Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Kansas school stirs debate over outsourced classes
Just how much can a college outsource and still be a college?
The question is no longer just academic at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. Under a novel arrangement, the school will accept credits from a private company that runs introductory courses in subjects like economics and English composition — listing them on transcripts under the Fort Hays State name.
To some on campus, that sounds like a restaurant ordering takeout from a rival and serving it up as home cooking.
"It could really damage our academic reputation," said Topher Rome, a graduate student who helped start a Facebook group with 147 members opposing the arrangement.
But the public university notes the arrangement isn't for current students there — it's mostly a recruiting tool. Fort Hays State hopes to drum up business amid declining state funding and a dwindling local population, encouraging those who sign up for the online courses to continue their education through the university.
It's the latest chapter in an evolving debate about the place of innovation in higher education. Is outsourcing teaching — especially for huge and often poorly run introductory courses — a way for colleges to catch up with other industries and rein in out-of-control costs? Or does it mean gutting what makes universities special?
Versions of that debate are popping up on more and more campuses. University of Toledo faculty have protested negotiations between the university and a company called Higher Ed Holdings, which had proposed helping deliver master's degree programs in exchange for a share of tuition revenue. The company works with a handful of other universities, including Arkansas State, where some faculty have protested, according to the web publication Inside Higher Ed.
But Higher Ed Holdings claims it merely helps deliver the courses and university faculty are still in charge.
The company working with Fort Hays State, StraighterLine, runs its own courses, which are designed by experts but aren't led by a professor. Nonetheless, the credits earned would be indistinguishable from those taught by professors at Fort Hays State.
Given how many students fall through the cracks of giant general education courses, StraighterLine founder Burck Smith says for-profit alternatives deserve a chance to prove themselves.
In his courses, students work at their own pace, following online lessons developed in conjunction with education publisher McGraw-Hill, reading assignments and taking exams. Students can access up to 10 hours of individual, online tutoring — in some cases 24 hours a day. The model, Smith says, reduces the inefficiency of a class where everyone moves at a different pace.
The company — an offshoot of an online tutoring company called SmartThinking that Smith also founded — lets students purchase a single course for $399 (they have six months to complete it). Alternatively, they can pay $99 per month and take as many courses as they can finish in the required sequence.
Four other nontraditional or for-profit institutions have similar partnerships with StraighterLine, but Fort Hays State is the only traditional university. Students can try to persuade other institutions to take the credits, but there's no guarantee.
Barbara Solvig, a 50-year-old Chicago mother of three who resolved to get a college degree after she was recently laid off, wanted an online degree because she didn't think she could be in a classroom with kids. But she was floored by the cost of other options.
"Honestly, I could have gone to Northwestern for what they were charging," she said.
Solvig finished StraighterLine courses in composition, accounting, algebra and macroeconomics, and said the work was tough. With other credits collected elsewhere, she's about 20 credits short of a degree at Charter Oak State College, a nonprofit college specializing in alternative and online learning that also accepts StraighterLine courses.
Fort Hays' financial goal is recruiting more students. State funding covers about half the portion of the budget it once did, Provost Larry Gould said, and the area's population has been declining for more than a century. It's responded with a huge online program that enrolls more students off-campus (6,800) than there are on-campus (4,500).
"Our first job is to provide education services to the citizens of western Kansas," Gould said, but the university can't do that without generating new revenues.
So far, Fort Hays has credentialed coursework for about 64 StraighterLine students since the agreement with the school in May 2008, but so far none have formally transferred into the university.
Gould acknowledged some faculty are worried but says they shouldn't be. Once students transfer into FHSU, all courses would be taught by university faculty; if more transfer in, there's more work. He also notes the university knows more about StraighterLine's courses than other forms of outsourced credit such ascommunity colleges, for-profit universities and Advanced Placement exams.
"Yes, there is concern," said Ron Sandstrom, chair of the department of math and computer science. "We're interested about the jobs, but we're really interested in the quality."
Academic departments have been able to review the courses before approval. Sandstrom says if he concludes the courses are strong, he won't object.
Universities like Fort Hays State have broad leeway to accept whatever credits it chooses. But Rome, the graduate student, compares StraighterLine's arrangement with FHSU to "money-laundering but with credit" — essentially borrowing the university's own accreditation to give its courses legitimacy.
The federally designated accrediting agencies give their seals of approval to institutions, not courses, so StraighterLine, which has just 10 courses, isn't eligible, though it says one accrediting agency has said its courses meet standards.
For some education reformers, the experiment at FHSU is an example of how universities can move beyond one-size-fits-all economic models and streamline their introductory courses.
"There is simply not enough money to sustain higher education in its current format," said Carol Twigg, president and CEO of the National Center for Academic Transformation, which works with universities to redesign their own introductory courses. "There will always be a Harvard and people willing to pay ... whatever it's going to cost for four years, but for all other students we really need alternative models."
Friday, May 22, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
Article published May 16, 2009
University of Toledo holds tuition cost
Budget projects increase in some student fees
The University of Toledo's proposed budget suggests no undergraduate tuition increase for the third consecutive year, but some student fees will be higher.
The $781.6 million budget - $517.8 academic and $263.8 million clinical - was discussed Friday by the UT board of trustees' finance committee, which recommended the budget to the full board that meets Monday.
But changes in the state budget still could affect UT.
The university's budget must be approved before July 1.
"If the Senate changes the budget substantially, we will need to regroup almost to square one," said Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, UT's president.
Trustee John Szuch, finance committee chairman, said Gov. Ted Strickland places education as a high priority and board members hope he will continue to do so.
"You've got so many dollars you have to operate, and somehow you have to get your costs under that amount. That's what everybody is trying to do," he said.
The proposed budget does not increase undergraduate tuition and general fees, but graduate students will see their education price-tag increase from between 2.5 percent and 7 percent a semester, depending on the specialization. An in-state law student, for example, would see tuition and fees go up 6.47 percent a se-mester.
Residence halls fees are slated to increase 10 percent or 12 percent, depending on the hall. Students would pay 12 percent more to stay at The Crossings, an increase of $384, and 10 percent more for Parks Tower, $289.
Several meal plans are slated to increase $5, $15, or $45 a semester.
Semester parking will rise from $95 to $100 (a 5 percent increase) and ID fees will double from $10 to $20.
Lab fees are to increase to cover material and operational cost increases.
Scott Scarborough, UT's senior vice president for finance and administration, said many factors contributed to a difficult budget process, including uncertain state funding, an undergraduate tuition freeze, new collective bargaining agreements, the recession, and internal financial changes.
While the university's projected revenues for fiscal year 2010 increased nearly $40 million over last year with assumptions of increased enrollment, state aid, and patients at the medical center, expenses also outpaced previous expenses, Mr. Scarborough said.
In April, UT was $16 million in the red with about $6 million of that the costs of collective bargaining agreements, he said.
That's when the university announced it would lay off 90 employees as well as eliminate 200 vacant positions to curb that shortfall.
No faculty members were affected by those layoffs, but full-time faculty will be expected to teach more students because there is less money for part-time and visiting faculty members, Mr. Scarborough said.
- Meghan Gilbert
But Saturday night on TV I heard an advert for UT--one I'd heard earlier in the week but hadn't realized what it was about to pay enough attention in time--promoting UT as offering internships, small classes, and personal attention. Hmmmmmmmmmm ... If full-time faculty are going to "... be expected to teach more students because there is less money for part-time and visiting faculty members," won't that have a negative effect on class size and individual attention? I suppose the adverts are carefully worded so as to avoid accusations of fraud; after all, it's not promising or guaranteeing small classes or personal attention, and I suppose if a handful of students find these small classes and receive this personal attention, UT has fulfilled its part of the deal. It's not the advert's fault, is it, if people see the ad, believe it, and think it applies to the university in general and are disappointed when they're faced with the reality of overfilled classes and overworked instructors who want to give students what they need--good teaching has always been truly student-centered, not the lip-service, slogan-friendly variety being touted now--but don't have the time or energy left over to do so.
It just doesn't add up. Bigger classes? More classes? I'm no Scott Scarborough, I'm no math or eonomics whiz (far from it!), I know I don't know anything close to what's involved financially in running a university. But as a teacher I know that if you increase the number of students in my classes, if you increase the number of classes I'm expected to teach, if you increase my other teaching and non-teaching obligations, you are stealing from your own sudents, cheating them out of important aspects of their education you dangle before them--and their parents--in your attempt to get them to choose UT over other area colleges or universities; in your attempt to save money by not hiring neceesary faculty (do I really need to add anything about bonuses or re-hiring retirees?), you cheapen the education UT offers. While faculty and staff are collateral damage, the real victims are the students.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
The following two items from the Blade might be useful posts to the ASCforum Blog:
Article published May 08, 2009
University stuck in a time warp
At a time when the nation and the state are forced to make tough decisions about how best to cut costs, the University of Toledo seems to be caught in a time warp.
Scott Scarborough, vice president for finance and administration, continues to hammer home the message that deep cuts are necessary, but the board of trustees can't help but award their cronies wage increases and contract deals that make double dipping fashionable.
At a time when employees have been asked to consider furloughs and layoffs as an option to control costs, why is the board so quick to rehire the retired, create new titles to award pay increases, and pass out bonus money like there is no tomorrow (and maybe there won't be if they keep it up)?
It's been going on for so long that they just can't help themselves.
While it's true that old habits die hard and desperate times call for desperate measures, these desperate times may be just what it takes to change those "old habits."
Come on, you guys, take the lead from President Obama and put some common sense into your decisions.
Also see this article from May 13:
University of Toledo fires softball coach
University of Toledo softball coach Jo Ann Gordon was fired Wednesday after a 105-235 record the last seven seasons. The Rockets finished 8-38, 6-16 in Mid-American Conference play this season.
"I felt it was time for the softball program to move in a new direction," UT athletic director Mike O'Brien said.
O’Brien said a national search for Gordon’s replacement will begin immediately and that assistant coach Sunny Jones will run the team in the interim until a new head coach is named.
The Rockets never finished higher than fifth in the MAC West division under Gordon.
In reference to this second item, I ask the question: if a softball coach can be fired for "nonperformance" with a national search to start immediately, why can't we fire the president, provosts and CFO and do NATIONAL searches?
Name Withheld by Request
(Excellent Question!!---so notes Bloggie.)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Broussard recommends that responsible movers-and-shakers in academia wake up to the profound importance of American universities as products of history and tradition, thus sacred places for empowering ethical, moral and mindful thinking. He suggests we all “think of the campus as a thought community, and the city as a support system.” Earl’s humane vision of successful higher education that combines teaching, research and service in the new millennium is at odds with the corrupting business-model vision of the UT Jacobs Administration; for example, as documented in his “Directions” planning document. Broussard also believes the successful higher education campus of the future can reclaim its spiritual roots in a new age of ethical and moral responsibility, and that art, architecture, and spirituality will play a major role in that profound transformation.
Rather that lament that Jacobs is herding A&S College, our main campus, and the all of UT along a road to rapid ruin, I suggest we instead educate the BOT and the Jacobs administration quickly about the wisdom of the Broussard campus planning ALTERNATIVE, and urge them to abandon their present directions. Meanwhile, we concerned students, faculty, staff and alumni can join to embrace the Broussard vision, to climb together in unison, systematically, as an inspired Thought Community, to reach the higher moral ground that it aspires to achieve. This would be the high road that Jacobs et al never considered, or deliberately neglected, ignored, and abandoned in favor of taking their low road to mediocrity.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
1. Arthur C. Clarke was right, "The future isn't what it used to be." Neither is our university.
2. Administrators live at one university, faculty in A & S live in another.
3. An administrator is always going to say there is no money to do what you want or need to do. They will spend it on what they want and think they need to do.
4. Administrators believe in words like efficiency, calculabilty and control. Faculty believe in quality. So, unless the administrator has spent a great deal of time in the faculty's world, he/she will have no real empathy for what we do. They might speak of quality, but will then turn around and hire visitors because they are "inexpensive" alternatives to tenure or tenure track, faculty. Hiring highly qualified lecturers becomes suspect. Visitors give administrators control over resources because the department has to return every year (or three at the most) and plead for resources. If the department has a history of bad behavior, the spot may be lost. Scott Scarborough has become god of the exchequer. He decides what resources you really need.
His decision will not be based on the quality of the educational experience you wish to provide. It will be based on the priorities of the administration. Quite frankly those priorities don't include us.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Thanx and a horn tip to a colleague who discovered this on the BusinessWeek web site and passed it along.
Joining UT and MUO together wasn't so much a merger as an acquisition (see the last line):
University of Toledo
The University of Toledo is an educational and research institute that offers graduate, masters, and doctoral degrees. The university provides courses and programs in the arts and sciences, business administration, education, health and human services, law, and pharmacy. Its engineering faculty provides instruction in bioengineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, engineering technology, mechanical and industrial engineering, and manufacturing engineering. University of Toledo was founded in 1872 and is based in Toledo, Ohio. It has endowment assets worth $124 million. The University of Toledo operates as a subsidiary of Medical University of Ohio.
Downloaded May 03, 2009 8:27 AM ET