WATER COOLER [POLITICS & POLICY]
Administrators in higher education increasingly experience the trend of disruptive innovation in the industry. Today's students are more diverse and nontraditional, with a greater number of campus members being adult learners. At the same time, prospective students understand that a singular investment in education may not be sufficient to be fully prepared to enter the workforce, and are looking toward more specific and shorter modular education opportunities that can prepare them for the type of job they actually want. Likewise, competition for students is becoming more and more difficult between universities and colleges who face the challenge of appealing to this diversity.
Across the country, many students still lack access to a college option that fits their needs.
It’s a problem that two very different states are looking to solve. Despite having 114 campuses in California, Governor Jerry Brown wants the state’s community college system to explore expanding its programs through a new online-only college. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania’s education department has given its approval for the creation of a new alternative type of community college to serve the northwestern part of the state. “Community colleges across the country are suffering from decreasing enrollments, so they’re out there trying to figure out what are the options to reach students who they haven’t reached in the past and retain the ones they have,” said Elisabeth Barnett, senior research scientist at the Community College Research Center at Columbia University. California’s move to try to reach more students with an online-only alternative could boost enrollment statewide. The two-year system has about 2.4 million students, although about 10 years ago enrollment stood at 2.9 million, according to the chancellor’s office.
Despite a growing demand for more diversity in higher education, more than 70 percent of college presidents are men, and 80 percent are white, according to a new report. There have been small gains for women and racial and ethnic minorities in the last 10 years, according to the study, by the American Council on Education and TIAA Institute. But the average age of college presidents has also gotten higher, rising to 62 now from an average of 52 three decades ago. Meanwhile, the student body is becoming more diverse. While 30 percent of college presidents are women, female students have outnumbered male students since 1979. And nonwhite students are expected to make up 44 percent of enrollment within the next eight years, U.S. Census data show. That compares to 17 percent of presidents.
When thieves broke into an Olympia storage locker in April and hauled away an 85-pound locked safe, they set in motion a series of events that forced Washington State University to send letters to 1 million people advising them their data might have been compromised. The safe contained a computer hard drive — a backup containing personal information, including Social Security numbers, that was stored off-site by WSU’s Social & Economic Sciences Research Center. The center, a research arm of the university, contracts with state agencies to evaluate the quality of the data those agencies are collecting, said Phil Weiler, vice president for marketing and communication at WSU.
As the definition of a "typical" college student continues to transform, multiple lawmakers stress that any revamping of the HEA, or additional legislation addressing higher ed regulation, needs to deal with the pronounced growth in adult and continuing education students. House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) made this point during a March panel, in which she also surmised that reauthorization of the HEA did not seem to be a “high priority” for the new presidential administration and Congress.
Many states have looked to consolidate administrative functions to lessen the cost burden on individual institutions. Some states are considering merging the campuses of public colleges and universities in the face of declining enrollment and increasing costs, and though often seen as a budgetary consideration, there could be benefits to colleges combining forces. When Albany State University and Darton State College got approved for consolidation in late 2015, it allowed school leaders to frame it as a new institution, offering a revised mission statement, but that decision came with significant backlash from Albany State stakeholders, who didn't appreciate the whitewashing of the school's historically black designation.
When Shaun Harper assumed the presidency of the Association for the Study of Higher Education in November 2016, the group had already started planning its 2017 annual conference, which was to be held in Houston. These things are planned out long in advance; ASHE’s website already lists conference locations through 2019.
“We had not been to Texas before, so we were thinking this could be an exciting opportunity to take the ASHE annual meeting to a state where it had never been,” said Harper, a professor at the University of Southern California.
Over the past couple of months, however, Harper’s confidence in holding ASHE’s conference in Texas has eroded. The board is currently “scrambling” trying to figure out if it’s going to hold its conference, scheduled for Nov. 9-11, in Houston or not.
On Thursday, California banned all state-funded travel to Texas, citing recently enacted laws that allow discrimination against LGBT people. The move spells trouble for ASHE, as well as the American College Personnel Association -- College Student Educators International, which also has an upcoming conference scheduled in Texas, since public California institutions won’t be able to pay for travel costs for their professors or administrators. The California travel ban also complicates athletic events scheduled between California teams and those in other states falling under the ban.