Pecking Orders, Guns, Tracking and More from the NEJHE Beat

 

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Pecking orders. Harvard and Cornell recently tied for the U.S. higher ed institutions that educate the most CEOs who run U.S. companies listed by Forbes in the top 100. We would often pore over such lists of where top CEOs went to college and meticulously note how many graduated from New England colleges. The predictable story was how many went to Harvard, Yale and MIT and how few went to New England’s public higher institutions. It was a picture of the pecking order. Hard to imagine such pedigree has standing in an age marked by higher ed disruption and the proliferation of new pathways and providers.

Still, such “listicles” do tell stories. The innovation-oriented local news platform BostInno listed the wealthiest tech executives in Massachusetts and found the richest woman—Mary Nadella, CEO of Continental Resources—to rank No. 72 among the 283 with a net worth of $10 million or more, including only 20 women total. Coincidentally, Massachusetts legislators this week were expected to vote on “An Act to Establish Equal Pay” to close a gap in which women in Massachusetts who work full-time, year-round earn on average only 82 cents on the dollar men earn.

Non-degree credentials. Perhaps no development threatens the old pecking order more than the rise of non-degree “credentials.” Millennial survey respondents prefer certifications to bachelor’s degrees, according to a study sponsored by (perhaps not surprisingly given funding biases) the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, the Center for Online Innovation in Learning at Penn State University and Acclaim, Pearson.

Credentials with justice? Bootcamps and coding will be among the concepts covered as NEBHE explores credentials at its upcoming summit on Talent 4.0: How Employable Are New England’s College Graduates and What Can Higher Education Do About It? And there’s still room for smart moves by revered HEIs. Exhibit A: MIT recently announced a weeklong intensive bootcamp on cryptocurrency concepts for women and under-represented people of color in August 2016.

Guns. It has puzzled me for a long time how the issue of gun violence could not be considered a top priority in higher education policy. The shooting massacres at Virginia Tech and Umpqua Community College were national stories. The more recent attack on Dallas police brought gunfire to El Centro College. And the murders that precipitated it all exacerbate an overlooked but profound threat to higher education: the loss of future applicants. Meanwhile, several colleges have been beefing up the arsenals of their campus police departments. Three-quarters of America’s campus police forces were armed with some type of gun in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

As we wrote a dozen years ago in a piece about college presidents in NEJHE’s predecessor Connection, higher education remains sufficiently at the center of public life for college presidents to exercise their moral authority on a range of issues. “War comes to mind, for its gravity,” I suggested then, “but also for its potential to wreak havoc with applicant pools, particularly among the under-represented groups that colleges profess to want to reach. Same goes for issues related to AIDS, guns in the community and impoverished public schools.”

Along these lines, as organizations like NEBHE explore “talent pipelines” for crucial occupations, let’s not leave out police. They need more than sensitivity training to tame police brutality and avert the next racial crisis. The culture needs to change from punishment and power to something informed by understanding and … dare, I say … humanities?

Think tanks. The Connecticut Mirror, the excellent nonpartisan news outlet launched by the Connecticut News Project Inc., recently lamented that while the Land of Steady Habits has entities that do policy research, it does not have a central, general-purpose research center or “think tank.” NEJHE (Connection) made a similar lament but on a regional level. Our assertion at the time was that “New England’s public policy ‘think tanks’ will rise in stature as government responsibilities devolve from Washington, D.C., to state capitals.” Today, we list dozens of New England public policy research centers among resources at nebhe.org. But it’s not always clear which fit the definition as a “central, general-purpose” think tank.

Early tracking. The Beverly (MA) Heritage Project ran a Facebook post on the “Home to the nation’s first school for ‘gypsy’ children” along with a photo and Associated Press caption, reading: “Members of a class of 12 gypsy children who are to attend in Beverly, Massachusetts, Jan. 26, 1937, what is believed to be the nation’s first school exclusively for gypsy children. The school board decided on the special class after hearing teachers’ reports that the children were so much below normal in education that they retarded other pupils in the regular classes.” An early interesting early example of the “tracking” and segregation that still dogs schools.

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education.

Painting of “A Glimpse of the Positive Divide” by Montserrat College professor Timothy Harney.

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Creating Classes … and More Bits from the NEJHE Beat

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More Underrepresented Groups. Even before Americans began retreating from educational equity amid the recent backlash against “political correctness,” our empathy was directed at a fairly traditional set of underrepresented populations: African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, Native Americans and students with disabilities (many of whom are being reminded only now that their student loans can be forgiven). If anything, we need to widen that net to include at least: Muslims, the LBGTQA community, rural (not just urban) students, convicts (who can be denied admission and student financial aid due to their past criminal records) and the children of convicts. One in 14 Americans will grow up with a parent in prison, according to a 2015 study by the Maryland-based research center Child Trends. Among African Americans, 1 in 9 has had a father in prison by age 14. That’s not a level playing field.

Creative Accounting. Many commentators have evangelized about the verve brought to cities by the “Creative Class,” but few have as many disciples as Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class. Florida’s premise is eloquently dissed by Carolyn Zelikow of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative. “As far as I can tell, the Creative Class is just a new name for rich people,” she writes in Market Urbanism. “They might come in every color of the rainbow, but the most obvious shared trait of this Creative Class is that they are loaded. Florida’s typical character sails through life in the most extravagantly expensive neighborhoods on the planet.” She adds: “Florida’s tacit preference for bike lanes over food stamps, and urban density over more affordable suburban sprawl is especially insidious, because it appeals to precisely the type of people who plan cities, themselves members of the class that Florida so flatteringly describes.” These are sentiments evident in my Editor’s Memo titled “Artists Only” though I didn’t describe them as eloquently as Zelikow.

NE Pharma. NEBHE has been very proud over the years of New England’s public pharmacy education programs that offer tuition discounts through NEBHE’s Regional Student Program. Now, one of the recent private-sector entrants in the field deserves some kudos. The independent University of New England College of Pharmacy, based in Biddeford, Maine, was recently awarded $20,000 by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS) Foundation to address the prescription drug abuse epidemic and health consequences in Maine by creating a continuing education curriculum for prescribers and pharmacists that increases the appropriate use of the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program.

Sexual Assault. The issue of sexual assault is too complex to do justice in a higher education journal, though we’ve looked at it from time to time, beginning with our Emotional Rescue edition that explored various pathologies facing today’s students, including date rape. The topic recently reared its head nationally when a Brigham Young University student who reported being sexually assaulted to local police was found in violation of the college’s “honor code” and denied services. Now, the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence in Marblehead, Mass., pitches us the story of a free smartphone app as “the ONLY resource available to the 85% of victims who are not ready to report what happened to the appropriate authorities. By giving these victims a tool to record what happened and preserve their options about when the authorities get involved, the app helps victims deal with their ongoing trauma.” The app inventors plan to let us know when the first New England campus signs on.

Indebted Students. The University of Connecticut newspaper recently reported on a Higher One news release showing that 90% of students “feel they do not have all the information necessary to pay off their college loans.” It’s a murky world. Higher One recently sold its division that disburses financial aid to students through a special debit card scheme that has come under government scrutiny. As the New Haven Independent reported, “The company that symbolized New Haven’s and Connecticut’s efforts to create new-economy jobs of the future is becoming one more local division of an out-of-state bank, struggling to stay alive after years of scandal.”

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education.

Painting of “Still Life with Old Sunflowers” by Montserrat College professor Timothy Harney.

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Poaching, Jocks, Creds and Other News from the NEJHE Beat

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Poaching. Florida Gov. Rick Scott invited Yale University to bring its $25 billion endowment to his state after Connecticut legislators proposed taxing Yale to address the state’s budget shortfall. Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (who incidentally was just named winner of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his decision to publicly welcome a Syrian refugee family to Connecticut) rejected the tax Yale proposal. As a Malloy spokesman explained: “We don’t believe that new taxes should be part of our solution as Connecticut adjusts to a new economic reality. Instead, we should make the spending reductions necessary for living within our means.” The impoverished neighbors outside rich university gates and underpaid staff inside the gates might disagree, but well-endowed universities argue that if they draw on the endowments to cover operating expenses, never mind pay taxes, they’d hardly be able to pay for the perpetual upkeep of their great old buildings, rare books and other capital. Jorge Klor de Alva, the president of Nexus Research and Policy Center and former president of the University of Phoenix, weighed in on the endowment tax issue, noting that “Many of the richest universities in the country, sitting on billions of dollars in tax-exempt endowments, receive through the tax laws government subsidies that greatly eclipse the appropriations received by public colleges.” He suggested that the tax-exempt status generates over $69,000 per student each year in taxpayer subsidies at Yale, compared with $23,300 per student at the University of Connecticut and $6,200 per student at Tunxis Community College. Meanwhile, a columnist named Ira Stoll, editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com, also coaxed Yale, with tongue partly in cheek, to follow GE to Boston, which recently moved its headquarters from Fairfield, Conn. to the Boston waterfront. Interestingly, a new proposal in Connecticut would turn the old GE headquarters in Fairfield into a high-tech hub.

Jocks. Speaking of Connecticut, just as the UConn women’s basketball team was preparing for its fourth straight title match, an article in Aeon argued that football should be offered as a college major, since college football players spend more than 40 hours a week on the field, in the weight room and so on. David V. Johnson, opinion editor at Al Jazeera America, argues in the piece that majors in art practice, dance and performance studies and theater combine educational requirements of practice and theory, but focus on practice, so provide good models for a sports major. The football major, for example, would consist of the practicum, the many hours of physical training, practice, film study and meetings. Courses would also be required in the history, science, criticism and business of the discipline, as well as in the related fields of physiology, nutrition, journalism and sports management. Indeed, all of these fields of study already exist. A graduate of the football major could claim some expertise in the field, and be someone with the potential for significant impact, as an athlete, coach, trainer, agent, commentator, consultant, or team member in a complex organization.” Meanwhile, our friends at New England’s biggest newspaper flashed a front-page feature recently about Boston College lamenting that “the sorry state of the school’s showcase sports has depleted morale, sapped attendance, diminished BC’s national athletic stature, and prompted calls for action.” The story slammed BC president, the Rev. William P. Leahy. “Leahy is seen by many alumni as less exuberant about building elite sports programs than advancing the school’s academic excellence.” Wait, isn’t that a good thing?

Stinkin’ Badges and Other Credentials. NEBHE is exploring how a range of new “credentials” from all manner of purveyors of “badges” as well as employers and the military promise implications for traditional higher education institutions and the region’s knowledge-based economy. Most recently, higher ed leaders are pondering how “micro-credentials” can offer “bite-sized,” low-cost learning opportunities to students, including working adults who don’t need an entire degree program to learn different skills and change jobs, but do need a flexible way to earn credentials recognized by employers. Recently, the University of Massachusetts Medical School unveiled a collaboration with six Massachusetts community colleges and the state Department of Higher Education to offer a uniform curriculum for state schools that will create “stackables.” To be sure, we’ve been broaching these “new models” for some time. The new curriculum could help address the language barriers that divide patients and healthcare professionals. And stackables mean credit-bearing courses that may start with certificates for basic assistance could lead to additional career options, such as nursing or becoming doctors.

Second Childhood. There’s not much news in college presidents writing books. But frequent NEJHE contributor and former president of Southern Vermont College Karen Gross has written a children’s book. From the plug: “Lady Lucy’s Quest is the story of a feisty young girl who wants to be a Knight in the Middle Ages. She confronts many hurdles but ultimately finds success because she is able to solve problems in unique and unexpected ways. Through her actions and words, she demonstrates the importance of pursuing one’s dreams and the power of the possible for children everywhere.” Karen Gross adds: “And yes, I have an adult book forthcoming from Columbia Teachers College Press.”

ROI. Bentley College is the latest to boast about how many of its graduates have jobs soon after graduation. To judge from my son’s high school class, many of the ones who chose Bentley are testing the ladders in Boston’s Financial District. “But measuring a graduate’s success goes far beyond job placement. Whether they are engaged and thriving in their work and personal life post-graduation is another key metric that is now being measured by Gallup,” notes Bentley in its news release. Among the Class of 2015, Bentley contends its graduates outperform the Gallup-Purdue national average across the board, in social well-being, community well-being and physical well-being.

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education. (Some readers have encouraged me to offer thoughts akin to my former Editor’s Memo columns; this and the recent Spring Training: Some Catches from the NEJHE Beat are gestures in that direction.)

Painting of “Still Life with Wong’s Pot and Dead Flowers” by Montserrat College professor Timothy Harney.

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Home at the Shipping Controls

A harbor control tower from Rotterdam harbor cruiseOf all the fascinating sights on my recent trip to Holland and Belgium, this control tower in Rotterdam harbor stands out. Several of these towers control traffic in and out of the busiest harbor in Europe.

Imagining a job in one of these structures brought back the memory of standing over a warm air register in my house as a child as I watched out the window, fingered the controls of a wall-mounted drying rack and mouthed instructions as if directing trains in and out of a busy railyard.

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Spring Training: Some Catches from the New England Higher Ed and Economy Beat …

qGsuPxAwzZnds5ntSpring Has Sprung? You’d never know by the snow on the ground in many parts of New England, but the announcements of spring commencement speakers at the region’s higher education institutions have begun. Capt. Richard Phillips will deliver the commencement address at Vermont’s Castleton University in May. The former captain of the Maersk Alabama was enrolled at Castleton as an art major when he was kidnapped by Somali pirates. His was an inspiring story that made it to the silver screen, though my son, who is wise beyond his years and worked with resettled Somalis in Burlington, Vt., worried the hit movie could spur a backlash. … Northeastern University announced its speaker will be U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. … Should anyone doubt the impact of college commencements on the area, a website called BostonZest carries a list of Spring 2016 graduations that “helps visitors to Boston understand why hotel rooms are so expensive and restaurant reservations so scarce on some dates in May.”

Dangerous Places. We recently tweeted about the University of Hartford’s announcement that it’s the first higher ed institution in New England to equip public safety officers with “stop the bleed” kits to save lives during mass casualty events. We’ve also had the pleasure of publishing pieces about “hyperlocal smartphone alerts” to notify students of local events, weather advisories and deals from nearby merchants, but also to protect them from campus shooters and prove compliance with the Clery Act that requires campuses to report on crime and safety. Innovative technologies have always been spawned by the region’s higher ed. And now these are sadly required by today’s campuses. So are semi-automatic rifles for campus police if you believe Northeastern and Boston University.

Closing Generation Gaps. Programs that bring together senior citizens and young people seem a no-brainer for a region that is aging fast and depends economically on talent of all ages. Latest exhibit: Quinsigamond Community College and Marlboro, Mass. city officials began a partnership offering senior citizens healthy lunches cooked by college culinary students. Quinsigamond officials noted that co-op students receive hands-on experience in food preparation and menu planning, while earning a certificate in Hospitality and Dietary Management.

Lend Me Your Ear … and More. The Boston Globe recently reported on the increasing number of companies offering a new employee benefit to help pay off college loans. Natixis Global Asset Management S.A. and Fidelity Investments were the main examples, offering to pay up to $10,000 in federal student loans of employees of at least five years. Diane Saunders, then a VP at Nellie Mae, shared the concept with NEJHE (then called Connection) 20 years ago. Years later, the Maine Compact for Higher Education tried to enlist Maine companies to provide tuition remission and other forward-looking workforce education policies, but got few takers.

Out of State. The Washington Post and others recently stated the obvious (again): “America’s most prominent public universities were founded to serve the people of their states, but they are enrolling record numbers of students from elsewhere to maximize tuition revenue as state support for higher education withers.” Indeed, we reported a decade ago on higher ed access guru Tom Mortenson’s assertion: “Public four-year colleges and universities in 28 states, including three New England states, have been dealing with their budget problems by increasing enrollment of out-of-state residents and decreasing their share of enrollment of lower-income Pell Grant recipients since the early 1990s.” He called it “enrollment management at its worst.” … A more recent report by the American Council on Education reveals that most incoming freshmen attending public four-year colleges and universities enroll within 50 miles of their home. For more than a half century, NEBHE’s Regional Student Program Tuition Break has stretched that sense of home, enabling residents of the six New England states to pay a reduced tuition rate when they enroll at out-of-state public colleges and universities within the six-state region and pursue approved degree programs not offered by their home-state public institutions. In some cases, students may be eligible when their home is closer to an out-of-state college than to an in-state college. … Meanwhile, the national think tank New America’s report, “Starting From Scratch,” would replace the current federal higher education financing system, which it characterizes as a voucher program “where aid follows students” to one based on formula-funded grants made to states.

Or Regional? Speaking of coveting your neighbor’s goods, Massachusetts recently celebrated luring General Electric’s headquarters to Boston. The Hub is sparkling and thriving, and the city wants to enhance its reputation as a magnet for innovation. But somehow it’s a little less satisfying when the booty is coaxed from another New England state; GE had been bringing good things to life from headquarters in Fairfield, Conn. Never mind that the company has the reputation of being a notorious tax-avoider.

Over the Piscataqua. The population of New Hampshire surpassed that of Maine for the first time in 200 years according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, analyzed by Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the Carsey School at the University of New Hampshire. Since mid-2010, New Hampshire added about 14,000 residents, while Maine added fewer than 1,000. Maine recorded what traditional economists consider a grim demographic equation: More people died than were born.

The Other Training. New England’s railroads are an overlooked asset in the region’s education and economic future. MassLive reports that planning is in the early stages for frequent north-south passenger trains on the “Knowledge Corridor” from Springfield, Mass., stopping in Holyoke, Northampton and Greenfield. Recently, freight trains began carrying the first shipping containers loaded on the Portland, Maine waterfront to connect with freight customers throughout North America. It’s cheaper to move heavy cargo by train than truck, because more can be moved at once with less fuel and fewer workers. In the Boston area, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is revisiting an idea first proposed in 2014 to sell large quantities of discounted passes to colleges and universities. Railroads already offers convenient passenger service to Bridgewater State University and the University of New Hampshire, as well as Greater Boston campuses.

Green(Mountain)Peace. Vermont once again was the top-ranked state in per-capita Peace Corps volunteers. (Vermont has also suffered disproportionately more deaths in the Iraq War than any other state.)

Town-Gown Is Back in Fashion. Colby College is buying distressed properties on Main Street in Waterville, Maine, planning to build a dormitory there and create a fund to provide loans and grants to small businesses. The city of 16,000 has the advantages of the 810-seat Opera House, the Maine Film Center and the Colby College Museum of Art.

Do You Speak Code-ish? Interesting to read of the “A100” 12-week bootcamp in New Haven that sharpens the skills of recent computer science graduates to be software developers across the state. The weekly New Haven Independent notes that a fleet of young software developers around the city will “create a true tech scene in New Haven,” already including two new startups, one a chauffeur service called I Drive Your Car, the other a healthcare service called Patient Wisdom. As the weekly quotes A100 founder Derek Koch: “It’s part of generating a successful startup ecosystem.” Now, whether high school students should be allowed to substitute computer coding classes for foreign language requirements as Florida legislators have considered is a bit less less clear.

The Weakest Among Us. Massachusetts has the highest rate of abused children in the nation. There could be no more ominous stat for a state’s and a region’s social and economic future. Meanwhile, Georgetown University economists reported that African Americans are overrepresented in majors that lead to low-paying jobs. But they are critical jobs: early childhood education, human service organization, social work and theology. Is it too naive to suggest that the reward system of the labor market may be the problem?

John O. Harney is executive editor of The New England Journal of Higher Education.

Painting of “Still Life with Lime” by Montserrat College professor Timothy Harney.

(Cross-published on nebhe.org by John O. Harney.)

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Directory Assistance: Proofing the Guide

I’ve been working overtime proofreading our annual directory of New England colleges and universities.

It has one problem for which there’s no proofreader’s mark. Like so many things, it has become totally quantitative.

If you’re smart and judgmental, perhaps you can compare the region’s higher ed institutions (HEIs) just by looking at the percentage of students they accepted.

But since all you have to go on is numbers, Mount Holyoke College’s 55% freshman acceptance rate makes the venerable college seem only half as selective as Pine Manor!

What’s missing in this time of word-pinching is something to help readers figure out that behind the numbers are other factors that filter the number of applicants before any admissions decisions are made.

Indeed, the directory used to run short narratives that offered some color on the specific HEI. For example, Mount Holyoke’s from 2006, said: “Founded 1837; oldest continuing institution of higher education for women in the nation; liberal arts curriculum leading to bachelor’s degrees; dual-degree program in engineering (BA-BS) and in public health (BA-MPH) in partnership with UMass/Amherst; study abroad and international exchange programs; preprofessional postbaccalaureate program.”

Not exactly the stuff of Pulitzers, but a lot more informative than the bare numbers necessitated by the imperative to reduce wordcounts and pages.

Berklee College of Music noted in its narrative: “Founded in 1945, the world’s largest independent music college …” Green Mountain College’s narrative said: “Founded 1834, offers liberal arts, teacher education and professional programs leading to bachelor’s degrees with a strong commitment to environmental and international education.” Or Simon’s Rock College of Bard: “Founded in 1964, offer liberal arts and science programs leading to associate and bachelor’s degrees designed to accommodate bright, highly motivated young students who seek greater academic challenge upon completion of 10th grade …”

Moreover, in the days before excessive copyfitting, a robust “How to Use” section named the for-profit institutions specifically. Important information these days as for-profits become more accepted and, at once, more suspect.

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Charles St. Jail

Woman next to me in scampo is yapping to friend about aging parents’ bad driving … oldest story in book … parents want to downsize … says “note to self” blah blah … Bet they don’t know buzzy’s was nearby feeding newly freed cons.

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