Thursday, July 30, 2015

Two from IHE on Mistakes Deans Make

Abridgements of two from Insider Higher Education.  Full articles here and here.

5 Mistakes of Rookie Deans

July 24, 2015
Welcome to the world of being a dean -- one of the most daunting and rewarding jobs in academe. ...
In my journey, I have talked with many deans and identified the top five mistakes rookie deans make, along with some helpful advice on how to avoid them.
1. Underestimating the knowledge, skills and abilities it takes to do the job well.

  • Develop the mental capacity to know a little about a lot versus being narrow and deep.
  • Envision what you want success to look like so that you lead your team in a positive direction.
  • Understand how to delegate.
2. Overestimating the power and influence one has in the role.
  • Take seriously responsibility "power," but don’t let it go to your head. 
  • Always share the credit.
  • Focus on how to engage people enough that they want to follow your lead.
3. Lacking sufficient knowledge about managing oneself.
Take charge of your schedule and priorities.

  • Manage your time.
  • Control your ego and develop a thick skin.
  • Managing stress.  Sort and prioritize and delegate. Talk out tough issues, be honest, reflect and work for clarity, take breaks and stay active.
4. Lacking sufficient knowledge of how to generate and allocate resources across the enterprise.
5. Underappreciating the art and science of relationship building.
Pursue each relationship within our college and our university and relationships with alumni, donors and friends of the institution as opportunity to build a lifelong, mutually beneficial relationship. These can be pursued through listening tours, outreach to other deans, strategic planning committees, faculty/staff town hall meetings and road trips.

A Few More Rookie Dean Mistakes

July 27, 2015 - 9:26pm
The five mistakes it highlights, it gets right, but I’d add a few.
Applying the standards of proof for an academic publication to daily decision making.  
I remember being struck by how quickly a few facts or anecdotes became conclusive. If you start picking those apart, though, you quickly discover why: if you wait for anything decisive, you will wait years.  So you have to learn when the call for more analysis is actually helpful, as opposed to when it comes across simply as a delaying tactic. 
Taking the first answer as the last answer. 
Many people will respond to any suggestion with a knee-jerk “no” that sounds definitive, but is really a version of “I’m not used to that yet.” 
Acceptance of new ideas isn’t automatic. It’s a process. That means building some of that time into your process, and accepting that some initial reactions may be discouraging.
Being the smartest person in the room.
When teaching, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being the smartest person in the room. But in administration, if you feel the need to prove yourself all the time, you’ll burn bridges and look ridiculous. 
The best administrators I’ve known make a point of surrounding themselves with very smart people, and listening to them. That can mean allowing someone lower on the food chain to win, simply by having the better argument. When you defer to the better argument -- when you allow truth to trump rank -- you create an environment in which all that intelligence becomes an asset.  [emphases, Ryan] If the chief has to win every time, then the organization is limited to the vision of the chief.  
Neglecting Culture
Every college has quirky arrangements that make no sense on paper, but that work. Or they’re the least-bad compromises among warring factions. It can be tempting to regard those as low-hanging fruit, but be careful. Ask questions first, and listen for the pauses.  The part of the sentence that tails off is often the most important. “We would have changed that, but, well, you know…”
Remembering Too Much
Finally, accept that you’ll make mistakes, and sometimes have best-available moves seen as mistakes. Learn from them, but don’t dwell on them. Forgive yourself the honest goofs, own them, and move on.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What the Crazies are Saying, Part 9

One of the biggest reasons for smart people to start participating in conversations about the future of higher education is because if we don't then people like Marco Rubio manage to get the attention of decision makers.  It is unfortunate when innovation and change to be defined by ideas like these and we take as our mission the preservation of the status quo. "Slippery slope" can be a lazy person's approach to non-critical thinking.  Neither the the ostrich or the luddite makes for a good role model. This from the Times Higher Education website.

Marco Rubio calls for US higher education overhaul

Republican presidential hopeful wants radical reform of university system

Marco Rubio, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, has called for a “holistic overhaul” to higher education, bringing in low-cost providers and breaking the existing “cartel” of colleges and universities.
Mr Rubio, a US senator for Florida, made higher education one of the focuses of his first majorspeech on domestic policy, delivered in Chicago today.
He also pitched an idea for “investors” to pay the tuition fees of students in return for a share of their earnings after graduation.
“The lesson of history is clear: to empower today’s workers, we must equip them with today’s skills,” he said. “And to do that, we need our higher education system to innovate at the same rate as our economy.”
Mr Rubio warned that despite employers reporting a lack of skills among graduates, “we still tell students that to get a degree, they have to spend four years on a campus; tens of thousands of dollars on tuition, books, room, board; and hundreds of hours in a classroom, often learning subjects that aren’t relevant to the modern economy”.
He added: “We do not need timid tweaks to the old system; we need a holistic overhaul – we need to change how we provide degrees, how those degrees are accessed, how much that access costs, how those costs are paid, and even how those payments are determined.”
And he continued: “As president, I will begin with a powerful but simple reform. Our higher education system is controlled by what amounts to a cartel of existing colleges and universities, which use their power over the accreditation process to block innovative, low-cost competitors from entering the market.
“Within my first 100 days, I will bust this cartel by establishing a new accreditation process that welcomes low-cost, innovative providers. This would expose higher education to the market forces of choice and competition, which would prompt a revolution driven by the needs of students – just as the needs of consumers drive the progress of every other industry in our economy.”
Mr Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants who graduated from the University of Florida before studying law at the University of Miami, also said that he would give students the ability to “choose the right degree at the right price from the right institution for them. I’ve proposed an idea called the ‘Student Right to Know Before You Go Act’, which requires institutions to tell students how much they can expect to earn with a given degree before they take out the loans to pay for it.”
He also stated that he would make “student loans more manageable by making income-based repayment automatic for all graduates, so the more they make, the faster they pay back their loans; and the less they make, the less strain their loans cause”.
And Mr Rubio said that he had “proposed an idea called Student Investment Plans, which would let students partner with investors who would pay their tuition in return for a percentage of their earnings for a few years after graduation. It may result in a profit for the investor or it may not – but unlike with loans, none of the risk lies with the student.”

Internships, Experiential Learning, and Learning to Think

Another entry in the general skills vs. job skills conversation occasioned by recent decision clarifying unpaid internship rules. IMHO point could be more strongly made: the risk shift from corporate employers to individuals is gigantic distortion in higher education and society in general. This from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Business Can Pay to Train Its Own Work Force

In the spring of my senior year, I interviewed for a contract-negotiation job at a law firm.
My college major was in peace, war, and defense, which may have sounded intriguing to professional litigants. But I had no legal training. My chief assets were literacy, an eagerness to please, and a pressing need to pay rent.
The interview got right to the point. "How would you organize a thousand retransmission-consent contracts?" asked the stone-faced lawyer, looking across a conference table.
Having never heard of a retransmission-consent contract, I offered the only sensible response.
"Alphabetically?" I asked back.
This was not the right answer.
But they hired me anyway and trained me to do the job. This cost them in the short run, while I puzzled my way through FCC regulations and Nielsen ratings, but it paid off nicely over time. My contract knowledge earned the firm solid revenue.
This is how employment is supposed to work. Companies hire broadly educated workers, invest in appropriate training, and reap the profits of a specialized work force.
Increasingly, however, employers have discovered a way to offload the nettlesome cost of worker training. The trick is to relabel it as education, then complain that your prospective employees aren’t getting the right kind.
"Business leaders have doubts that higher-education institutions in the U.S. are graduating students who meet their particular businesses’ needs," reads the first sentence of a Gallup news release issued last year. Barely a third of executives surveyed for the Lumina Foundation agreed that "higher-education institutions in this country are graduating students with the skills and competences that my business needs."
Bemoaning the unpreparedness of undergraduates isn’t new. Today, however, those complaints are getting a more sympathetic hearing from the policy makers who govern public higher education.
"We’ve got to adapt our education to what the marketplace needs," Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina said this year at a conference on innovation. "People are ready to get the work. Let’s teach them these skills as quick as possible."
The governor spoke shortly after a panel session on "New Delivery Models for Higher Education." Moderated by the head of the state’s chamber of commerce, the session highlighted a particularly innovative approach to education in the form of a tech start-up called Iron Yard.
Iron Yard is a for-profit code school — it teaches people how to program computers, build applications, and design websites. A 12-week course costs $12,000, promising quick proficiency in one of the tech industry’s in-demand skills.
I don’t object to this, except the part where politicians and business leaders call it a new model for higher education. It is actually a new model for worker training, one in which the workers bear the costs and risks for their own job-specific skill acquisition, while employers eagerly revise the curriculum to meet their immediate needs.
Critics of contemporary higher education lament the decline of a broad, humanistic education but often misidentify the cause. To the extent that such a curriculum is on the wane, the culprit is not ’60s-vintage faculty radicalism or political correctness run rampant, but the anxiety-driven preference for career-focused classes and majors.
Most faculty members would love to have more students delving into the classical canon — or any canon, really. But they’re up against policy makers and nervous parents who think average starting salaries are the best metric for weighing academic majors. Private-sector imperatives also threaten to dominate extracurricular time. I now work at a large public university, where I serve as a staff mentor to a cohort of freshmen. Inevitably I spend the first few weeks of the fall semester tamping down anxiety about summer internships. Students who haven’t yet cracked a textbook or met a professor worry about finding summer programs to improve their résumés.
My university recently began offering grants to low-income students who otherwise can’t afford to take internships. It’s a great program, and I’m glad we have it. But it means that academe and its donors are now responsible for subsidizing profitable companies that want future employees to have work experience but don’t want to pay students for a summer’s work. There are many ways society could choose to address the inequity of unpaid internships. Having colleges collect and distribute tax-deductible grants to the private sector’s trainees is perhaps not the most straightforward.
This blurring of the distinction between education and job-skill training isn’t simply a fight over academic priorities. It’s a fight about who pays the cost of doing business: the companies that profit, or some combination of workers and taxpayers. The more we’re willing to countenance a redefinition of job training as education, the more we ask society to shoulder what were once business expenses.
The same tension between public investment and private returns is playing out in the realm of research.
As state funding for research universities has ebbed, pressure has increased for academic institutions to more efficiently monetize their discoveries. Policy makers talk of shortening the pipeline from laboratory to marketplace, putting ever-greater emphasis on the kind of applied research that yields quick returns.
This is all perfectly fine — no one begrudges the discovery of a breakthrough drug or a valuable new material. But with finite resources on campus, more emphasis on marketable products will inevitably mean less focus on the foundational, long-range science that may not yield tangible results for decades. This has already happened in the private sector, where a relentless focus on short-term returns has crowded out spending on fundamental research. Sending universities down the same path risks eroding one of our most important bastions of basic science.
I sat through an economic-development workshop recently — "Research to Revenue" — in which a successful start-up CEO spoke with admirable bluntness about the need to keep university researchers involved in product development but off the company payroll.
"The salaries of these people are often significant," noted the executive. "As a company, you really don’t want to take that on unless you absolutely have to."
Of course not. Much better to let taxpayers, through colleges and federal grant dollars, pick up the tab while private-sector "partners" guide faculty efforts toward privately profitable ends. This is what a more entrepreneurial campus means, after all — a campus more attuned to profit.
"The thought now and then assails us that material efficiency and the passion to ‘get on’ in the world of things is already making it so that the liberal-arts college cannot exist," the University of North Carolina’s president, Edward Kidder Graham, wrote in 1916. "But this is a passing phase," he continued, advising colleges to keep their focus on creating and teaching "the true wealth of life."
If Graham’s confident vision feels like a hopeless anachronism today, then we begin to measure the distance of our retreat. Faced with recessionary state finances and lawmakers who regard the public good as oxymoronic, university leaders have reached for the language of investment and return. The consequences of that narrow view are mounting.
Celebrating the intrinsic value of public higher education is not a nostalgic indulgence but a joyful duty. We spoke that language once; we should try it again.
Eric Johnson works in student-aid communications at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The views expressed here are his own.

College Affordability and the Size of the Market

This piece from, of all places, the Wall Street Journal, and by, of all people, Lamar Alexander, makes the case that college unaffordability is overstated. As such, it's a useful provocation. But buried in it are some numbers that gave me pause. 

Consider that only about 15% of students enrolled in colleges and universities attend private non-profit institutions (you don't need to trust Alexander: check it here).  On the one hand, that means the entire conversation about higher education policy is mostly not about us.  On the other, at the risk of oversimplifying, when private institutions price themselves like private institutions, they might be eliminating about 85% of the market. By comparison, since about 55% of enrolled students are female, being single sex only eliminates about 45% and being only full time cuts out only about 63% of potential students).

College Too Expensive? That’s a Myth
Pell grants, state aid, modest loans and scholarships put a four-year public
institution within the reach of most.
Updated July 6, 2015 9:59 p.m. ET

Paying for college never is easy, but it’s easier than most people think. Yet some politicians and pundits say students can’t afford a college education. That’s wrong. Most of them can.
Public two-year colleges, for example, are free or nearly free for low-income students. Nationally, community college tuition and fees average $3,300 per year, according to theCollege Board. The annual federal Pell grant for these students—which does not have to be paid back—also averages $3,300.
At public four-year colleges, tuition and fees average about $9,000. At the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, tuition and fees are $11,800. One third of its students have a Pell grant (up to $5,775 depending on financial need), and 98% of instate freshmen have a state Hope Scholarship, providing up to $3,500 annually for freshmen and sophomores and up to $4,500 for juniors or seniors. States run a variety of similar programs—$11.2 billion in financial aid in 2013, 85% in the form of scholarships, according to the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs.
The reality is that, for most students, a four-year public institution is also within financial reach.
What about really expensive private colleges? Across the country 15% of students attend private universities where tuition and fees average $31,000, according to the College Board. Georgetown University costs even more: about $50,000 a year. Its president, John DeGioia, told me how Georgetown—and many other so-called elite colleges—help make a degree affordable.
First, Georgetown determines what a family can afford to pay. It asks the student to borrow $17,000 over four years and work 10-15 hours a week under its work-study program. Georgetown pays the remainder—at a total cost of about $100 million a year.
Apart from grants, work and savings, there are federal student loans. We hear a lot of questions about these loans. Are taxpayers generous enough? Is borrowing for college a good investment? Are students borrowing too much?
An undergraduate today can get a federal loan of up to $5,500 his first year. The annual loan limit rises to $7,500 his junior and senior years. The fixed interest rate for new loans this year is, by law, 4.29%. A recent graduate may pay back the loan using no more than 10% of his disposable income. And if at that rate he doesn’t pay it off in 20 years, taxpayers forgive the loan.
Are students borrowing too much? The College Board reports that a student who graduates from a four-year institution carries, on average, a debt of about $27,000. This is about the same amount of the average new car loan, according to the information-services company Experian Automotive. The total amount of outstanding student loans is $1.2 trillion. The total amount of auto loans outstanding in the U.S. is $950 billion.
But a student loan is a lot better investment. Cars depreciate. College degrees appreciate. The College Board estimates that a four-year degree will increase an individual’s lifetime earnings by $1 million, on average.
What about the scary stories of students with $100,000 or more in debt? These represent only 4% of all student loans, and 90% of the borrowers are doctors, lawyers, business school graduates and others who have earned graduate degrees.
About seven million federal student loan borrowers are in default, defined as failing to make a loan payment in at least nine months. That’s about one in 10 of all outstanding federal student loans in default—although the Education Department says most of those loans eventually get paid back.
Here are five steps the federal government can take to make it easier for students to finance their college education:
• Allow students to use Pell grants year-round, not only for the traditional fall and spring academic terms, to complete their degrees more rapidly.
• Simplify the confusing 108-question federal student-aid application form and consolidate the nine loan repayment programs to two: a standard repayment program and one based on their income.
• Change the laws and regulations that discourage colleges from counseling students against borrowing too much.
• Require colleges to share in the risk of lending to students. This will ensure that they have some interest in encouraging students to borrow wisely, graduate on time, and be able to pay back what they owe.
• Clear out the federal red tape that soaks up state dollars that could otherwise go to help reduce tuition. The Boston Consulting Group found that in one year Vanderbilt University spent a startling $150 million complying with federal rules and regulations governing higher education, adding more than $11,000 to the cost of each Vanderbilt student’s $43,000 in tuition. America’s more than 6,000 colleges receive on average one new rule, regulation or guidance letter each workday from the Education Department.
It is vital that more Americans earn their college degrees, for their own benefit and that of the country. A report by Georgetown University’s Center on Education in the Workforce tells us that if we don’t, we’ll fall short by five million workers with postsecondary education in five years.
Mr. Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, is chairman of the Senate’s education committee. He has been secretary of the Education Department, president of the University of Tennessee and governor of Tennessee.
About seven million federal student-loan borrowers are in default. An earlier version of this story referred to seven million dollars, not borrowers.

Innovation in Higher Education Redux

This from TechCrunch. There are a lot of smart minds buzzing around "innovation" in the "higher education space." In what's being called the post-MOOC era, we can wait to see who wins or we can jump in and try to shape the conversation and maybe come up with the liberal arts for the 21st century that people keep yammering on about. The folks described in this post seem to get one important thing: lots of false dichotomies in the current conversation (online OR offline, vocational skills OR critical thinking, liberal arts OR experiential learning).

Searching For The Next Wave Of Education Innovation

Two Years of College for "Free": A Trend?

Smart four year colleges will start planning now to be coordinating with this phenomenon.

Oregon Will Become Second State to Offer Free Community College
Lawmakers approve new program in last minute pre-holiday vote

July 7th, 2015 3:10 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS

More than 10,000 students are expected to benefit from a last-minute bill passed by legislators this week that makes Oregon only the second state (after Tennessee) to offer free community college.

The idea, according to state Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), is that a lot of needy students who might like to attend community college are currently failing to apply for federal grants that could pay for much of their education.

The new legislation, Senate Bill 81, offers a carrot: If eligible students apply for and receive federal grants for community college, Oregon will pay the balance of their tuition. The recipients must have lived in Oregon for 12 months, begin their community college course work within six months of finishing high school or the equivalent, take courses that are required for graduation and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. (And it's not entirely free—each student must pay a minimum of $50 per term.)