Thursday, September 29, 2016

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

U.S. Education Secretary John King visits

Pellissippi State to learn about Tennessee Promise first hand. Leaves impressed, it appears. Across the state, though, Promise hasn't appeared to boost community college enrollments much. I was surprised. From The Atlantic.

Free College Is Not a Fantasy
Last year, President Obama visited this campus to unveil his proposal for tuition-free community college. The location was no accident. A couple of years ago, Tennessee launched the Tennessee Promise, which covers tuition and fees for two-year degrees and credentials for the state’s high-school graduates after Pell grants and a series of other funds and scholarships are exhausted. It is based on a Knoxville plan that had grown to include several other counties in the state. A bipartisan initiative supported by a Republican governor, the idea is to help fill a growing workforce need. 
And it seems to be working. There had been concern that as more students who previously might not have considered college took advantage of the program, college retention might decline. But average retention from the fall to spring semester last school year was above 80 percent, slightly higher than it was before the rollout. And Pellissippi president Anthony Wise said during King’s visit that the college’s Promise students—2,705 of about 10,244 students total—are faring even better academically than many of their non-Promise peers. 
“We want to build on what’s happening here,” King said during a roundtable with students, noting that more than 30 similar programs have cropped up across the country in the last couple of years, including a recently announced plan in Los Angeles. 
Yet not everyone is convinced the strategy can be scaled successfully, or that expanding it to cover four-year degrees, as Clinton’s plan would, makes sense. Robert Boyd, a professor at Pellissippi who brought students in his African American literature class to hear King speak, said he and some of his fellow professors have struggled with how to teach students who arrive on campus unprepared for college-level work. He worries that expanding access to college for more students could exacerbate that problem. “It’s a great idea,” Boyd said of free college, “but the gap is too wide.”

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tennessee places two cities on this list

Of America's ten most affordable cities. Nashville at seven and Memphis at ten. I'm a little surprised Nashville made the list. Louisville tops the list and Lexington comes in at four. From The Financial Word.

10 Most Affordable Cities In America
7) Nashville, TN 
Nashville is one of the more popular cities on this list. Arguably the best music city in the country, with stellar restaurants featuring an array of cuisines, Nashville has everything you want in a city. 
The median household income is around $53,000, with a housing market that provides affordable rentals and housing prices with a median of about $172,000. While this ratio is a little high for this list, Nashville is still amazingly affordable. Tennessee is one of the few states that does not have an income tax, and aside from the tourist areas, most cost of living such as groceries, household items, gas and coffee are below the national average. 
Nashville is one of those great places in the country where you can celebrity watch as if you were in Hollywood, grab a bite to eat at a snazzy joint and have a few drinks while watching an up and coming new band. You can brag later that you saw them before they were famous.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Most beautiful campus?

Rhodes College comes out on top in The Princeton Review's list. Hmmm. Vanderbilt comes in at 11. From The Princeton Review.

Most Beautiful Campus
1. Rhodes College
Memphis, TN
2,046 Enrolled
From the School: Rhodes College is a national, residential liberal arts and sciences college located in historic Memphis, ...

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Tennessee helping ITT Tech students

After it closes its campuses in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Cordova and Johnson City. Cordova? The Tennessee Higher Education Commission is trying to help ITT Tech students continue their postsecondary education. Since ITT Tech was not regionally accredited, its students will find it hard to transfer to more reputable institutions. It's more than a "bureaucratic complication." I hope their only option isn't another for-profit. From The Tennessean.

After ITT Tech closure, Tennessee rolls out student supports
During the closure process, the commission will be collecting transcripts for ITT students and building out an email distribution list to keep those students up to date as federal guidance continues to develop. Federal education officials have indicated that some ITT students might be eligible for student loan forgiveness, and Krause said the commission would link students with those resources when possible. 
The commission also is working with state colleges to develop clear transfer options that would allow ITT students to maintain their momentum and switch to other institutions. But bureaucratic complications — ITT had a national accreditation while most Tennessee schools have a different regional accreditation — likely mean that process could take months, not weeks, to iron out.​
Tennessee's commission has received positive attention for its speedy response to the ITT closure. Kim Hunter Reed, a deputy under secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, praised Krause and the commission on Twitter. 
"Grateful to leaders across the country working to assist students with academic transitions," she wrote.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

We have over 400 staff affected

By the new overtime rules. But I've been proud of how we've treated the folks moving from exempt to non-exempt. Those who find their status changed will continue to earn two vacation days; their replacements (and all other non-exempt hires after December 1) will earn one, like all other non-exempt employees. And we won't pay much overtime but will use comp time instead. What will really be interesting is the impact on admission counselors. If they have a distant college fair on a Monday morning and have to drive Sunday night--they're on the clock. But if there are several in the car, only the one driving is being paid. I think. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Colleges are worried about how to cover the costs of overtime pay that dozens of coaches, counselors, and other employees may soon become entitled to under a new federal rule designed to ensure they're paid equitably. 
The new law, a change to the Fair Labor Standards Act that takes effect in December, makes more full-time salaried employees eligible for overtime pay. Those employees who earn up to $47,000 per year will be eligible for extra pay for work over 40 hours a week; now only those who earn up to $23,000 per year are. 
Colleges are scrambling to sort out who on their campuses will become eligible for overtime pay and how to budget for the increased costs. Any employee whose primary responsibility can be defined as teaching is exempt, but determining that can be complicated. Many of the people likely to fall under the new threshold have a lot of contact with students and work long, often sporadic hours: student-life coordinators, residence-hall directors, athletics staff members, admissions counselors. Administrators are grappling with how to effectively serve students if they need to reduce the hours of some employees who help them. 
Administrators agree that an update to the rule was overdue. While living costs have risen, the salary threshold hadn’t been changed since 2004. But many observers expected a gradual increase. "Doubling it in one step shocked a lot of people," says Scott M. Fitzgerald, director of human resources at Otterbein University.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The South has cut public higher education much more

Than the North. And Tennessee is one of the guilty parties. As others have noted, a few years ago, the state paid two-thirds of the cost of higher education and the student paid one-third. Now it's reversed. Now public institutions operate like they're private colleges with large state grants. From The Hechinger Report.

The new North-South divide: public higher education
Southern states have been disproportionately cutting spending on public higher education, forcing tuition increases that make their colleges and universities among the least affordable for the poorest families — who already face some of the nation’s highest poverty rates — a slew of recent data show. 
This contributes to falling enrollment in states already struggling with some of the nation’s lowest percentages of residents with college educations.
 It’s “a vicious circle,” said Dave Spence, president of the Atlanta-based Southern Regional Education Board, or SREB. “You’ve got a region that’s poor. Why? Because it’s undereducated.” Yet budget cuts keep pushing university and college degrees out of the reach of many. 
Three of the five states that have most reduced their funding per public college and university student from 2008 to 2016  are southern, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan research institute. Louisiana led the way among these southern states with a 39 percent decrease, followed by South Carolina and Alabama. 
It’s “a vicious circle. You’ve got a region that’s poor. Why? Because it’s undereducated.” 
Seven of the 20 states with the deepest cuts in higher-education spending are in the South, another report measuring funding decreases from 2010 to 2015 found. The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, or SHEEO, said Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Alabama and Virginia each decreased spending on public colleges and universities by at least 10 percent. 
That means most of the states with the highest cost of college for families earning less than $30,000 a year are now also in the South, according to a new report from the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research on Higher Education. In many of those states, about a quarter of the population earns that much or less.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Megatronics is so hot right now

And it was just a year or two ago I first heard the term. From The Chattanooga Free Press.

For most people the word "mechatronics" may as well be something ripped out of a science-fiction novel in which robots have enslaved humanity. But for a handful of Catoosa County students, it's about to be their lives. 
Georgia Northwestern Technical College is throwing open the doors to its new campus in Ringgold today, and included in the curriculum are several fields of study designed to equip the next generation of students. 
The Ringgold school, one of six Georgia Northwestern Tech campuses in the region, will offer three new programs — mechatronics, cybersecurity and logistics — in addition to core and introductory college courses for the 130 students enrolled for the fall semester. 
Leaders at the 60,000-square-foot facility say technical training is coming not a moment too soon, because the region has a burgeoning need for highly skilled workers. 
"Now and in the next few years, a huge number of technical and skilled workers will be retiring, and these jobs will need to be filled," said Leigh Ann Pettigrew, interim manager for the Catoosa County branch. "We are very excited about the new campus opening up and being here for our Catoosa County community." 
Pettigrew said the three new specialties are especially suited to Catoosa County, and she highlighted the need for each in and around Ringgold. 
"Transportation is a large part of our community with [Interstate 75] and the Murray County inland port and distribution in our area," she said about the logistics program. The same need is also apparent in mechatronics and cybersecurity as industries in the county grow, she added. 
County government personnel praised the school's opening, saying it would help satisfy the demands of already established businesses while attracting new entrepreneurs.
"Our industry, they're always looking for skilled labor," said Katie Thomason, economic development coordinator for the Catoosa County economic development authority.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Some things you might not know about Dolly Parton

Unless you have a season's pass to Dollywood like I do! Paste Monthly.

Paste: Another thing I really admire about your business ventures is the way they revolve around and work within Sevier County. What is it like to be connected to your hometown, and do you feel like you’re still able to be a part of the community? 
Parton: It’s always great to feel like a hometown hero, and I take great pride in the fact that they’re proud of me. But they’re no more proud of me than I am of them, and of the Great Smokey Mountains in general. We’ve got the most visited national park in the United States! I just happened to be born up there in the foothills of the Great Smokies. I knew it was a good place to do business, so I thought very early on in my career that if I made it, I was going to invest and do some business things [in Sevier County, Tennessee]. I also wanted them to have things that would provide jobs for a lot of people there—my neighbors, and my friends, and a lot of my family. So we do have several businesses in East Tennessee that I’m proud of—we have Dixie Stampede, our dinner theater out on the parkway. Also, we just opened a new one called Lumberjack Adventure. We have Dollywood and Dollywood Splash Country, and we’re always looking for new things. It’s a really good thing for the local people. It’s good for the tourists who come visit, but it’s good for the locals, because it provides a lot of jobs for a lot of people. 
Paste: You do plenty of outright philanthropy, too. Dolly’s Imagination Library has gotten enormous. 
Parton: I’m very proud of that. Those are some of my proudest times, is when I hear all of the things going on with the Imagination Library and the Dollywood Foundation. We give books to children from the time they’re born until they start school, once a month they get a book, so they can learn to read and be self-educated—get a good start in life. We’ve given away almost a million books since we started that. It started in my hometown, just for the folks locally because my dad didn’t get an education, and he was very helpful to me in getting that started. I wanted to do something to honor him, and he was very proud of that. The fact that we started that in our hometown, and now we’re all over the world…. We’re just going to continue to put them books in the hands of children! 
Now we have a new book, it’s an illustrated book of the story, “The Coat of Many Colors,” that’s coming out in October, and all proceeds go to the Imagination Library. I also have a children’s album that I’ve recorded that’s coming out sometime, and all that money will go to the Imagination Library as well.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TBR's Tristan Denley

Named one of the sixteen most innovative people in higher education by Washington Monthly. I guess I need to apologize for being skeptical of the whole "mind-set" theory.

The Sixteen Most Innovative People in Higher Education
Tennessee has become a national leader in improving remediation (also known as developmental education—non-credit-bearing courses for students deemed academically not ready for college-level work), and Denley has had a lot to do with it. He was provost at Austin Peay State University when, in 2007, that school began to test the effectiveness of a co-requisite model: instead of making students complete multiple semesters of developmental math and writing before allowing them into college-level courses, a co-requisite model has students do remedial work in addition to, and at the same time as, credit-bearing classes. (Another pioneer of the approach is Peter Adams, formerly of the Community College of Baltimore County.) The experiment was wildly successful, and a few years later, as vice chancellor for academic affairs at the Tennessee Board of Regents, Denley began applying the approach to Tennessee’s community college system. Despite efforts to improve the developmental curriculum, the numbers were abysmal: statewide, 60 percent of incoming community college students were placed in developmental math, English, or both. Only 12 percent of those placed in math remediation finished a credit-bearing math course within an academic year; for English, the number was about 30 percent. In 2014, the Board of Regents launched a co-requisite pilot program enlisting about 2,000 students in the state’s community colleges. The results were so staggering that the very next year, the model was implemented at every community college in the state, for every student in remediation. The expansion has been a wild success. In its first year, 51 percent of co-requisite math students passed their credit-bearing math class in the fall semester—compared to the 12 percent who previously managed that in a full year. In English, the 30 percent number leapt to nearly 60 percent. In fact, more students are now completing credit-bearing classes than previously completed just the remedial courses. And even students who don’t pass their first semester end up earning more credits than they would have under the old model. To Denley, that’s powerful proof of the role students’ mind-set plays in their success or failure. The failure of the old model may have a lot to do with the fact that it told students they didn’t belong at college—and they believed it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Happy Uncle Sam Day!

The image of Uncle Sam as a personification of our nation and government is widespread and instantly recognizable. But did you ever wonder about where he came from? Was he purely imaginary, or based on a real historical figure? 
The character Uncle Sam has a long history. The use of allegorical figures to represent a place dates back to the classical Roman era, and the Renaissance re-established them in Western art and culture by the 17th century. In the early days of the United States, a female figure named Columbia (the name is derived from Christopher Columbus) stood for the nation; she kept her place as an often-used symbol of our country through the early 20th century. 
Uncle Sam has been around for almost as long, sometimes appearing with Columbia as well. There are several theories about where he comes from, but the most cited origin story traces Uncle Sam back to a man in Troy, New York. Sam Wilson delivered meat packed in barrels to soldiers during the War of 1812. Wilson was a well-liked and trustworthy man in Troy, and local residents called him "Uncle Sam." When people around town saw those supply barrels marked "U.S." they assumed the letters meant Uncle Sam, and the soldiers adopted the same thinking. In reality, Wilson had labeled the barrels "U.S." for "United States," and so the two ideas merged—Uncle Sam became a symbol for the United States of America. (This story is also the official one—Congress passed a resolution in 1961 adopting this account as the official history.) 
Uncle Sam started appearing in images and literature soon after the War of 1812. He was popularized in the late 19th century in political cartoons by one of the country's most well-known cartoonists, Thomas Nast. However, the 1917 recruiting poster of Uncle Sam asking YOU to join the army is perhaps the most enduring rendition of the national character.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Those zany millennials

First they don't buy cars. Then they don't buy houses. And then they don't pay for music or television. But bars of soap? From CBS News.

When it comes to how Americans use soap, it’s fair to say millennials are making a clean sweep of it. 
Americans between 18 to 24 are largely snubbing the old-fashioned bar of soap, leading to sales declines for the likes of Ivory’s iconic 125-year old bar and its bar soap rivals, according to new data from consumer research firm Mintel. Consumers who still buy bar soap, it turns out, have something in common: they tend to be over 60 years old and are men. 
It’s not as if Americans are less clean. Sales of soap, bath and shower products are on the rise, with overall market growth of 2.7 percent last year, Mintel found. Sales of bar soaps, though, slipped 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015 as younger consumers and women snubbed the traditional bar in favor of liquid soap. So what’s driving the generational shift? Millennials believe bar soaps are covered in germs after they are used.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

And what time is it?

Beer thirty. Perhaps I can make this my second career. From The Chronicle of Higher Education.

"I think people who aren’t historians," she says, "have a hard time imagining that beer can be the subject of serious historical inquiry." 
That might be changing. The Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, last week posted a job ad seeking a scholar who can help the National Museum of American History collect artifacts and conduct field research for a project on beer brewing in the United States, with a focus on the last half-century. Three years ago, Oregon State University created the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives in a similar bid to preserve the historical record of beer making in that region. 
Tiah Edmunson-Morton, curator of the Oregon archive, says that the idea of studying beer tends to draw amused grins from people who assume that the work is something like a never-ending happy hour, when in fact beer has exerted a serious pull on the trajectory of American politics and culture. 
"There’s so much to talk about," says Ms. Edmunson-Morton, "whether it’s gender, labor, economics, tourism, regional identity, or whatever." 
"I think the timing is right," says Ms. Jacobson, "for beer studies to kind of take off."

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Burnout is worse than ever?

Maybe not so much. Like the poor, it's always been with us. From The Week.

"I'm so tired." 
We hear this complaint all the time. These days, it seems everyone is exhausted. Everyone is at the end of their rope. Everyone needs some time off. 
Indeed, 53 percent of American workers report feeling burnt out. It's easy to blame this on modern work culture. After all, the average American clocks in a 47-hour workweek. Meanwhile, we're spending more and more time in front of our computer screens, to our own detriment: Recent research says emails cause emotional exhaustion. A 2014 study found that using a smartphone before bed made workers more tired and less productive the next day. And on top of all that, we've got a tumultuous political cycle to contend with. A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of Americans already feel fatigued by election coverage. 
Exhaustion can feel like the by-product of a new and modern era, where work has slithered past the four walls of the office or the three walls of the cubicle into the home; where emails invite themselves on our beach vacations; where the media consistently reminds us of climate change, terrorism, and the chaotic political scene. 
Surely, it wasn't always this way? There was a time when the sun and the seasons dictated work schedules and instead of clocking in on Sunday people observed the Sabbath, and everything was just so ... simple. 
Actually, as much as we'd like to think that our feelings of exhaustion are unique to today, it turns out our ancestors weren't more relaxed or less worn out. "At any point in history, people have experienced exhaustion and theorized it in many different ways," says Anna Katharina Schaffner, a medical researcher at the University of Kent and the author of the new book, Exhaustion: A History, which chronicles the trajectory of exhaustion discourse, from ancient Greece through the Renaissance, Industrial Revolution, post-war era, to modernity. "For each era, exhaustion was this hybrid creature, which was not only understood through biological and physical contexts, but at times, also wrapped up in the social and political climates as well." 
What could be comforting to the fried, 21st-century worker is that regardless of the epoch, regardless of whether humans were living in agrarian societies or were bystanders to a world that was modernizing at an unprecedented velocity, people were tired. Really tired. But how they sought to explain their weariness changed over time.