Posts Tagged ‘students’

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The answer: when state funding is declining and universities go elsewhere (out of state and out of the country) to recruit students.

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As Randy Olson demonstrates, state funding per student at U.S. four-year public universities has been on the decline since early in the new millennium.*

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And, as Kevin Carey argues, since 2000, student enrollment has fundamentally changed, especially at national public universities.

Most students attending public universities stay in the state where their parents reside, in large part because in-state students have traditionally received a steep tuition discount. Out-of-state students have long been in the minority and pay tuition closer to that charged by private universities. As recently as 2000, national and regional public universities were similar in this regard. That year, 80 percent of national public university students were in-state, compared with 86 percent at regional public universities.

But in the years that followed, the two groups began to diverge. At regionals, little changed. College enrollment swelled in every state after 2000 as the baby boom echo generation finished high school and a larger share of high school graduates enrolled in college. The additional students at regional universities looked much like the old ones. From 2000 to 2012 (the latest year of available federal data), nine out of 10 additional regional public university students were in-state.

The pattern at elite national universities was very different. There, the majority of additional students were from other states. Instead of extending their traditional mission of providing an affordable, high-quality education to local residents, national universities focused on recruiting students from other states and nations, many of whom paid much higher tuition rates. As a result, the number of in-state spots relative to the college-going population as a whole declined significantly at national public universities.

In other words, national public universities are increasingly behaving like private universities, and regional public universities are attempting to educate in-state students with less and less public funding per student.

That’s why the public university system in the United States is quickly becoming public in name only.

*To be clear, overall state funding for public universities actually increased in real terms until the 2007-08 financial crash (and fell precipitously since then) but an even larger increase in student enrollments means that state funding per student has fallen dramatically in comparison to the late 1980s and early 2000s.

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Special mention

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That, unfortunately, has been the question at the University of Southern Maine for the past two years.

Fortunately, after a long series of faculty and student protests against the administration’s attempts to engage in significant “eliminating, retrenching and/or reshaping academic programs” at the university, the American Association of University Professors has delivered a forceful rebuke to the stated rationale and procedures of the program cuts and faculty layoffs that have been imposed.

Among the investigating committee’s findings:

1. There is “no plausible reason to conclude that USM is facing a financial disaster—or significant financial distress of any kind.” In fact, the committee suggests the university should be expanding, not cutting, its academic programs and staff.

2. In making the program cuts and laying off faculty members, the university administration “ignored not only AAUP-supported governance standards but also its own published statements.”

The AAUP as a whole now has to consider the report and decide on whether or not to officially censure the university. Meanwhile, the faculty union has taken the university into binding arbitration.

According to Susan Feiner, President of the USM chapter of the Associated Faculties of the University of Maine union,

The USM Chapter of AFUM is distressed by the impact of administrative actions on students and public higher education in Maine. At USM, dozens of courses that were to be taught by full-time fully qualified professors were cancelled. As a result, students have been unable to enroll in courses needed for degree completion. We are concerned that the administrators have instituted piecemeal, arbitrary changes to program graduation requirements. Furthermore, we are worried about the educational consequences of doubling the permitted enrollments in some classes, effectively eliminating the ability of faculty to review writing and work individually with students.

In addition to the findings noted above the AAUP report notes that USM administrators repeatedly ignored faculty offers to work with the administration to help solve budgetary, revenue, and enrollment problems. . .

The USM Chapter of the Associated Faculties of the Universities of Maine (AFUM) welcomes this report. We agree with its findings. We note that many administration actions cited in the report also constitute violations of the faculty’s Collective Bargaining Agreement with the University of Maine System.

Clearly, the battle over the fate of the University of Southern Maine is not over. But the AAUP’s investigation into the financial and governance issues surrounding the austerity measures imposed by the administration at Southern Maine will clearly resonate in many public colleges and universities across the country where similar attempts at “eliminating, retrenching and/or reshaping academic programs” are being enacted.

The findings of the AAUP point in a different direction: to opening up the books, creating and respecting forms of shared governance, and expanding academic opportunities for working-class students in public higher education.

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Special mention

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We’ve all seen it among our students: their stress levels are way up.

The sense that, over the past decade, students are feeling more stress is confirmed by the latest report on first-year college students from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA [pdf]. 34.6 percent of the students surveyed reported that they are frequently overwhelmed by all they had to do. According to the Huffington Post [ht: ja], that is up from 24 percent in 2005.

Only half of last year’s freshmen consider themselves “above average or better” in emotional health, continuing a skid from 63 percent in 1985 and 54 percent in 2005.

Denise Hayes, president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors in 2011, theorized at the time that the declining emotional health was connected to financial pressures.

“College tuition is higher, so they feel the pressure to give their parents their money’s worth in terms of their academic performance,” Hayes said then. “There’s also a notion, and I think it’s probably true, that the better their grades are, the better chance they have at finding a job.”

Think about it: workers are increasingly stressed on the job, and when they lose their jobs. And college students are increasingly stressed by the prospect of paying for their education and finding a job.

Clearly, there’s something seriously wrong with the way workers—who have jobs, who have lost jobs, or who have yet to find jobs—are being stressed out today.

Perhaps then we need to transfer that stress to those at the top to accept a radically different set of educational and economic institutions.

Higher-Ed Ladder Fig. 6

According to a new study by Demos, the major cause of the rise in college tuition costs is not, as is often believed, administrative bloat or construction binges, but the decline in state funding for higher education.

In the past, state funding for education often rose and fell along with the economy: since higher education funding is viewed as “discretionary” spending, it is often a target for cuts when states are forced to close recessionary holes in their budgets. However, in the past decade, state funding for higher education has diverged from that trend. Six years after the great recession, state higher education funding per student remains 27 percent below its pre-recession level. Unfortunately, declining state support for higher education means that many students today have no choice but to take on significant debt to finance their educations, the negative effects of which are increasingly evident in young people’s lives.

The fact is, public higher education in the United States no longer exists. Because more than half of core educational expenses at “public” 4-year universities are now funded through tuition, a private source of revenue, they have effectively become subsidized private institutions.

Addendum

Higher-Ed Ladder Fig. 2

The other interesting piece of information in the Demos study is the enormous increase in part-time faculty. As Figure 2 shows, the number of employees per thousand students changed little between 1991 and 2011. But the composition of universities’ staff has changed dramatically. At both types of institutions, the relative number of full-time faculty has remained approximately constant and the number of executives and administrators has actually slightly decreased relative to the size of the student body. However, both types of institutions are employing substantially more part-time faculty (as well as professional staff—admissions and human resources staff, IT workers, athletic staff, and health workers). At the same time, the relative number of non-professional staff—workers providing clerical, technical, skilled craft, or maintenance services—shrank dramatically.