Ohio Higher Ed

A Monthly Blog

Compiled By Marty Kich

AAUP-WSU home page

AAUP-WSU blog page

December 2011

[Click the links to pdf’s of the full articles.]

Bucking much-publicized recent trends, the administration at Delta Community College in Michigan has offered tenure to all of its full-time faculty, to whom tenure had previously been unavailable. The college’s president stated cited four reasons for the change: creating incentives for improved teaching; expanding the interaction between faculty and students; showing respect for faculty, many of whom have taught at the institution for much of their careers; and enhancing recruitment of new faculty. The president added that even though the college requires a great deal of flexibility in its staffing, the change to a tenure system should not substantively impact the college’s budget.

Likewise, at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, adjunct faculty have voted to form a bargaining unit. With about 85% of the eligible faculty casting ballots, the vote was roughly 60% to 40% in favor of unionization.

On the other hand, in a development that should disturb all members of the “Academy,” Blackwater Corporation, which had relatively recently re-branded as XE Corporation, has again changed its name to Academi.

In “The War on Education,” an article for the Huffington Post Education blog, Robert J. Elisberg chronicles the Republican antipathy toward education since the Second World War. Before anyone of the right has a chance to scream about this article’s being just another illustration of the “liberal bias” among our teachers and professors, I should emphasize that Elisberg highlights the manifold ways in which the GOP has, for six decades, mounted a sustained, remarkably consistent, and unapologetically blatant attack on almost every aspect of public education.

In an article for the Huffington Post Business blog, former Proctor and Gamble CEO A. G. Lafley argues that a Liberal Arts education is the best preparation for a successful career in business. Although this article’s message is rather swamped by recent articles questioning the value of many college majors, especially in the Liberal Arts, the article is nonetheless a welcome reiteration of a long-held defense of a Liberal Arts education—especially given the author’s background.

As Ohio reduces its funding of developmental courses at its state universities, most institutions, but especially those that have remained open-admission institutions, are struggling to balance student needs with the integrity of academic programs while maintaining institutional revenue. As reported in the San Jose Mercury News, the institutions in the California State system are facing the same issues, on a comparable or even broader scale.

Ostensibly to enhance institutional accountability, Indiana has revamped its funding of state universities, placing a greater emphasis on “performance.” Institutions in that state will increasingly receive funding in proportion to the percentages of students who reach targets in completed credit hours. Writing for Inside Higher Ed, Kevin Kiley describes a “New Kind of Public Funding” at two new satellite campuses in Arizona, the Prescott Valley Campus of Northern Arizona University and the Lake Havasu Campus of Arizona State University. Instead of accepting state funding, these campuses will rely on tuition income supplemented by funding from the municipalities that they serve and from local private funding sources.

In an article for the Washington Post, Daniel de Vise examines how the “historic collapse in state funding for higher education” paradoxically poses an unprecedented threat to the most well-funded of public universities, the “Public Ivies.” In essence, de Vise observes that the institutions with the most resources face the most pressure to maintain their stature and therefore actually have the thinnest margins for failure. They are competing not only against each other and their private counterparts but also against expectations.

In “Unpacking the Flexibility Mantra in U.S. Higher Ed,” an article for Global Higher Ed, Kris Olds examines from multiple perspectives the fiscal buzzword of the decade in higher-education funding and budgeting. Olds opens the article with this blunt assessment of that buzzword: “’Flexibility’ is a genuinely slippery concept, one that provides some sense of coherence with vagueness. It is also a concept that is a resource in the pursuit of power.”

The competing pressures of reduced state funding but intensified accountability have resulted in increased attention to the efficacy of class sections with very large enrollments and of faculty overloads. In “Teaching Large,” an article for Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik reports on a presentation made at the annual meeting of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Peter Doolittle, the Director of the Center for instructional Development and Educational Research at Virginia Tech University, presented on the key pedagogical issues facing those teaching very large classes and the most innovative ways of meeting those challenges. In “Overload Economics,” another article for Inside Higher Ed, Kaustuv Basu surveys the issues surrounding faculty overloads. Ironically, although faculty have taken on overloads to compensate for unfilled positions and other budgetary constraints, media reports on increases in faculty overload pay have often served to reinforce the public perception that faculty are underworked and overpaid. The article also explores the paradox that although faculty overloads mitigate the increasing reliance on adjuncts, the issue has been reframed as a further example of the most privileged segment of the professoriate’s profiting at the expense of the least privileged.

In an article for the Huffington Post Education blog, Ramon Resa discusses the radically changing face and function of our libraries and the possibility that they may go the way of encyclopedia salesmen, the telephone booth, and the record store. Certainly, the fiscal pressures caused by reduced state support and the cultural changes caused by technological advancements have placed libraries on the list of endangered institutions, alongside bookstores and the post office.

I might have added to that list—an affordable college degree. The article title “I Am Borrowing My Way through College . . .” may seem to indicate that the article will present a first-person account of the difficulties in paying for a college education. But this unsigned article published in the Left Business Observer in February 2010, well ahead of the “Occupy” phenomenon, is actually a careful analysis of how much a college education costs at various types of institutions, of what factors contribute to those costs, and of why those costs have been shifted increasingly to students. A more concise but equally lucid examination of the causes and effects of the student-debt crisis is provided by Christopher Petrella in “Degrees of Debt,” an article for Nation of Change. Writing for the Huffington Post Education blog, Emily Southwood does provide a first-person account of the long-term effects of student debt, classifying herself and her husband as members of “Generation Poor.”

Finally, in an article for the Huffington Post Education blog, Jeff Selingo asserts “Let’s Rethink How We Pay for College.” Selingo makes five specific and thoughtful proposals for reducing the debt burden on students. The argument for a much more radical solution to this crisis is presented in “Could Dismantling the Submerged State Surrounding Student Debt Pay for Free Colleges?” published at Rortybomb. The author suggests that as government support to students seeking college degrees has shifted from grants to loans, the actual cost to the government has not much changed. Instead, the monies that had been provided directly to students in grants are now expended in subsidizing the financial institutions that provide student loans. More exactly, those institutions are being paid by the government to manage the loans provided by the government. If this argument is even half-valid, it reframes the debate over student grants from fiscal constraints to political agendas.