Friday, May 20, 2022

Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) Report

The Global University Network for Innovation (GUNI) issued its 2022 Report, New Visions for Higher Education towards 2030, to support "the renewal of its visions and policies around the world in terms of public service, relevance, social responsibility, and innovation." The report calls for greater collaboration across institutions, serving students more effectively, and focused on improving individual's lives and creating a more humane society as well.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Optimists v. Pessimists in higher education

I study leadership and I deeply understand the need to provide an optimistic view, drawing support from those both within and outside of one's sphere of influence. I also know that leaders who portray the conditions of the people and organizations they lead as overly optimistic get in trouble as confidence declines when rosy futures remain unfulfilled and when threatening situations erupt with little opportunity to defend.

A recent survey of college and university provosts (academic leadership) found that most believe that academic welfare at their institutions is good. Provosts believe that the COVID pandemic brought changes but that these did not effect the general nature and quality of education. The satisfaction levels fell once the survey items left the purview of the Provost, with significant numbers believing that financial management, controlling costs, and recruitment had problems. Provosts may report optimism about academic welfare and may claim that they center quality teaching in their work, yet they have contributed to shifting the teaching burden to part-time and adjunct instructors, a shift that contributes to declining quality and exploits a powerless and growing number of academics. The influx of temporary instructors has likely contributed to the erosion of a core of tenured faculty, also at the discretion of the Provost.

Contradicting provosts' optimism, U.S.A. higher education research shows signs of decline. In addition, numerous trends threaten the preeminence of U.S.A. institutions. Ray Schroeder's essay about realism in higher education asserts that the problems "cannot be solved alone by provosts, deans, directors and department chairs with the active engagement of faculty, staff, and related others in reinventing our universities into more efficient, effective and affordable institutions."

Schroeder's admonition to communicate actively inside and outside higher education will likely draw applause but the deeper issues of effectiveness and affordability will likely receive a more tepid response. My previous post, "Has higher education lost its way," captures some of the more fundamental challenges that require attention. Simple demographics are at the center of the tension between optimism and pessimism, with the U.S.A. facing an era of declining traditional-aged college students. The decline of numbers then challenges planners to achieve scale and sustainability.

If leadership is to be effective in the complex environment of higher education in the U.S.A. both optimism and realistic pessimism will have to be accepted. There is evidence that faculty will seek to explore new teaching strategies that will improve student learning. Reinforcing evidence-based strategies that can be scaled to larger numbers will be important. And, returning to the survey of provosts, administrators and positional leaders will need to look beyond their tendency to be satisfied with their own responsibilities but dissatisfied with what others are contributing to organizational security and advancement.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Arts education in higher education

The pattern of declining arts education from Kindergarten through college in U.S.A. educational settings is easily documented and has had a clear outcome - indifference to the arts in many people's lives. The pattern in many other countries around the world is very different. Arts education, and particularly music, in many Asian countries is still a prominent part of family life and children's learning discipline, poise, and a variety of other things. The outcome in other countries is that concert halls and art galleries are publicly supported and attendance is still abundant and multi-generational.

Steve Mintz' essay on the decline of the arts in the U.S.A. raises the specter that perhaps we (meaning Americans) are becoming Philistines who "deprecate the arts, who favor kitsch over more demanding art forms and who fail, to a disturbing degree, to patronize the arts and artists." Mintz notes The Music Man subtext of people yearning for something beyond their mundane existence as evidence of the need to support the arts. This theme is threaded through much of art - visual, music, literature, architecture - all aspiring to something greater, whether it is social change or simply the lifting up of the human spirit. This view of the elevation of the human spirit through arts drove the Medici family of Florence during the Renaissance and, more recently, drove the Rockefeller family in the 20th century to collect and protect the greatest art treasures we have today.

An irony at a time when fear of world war has been sparked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and when popular culture now crossed the line with a live telecast of an assault by Will Smith against Chris Rock, is that one piece of music is being used in many places to celebrate brotherhood and striving for a better world - Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. And it's prescient that this masterpiece was composed almost 200 years ago at this very time with its first performance on May 7, 1824, in Vienna. Beethoven was iconoclastic to say the least and that's why his music is often viewed as difficult for mere mortals to understand. However, the 9th, the first time a chorus would be introduced in symphonic form, is unarguable and easily understood - "Joy! Joy! Brothers, you should run your race. Like a hero going to victory."

We need aspiration and lifting up and there's no better way than through the arts. Enough sad from a lifetime avocational musician.

Monday, April 4, 2022

2022-23 Enrollment outlook

Colleges and universities are struggling to know what the new normal of enrollment will include. One thing that is clear is that the pandemic impacted current and prospective students in very different ways. Early evidence indicated that selective and elite institutions received more applications than ever before and moved toward being even more discriminating in their offers of admission while other institutions left admissions open beyond the May 1 deadline observed by most institutions.

Effective recruitment and subsequent yield strategies are key to institutions' success in maintaining or growing enrollment. As the admission offer and response deadlines extend past May 1, competition increases with local alumni-hosted receptions, more campus visits, and phone calls designed to convince prospects to make a decision. Particularly for less selective institutions whose brand may not be widely known, creativity has led to offering uniquely niched programs such as Duquesne University's day of stuffing 75,744 meals to support U.S. Hunger work.

When prospective students were offered the option of choosing lower cost versus higher cost institutions, their preference leaned in the direction of accepting higher cost, assuming that services provided to them would be superior. The list of things for which students were willing to pay more included better residence halls and dining halls. Paying more seemed to relate to the perception that higher resourced institutions had more financial aid available to dispense to students, a fact that makes the issue of cost comparison and fit very confusing for prospects. The rising rate of tuition discounting among many institutions is evidence that increased price is being used to reflect higher value while awards and scholarships are handed out to lower the actual cost to students. Tuition discounting is seen as a vulnerability to institutions yet some administrators indicate that "net revenue" is a better indicator of financial health. An interesting rejoinder to prospective students' willingness to pay more for perceived higher quality is that FAFSA completion rates are down and evidence indicates that more students are funding their own expenses, instead of relying on parents. Affordability will no doubt play an important role as numerous institutions announced tuition hikes for 2022-23.

Careful planning to reach prospective students is an important early phase of enrollment planning for institutions. Student Voice research looked at what students want and how they collect information on campuses of interest to them. Key issues involved improving both virtual and in-person touring, direct access to peers for advice, and addressing quality of academic programs and cost of attendance. Most of all, all students deserve to have a clear path toward acquiring a degree, with special attention to students who previously completed courses but did not graduate.

One of the fundamental questions that some have raised is, how is selectivity among elite institutions working for anyone? Ways elitism doesn't work is reflected in considerable evidence that learning is enhanced more by how students engage while in college than where they attend. In addition, those students who achieve admission to elite institutions are potentially impaired by the cocoon of privilege they enter during their enrollment. Perhaps most negatively, the broad message higher education sends in celebrating selectivity is that certain students are more gifted and important than those who are not admitted to elite institutions. This "better than" perspective is damaging to everyone, especially when legacy admissions tip the scale of admission toward the most privileged and networked applicants.

Many colleges and universities are pivoting to prospective students from minority backgrounds in order to fill enrollment gaps, a compensatory move that may reverse the declining proportion of minority students intending to study beyond high school. The pivot to minority students is sometimes justified as enriching the learning experience, sometimes to address the ethical obligation of providing access, and for others it's unclear. The targeted recruitment of minority students is often done by over-representing the number of students from diverse backgrounds or by inviting minority prospects to events targeted specifically to them. The problem - prospects see through these strategies and don't resonate. Some institutions connect recipients of scholarships with wealthy donors in order to reinforce the donor relationships, but the strategy may offend low-income and minority honorees.

Stop-outs and transfers are two groups that could bolster enrollment. The number of students who do not complete their degrees has increased for two years in a row and the number of students who continue their education by transferring from 2 to 4 year institutions dropped by 11.6% from 2020 to 202. Setting an expectation of continuing study and offering approaches to make it possible such as Ask-Connect-Inspire-Plan model can help. Technology tools are also available to streamline the transfer process so that retention and advancement to higher levels of education can be addressed. Attracting stop-outs back may result in multi-generational attendance at some institutions, which would in crease numbers as well as the quality of learning for all.

But what will happen for other institutions and how will this change the face of higher education around the world? Domestic enrollments as a proportion of total enrollment is somewhat more stable than international enrollment, which is highly influenced by economics and public policy decisions. A particular example is that of higher education in the United Kingdom. With the two largest sources of current international students being China, which is declining slightly, and India, which is growing, the Brexit decision appears to be sending more students to Canada - particularly Indian but also European. Enrollment of international students in the U.S.A. is the largest in the world, largely the result of the variety of options and many high quality STEM programs. The extension of COVID guidelines into 2022-23 for international students enrollment in on-line courses may help retain those already engaged in U.S.A. institutions.

This post will be successively updated as more information comes available so please come back as we are able to piece the enrollment picture for 2022-23 together.

Zooming and compartmentalization

Zoom is one of those pandemic phenomena that is likely to not go away, even as campuses return to in-person instruction and other experiences. Whether Zoom is used for business or personal communication, it is now pervasive in most people's lives, allowing for greater ease in scheduling meetings and allowing us to include friends/colleagues who would in past worlds not be able to participate.

Joshua Kim offers advice on how Zoom has changed campus meetings. Reading the list will surely result in plenty of nodding heads and resigned shrugs. Zoom has been helpful in many ways but the fatigue of back-to-back Zoom meetings and the loss of "hallway" and incidental conversation present significant challenges. The additional issue not addressed in Kim's advice is that Zoom meetings do not allow for a personal touch or the reading of non-verbals, both of which engender trust.

As Zoom increased access, staff were reduced, and demands increased, some educators have withdrawn or sought greater compartmentalization of their lives. Privileged faculty have always had the luxury of flexible work schedules and discretion in how they contributed their time. This privilege is now sought by other staff who increasingly see themselves as burnt out. In order to respect others' needs, Joshua Kim recommends, "be sure that you value other people's time... don't request time and energy unless completely necessary,.. and stop assuming that others share your priorities."

Monday, March 28, 2022

Anti-racism on campus

I've previously attempted to capture the most important issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in higher education. Fred Hayward's reflections on his and others' work at the University of Wisconsin in the 1960s and 1970s provides an important opportunity to see what has worked or not worked over the previous decades. The UW experience that Hayward recounts portrays an institution that acknowledged serious student concerns and leveraged that to make changes, even in the face of significant resistance among the general faculty.

Citing the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, the rise of white nationalism, and tensions over critical race theory, Hayward expresses disappointment in the lack of real progress since the 1960s. However, he remains hopeful that real change is achievable, asserting that Wilkerson's Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents contains essential truths to consider. Paired with Wilkerson's analysis, McGhee's The Sum of Us offers insight on the cost of persistent racism and how it might be addressed. The realization that affirmative action and other strategies are necessary to correct the historical exclusion of cultural groups is compelling. However, with large numbers of Americans opposing affirmative action, using it to address systemic racism is likely short-lived.

One of the fascinating things is that Hayward summarized only what occurred with students and faculty at UW, without reference to the role that student affairs educators might have played. My own experience as an undergraduate student at Colorado State University was that the Dean of Students was fired because he chose to engage with students in real conversation about their concerns, instead of hiding in his office during the student protests of the late 1960s. Student affairs staff are often unrecognized partners in learning for faculty and all institutions would be better off if the silos of the classroom and out of class life were dismantled.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Expatriate work in higher education

Having experienced it, I am an enthusiastic advocate for international work in higher education. It was transformative for me. Bruce Taylor, an academic who worked abroad for almost 40 years recounts many of the things I valued about expatriate work. He also offers advice on the conditions or circumstances that can improve success in both short or long term work outside one's passport country. Taylor closes his essay with the warning that returning to one's passport country can be daunting, a dynamic I've observed among colleagues and felt myself.

Flipping the expatriate conversation to faculty from other countries that come to the U.S.A., the associate dean of faculty affairs at Sacramento State University described the difficulties that engineering faculty have in adjusting to the culture and expectations they face. Especially when it comes to students' casual approach to classroom encounters with their professors and encountering diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, faculty from other countries may lack the contextual understanding of why the expectations are so different. Providing faculty development in "equity literacy, coupled with pedagogical training on effective and empathetic teach methods" would be a good place to start in helping expatriate faculty in U.S.A. settings.