College Inc. wraps up
I won’t bury the lead: This blog is done.
But for those who have followed College Inc., please know that we will continue to provide news and analysis of U.S. higher education through a new format on the Post’s Education page at washingtonpost.com/education. You’ll continue to find the latest on colleges and universities in the Washington region and around the country.
This page will be redirected to the Post’s Education page soon. Thanks for reading, and please keep following our coverage.Continue reading this post »
College leaders: Focus on ensuring students get degrees
Higher education leaders made public a letter Wednesday night that is notable for stressing a point that should be obvious: “College completion must be our priority.”
Which raises the question: Since when has completion not been a priority?
The letter is from a group called the National Commission on Higher Education Attainment, comprised of representatives of six associations of college presidents. E. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, chaired the commission. (As I was writing this, the letter had not yet been posted on a public Web site, but I believe it will be found here.)
Earlier Wednesday, Gee said in a telephone interview that colleges sometimes focus too much on getting students in the door and taking their tuition money, and not enough on making sure they get a degree for their troubles. Too many students, as a result, fail to earn a credential that could help them get ahead in work and life.
“It breaks our heart to think about the loss of American potential by the leakage in the system,” Gee said.
Stopping the leakage is a point that President Obama and his aides have been making since 2009.
One problem is that policymakers have trouble defining how well or poorly colleges are doing. Federal data on college graduation rates only account for those who are first-time, full-time enrolled students. Many, though, are transfer students or part-timers or in some other way “non-traditional.”
The commission’s letter notes that four-year public universities have a 54 percent graduation rate using the federal methodology. That rises to 63 percent if the calculations include students who transfer and graduate from another institution. Even more students who fail to graduate on time are still enrolled, in one way or another, and should not be counted as dropouts, the letter said.
Regardless, the letter said, completion rates are still too low. The letter highlighted several techniques that colleges could use to boost the share of students who earn diplomas.
Among them: change the culture on campus to underscore the importance of staying on track for a degree; assign “ownership” of the issue to a high-ranking official; improve the academic experience; facilitate transfer credit for previous learning; help college teachers improve; and deliver courses more efficiently.
Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, one of the members of the commission, said various types of colleges will try various approaches. “One size doesn’t fit all,” she said. “In this letter we’ve identified a number of strategies that are scaleable.”
Broad added that if schools invest as much time and effort on degree attainment as they do on access and recruiting, “we could make a lot of progress.”Continue reading this post »
U-Va. leadership debate simmers
The debate over the leadership upheaval last June at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville continues to simmer on at least two fronts.
The General Assembly in Richmond is heading toward final action on confirmation of U-Va. Rector Helen E. Dragas to continue as a member of the school’s governing board through June 2016. Dragas, you’ll recall, spearheaded the effort to force U-Va. President Teresa Sullivan to resign, then reversed her position to support Sullivan’s reinstatement after a campus uproar over the ouster.
The state Senate voted 29 to 9 on Monday to confirm the reappointment of Dragas to a seat on the board, my colleague Laura Vozzella reported. The dissenters were all Democrats. The matter now heads to a vote in the House of Delegates.
And late Wednesday, U-Va. made public an interesting letter from its accreditor, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, based in Decatur, Ga. SACSCOC, my colleague Jenna Johnson reported in December, had placed U-Va. on warning status for a year because of questions raised about the university’s governance in the wake of the June leadership struggle. No one expects the elite public flagship to lose accreditation, but the sanction was a public relations blow for the university nonetheless.
The letter, dated Jan. 15, appears to summarize information that the accreditor wants to receive in advance of a visit to the campus next fall by a special committee from SACSCOC.
For instance: “[P]rovide evidence that safeguards are in place that would prevent control by a minority of the board, or by organizations or interests separate from the Board.”
And: “The institution should demonstrate that it publishes policies on the responsbility and authority of faculty in academic and governance matters and that these policies are appropriately approved, implemented and enforced by the institution.”
The letter set a deadline of Sept. 9 to receive answers.
A U-Va. spokesman said the university “looks forward to preparing the report requested.”
No doubt many observers are looking forward to the answers.Continue reading this post »
Catholic U. starts a business school — without MBAs
Catholic University announced this month the creation of an unusual business school in which every course touches on morality and ethics.
Interestingly, none of the business degrees offered at the D.C. university will include the traditional staple of business schools: a master’s in business administration.
Instead of an MBA, graduate students in the School of Business and Economics will be able to choose from four master’s degree programs: business analysis; accounting; international political economics; and integral economic development management.
The school also offers several undergraduate degree programs. And every course, officials say, will tackle questions of business ethics.
“We wanted to build an institution that taught and researched business from the perspective of Catholic teaching and the natural law,” said the dean of the new school, Andrew Abela.
Previously, the business school was a department in Catholic’s School of Arts and Sciences.
Abela said the school has 14 full-time professors and 50 part-timers. There are about 400 undergraduate students and three dozen graduate students.
Abela said that the market for MBAs is somewhat “cluttered” now, but that eventually the school may offer that degree as well.
“As a new school we can do something different, unlike other schools — Catholic and non-Catholic — that already have large faculties committed to existing conventional approaches to business and economics,” Catholic President John Garvey said in a statement. “Our school is small enough to pursue a new and original direction.”Continue reading this post »
Q&A: Dragas, the U-Va. rector, discusses why she wants a second term
We have a new story online about a showdown coming in the Virginia General Assembly over whether to keep Helen E. Dragas on the University of Virginia's Board of Visitors. A vote is expected as early as Tuesday in a state Senate committee.
Dragas became an object of scorn in many quarters on campus and around the state after the implosion of her attempt to oust U-Va. president Teresa Sullivan. But she retains some strong political support.
Her custom is generally to answer reporters’ questions via e-mail. I sent her a few for my story on the coming action in the legislature over whether to confirm her appointment to the governing board for a four-year term. Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) made the appointment last summer. Here is the full Q & A.
The Washington Post: There is certainly support for you in the legislature, but there is also some sharp opposition. Usually these confirmation votes are quick and easy. Are you worried that the division in the legislature and the continued criticism of you on campus will impede your ability to lead should you be confirmed?
Dragas: Since June, the Board of Visitors and the President have forged a constructive and productive partnership. Even amidst some dissent, we’ve made real progress -- setting tighter fiscal controls, launching a thoughtful strategic planning process, opening Board decision-making and requiring more regular and more transparent quarterly presidential progress reviews. We can certainly continue to move forward, and, hopefully, we can do so with everyone’s renewed commitment to contribute to U.Va and its future.
Post: What do you think is at stake in this vote?Continue reading this post »