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Marygrove College to end undergraduate programs after fall semester

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 10 Ago 2017 - 02:00

Marygrove College in Detroit joined the list Wednesday of small private colleges making cuts because of financial difficulties, announcing it will follow the unusual strategy of shutting down its undergraduate programs in the middle of the upcoming academic year.

The small Roman Catholic liberal arts college in northwest Detroit will only offer master's degree programs starting in January 2018. The change will mean job losses for many of the institution's 44 full-time faculty members, four part-time faculty members and roughly 70 staff members. It will also mean finding a new home for hundreds of undergraduate students.

But Marygrove's leaders saw little other choice after years of stubborn deficits, high debt and a small endowment that is down to about $500,000. The college made efforts to increase enrollment but was unable to do so, according to Elizabeth Burns, its president.

“People want us to keep Marygrove undergrad open, and they say, ‘Just tell everybody you need money,’” Burns said. “I need money, but I also need students. We need volume, and we need a lot of students in class. It's hard to have a robust discussion when you only have five students or six students, or even 10 in the class.”

Marygrove's enrollment has been plunging in recent years. It reported a combined 1,850 graduate and undergraduate students in 2013 -- a peak. Last fall, the college enrolled just 491 undergraduates and 475 graduate students.

At the same time, budget deficits mounted. The college went into the 2014-15 year thinking it could balance its budget but was unable to do so, Burns said. The college cut its expense budget from roughly $25 million several years ago to $20 million last year. Nonetheless, deficits persisted, and it closed the 2017 fiscal year this summer with a deficit of nearly $4 million.

“We survived through the kindness of the sisters who are our sponsoring order and through philanthropy,” Burns said. “That really bought us the time we needed to think.”

The college is sponsored by the congregation of Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

This summer the college received a consultant's report saying it was not sustainable in its current form. Not only was the university having trouble attracting students, but many students were transferring after they arrived. The board voted Tuesday to end undergraduate enrollment. A day later, Marygrove announced its plan.

“The Board of Trustees voted to continue with strong graduate studies and professional development because grad studies are sustainable and in demand,” said Kay Benesh, Board of Trustees chair, in a statement. “It was also critical for Marygrove to remain the mainstay of this northwest Detroit community and an active partner with our neighbors in growing this community.”

The college is expected to continue to offer seven graduate and professional development programs, many in education. About 35 undergraduate programs will be dropped.

Marygrove plans to use the upcoming fall semester to help students find new colleges. Assisting them in the transfer process was one of the reasons leaders wanted to open to undergraduates this fall. The college has lined up academic advisers and financial aid counselors to craft individual plans.

But many of the institution's plans for the future are still unsettled. It will be left with a 53-acre campus. It doesn't plan to sell any of the land, although leases are possible, Burns said. Administrators aren't sure how many students they should expect to lose after Wednesday's announcement.

Burns acknowledged the college's course of action is “unique” but said it can be exciting if viewed as a way forward opening new possibilities. Marygrove has undergone substantial change before. The college was founded in Monroe, south of Detroit, and moved to the city 90 years ago. It became coed in 1971. It “archived” a master's in English program last year, Burns said.

Although many colleges and universities have started new graduate programs, the list of institutions that have decided to cut undergraduate operations within recent memory is short. Wheelock College in Boston was said to be considering eliminating its undergraduate programs earlier this summer. A report said it had put recruiting of undergraduates for 2019 on hold. However, those reports about undergraduate changes were not accurate, and the college does plan to recruit a class for 2019 on its normal timeline, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Wheelock is in a planning process to try to find a sustainable future. It is selling two properties -- its president's house and a small residence hall that is one of six on campus.

Other colleges making substantial changes in the last year for financial reasons include Holy Cross College in Indiana, which agreed in May to sell 75 acres of its land to the University of Notre Dame in order to improve its financial situation. Aquinas College in Tennessee in March announced plans to cut degrees, eliminate residential housing and cut student life activities in a pivot back toward its origins as a normal school. St. Joseph's College in Indiana set off a firestorm in February when it said it would be suspending operations on its home campus and only running a bachelor of science in nursing program held off-campus. Iowa Wesleyan College put in place deep cuts, including to programs, several years ago.

None of those provides a blueprint for the pivot Marygrove is about to attempt. But the college's need to change in the face of enrollment challenges was clear to some.

“It's very uncommon,” said Susan Resneck Pierce, former president of the University of Puget Sound and president of SRP Consulting. “On the other hand, did they realistically have a choice?”

Marygrove leaders didn't see many ways to raise more money. The college's benefactors had already been extremely generous, according to Burns. Its student body was not wealthy -- 65 percent of undergraduates received federal Pell grants in 2015-16, a proxy for students from low-income backgrounds.

At the same time, however, Marygrove students come from underserved populations. Its undergraduate student body was 63 percent black last fall. Nearly all students, 95 percent, came from in state, and it was known to draw heavily from Detroit and its surrounding area.

Some responses on social media were unhappy. One Twitter user wrote, “I don't understand how you can close a college midsemester … Let us finish our year at least.” Another wrote about being happy to have seen “the writing on the wall” before leaving.

But others were regretful. Another Twitter user wrote she was “saddened” to hear of the changes and that she was praying for the college. One called the news “unfortunate” and said he was praying for future success.

“We had to make a hard decision,” Burns said. “And the hard decision was what educators need in the city of Detroit, and what some businesspeople need in the city of Detroit, are certificate programs and professional development programs.”

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Arkansas college finds success in male-dominated fields but wants short-term Pell

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 10 Ago 2017 - 02:00

Since the presidential election, some have argued that colleges aren’t doing enough to help working-class people -- men in particular -- pursue the types of technical training that will get them good jobs.

A community college in Arkansas, however, is among those that have found success with just that population, but it's with programs that are often short-term and difficult for students to pay for with federal financial aid.

"We are focused on more career and technical education," said Jeremy Shirley, director of marketing and communications for Arkansas State University Newport. "All of our programs have advisory boards, and we tailor the programs to meet industry needs. That drives a lot of what we do, and our general education and liberal arts exist to supplement those programs."

ASU Newport, which is a two-year institution, has two unique partnerships, one for a four-week commercial truck-driving license and the other a 10-month high-voltage lineman program. While the college has offered the program in commercial truck driving for years, about two years ago ASU Newport entered an agreement with Maverick Transportation, a trucking company based in Little Rock, which transformed the college into one of the state's top commercial-driving centers.

Truck driving is a major industry in Arkansas, and students who can complete the certificate program can earn an annual salary of about $50,000, Shirley said, adding that most students who complete the program may make more. Last year the program had a total of 190 students, and this year there are 124 students.

"Trucking is big in the state of Arkansas because we have hubs like Maverick and we have MC Express," Shirley said, mentioning MC Express is another partner that sends students to the college for training.

Maverick sends about eight students to Newport every two weeks to complete the four-week rotation. The company also covers rent for their student employees. The Newport Economic Development Commission bought housing specifically for Maverick's student employees, who often travel across the state for the training, to have a place to live.

Meanwhile, the college also has an arrangement with Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas to train students in the high-voltage lineman technology program. Graduates can make about $40,000 a year in that occupation, and the co-op sends about 17 students a year to the program. The co-op also donates $130,000 a year for scholarships.

Jobs like truck driving, which may only require four to five weeks of training, can bring significant labor market returns -- 20 percent or more above what one can earn with a high school diploma, said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center for Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University.

But one issue keeping the short-term programs from really taking off is the lack of financial aid availability. The commercial driver's license program costs $2,700 for students to complete the four weeks, and the lack of a CDL can prevent students from enrolling in other related programs -- students in ASU's diesel technology program are required to already have their commercial truck-driving licenses.

"This would have a huge impact for us if we had short-term Pell," Shirley said, adding that for Maverick student employees the company covers the cost of the program, but non-Maverick students may be paying out of pocket. If Maverick students work for the company for six months, their tuition is covered. However, if they leave before the six months or never start work at Maverick, then they must pay the company back for the education.

"But if you're going to have Pell to do [short-term programs], then you threaten the maximum grant amount," Carnevale said, adding that this has been a debate since at least the Clinton administration. "But we are headed there. Eventually, Pell will be a training grant. We can see this coming a mile off with all of the push for employability as an outcome standard."

Congress has already displayed bipartisan support for expanding Pell eligibility to short-term certificates, but it hasn't taken action on the issue.

The current political discussion seems to center around work force training for working-class men, who have been hit hard by economic changes since the early 1980s, Carnevale said, adding that men don’t have as much access to high-wage jobs as they did in the past, as manufacturing and construction have decreased.

Both truck-driving and commercial-driving programs tend to be dominated by men, while the health-care programs are dominated by women, Shirley said, adding that there are some women who have pursued truck-driving careers. But the program is more than 94 percent male, while enrollment in allied health fields at the college is 80 percent female, with the practical nursing program made up of more than 87 percent of women.

But mostly, students don't want to go into these programs if they don’t have financial aid, Shirley said.

"At the end of the day, some of these people may not have a job at all or they can't go to school full-time and work full-time to provide for their families. It's too difficult," he said.

A four-week program may sound easy to handle if you're going without employment, but not if you're paying for it out of pocket, he said.

"Our students want to know how much money will they make, how long will it take and what will their title be when they leave," he said, adding that the college's marketing focuses on those three things as a way to recruit more students. "The majority of our marketing budget is focused on welding, manufacturing and agriculture. We're trying to close that skills gap our industry partners have told us about as the work force continues to age."

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Youngstown State will keep convicted rapist on football team, but won't let him play in games

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 10 Ago 2017 - 02:00

Ma’lik Richmond was one of two Ohio high school football players convicted in 2013 of sexually assaulting a minor -- a girl they met at a party who was intoxicated beyond the ability to consent to sex -- the year before. The Steubenville High School rape case, as it became known, included evidence that the football players and their friends traded jokes and photos about the incident, and assumed that their status as football players would protect them from punishment. Richmond, tried as a juvenile, served less than a year in juvenile detention.

In the last week, students at Youngstown State University learned that Richmond, who transferred to the university last year, is now a member of the football team, and that set off a debate over whether he should be.

On Wednesday night, the university posted a statement to its Facebook page that appeared to be aiming for a middle ground. The university said that Richmond would not be playing in games this fall, but would remain on the team.

"Youngstown State University takes the matter of sexual assault very seriously and continues to educate everyone within the campus community about the impact and prevention of sexual assault," the statement said. "The university is fully aware of the gravity of the situation and of petitions that are circulating on social media in protest and support of one of our students, Ma’lik Richmond."

The statement added that the university does not restrict the extracurricular activities of any student in good academic standing, as Richmond is. Further, the statement said that Richmond won a spot on the team as a walk-on and is not receiving a scholarship.

"For the fall 2017 football season, Ma’lik will not be permitted to compete in any games, but will continue to be a part of the football program as a practice player, forfeiting a year of eligibility," the statement said. "He will be given the opportunity to benefit from group participation, the lessons of hard work and discipline, as well as the camaraderie and guidance of the staff and teammates."

Reaction on the university's Facebook page was immediate, and much of it was negative.

"I'm glad that my alma mater thinks that a year of ineligibility makes up for them letting a rapist on the football team," posted one alumnus.

Wrote another, "Disgusted. Way to make football your top priority in this situation. I am a huge sports supporter and love supporting my YSU Penguins, but I highly disapprove of them allowing this kid to walk onto the team and stand on the sidelines representing my university."

The university's announcement followed much debate over two competing petitions.

One petition, signed by more than 10,000 people, urges the university to remove Richmond from the team.

"For many years, athletes have constantly been given additional chances because they are athletes. What does this say about rape culture? That athletes can do no wrong, that they can get away with anything because of how they perform on the field or in the gym?" the petition says. "Does he deserve a second chance? Yes, he does, and he is receiving that second chance by furthering his education on YSU's campus. Does he deserve the privilege of playing on a football team and representing a university? Absolutely not. Education is a right, whereas playing on a sports team is not."

The second petition, signed by more than 1,000 people, offers a different take.

"Ma'lik was convicted and has served his punishment and has since earned the right to attend Youngstown State and participate on the football team," this petition says. "Being that he has accepted his punishment and has served his time, we are in full support of Youngstown State University giving this young man a chance to have an impact on society. We would like Ma'lik Richmond to remain on the Youngstown State football team!"

The other Steubenville athlete convicted with Richmond -- Trent Mays -- set off a similar debate when he joined the football team at Hocking College in 2015.

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Germany's Humboldt University tries to return to its interdisciplinary roots

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 10 Ago 2017 - 02:00

Humboldt University of Berlin is one of the birthplaces of interdisciplinarity. Founded in 1810, it was envisioned by educational reformer Wilhelm von Humboldt as an institution where students would receive an all-around education in the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities, and where teaching and research would be integrated.

Through a number of novel teaching experiments, the university is now seeking to return to its roots.

German universities have had to shorten their degrees because of Europe’s Bologna process, which aims for common degree requirements and certifications across European nations, meaning that some of the longstanding opportunities to study other subjects have been squeezed out, explained Wolfgang Deicke, coordinator of Humboldt’s (ironically named) Bologna Lab, which develops new teaching methods.

So while it might have previously taken six years to train a chemist to a level where “they’re safe, they won’t blow things up,” the necessary content now “gets crammed into three years.”

“While everybody else was shifting from teaching to learning, for five or six years Germany moved the other way,” Deicke said. There is now a sense that “people specialize too soon.”

One of the most eye-catching projects to emerge out of the Bologna Lab is a program called Diversity of Knowledge.

In a series of lectures, students are presented with an object -- a radio, for example -- they explore from several angles. They might start theoretically, learning about the cultural history of the radio, before progressing to the practical, such as assembling a simple radio themselves.

Students “start realizing how complex a worldview might be,” explained Birgit Lettmann, who coordinates the program, and realize that “sometimes their own disciplines are limited and that it is helpful to ask other disciplines.” About 100 students take the course each year, which has been run since 2012.

Lettmann teaches a series of lectures that focus on the corpse; students are asked, “When is a body a corpse?” They are taught to question when the point of death is from a medical and philosophical point of view, she explained. Some sessions take an ethnographical tack. Students studying Asian and African cultures pretend to be the widows of recently deceased husbands and let their classmates interrogate them “to gain a kind of knowledge about how the corpse is perceived” in a different culture, Lettmann said.

“I like this approach of having a concrete object and to turn and twist it and analyze it from multiple disciplinary angles,” one student said in a testimonial.

Divisions on campus sometimes thwart the aims of the project. Natural science students tended to be taught on a different site from other students, with the result that they dominated the class when it was held in that location.

But over all, Lettmann said, it was harder to get natural science students involved, not least because they have a denser timetable. They sometimes only start thinking “out of the box” -- and considering natural science as a system of knowledge, rather than an objective truth -- after the master’s level, so the aim of the program is to let them grapple with these questions at an earlier stage, she explained. And some students who join the course have ended up making friends with classmates across the disciplinary divide, she added.

Berlin Perspectives is another elective module offered by the Bologna Lab, designed to get students thinking in an interdisciplinary way. The object it analyzes is the city of Berlin itself, looking at its history, society, literature and arts, and to a lesser extent its economy and politics, explained program director Julia Effertz. It is aimed at international students; this summer 300 students -- hailing from 45 different countries -- took the module.

But rather like Humboldt’s Diversity of Knowledge module, it is far more successful at attracting students from the humanities, arts and social sciences than from the natural sciences. Packed lab timetables are one explanation, said Effertz. It is also harder for natural scientists from abroad to gain credit for the module back at their home universities.

Another of the lab’s initiatives gets students to work together on a research project over a semester or two -- the so-called Q program, which runs from bachelor’s to postdoctoral level.

This might sound similar to what is done at many universities, but a couple of unusual aspects mark it out, said the organizers. The first is that students must work with those from other subjects. “The idea is always to answer a question together from different perspectives,” said coordinator Monika Sonntag. “That’s what makes it interesting and challenging for the students.”

One group of about 15, co-led by a bachelor’s-level regional studies student, explored how the German colonial past in Namibia is remembered in German politics. At the end, they created a short film for a German nongovernmental organization about the topic.

The other unusual aspect is that the university trains and employs students, from bachelor’s level upward, to lead the team. A typical contract is for 41 hours a month. “You have to keep the group together, but you are also a co-researcher,” said Sonntag. “This is something that is not so easy for the participants.”

The students get to develop project management skills and understand how to carry out a research project from start to finish. But is this teaching on the cheap? Sonntag insisted that the programs are always “on top” of students’ normal courses. “These projects should never replace the basic teaching or seminars that have to be run at the university,” she added.

Finally, the university is considering bringing in a Humboldt Bachelor program. It is only the germ of an idea so far, said Deicke, but if it goes ahead it would be “our attempt to reintroduce something like liberal arts.”

The idea is to allow students to take an interdisciplinary course alongside their main field of study, rather like a minor. “It will be more about science, different understandings of science, and an external reflection on your main subject from the perspective of the sociology of science, history of science and philosophy of science,” he said.

But so far, the results of surveys that test whether Humboldt students actually change their epistemological beliefs about the world through exposure to other disciplines have been “disappointing,” he said.

Still, some of the Bologna Lab classes that weave research into teaching did seem to boost students’ confidence in their own abilities, he said. “The more they got involved in the research cycle, the more it changed them.”

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New presidents or provosts: Chicago School Dickinson Elmira Sage St. Joseph's SIUE Sonoma Stevenson Wright York

Inside Higher Education - Jue, 10 Ago 2017 - 02:00
  • Christopher Ames, provost at Shepherd University, in West Virginia, has been selected as president at the Sage Colleges, in New York.
  • Donald R. Boomgaarden, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, has been chosen as president of St. Joseph's College, in New York.
  • Denise Cobb, interim provost at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, has been named provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs there.
  • Margee Ensign, president of the American University of Nigeria, has been named president of Dickinson College, in Pennsylvania.
  • Elliot Hirshman, president of San Diego State University, in California, has been appointed president of Stevenson University, in Maryland.
  • Rhonda Lenton, vice president academic and provost at York University, in Ontario, has been promoted to president and vice chancellor there.
  • Charles Lindsay, provost at Elmira College, in New York, has been elevated to president there.
  • Ted Scholz, interim chief academic officer at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology, in Illinois, has been promoted to vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer there.
  • Cheryl B. Schrader, chancellor of Missouri University of Science and Technology, has been selected as president of Wright State University, in Ohio.
  • Lisa Vollendorf, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts at San Jose State University, in California, has been named provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Sonoma State University, also in California.
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28 Hilarious Comics That Sum Up Life As A Teacher

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