Tag Archives: Public Higher Ed

Have Public Universities Lost Their Focus?

Via The Atlantic: http://ift.tt/2gy9PpF


Since the 1970s, a “doom loop” has pervaded higher education, writes Christopher Newfield in his new book The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, calls this loop “privatization”—the hidden and overt ways that “business practices restructure teaching and research.”

It’s a cycle in which colleges spend more and more money chasing research projects, building luxury dorms and academic centers to attract wealthy students, and engaging in activities that compel them to compete against each other, rather than focus on their own students. Newfield says he saw this first-hand while serving on the University of California’s planning-and-budget committee.

One consequence, according to Newfield: After decades of public universities raising tuition, legislatures have learned to rely even more on tuition increases to enable them to cut funding for public higher education.  

Families suffer, of course, but the long-term impact transcends that. “The converting of public funding into higher tuition focuses the student on assuring her future income to cover higher costs and debt,” he writes. At stake, he believes, is a citizenry that sees college not as a place for in-depth learning and inquiry, but as a means to economic security, forcing colleges to conduct themselves more like a business and less like a public good that all students can afford.  

The Hechinger Report, which published this story in partnership with The Atlantic, spoke with Newfield to learn more. This interview was lightly edited for length and clarity.


Mikhail Zinshteyn: Why are public universities a public good, and why do you think states and the federal government should largely do away with tuition?

Christopher Newfield: Society—culturally, economically, and socially—gets the majority of the benefits. Here I’m using the work of some economists, particularly Walter McMahon, who has actually tried to count up all of the non-market benefits that universities generate.

Christopher Newfield
Christopher Newfield

My parents are first-generation-college people, and they probably wouldn’t have gone if it hadn’t been free for them. The benefit of that was that society got two more productive, also politically more thoughtful, more complex people that had better health, people that were able to make contributions to their community, because they had incomes that allowed them to work only one job.

What’s happened since is, [the reduction in state funding and shift toward operating like a business] is just kind of an arrangement of convenience for state governments, for taxpayers, for business taxpayers, who’ve gotten a cheaper deal. But, it’s economically and socially less efficient to save money this way. It’s also philosophically and economically incorrect.  

Zinshteyn: What’s one example of the way colleges have been behaving like businesses at the expense of students?

Newfield: They had to look for multiple revenue streams really starting in the 1980s, and some of those were very high-value and glamorous … like technology-transfer revenues through patenting, increasing contracts and grants revenues, and increasing fundraising.

The national statistic is that universities have to put in 19 cents of institutional funds to make up, to get to, a full dollar of their research expenditures. [And] this number is higher at public universities than it is at private universities. The last numbers that I saw are about 25 cents on the dollar of overall research expenditures at publics, and something like half that at privates. So there’s a public subsidy that’s going on at these institutions, through ongoing general fund contributions, that means that they’re just paying more of their own money … and not paying for what the public thinks it’s paying for, which is instruction, and some other kinds of core things.

There’s actually one article that was published on this in the general press that said on $3.5 billion in gross contract and grant revenues [at the University of California], they lose $720 million [in one year].

Zinshteyn: Why were states increasing tuition—your book notes public colleges raised tuition by about 50 percent in the 1980s and 38 percent in the 1990s—even though, as you point out, state funding was growing slightly?  

Newfield: Because they were adding prestigious activities. And after U.S. News came in with [college] rankings in the late 1980s, it just really took off. Because they were having to compete for revenue, for overall amount of R&D expenditures, for selectivity rates, which were tied to the prestige of the faculty. … Bayh-Dole [legislation], in 1980, which is the door opening [for universities] to keep patenting revenues, was a driver that we haven’t talked about enough.

But I think some of it is just that it was more important to have a kind of a national profile than it was to do really good regional service. Shifting from regional service to national profile created competitive costs; you just tend to duplicate a lot of things that other people have. Then later, in the 1990s and 2000s, when you’re starting to compete for blue chip out-of-state students, the arms race in facilities accelerates, and just re-accelerates after 2008.

Zinshteyn: What’s the most glaring example of privatization at work that you saw on the UC planning-and-budget committee?

Newfield: We just started prioritizing private revenue streams, and energy and brains and additional positions were created in order to go after that other stuff. The Regents were pitched fundraising statistics and contracts and grants, gross statistics—always with the gross numbers, never with net. Undergraduates and academic graduates students became more of an afterthought at the senior management level. They were kind of the revenue source, in terms of tuition and general funds per capita, but then, after that, they were not at the center of policy. We really lost our focus.

Zinshteyn: Let’s say there’s a reformer who’s sympathetic to the arguments in this book. Does she sit down with President-elect Trump? Or with her state’s governor? And what will that elevator pitch sound like?

Newfield: She would say to Trump: You ran on making America great again. And to make America great again, you have to make the economy great again. And to make the economy great again, you have to bring all the non-college workers of the country into it. And to do that, to include the non-college [workers], you have to rebuild open-access, high-quality, public universities. There is no other way. It can’t be job training. It can’t be political rhetoric. It can’t be browbeating a few companies to not off-shore their workers.

This has to be liberal arts and sciences. Rebuild high-end cognitive skills, so that these folks don’t just go down the street to the machinist shop that’s still open if they lost their factory job. They can be eligible for a whole range of jobs, or build jobs and businesses on their own with these skills.


This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.

Poor and Uneducated: The South’s Cycle of Failing Higher Education

Via The Atlantic: http://ift.tt/2biQVlx


ATLANTA—The existence of Civil War emblems on campus has pounded out a drumbeat of angst and activism at universities across the South in the last few years.

But some campuses in this region are part of another North-South rift that’s gotten less attention:

Southern states have been disproportionately cutting spending on public higher education. In a region where the poorest families already face some of the nation’s highest poverty rates, forced tuition increases make their colleges and universities among the least affordable, 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, the 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.

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.

Four of the five states where a community college costs the most for the poorest students are southern: Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Low-income families there would have to pay anywhere from 39 percent to 47 percent of their annual household incomes to pay for a two-year degree, the Penn study found.

And all five of the costliest four-year public university degrees for low-income families are in the South, the same study shows: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas, where the poorest students would have to spend from half to three-quarters of their incomes to attend college.

These trends affect more than the number and income level of people on southern campuses, said Melanie Barton, the executive director of the independent, nonpartisan South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. They threaten the region’s economy and portend a further entrenchment of poverty.

“I’m scared to death we won’t have students in the pipeline for jobs,” said Barton, especially in newer fields such as high-tech manufacturing and healthcare administration.

Five of the 10 states with the lowest percentages of people who have college and university degrees are in the South, the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this, finds: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina. (Lumina is among the funders of The Hechinger Report, which produced this story.)

Of the top 25 metropolitan areas with the highest percentages of people with degrees, only two—Atlanta and Charlotte—are southern.

Meanwhile, five of the 10 states with the biggest declines in university enrollment are in the South, according to SHEEO: West Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina.

Barton said the low priority given by some governors and legislators to public higher education and the sort of associate’s degrees or certificates linked to newer jobs may be a throwback to a time when many workers in southern agriculture and manufacturing industries didn’t need one.

“It’s time to change the culture and our cultural aspirations,” Barton said.

Other observers say the problem stems in part from a more recent emphasis in southern states on giving money to students with good grades who may not have financial need  in order to keep them from moving away.

This amounts to “spending on students that are going to college anyway,” said William Doyle, a professor of public policy and higher education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, who studies college affordability. “You’ve got a set of states that have spent a lot time and money on solving the wrong problems.”

F. King Alexander, the president of Louisiana State University, said the real issue is a shortage of state funding overall. Louisiana, like some other southern states, has suffered from declining oil revenues and political resistance to increasing taxes.

Those and other reasons have led Louisiana to slash higher-education spending by nearly 40 percent since 2008, with more cuts likely, forcing a doubling of tuition and warnings that the very existence of Louisiana State is at risk.

Funding for Kentucky’s public higher education fell short this year by $26 million, resulting in a 6 percent increase in tuition and the layoffs of more than 500 faculty and staff. Gov. Matt Bevin, who has said taxpayers should support engineers but not humanities majors, has ordered another $18 million in cuts over the heads of the legislature. A judge has held he had the right to do this, though the case has been appealed.

State funding in Georgia has also fallen, and tuition in the University of Georgia system has doubled since 2008.

States in other parts of the country have also reduced higher-education spending, increased tuition, and seen enrollment drop. But not to the same degree as in the South.

Cuts like these also have a bigger impact here, where there are fewer alternatives to public higher education.

“The South has built its higher education system on the back of public education, unlike the Northeast, with its private colleges and universities,” Alexander said. “So it’s particularly damaging when appropriations are reduced, as has been the case in the last 10 years in the South.”  

Because tuition has increased and financial aid has shifted to students based on reasons other than financial need, Doyle said, “They’re not helping first-generation, under-represented, minority, low-income students to attend college.”

That’s the exact population that is in abundance and is growing in the South, where the number of Latinos in particular is among the fastest-growing in the nation.

In states such as Louisiana, Alexander said, if degrees in fields like health care remain out of reach for a large swath of the state’s population, those industries will be hobbled by the inability to find qualified employees. Therefore, they will contribute less state revenue and still less money to support the public universities and colleges.

It’s another vicious circle, he said.

Spence said the South needs to be innovative in the way it tries to solve this problem.

“We’ve got to find a way to be more efficient and help students increase post-secondary education without increasing costs—particularly since it appears that we’re not going to see an increase in appropriations,” Spence said.

But, he added, this is not a new imperative.

“I’ve said this once or twice a decade for the last three decades.”


This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.

Poor and Uneducated: The South’s Cycle of Failing Higher Education

Via The Atlantic: http://ift.tt/2biQVlx


ATLANTA—The existence of Civil War emblems on campus has pounded out a drumbeat of angst and activism at universities across the South in the last few years.

But some campuses in this region are part of another North-South rift that’s gotten less attention:

Southern states have been disproportionately cutting spending on public higher education. In a region where the poorest families already face some of the nation’s highest poverty rates, forced tuition increases make their colleges and universities among the least affordable, 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, the 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.

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.

Four of the five states where a community college costs the most for the poorest students are southern: Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Arkansas. Low-income families there would have to pay anywhere from 39 percent to 47 percent of their annual household incomes to pay for a two-year degree, the Penn study found.

And all five of the costliest four-year public university degrees for low-income families are in the South, the same study shows: South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas, where the poorest students would have to spend from half to three-quarters of their incomes to attend college.

These trends affect more than the number and income level of people on southern campuses, said Melanie Barton, the executive director of the independent, nonpartisan South Carolina Education Oversight Committee. They threaten the region’s economy and portend a further entrenchment of poverty.

“I’m scared to death we won’t have students in the pipeline for jobs,” said Barton, especially in newer fields such as high-tech manufacturing and healthcare administration.

Five of the 10 states with the lowest percentages of people who have college and university degrees are in the South, the Lumina Foundation, which tracks this, finds: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and South Carolina. (Lumina is among the funders of The Hechinger Report, which produced this story.)

Of the top 25 metropolitan areas with the highest percentages of people with degrees, only two—Atlanta and Charlotte—are southern.

Meanwhile, five of the 10 states with the biggest declines in university enrollment are in the South, according to SHEEO: West Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, and North Carolina.

Barton said the low priority given by some governors and legislators to public higher education and the sort of associate’s degrees or certificates linked to newer jobs may be a throwback to a time when many workers in southern agriculture and manufacturing industries didn’t need one.

“It’s time to change the culture and our cultural aspirations,” Barton said.

Other observers say the problem stems in part from a more recent emphasis in southern states on giving money to students with good grades who may not have financial need  in order to keep them from moving away.

This amounts to “spending on students that are going to college anyway,” said William Doyle, a professor of public policy and higher education at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, who studies college affordability. “You’ve got a set of states that have spent a lot time and money on solving the wrong problems.”

F. King Alexander, the president of Louisiana State University, said the real issue is a shortage of state funding overall. Louisiana, like some other southern states, has suffered from declining oil revenues and political resistance to increasing taxes.

Those and other reasons have led Louisiana to slash higher-education spending by nearly 40 percent since 2008, with more cuts likely, forcing a doubling of tuition and warnings that the very existence of Louisiana State is at risk.

Funding for Kentucky’s public higher education fell short this year by $26 million, resulting in a 6 percent increase in tuition and the layoffs of more than 500 faculty and staff. Gov. Matt Bevin, who has said taxpayers should support engineers but not humanities majors, has ordered another $18 million in cuts over the heads of the legislature. A judge has held he had the right to do this, though the case has been appealed.

State funding in Georgia has also fallen, and tuition in the University of Georgia system has doubled since 2008.

States in other parts of the country have also reduced higher-education spending, increased tuition, and seen enrollment drop. But not to the same degree as in the South.

Cuts like these also have a bigger impact here, where there are fewer alternatives to public higher education.

“The South has built its higher education system on the back of public education, unlike the Northeast, with its private colleges and universities,” Alexander said. “So it’s particularly damaging when appropriations are reduced, as has been the case in the last 10 years in the South.”  

Because tuition has increased and financial aid has shifted to students based on reasons other than financial need, Doyle said, “They’re not helping first-generation, under-represented, minority, low-income students to attend college.”

That’s the exact population that is in abundance and is growing in the South, where the number of Latinos in particular is among the fastest-growing in the nation.

In states such as Louisiana, Alexander said, if degrees in fields like health care remain out of reach for a large swath of the state’s population, those industries will be hobbled by the inability to find qualified employees. Therefore, they will contribute less state revenue and still less money to support the public universities and colleges.

It’s another vicious circle, he said.

Spence said the South needs to be innovative in the way it tries to solve this problem.

“We’ve got to find a way to be more efficient and help students increase post-secondary education without increasing costs—particularly since it appears that we’re not going to see an increase in appropriations,” Spence said.

But, he added, this is not a new imperative.

“I’ve said this once or twice a decade for the last three decades.”


This post appears courtesy of The Hechinger Report.

The Challenge of Equipping California’s Latinos With Bachelor’s Degrees

Despite making up a growing proportion of California’s population, Latinos are less likely than whites, Asians, and blacks in the state to have graduated from a four-year college. The rollout of a new program that allows some community colleges to grant bachelor’s degrees has the potential to change that. But a new report from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project cautions that the degree gaps aren’t going to close unless the schools and state lawmakers are willing to acknowledge and deliberately focus on them.

California is the 22nd state to allow community colleges to award four-year degrees. As with the 21 states before it, lawmakers who shepherded the proposal to fruition touted the workforce benefits in order to win over the business community. “Virtually nobody” approached the idea as a way to increase the equity of access to bachelor’s degrees, said Patricia Gándara, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project and the lead author of the report, despite the fact that the program could provide a path to higher education for young people in the state who have traditionally struggled to gain access.

Right now, California is nearly 1 million bachelor’s degrees shy of where it needs to be to be strong economically. While nearly half of whites and almost 60 percent of Asians in the state have a bachelor’s degrees, just 27 percent of blacks and 13 percent of Latinos hold bachelor’s degrees. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately concentrated in community colleges, and many fail to transfer to a four-year university after they earn an associate’s degree, despite the fact that more and more jobs require a bachelor’s. “This is the grand opportunity to break the back of that problem,” Gándara said.

She and her co-author, Marcela Cuellar at UC Davis, in the report lay out which community colleges are set to offer bachelor’s degrees by next year. Nearly half of the 15 schools in the initial pilot program are more than 50 percent white and Asian, even though white and Asian students make up only around a third of the state’s high-school graduates and already earn degrees at relatively high rates. Many of the bachelor’s programs these schools are slated to offer, selected in large part based on workforce needs, also have heavy math and science requirements, which, the report warns, could deter students of color. Blacks and Latinos are disproportionately less likely to enroll in math and science programs, and the report warns that schools will need to proactively encourage them to apply.

Gándara said that when her team pointed out to lawmakers and community-college administrators the fact that many of the chosen campuses do not serve large numbers of underrepresented minorities, “They kind of swallowed hard and said, ‘Oh my goodness.’” The oversight did not seem malicious, and, Gándara said, they seemed open to focusing on expanding access in the future.

But if equity does become a focus in the California program, it would be something of a departure from the way other states have approached their own programs. The report authors surveyed schools in Florida, Texas, and Washington—three states chosen for their demographic similarity to California—and found that campuses were rarely selected for their proximity to underrepresented groups, and that few actively reached out to these groups. “The individuals we interviewed were not opposed to seeing the BA programs as a tool for increasing equity in access to the BA,” write the authors, “For the most part, they just hadn’t thought about it extensively.”

The report urges California to set a deliberate goal of expanding access to bachelor’s programs at community colleges for underrepresented students, in part by offering programs at schools near where they are concentrated, and to collect data on which programs enroll and graduate these students. The authors also suggest that schools market themselves to underrepresented groups and, as the programs grow, keep an eye out for barriers that stand in the way of access.

Ensuring equity of access for blacks and Latinos in community-college bachelor’s programs presents an especially crucial opportunity for California because the state bans outright affirmative action, and the two university systems that currently award four-year degrees have struggled to enroll a proportionate percentage of black and Latino students. (Proponents of the use of race in college admissions hope that a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the practice will bolster their case for bringing it back to California.)

Yet there are plenty of challenges to making equal access possible. The University of California, whose institutions provide bachelor’s and advanced degrees, doesn’t want programs cropping up in places that would detract from its own programs, and community colleges themselves have argued that they are already too cash-strapped and busy fulfilling a need for associate’s degrees and technical training to add other options to the mix. Beyond some meager funding for the pilot phase, the state did not provide additional money, so colleges will have to figure out how to pay to offer bachelor’s degrees and train faculty. As the report points out, California has some of the lowest community-college tuition in the nation, and schools spend only about $5,000 per full-time student (compared to about $9,500 to educate high-school students in the state).

But the risk of not expanding access, especially when it comes to the growing Latino population, is high. According to the report, California ranks 45th in the nation in baccalaureate completion. More than two-thirds of Latinos who pursue higher education attend community college, even when they’re capable of succeeding immediately at a four-year school. Many stay close to home because they have families to support and jobs to hold down, making the prospect of transferring to a school far away unlikely. If community colleges nearby offered degrees they were interested in, degree attainment in the state might rise. “This is an opportunity,” Gándara said, “to do something in an area that we haven’t had great success in.”

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