Classes began today at Bellingham Technical College in Washington after a weeklong faculty strike. The faculty union and a second union representing support staff reached a tentative contract agreement Saturday.
Students couldn’t collect financial aid till classes started, reports the Bellingham Herald.
About 84 percent of the school’s students receive some form of financial aid. Many are nontraditional, older students, some with families. The average age of a BTC student was 28 during the 2011-12 school year.
Tami Reynolds, a 32-year-old single mother of three, is an accounting student at BTC. In addition to providing for her 7- and 10-year-old boys, she cares for her 2-year-old daughter, who has a severe immune system deficiency. Due to her daughter’s condition, Reynolds may not put her daughter in day care while she works.
“I rely fully on financial aid,” Reynolds said. “I’m doing online courses because I have to be home with her. I did the accounting program in the hopes I could get a job in bookkeeping from home.”
Other students complained they’d quit jobs or reduced work hours to make time for classes.
Faculty members were seeking pay raises and new rules on teaching workloads.
Adjuncts have been working without a contract since 2010. The Adjunct Faculty Association, an independent union representing 2,600 adjunct faculty, proposed a retroactive pay raise of 4.9 percent each year. The union estimates the contract would cost $14.5 million. The Board of Trustees, which estimated the total cost at $63.4 million through 2018, rejected the contract, triggering the strike.
In an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed, Alicia Steger, a college spokeswoman, said adjuncts are paid $5,100 to teach a three-credit course. “That is the highest of the colleges in the area. We have heard numerous reports from adjuncts who teach elsewhere that they would love to teach at NCC. So, that is our answer to the claim of unfair working conditions.”
Professors are skeptical about the quality of online courses, especially MOOCs, according to Inside Higher Ed‘s Survey of Faculty Attitudes on Technology.
Only one in five think “online courses can achieve learning outcomes equivalent to those of in-person courses.” However, professors who’ve taught online (30 percent of respondents) were much likelier to say online courses can be just as effective.
And while even professors who have taught online are about evenly divided on whether online courses generally can produce learning outcomes equivalent to face-to-face classes (33 percent agree, 30 percent are neutral, and 37 percent disagree), instructors with online experience are likelier than not to believe that online courses can deliver equivalent outcomes at their institutions (47 percent agree vs. 28 percent disagree), in their departments (50 percent vs. 30 percent), and in the classes they teach (56 percent vs. 29 percent).
Asked to rate factors that contribute to quality in online education, whether an online program is offered by an accredited institution tops the list for faculty members (73 percent), and about 6 in 10 say that whether an online program is offered by an institution that also offers in-person instruction is a “very important” indicator of quality. Only 45 percent say it is very important that the online education is offered for credit, and about 3 in 10 say it is very important whether the offering institution is nonprofit.
Most professors want to make sure faculty members control decision-making about MOOCs and that accreditors review their quality.
Of professors who’ve never taught an online course, 30 percent say the main reason is because they’ve never been asked.
“The U.S. Department of Education is threatening to “limit, suspend or terminate” federal recognition of the accrediting commission that has threatened to shut down City College of San Francisco, reports EdSource Today.
In a six-page letter to Barbara Beno, president of the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), the Department of Education said that the commission needed to take “immediate action” to correct four areas of non-compliance with federal regulations. The letter came in response to a 275-page complaint filed by the California Federation of Teachers over how the commission handled the accreditation review of City College.
The union, which represents the faculty and other staff at City College, charged only one faculty member served on two evaluation teams with eight and 16 members. In addition, Beno’s husband was on one of the evaluation teams, which CFT said created the appearance of a conflict of interest, and that the commission failed to provide a “detailed written report that clearly identifies any deficiencies in the institution’s compliance” with the commission’s standards.
In a statement published on its website, a statement published on its website, the commission said it was “disappointed” with the findings, and that it would make “necessary changes to appropriately address the Department’s concerns.” However, it took issue with the assertion that only one academic was represented on the evaluation team, and also said that it appeared that in another area the federal government was imposing new requirements.
In 2007, when its federal recognition came up for its five-year renewal, the ACCJC was found to be “non-compliant” with federal standards, “essentially for for not being tough enough on colleges not meeting its standards for accreditation, reports EdSource Today.
CCSF is the largest community college in California and one of the largest in the nation.
City College of San Francisco will lose accreditation on July 31, 2014 — unless a special trustee appointed this week can resolve financial and governance problems, reports the Los Angeles Times. With 85,000 students at multiple campuses, CCSF is one of the nation’s largest two-year institutions. Special trustee Robert Agrella, former president of Santa Rosa Junior College, effectively will replace the school’s elected governing board.
City College will appeal the decision, said interim CCSF Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman.
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges voted to revoke accreditation because City College had fully addressed just two of the commission’s 14 major recommendations and corrected only a few of the many deficiencies cited, the commission said in a statement. College officials tried to satisfy the commission, but “likened the effort to changing tires on a speeding car,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
College officials unilaterally cut pay and entered into battle with angry faculty in a labor dispute that has yet to be resolved.
They reorganized the management structure against the will of department chairs. To fix the college’s tangled decision-making structure, college trustees also dismantled a decades-long system of faculty leadership over the strong objections of employees.
The trustees also eliminated a multiheaded hydra of 46 committees that often served to obstruct and control decision-making. They also pumped up reserves and established a nine-year fiscal plan.
“Essentially, the loss of accreditation would be the death penalty for City College, said California Community Colleges Chancellor Brice W. Harris in videotaped remarks. Students wouldn’t be able to transfer credits or qualify for financial aid and state funding would be cut off. “We simply cannot allow that to happen.”
The decision was “outrageous,” said faculty union president Alisa Messer, an English instructor. City College was making progress, she told the Chronicle of Higher Education. Faculty governance ensured cuts were made outside the classroom, she said. The college’s choices “were a reflection of our San Francisco values.”
But the faculty protected “an abundance of noncredit courses, which employ faculty members but generate less revenue,” according to Raymond R. White, an instructor in biology who is critical of the union.
(Robert) Shireman, a former top official in the U.S. Education Department, said the City College’s broad course catalog in part reflects its unusual role as a designated provider of adult education in San Francisco, a function handled in most cities by the elementary and secondary schools.
But over all, he said, the union has been part of a divisive leadership structure at City College, in which faculty members have been overly fearful of community colleges’ focusing too tightly on job training. Some faculty members have suggested that is (accreditation commission chair Barbara) Beno’s real agenda, with the commission part of a conservative strategy to narrow the mission of publicly financed education.
Beno publicly supported a new California law that gives registration priority to students who are progressing toward transfer to a four-year institution or a vocational credential. City College faculty members oppose the law. “A lot of our students don’t fit that narrow path, that narrow definition of what a lot of people think students are,” said Wendy S. Kaufmyn, an engineering instructor.
Broad missions need to be financed, said Shireman. “There are broader discussions about the extent to which community colleges can do just whatever they want whenever they want, with taxpayer money, versus having some method of prioritizing what to fund and what not to fund,” he said.
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.