Higher education… good news from past weeks

Reshaping the Future in Higher Education: Walking New Paths


Since my February entry highlighing “traumatic change” in higher education, I’ve continued collecting news items about the changes underway as the reshaping of higher education continues. As you might guess, nasty items appear far more often than good news. This post, in honor of the recent arrvial of spring, focuses on the good news that higher education may emerge from the present turmoil better prepared for the next 20 years.


The common element: coping with shrinking resources


Here’s what makes me hopeful. Presented in the order collected.


  • Eastern Arizona College, a community college, is pushing to offer 4-year degree programs. That makes a great deal of sense if the programs offered meet commuity need just as the 2-year programs do. Let’s hope that Arizona’s major public universities support the change. Interest in lower-cost bachelor’s degrees is good. This is way to do it.
  • Median salaries for top administrators in higher education didn’t increase in 2009-2010. At a time when public opinion increasingly is skeptical of how higher education invests resources and tuition increases are large, keeping top administrative salaries level is a good thing. Inside Higher education provided the details.
  • Berea College has spent months in discussions about the future. Berea is a special place where students work for the college in return for their education. A 43-year old student proposed capping the highest administrative salary at no more than 6 times the lowest salary on campus. The practical impact: about $120,000 a year for the president, down quite a bit from his 2008 level of $266,000. Note that before this proposal the president had already announced a 12 percent reduction in his salary.
  • A new emphasis on completion rates is emerging with support from foundations (Lumina, Gates) and a new Complete College America organization. Inside Higher Ed reported the details early this month. Any move to more emphasis on outcomes is welcome.
  • Hamilton College trustees unexpectedly made the donations needed to allow the college to expand financial aid and offer need-blind admissions when many private sector schools are pulling back from financial aid commitments that expanded over the last 10 years.
  • St. Michael’s College will consider using “open source” software for liberal arts courses so that faculty might spend less time in course preparation and more time with students. Might this even lead to financial savings that come with higher course loads? Read more about a change that will spark controversy and create discussion about a difficult topic: the impact of faculty teaching loads on the cost of higher education. 

That’s all for now 

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