foot satellite office in downtown Nashville that will house classrooms, administrative offices and event space. 
The space, which is located at the corner of Fourth Avenue North and Commerce Street, is across the street from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp. and blocks away from Legislative Plaza and the Historic Metro Courthouse. It represents a continued investment in the university's new College of Leadership and Public Service. 
Leaders at Lipscomb hope the location will be attractive to perspective graduate students who work in state and local government. Mayor Megan Barry will be on hand to help unveil artistic renderings and discuss plans for the space. 
"Really what we're bringing downtown is a leadership resource," said John Lowry, Lipscomb's vice president for development and external affairs who will oversee the site. "We are looking to build leaders." 
Lowry said that leaders chose the location based on its proximity to key government offices as well as the Gulch, Germantown and East Nashville. 
Among other things, the university plans to host classes for the business administration master's program and the leadership college's public service master's program. There will also be space for professional development, special events and an office that works with professionals who want to pursue higher education.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The headline pretty much sums our status up

As always, the devil's in the details. From The Tennessean.

Questions outnumber answers for Haslam college plan
On paper, the changes are pretty straight-forward. The six universities in the Board of Regents system, including Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State universities, are getting their own boards and will generally call their own shots on a wide range of issues, including tuition and the hiring and firing of presidents. 
But the mechanics are a lot more complicated.
The Board of Regents has existed in its current form since 1972. In the decades since, university leaders, policymakers and governors have become accustomed to that model, which requires cooperation and shared priorities among 46 diverse institutions. 
Now, leaders at the Board of Regents, the University of Tennessee system — which has a separate board — and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission need to come to the table to figure out how they will all work together with six additional players on the field. At the same time, officials at each newly independent university need to decide how their work shifts under a new and more focused board. 
The governor's office has appointed a task force to oversee the transition. Multiple universities have followed suit. 
It could be like untangling that mess of wires behind the TV.
Haslam has consistently said that reorganizing things will make for a smoother and more productive arrangement. 
He hopes to see universities zero in on their populations with renewed fervor while the community and technical colleges in the Board of Regents become more "market sensitive," sculpting their academic programs around the needs of students and the workforce. 
Such, well, focus would be impossible under the current structure, he said. 
"I'll be really disappointed if ... we didn't look back 10 years from now and say they really have increased the quality of what they're providing for Tennesseans," Haslam said during a meeting of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission in April. 
At the same meeting, he acknowledged it was a bit of a gamble. 
"Any time you change structure there's some risk, and we're aware of that," Haslam said. 
To succeed, he said, a newly strengthened higher education commission will need to serve as a referee that will manage competition while ensuring the state's interests remain front and center. Without the commission as a mediator, he said, "it does become chaos."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Letting GPS take control

Not always a good thing. But who has time to read a map? From Time.

How GPS Is Messing With Our Minds
There is mounting evidence that GPS is doing something to our minds—and maybe even our brains. Several academic studies have proven what any of us who have driven with GPS assistance already know intuitively, that GPS allows a driver to “disengage” from the environment. A useful model is the “cognitive map,” a term first used in 1948 by Edward Tolman, a UC Berkeley psychologist. He argued that experiments with rats in mazes demonstrated their ability to envision the totality of the maze, how the various parts fit together to create a whole. A growing number of researchers now agree that overreliance on GPS essentially erodes our ability to build our own cognitive maps. 
It may even turn out that our GPS addiction can have actual physiological consequences. In 2006, a British study made headlines by announcing that London taxi drivers, whose jobs require them to integrate a vast body of knowledge, have above-average amounts of grey matter in the region of the brain responsible for complex spatial representation. Preliminary research also suggested that the volume of grey matter decreases when these drivers retire. At least one of the neuroscientists involved in the study has speculated that prolonged GPS use could have a similar effect. 
It will be a long time—if ever—before scientists are able to reach this conclusion. But a clue to this process may be sitting in your glove compartment, gathering dust. It’s probably been a long time since you unfolded that paper map. Again, we have anecdotal evidence—ask a Baby Boomer or Gen-X-er about millennials’ lack of map-reading skills, and you’ll get an earful—along with empirical data. A Japanese project in 2008 that compared three navigational methods—GPS, paper maps, and direct experience (a guide led subjects through a route and then asked them to repeat it)—found that the GPS group lagged behind the others.