Higher education is due for some creative destruction, predicts John Backus,managing partner at New Atlantic Ventures, in a Washington Post commentary. In the next few years:
At least 10 states will require their state universities to accept MOOCs for placement and for credit, helping taxpayers save money on education.
Many of the most talented professors will make more money teaching online than they do as a tenured professor.
Colleges and professors will begin to segregate into online content creators and online content consumers. The creators will be few. The consumers will be many.
Faculty will feel threatened, and will work to pass protectionist legislation to outlaw MOOCs for courses that can by taught in-person by tenured faculty. They may delay, but they will not stop the inevitable.
Community colleges will become a mainstream beginning of a smart and economical path for ambitious students to get a degree. Virginia community colleges are leading the way here.
In the long term, top colleges will offer more online courses supported by “active, high-touch teaching assistants,” Backus predicts.
Vocational training will be branded: Students will choose the Procter & Gamble marketing track, the Goldman Sachs finance series or, perhaps, the Apple user experience course package.
Employers will not care about which university issued a job applicants’ degree, unless it’s one of the 50 most elite colleges. Instead, they’ll examine the coursework. “Online vs. in-person courses will be a distinction without a difference to employers.”
College is going online whether we like it or not, writes Zachary Karabell in The Atlantic. Online education is the solution to rapidly rising student debt, he argues. All expenses — except for the cost of the professor’s time and experience — will be stripped away. And it will be massively disruptive.
The elite schools can expand the power of their brand through online courses, Karabell writes. Non-elite colleges may replace their professors with cheap adjuncts and Harvard professors lecturing online.
Yes, we are a few years away from online courses providing degrees and credentials that will be seen by the marketplace as adequate. For now, taking courses online may enrich your life, but it will not provide the entrée into jobs requiring a degree, whether associate’s or bachelor’s. Many fields of graduate study will be untouched, but many others — law, accounting and others — are ripe for online credentializing.
Soon, online education will lower the cost of credentials and create “vocational programs aligned with the skills employers need,” Karabell writes. We’ll need fewer bricks-and-mortar colleges, but more people will be able to earn degrees — without heavy debt.
San Jose State professors are pushing back against online courses, despite — or because of — the success of an online engineering course, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
“Let’s not kid ourselves; administrators at the CSU are beginning a process of replacing faculty with cheap online education,” the philosophy faculty wrote in a letter to Harvard professor Michael Sandel, whose Social Justice class is available through edX.
“The Trombone Clause says that in good times, when we have good budgets from the state and better economics, we can share that largess with our employees,” said Larry Kamer, spokesperson for CCSF. “But it retracts in bad times, which is where we are now.”
The American Federation of Teachers argues conditions haven’t been met to trigger the trombone.
City College has until March 15 to prove its financial viability to the Accreditation Commission, which criticized CCSF’s pay structure.
Community colleges were supposes to be “democracy’s college,” writes Keith Kroll, an English professor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College in Michigan. That “grand experiment” is coming to an end, Kroll writes. From President Obama on down, community colleges are seen as job training centers providing workers for local employers, not as places where students begin higher education.
Within the next 20 years, 80 percent of classes will be taught online, he predicts. Ninety percent of faculty will be part-timers who may never meet their students or each other.
In the community college of the future each department will have one full-time “faculty manager,” whose responsibilities will include distributing prepackaged, business-driven curricula and course syllabi; selecting the common textbook from which all faculty members will “teach”; scheduling and assigning classes . . . and managing the online grading program that all faculty will use to assess student performance. There will no longer be in-person department meetings, faculty representation on college committees, shared governance, or professional development . . . (faculty) will no longer be teachers, but technicians with no say in what they teach and how they teach.
English instructors will teach writing solely to give students the practical skills required by employers, he writes. Literature — indeed all the liberal arts — will be eliminated on grounds they have “no economic value.”
The revised mission statement of the Association of American Colleges and Universities is “to make liberal education and inclusive excellence the foundation for institutional purpose and educational practice in higher education.” I’m not sure what “inclusive excellence’ means.
California’s community college faculty wield too much power: Regulations which let academic senates veto decisions by elected boards are invalid and illegal, complains a legal challenge by California Competes, a nonprofit group of business and civic leaders.
Robert Shireman, the group’s executive director, said that the regulations create a tangled, dysfunctional bureaucracy that does not respond to the needs of students. “It creates a situation of gridlock instead of cooperation,” he said. “In order for any large organization to move forward, somebody ultimately has to make a decision.”
Under the proposed changes, local governing boards would be required to seek input from the faculty, staff and students prior to policy decisions. However trustees would have the final decision-making power.
Divided governance has given California’s community colleges a “national reputation for dispute and dysfunction,” said Shireman.
Community colleges will be accredited based on food, writes Jeffrey Ross in a Cronk of Higher Education satire. Colleges will be required to demonstrate how food fits into their “strategic visions, core values, mission statements, assessment plans, curricula and feedback loops.”
Research shows the importance of potlucks, said Dr. Tusk Manger, a reviewer and taste-tester for the Highbrow Learn-ed Commission.
. . . community college staff spend about 65 percent of their salaried work day preparing for potlucks, grazing, sharing recipes, emailing notifications about dessert needs at division meetings, chatting over hummus or quiche in the faculty lounge, planning bake sale fund raisers for partnering organizations and orchestrating classroom “cultural” studies which mandate at-risk eating activities. . . . hard-core paper plate beanie-weenie concoctions and crockpot food–especially at division meeting potlucks–may represent a significantly overlooked part of every community college’s curricula. Eating is the best practice at all community colleges.
“Potluck” appears in 41 percent of all email subject headings at one community college in western Phoenix, according to a study by Dr. Jeffrey Roz, Hamilton State University, and Dr. Jann M Kontento, Copperfield Community College.
. . . 37 percent of all the benchmarking college emails contain some reference to pies, cheesecake, left-over mushroom pizza, bagels, garbanzo beans, COM 209 ethnic awareness potlucks, donuts in the dean’s office or “almost-gone” sliced summer sausage and cheese snacks remaining from a governing board meeting.
Ross and Jann Contento are the authors of College Leadership Crisis: The Phillip Dolly Affair, a comic novel about the fictional Copperfield Community College.
Faced with a $15 million deficit and the threat of losing accreditation, City College of San Francisco‘s board has voted to “dismantle a decades-long system of faculty leadership,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Returning more than 60 department chairs to full-time teaching will save $2 million and streamline governance, trustees said.
“The accrediting commission made it clear as recently as yesterday that they are concerned we are not moving quickly enough,” interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher told the board.
City College has until March 15 to prove it should to stay in business. The accrediting commission has said one major problem is the college’s byzantine and costly governance structure – unparalleled among California community colleges.
More than 60 faculty members earn extra pay as department chairs. They are released from teaching to do administrative work, such as scheduling, that other colleges assign to deans. City College employs 11 deans. The chairs have their own labor union, work 10 months rather than 12, as deans do, and must have their classes covered by other faculty.
Trustees also voted unanimously to close a preschool to save $84,000 a year, and to end summer hours at three other college-run child care centers. “City College spends $700,000 a year on the centers that serve as laboratories for child-development majors and as places where parents can learn alternatives to corporal punishment,” the Chronicle reports.
The board hired a “special trustee” who will have veto power on accreditation-related decisions and agreed to start collecting fees at registration. Uncollected fees cost the college district $400,000 a year.
On many community college campuses, “corruption, cronyism, abuse of power, and fiefdom-building constitute business as usual,” writes Rob Jenkins, a Georgia Perimeter College English professor, on the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Feudalism and Soviet-style dictatorship are the most common governance models, he writes. Both are authoritarian and “feature relatively small groups of sycophants who place themselves in orbit around the leader, jockeying for position and seeking to consolidate their own power through flattery and zealous support of the official agenda.”
. . . under the feudal model, shared governance is paid only the barest lip service, if any at all. Some of the organizational bodies necessary to support shared governance, such as a faculty senate, might exist in name but are only window dressing, without any legitimate function.
The Soviet model, on the other hand, tends to have all of the trappings of democracy, or (in this case) shared governance—faculty and staff senates, policy councils, standing committees. Their meetings are often conducted with great fanfare. But in reality they are under the iron-fisted control of the leader and his or her cronies, and every decision made is part of the approved agenda.
Another important difference is that a feudal lord or lady may, on occasion, be relatively benevolent. The dictator is rarely, if ever, that.
In both models, the same people are named to the most important committees, which “always seem to reach conclusions or submit reports that are widely praised by the leader.”
Community colleges are especially susceptible to fiefdom-building, Jenkins argues. Few community college presidents have been full-time professors with academic qualifications, he writes. Furthermore, the “13th grade” mentality leads to top-down governance.
For some people, community colleges are not “real” colleges but rather occupy a place somewhere between a high school and a university—perhaps closer to the former than to the latter. Plenty of people in government, and even within the two-year institutions themselves, believe that community colleges should be run much like high schools, with strong, autocratic leaders and little or no input from the instructors.
“Our failure to embrace true shared governance has, it seems, opened the door to corruption, mismanagement, and abuse of power, writes Jenkins. “If you don’t hear from me again after this column is published, you can assume that I’m probably in a dungeon somewhere, awaiting my execution—figuratively speaking, of course.”
To conform with City University of New York’s Pathways program, which is designed to help community college students transfer credits, English professors at Queensborough Community College were told to cut an hour from four-hour composition courses. They refused. In response, a college vice president, Karen Steele, sent the department a memo threatening to cancel the composition courses and tell students to take composition at other CUNY campuses. The enrollment drop would force the college to cancel job searches for full-time faculty, send layoff notices to adjuncts and possibly lay off full-time professors, Steele wrote.
Faculty are furious, reports Inside Higher Ed. After the memo was attacked on several blogs – The Danger of Ignoring Shared Governance, and CUNY Declares War on Rebel English Department were two headlines — the college president told faculty there’s no retaliation plan: “The potential consequences as described in Vice President Steele’s email illustrate the worst case scenario — one we are prepared to work mightily to avoid,” wrote Diane Call.
Some faculty leaders believe Pathways “takes too much power away from individual campuses and departments, and that easing transfer could come at the expense of academic rigor,” notes Inside Higher Ed. Those fears now have been inflamed.
City College of San Francisco could lose accreditation and close this spring, unless “those in charge make the tough decisions needed to right the ship,” writes Robert Shireman, director of California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, in the San Francisco Chronicle. But who’s in charge?
. . . CCSF has been part of a grand experiment in democratic management forced upon community colleges by an obscure rule adopted 22 years ago. While the original motivation for the shared-governance requirement was understandable, even laudable, in hindsight we can see that empowering everyone leaves no one in charge. California’s community colleges are capsizing as a result.
In the 1980s, “junior” college faculty wanted the status and power of university professors, Shireman writes. They got much more. The state Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges ordered community college trustees and chancellors “to defer to academic senates on a wide range of topics.”
CCSF went all-out in implementing the new state requirement. Today, an Office of Shared Governance manages 46 committees that develop policies that feed into a faculty Executive Council. Further, a petition process can put any issue to a full faculty vote. The CCSF Board of Trustees, elected by the voters of San Francisco to run the college, is required by the state to rubber-stamp the Shared Governance decisions (or indecision) or risk going to court to prove that the disagreement was “exceptional” and “compelling.” The result of this blurring of responsibility is predictable: Decisions don’t get made, no one is held accountable, and everyone blames everyone else.
Two independent reviews have offered stinging critiques of CCSF’s processes. The accreditor found “a veil of distrust among the governance groups” instead of clear decision-making roles. A fiscal review found the college paralyzed by a culture that undermines good management, preventing it from making the decisions that would stave off bankruptcy. Decision-making “appears to have been driven more by power, influence and political whim, than reason, logic and fairness.”
While a few exceptional chancellors have worked with faculty to adapt to difficult times, most community colleges are “stumbling along” without strong, clear leadership, Shireman writes.
The state board needs to end shared governance, argues. More urgently, the CCSF academic senate “should formally step aside to put the duly elected trustees squarely in charge so we all can hold them fully accountable.” A sinking ship needs a captain, not a committee.
Unionized professors and staff at City Colleges of Chicago have agreed to performance pay, reports Inside Higher Ed. Instead of receiving annual “step” increases for seniority, faculty members could earn bonuses based on student outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, remedial students who go on to college-level courses and graduates’ earnings and employment rates.
The bonuses won’t be linked to individual performance. If the district reaches it goals, all faculty members will receive more money. ”We’re calling it student success pay. It’s a group incentive,” said Laurent Pernot, vice chancellor for institutional advancement.
The American Federation of Teachers represents nearly 1,500 full-time professors and professional staff at the seven colleges.
The contract was passed with the support of 72 percent of voting faculty members and 80 percent of professional staff members. But many faculty leaders opposed the deal and the union leaders at two of the system’s campuses recommended that members vote no.
. . . While a spokesman for the college system spoke about how the contract de-emphasized seniority in favor of accountability, a spokesman for the union insisted that key protections for seniority remained.
A joint faculty-administration committee will discuss ways to set ”meaningful but achievable” goals, said Pernot. For example, one goal is to double the three-year graduation rate in five years, going from 10 percent to 20 percent.