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Conversations in or about Singapore invariably turn towards notions of success. How the country turned around its economic and political fortunes under Lee Kuan Yew; how a precocious Joseph Schooling overcame his mentor Michael Phelps in the Olympic butterfly final; and how schools in Singapore produce students who know what it takes to make the honour roll.
This success extends to its position as an education hub, although competition is rising in the east. “I think Singapore still has a lot to offer as an education destination,” says Shabir Aslam, director of the British Council in Singapore. “There have been improvements in infrastructure, in government support for educational excellence at all levels and the two main public universities rank highly in the world university rankings.”
National University of Singapore is ranked number one in Asia and Nanyang Technological University is regularly in the top five. Aslam continues: “This, alongside an educational environment that is welcoming and open to partnership and collaboration, has helped to promote Singapore as one of, if not the most, sought after educational destinations in Asia.”
Gauging the exact number of international students in Singapore is like trying to find a piece of chewing gum on the MRT subway network. Parliamentary replies from 2015 at least fill in some of the gaps. According to one, “The proportion of international students varies by faculty, ranging from around 1% in medicine and law, courses highly popular with Singaporeans, to 27% in science and engineering.”
That means just over one-third of the broader private sector student intake in Singapore is international
While common estimates put the number of international students in public universities at around 15%, the picture is clearer when examining the private education sector in Singapore. Its regulatory body, the Council for Private Education, states that approximately 77,000 local and 29,000 international students are enrolled in private tertiary colleges, with the most popular offering UK university qualifications via partner institutions.
That means just over one-third of the broader private sector student intake in Singapore is international. Many hail from mainland China, followed by ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, others from those countries and a steady intake of Indians.
It seems the old colonial tie is hard to break too. There are 120 private colleges providing UK qualifications in Singapore, including LaSalle College of Arts (pictured), which delivers its degrees in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London. Kaplan’s Higher Education Academy runs a Singapore campus that teaches thousands of students degree programmes offered by UK and Australian university partners.
However, Singapore does face mounting competition. “The private education sector in Singapore is definitely entering a new phase in its evolution,” says Aslam, “and the recruitment strategies now have to reflect the new reality. International student numbers are not the guarantee they might once have been, and increased competition from China in particular will make it more difficult for some of these private education institutes in Singapore to continue to compete.”
Public v private tensions
The private education sector also faces competition from its public sector: the stellar reputation of public universities in Singapore, where more than 50% of students gain significant international experience during their courses, has been reinforced in recent surveys conducted by the Singapore Institute of Management. In results published in the gently pro-government Straits Times, significant gaps in job and salary outcomes were revealed to exist between graduates of three of Singapore’s six public universities – National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University and Singapore Management University – when compared with students with degrees from a variety of private colleges.
While some critics suggest the spread of private colleges surveyed was an inadequate sample, the real message is perhaps that private colleges need to ensure employability is high up their list of outcomes. Initiatives such as ‘Skills Future Singapore’ (aiming to tackle employment issues borne out of an overqualified workforce) also signal the future direction of education policy.
“It has learned fast how to receive international students and how to take care of them properly”
One marketing executive from a high profile Australian partner college in the country believes the education landscape has changed because of “anti-foreign” worker sentiment. “The private education sector takes a beating because we are perceived to be hogging up placements for the government intake for local students,” they comment. “The government wants to see jobs [created] here in Singapore.”
The need to address this underlying tension between the role of private colleges and the demands of the 21st century economy is not lost on Mei Mei Lim, director of Singapore Institute of Management and a volunteer at the Singapore Association of Private Educators. “Private colleges are struggling to compete,” she says. “So we encourage our members [of SAPE] to really transform the way they run their schools to focus on quality teaching, all aspects of student life, improving online learning, leveraging technology to bring the intellectual property outside Singapore. In short, private institutions really need their students to be work-ready.”
Aslam from the British Council concurs. “Work-ready, competency based modules and programmes might be the way forward for some within the private sector. The trend may be that we see a re-alignment of priorities both in the public and private sector educational institutes with a move towards more vocational skills.”
Living and working in Singapore
The relatively high cost of living – and a scarcity of supervised student housing – is a further source of difficulty for international students in Singapore, particularly given the restrictions placed on foreigners to find legal part-time work. Only international students with an official ‘Student Pass’ are able to work, and only if they are enrolled at one of the six public universities.
Despite these concerns, Singapore remains a popular choice for international students, insists Ajay Sukhwani from Mumbai-based Edwise International, which this year celebrated its 25th birthday as a recruitment agency. Each year, Edwise sends to Singapore roughly 200 Indian students – mostly from Tamil Nadu to connect with the diaspora – where about 70% of those study business management courses.
While Sukhwani is sometimes daunted by the difficulty in securing suitable accommodation for his students – most private colleges are unable to provide any – he is positive about the overall student experience.
“Singapore has come a long way in this respect,” he says. “It has learned fast how to receive international students and how to take care of them properly.”
High school sector
Singapore’s high school system is regarded as one of the best in the world. Yet even within the country, where the public education system regularly places its bilingual, ambitious students among the brightest in the world, the lure of international schools is proving irresistible for parents and businesses alike.
Until recently, Singapore nationals were forbidden from attending private international schools after early childhood. Should a parent hold a foreign passport, or a child be deemed to have been raised for a significant period abroad, then the Ministry of Education would consider their application (on a case-by-case basis), but for everyone else, the public education system served your needs.
Three land parcels were opened up last year to prospective education brands looking to build a shiny campus
But that has changed and in a bold statement to the international school market, three land parcels were opened up last year to prospective education brands looking to build a shiny campus. It’s not clear yet whether the winning applicants are new or current players in the market; but either way, the demand still clearly exists for high quality international education at secondary level.
The exclusive international schools include the so-called ‘top tier’ of three: United World College, Tanglin and SAC. Next come the highly reputable ‘hybrids’ like Hwachang International, St Joseph’s College and Anglo-Chinese School International, which are allowed to enrol at least 50% local Singaporeans. In the words of one commentator, “they do the IB but sing the national anthem”.
This leaves the remaining 20 or so private secondary colleges to fight it out for the remains of the ‘international’ pool, a mixture of handpicked Chinese and Vietnamese star pupils on scholarships, rich kids from other Asian countries whose families can afford the fees, and your typical ‘expat’ children whose parents work for a global firm.
Whether new high-flying arrivals such as GEMS World Academy and Nexus can achieve their lofty admissions targets remains to be seen and will be closely watched by Tiger Mums and Dads in the Lion City. Like a real estate agent circling enough square footage for a soccer pitch and a recital hall, watch this space.
- This is an abridged version of an article from the 12th edition of The PIE Review.
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The number of international students completing their studies at Australian universities and non-university higher education institutions (NUHEIs) has remained steady for the fourth consecutive year, according to a recent report on higher education from the Department of Education and Training.
The report, which details the percentage of students who have completed their studies four and nine years after commencing university and four and six years after commencing at a NUHEI, found 70.8% of university and 62.8% of NUHEI international students completed their studies over the period 2011-2014.
This is in comparison to their domestic counterparts, with 45% for universities and 45.7% for NUHEIs over four-years.
“As any Australian domestic student will tell you, international students are incredibly conscientious on campus and in their study routines,” said IEAA CEO Phil Honeywood.
“As any Australian domestic student will tell you, international students are incredibly conscientious on campus and in their study routines”
Speaking with The PIE News, Honeywood reasoned the gap between domestic and international student completion rates included different study attitudes in Asia, such as the prevalence of cram schools and after-school tutorials, as well as the implied pressure to perform, based on the substantial financial investment made by a student’s parents.
Time is also a factor. Unlike domestic students, international students are unable to study part-time while in Australia. The nine-year analysis reveals the gap between domestic and international university student completion rates shrinks considerably, to 73.5% and 77.1% respectively.
As well as completion rates, the report details the percentage of students who are still enrolled in their course at the conclusion of the period, those who re-enrolled but dropped out and the percentage of students who did not return after their first year of study.
Rates within all four categories experienced minor shifts, with completion rates shifting downward 0.4% and 2.3% and drop out rates after a year increasing 0.7% and 0.4% for universities and NUHEIs respectively.
“Completion rates for overseas higher education students studying in Australia have been relatively steady over recent years,” ACPET CEO Rod Camm said.
“Overall, there’s not a lot of movement in completion rates for both domestic or international students studying at NUHEIs.”
Camm added year-to-year variability is influenced by a significant number of different factors, meaning it is difficult to get a clear picture on particular trends in the data.
“I think we really have to do more research into student behaviour to ascertain what’s behind drop out rates,” Honeywood said, echoing Camm’s comments.
“We really have to do more research into student behaviour to ascertain what’s behind drop out rates”
In particular, Honeywood said the simplicity of the data, which does not specify the reason a student does not complete their studies, means part of the overall story is being lost.
Details like if students change their minds after commencing studies and transfer to a different course within their institution are lost in the current completion rate data collection. Likewise, students who choose or are poached by cheaper and “easier” to enter institutions or students choosing to transfer into “better-known institutions” to complete their studies aren’t shown.
“Some of these drop-out rates don’t properly reflect the fact that students transfer into other courses and I think more data is required before we can make any substantial conclusion,” he said.
“It’s a two-way street. I’ve had complaints from high quality private providers who’ve said to me ‘we’re leaking students in second and third or fourth year to public universities… because they want to actually graduate with a better-known public university or public TAFE diploma or degree’.”
Meanwhile, non-continuation rates in the UK show international drop out rates after the first year have fallen considerably in the past decade, finally lower than or on par with domestic student figures.
The proportion of non-EU students not continuing into second year has decreased from 11.5% in 2003/04 to 6.7% in 2012/13. The change is even greater among non-EU foundation students where drop out rates have fallen 23.6% in 2003/04 to 12.2% in 2012/13.
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A federal appeals court ruled Thursday to keep in place a temporary restraining order barring the Trump administration from enforcing an executive order banning entry into the U.S. for nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries.
The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which came in a lawsuit filed by the states of Washington and Minnesota, is a defeat for the Trump administration, which is expected to appeal it to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel specifically said that Washington State and Minnesota had legal standing to challenge the travel ban in part because of the impact on students and faculty members at public universities. The decision said that the states "allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the executive order's effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which they have done in the past."
The court specifically cited concerns raised by the University of Washington and Washington State University. "According to declarations filed by the states, for example, two visiting scholars who had planned to spend time at Washington State University were not permitted to enter the United States; one was informed he would be unable to obtain a visa. Similarly, the University of Washington was in the process of sponsoring three prospective employees from countries covered by the executive order for visas; it had made plans for their arrival beginning in February 2017, but they have been unable to enter the United States. The University of Washington also sponsored two medicine and science interns who have been prevented by the executive order from coming to the University of Washington. The University of Washington has already incurred the costs of visa applications for those interns and will lose its investment if they are not admitted. Both schools have a mission of 'global engagement' and rely on such visiting students, scholars and faculty to advance their educational goals."
"The interests of the states’ universities here are aligned with their students," the decision said. "The students’ educational success is 'inextricably bound up' in the universities’ capacity to teach them. And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the states may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the executive order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members."
The executive order, signed by President Trump Jan. 27, temporarily barred entry to the U.S. by nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and also suspended all refugee admissions. Under the terms of the temporary restraining order, which the appeals court left in place, the government has suspended all enforcement actions related to the ban, and travel by individuals from the affected countries into the U.S. has, for now, resumed.
In denying the Trump administration's request to overturn the restraining order, the court found that the federal government had not shown it was likely to prevail on appeal in regards to the states' claim that the ban violates due process rights of individuals from the affected countries. And while reserving judgment on the states' claims that the ban violates the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution "because it was intended to disfavor Muslims," the court nevertheless noted the "serious nature of the allegations the states have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims."
The court also noted that the Trump administration, which cited the need to bar the entry of terrorists as the reason for the order, "has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all. We disagree."
Many higher education groups and leaders spoke out against the entry ban, which among other things threatened to disrupt international student admissions by halting all visa processing from the seven countries for at least 90 days. Many in higher education see the ban as contradictory to core values of higher education like inclusiveness and internationalism.
At the University of Washington, the ruling was seen as something to celebrate.February 9, 2017
Trump, who has justified the order as necessary to prevent terrorists from entering the U.S., had a different reaction.
SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2017 Editorial Tags: Adaptive learningImmigrationIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
This fall, leaders at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., had a plan to avoid a financial crisis and accreditation crunch bearing down on them.
The Roman Catholic liberal arts college started negotiations to license out windmill-filled farmland it owns. Saint Joseph’s can’t sell the 7,634 acres of land under the terms of a trust. But the college could lease the future rights to the land in exchange for a lump-sum payment that would allow it to stay operational as it revamped its operations.
Leaders approached the Mayo Clinic in August. They wanted to license out the land, which generates about $2 million a year, for an as yet undetermined number of years. In exchange the college hoped to receive $35 million.
But negotiations hit a roadblock in December. The Mayo Clinic was only offering $15 million to $20 million, said Robert Pastoor, Saint Joseph’s College president.
“We were hoping for more in order to give us a little bit more time to work out some of these problems financially,” Pastoor said. “The $15 million certainly would not give us enough time.”
The stalled negotiations set off a chain of events that led to Saint Joseph’s announcing a suspension of operations on its campus after the end of the current semester. That suspension, announced at the end of last week, thrust Saint Joseph’s into the uncharted, difficult territory of trying to shut down classes and reboot itself after a year’s break. It also galvanized faculty members, alumni and students, many of whom knew the college’s cash was tight but still feel they were kept in the dark about the severity of the college’s fiscal situation.
Pastoor had talked with faculty members, employees and students to discuss the negotiations over the farmland, he said. Shortly after they stalled, rumors started circulating. Those rumors included one that the college was going to close in March.
So Pastoor sent out a letter Jan. 25 saying the college needed donors to commit $20 million by June. It required a total cash influx of $100 million.
Nine days later the college’s Board of Trustees voted to suspend all academic activities on the Rensselaer campus following graduation in May. Saint Joseph’s would only continue a bachelor of science in nursing program run by St. Elizabeth School of Nursing in Lafayette and consider other programs if they were at off-campus locations.
The decision is an attempt to escape from $27 million in debt without fighting the uphill battle of an annual operating budget deficit that has grown to between $4 million and $5 million. It is also a bid to drastically retool Saint Joseph’s to compete in a market that has become increasingly difficult for small, private liberal arts colleges -- without having to go through a new multiyear accreditation process.
“The suspension will allow us to really develop a very different business model for the future,” Pastoor said. “But it also allows us to envision a new institution that will still appeal to the disenfranchised and marginalized students that we normally bring to campus.”
Yet Pastoor describes the model going forward as uncharted territory. The goal is to reopen Saint Joseph’s, which has 904 students and 200 employees, on its Rensselaer campus. But leaders do not know how many students they want to enroll. Programs could be cut. New programs could be added.
A few faculty members will be asked to remain and chart a path forward, but a majority will likely lose their jobs. Pastoor himself has said he will step down in May. Saint Joseph’s only has enough cash on hand to carry it through the end of May, the president said. It has about $6 million left in its endowment and is asking the Indiana attorney general for permission to remove restrictions on that money so it can use it to pay its bills.
The college is heavily reliant on tuition today but also posts a 65 percent discount rate. It wants to shed its debt during the suspension of operations, but it’s still trying to figure out how. Discussions with bankers are beginning.
Fund-raising could be a difficult option, if early reactions are any indication. Alumni, faculty members and students quickly gathered on social media and in person as word of the suspension of operations spread. Many questioned the decision-making process and what they felt was a lack of transparency. One week, they were being asked to donate $20 million in four months. They next, they were being told the college was suspending operations and being presented with a list of 19 institutions to which students could transfer under teach-out agreements.
The college’s Alumni Association posted a note online promising to find answers to questions, including whether the suspension can be prevented. Representatives from the Student Association posted the results of a Feb. 8 vote of no confidence in university leaders. One professor said he was on a search committee preparing to hire new faculty members until a hiring freeze was handed down Jan. 18.
Elysse Hillyer, a 2012 graduate, started the center of much of the discussion, the “Involved for Life” Facebook page, in January, when she learned of the financial trouble. It soon turned into a gathering place for students, faculty and alumni after the suspension was announced.
Hillyer has a hard time believing that the college could reopen if it suspends its operations this spring. She’s skeptical that the institution could pay off its debt at that point. If the college does reopen, she believes it would be a completely different place than it has been in the past.
She is also frustrated with the decisions leaders made in the past. The fact that Saint Joseph’s had financial problems was well-known.
“We knew we needed to do these things to fix the school, and I feel not very many things were tried to fix it besides just getting into more debt,” Hillyer said. “I don’t feel we changed any more programs to add potential new students. I just feel like there weren’t many options explored.”
Another group of alumni has been much more aggressive. It issued a press release Thursday saying alumni have been discussing whether the college’s board members should remain in their current positions.
The release said prospective students have continued to receive solicitations from the college in the days since it announced the suspension of operations. It said applications, admitted students, deposits and campus visits had all risen year over year as of the end of January. It also expressed disappointment in faculty and student question-and-answer sessions held earlier this week.
“I have been able to view and read the transcripts of both [faculty and student] Q&A sessions and I am embarrassed at what I saw,” said Mark Andrew Zwartynski, who graduated in 1974, in a statement in the release. “Because I saw nothing. I saw a decision made long before the faculty, staff, students and SJC community had any opportunity for input, the sharing of experience or intellect.”
During the question-and-answer sessions, Board of Trustees Chair Benedict Sponseller explained the rationale behind the sudden decision to suspend operations. He told students on Monday that the college is running out of money. It might not be able to pay for instructors and could lose accreditation midsemester, he said.
“Do you know how irresponsible it would be of this board to allow you to be in the middle of a semester -- we lose our accreditation and you find yourself into a semester, you paid a lot of money, but you’re going to get no credit?” he said, according to a three-hour video posted online. “That would certainly be irresponsible of us.”
The worries about accreditation come after the Higher Learning Commission placed the college on probation in November because of its financial position.
The Higher Learning Commission has been in contact with Saint Joseph’s to learn about its plans, according to spokesman Steve Kauffman. He declined to comment on the specifics of the situation. But broadly, he said, the Higher Learning Commission does not pull accreditation midsemester.
“In the best interest of students, the Higher Learning Commission would not withdraw accreditation in the middle of a term,” Kauffman said in an email.
Pastoor, the college’s president, acknowledged that he might have been able to communicate a greater sense of urgency at times as he interacted with the campus and alumni. Still, he consistently communicated that the college’s financial situation was difficult, he said.
“Certainly after we started negotiations with the Mayo Clinic, people knew that this was our last gasp,” Pastoor said.
A History of Financial Trouble
The college’s recent history made it clear that finances were tight. Saint Joseph’s had been warned by the accreditor in 2012 that it needed to get its financial house in order, according to Bill White, a professor of history and member of the college’s financial advisory committee.
“We got notice that we would go on probation in March of 2015,” White said. “It wasn’t voted on yet, but that was the recommendation by the visiting team. And they were only visiting in 2015 because they warned us in 2012 that there’d be a focus in three years, looking specifically at our finances.”
Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service clearly show Saint Joseph’s losing money every year in recent history. It posted a net loss of $1.1 million in the year ending in June 2012. It lost about the same amount in 2013 before posting approximately $2.5 million in losses in each of 2014 and 2015, the most recent year for which IRS forms are available.
Those losses came as expenses grew and revenue held flat. Expenses increased from $35 million in 2012 to $40.7 million in 2014 before inching back down to $39 million in 2015. Revenue, meanwhile, was $36.2 million in 2012, peaked at $38.2 million in 2014 and fell back down to $36.9 million in 2015.
At the same time, the college’s cash dwindled rapidly. Cash, savings and temporary cash investments dropped from about $6.6 million in 2012 to $5 million in 2015.
The college’s total assets rose in that time frame from $126.7 million to $134.6 million. But most of that growth came from land, buildings and equipment, which rose from $96.8 million to $106.3 million. In the event of a cash crunch, those assets are only good if someone is willing to buy them.
Pastoor was not the president for the bulk of that time -- he was only hired during the spring semester of 2015.
Outside experts said not enough time has passed for the president to have put drastic changes in place and fix Saint Joseph’s financial situation. Still, they said it had to be clear that the college was in trouble.
“It should have been clear to them for a long time that this is a bad situation,” said Karen Goldstein, an independent consultant with George K. Baum & Co. and former vice president for finance at several institutions. “It’s hard for me to imagine that nobody knew about it.”
White, the history professor, said he’s backed cost cutting for years.
“For the last five years, I’ve been telling whoever would listen that we should cut,” he said. “At least consider what I call a plan B of cutting out this. And I’ve always been told there is no plan B.”
Instead, documents show the college wanted to grow. The college had recently embarked on a strategic planning process and created an operational plan for 2016-20. That plan called for adding students by growing undergraduate programs, developing new online and certificate programs, and expanding and developing new graduate programs. By the fall of 2020, the hope was for 490 additional students from those efforts.
The college also hoped to raise a cumulative $21.5 million by 2020.
An assessment of weaknesses in the document points to a “culture of information hoarding” and fluctuating enrollment. It notes that incoming first-year enrollments have fluctuated between 249 and 216 in recent years.
The assessment reads like a list of the challenges facing many small, private liberal arts institutions.
“The college’s financial resources are currently limited due to its heavy dependence on tuition revenue coupled with an endowment that is inadequate for its size,” it says.
“The college is also challenged by outdated residence halls, insufficient dining and student center spaces, poorly maintained infrastructure, and dated, inefficient classrooms,” it says.
Changing Just in Time? Or Too Little, Too Late?
The furor over Saint Joseph’s plan to suspend operations and re-engineer itself contains echoes of the near shutdown of Sweet Briar College in rural Virginia. Sweet Briar’s previous board moved to close the all-women liberal arts college in March 2015 because of a difficult financial environment and enrollment projections. But alumnae resisted and won an agreement to keep the college open under new leadership -- although it had all but closed by the time new leaders took over.
Many higher education leaders believe that closing an institution while it still has resources to pay for the expensive shut-down process can be the right move. It allows institutions to pay faculty members severance and help students find new colleges.
But a debate still rages about Sweet Briar. The jury is still out on whether that institution will be viable in the long term.
“I think the survival of Sweet Briar has fueled hope among some vulnerable colleges that alumni won’t allow their beloved alma mater to close,” said Merrill P. Schwartz, senior vice president for AGB Consulting. “But every situation is different, and I would caution that Sweet Briar’s success may not translate to institutions with less affluent alumni or a less distinctive mission.”
Closing with cash on hand sounds easy in principle. But it’s harder on the ground as employees lose their jobs, students lose their place of study and alumni watch the home of their memories placed under lock and key. The question becomes when to pull the plug.
Faculty at Saint Joseph’s are worried about losing their health care benefits if cash dries up, said White, the Saint Joseph’s history professor. They worry that all the terms of their contracts won’t be fulfilled. Nontenured faculty had received letters of nonrenewal saying their contractual obligations will be honored, but those with tenure had yet to receive letters as of Wednesday.
Others wondered what Saint Joseph’s plan to reopen would mean for students’ loans. Federal loans can be forgiven in some circumstances when a student’s college closes when they are enrolled or shortly after they withdraw.
And many are left wondering if alumni could have found money to allow Saint Joseph’s to retool without suspending operations. The short period of time between the presidential appeal in January and the decision to close didn’t allow for fund-raising, said Jackie Bradway, a 1995 graduate who is on the board of the college’s official Alumni Association.
“The swiftness of what has transpired over the last few weeks is what shocks us,” she said. “We weren’t given the chance to go out to our alumni and try and get that money.”Administration and FinanceEditorial Tags: Business issuesImage Source: Saint Joseph's CollegeIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
The rise of coding boot camps is creating a new market for companies that help colleges break into the business.
The growth in online education at public and private nonprofit institutions created what has been come to be known as online program management (OPM) providers -- a term that encompasses companies such 2U, Academic Partnerships and iDesign, but also divisions of larger education companies such as Pearson and Wiley. Central to many of them is that they offer marketing, enrollment, instructional design and student support services to colleges looking to offer fully online degree programs.
Now a new market segment is materializing. Call it “continuing education program management.”
Start-ups not affiliated with universities -- think companies such as Flatiron School, General Assembly and dozens of others -- already have a head start in the boot camp space. But the market is still developing, and the companies working with colleges to launch their own boot camps say higher education, with its tradition of offering continuing education, is well positioned to capture market share.
“The boot camp space doesn’t have to be owned by Silicon Valley-backed companies,” said Todd Zipper, CEO of the Learning House. “It could easily be brought to you by Ohio State University.”
Learning House has since its founding in 2001 established itself as an OPM provider that mainly works with small- and medium-size colleges. In 2015, the company made two acquisitions: Acatar, an education platform the company said would make it more competitive among prestigious universities, and the Software Guild, a boot camp provider.
Since then, Learning House has signed partnerships with five institutions to build online boot camps: Baker University, Kent State University, Oregon State University, the University of Georgia and Wichita State University (the Software Guild also had an existing partnership with Concordia University St. Paul). Some of them, like Baker, already have boot camps up and running, while others have begun marketing and intend to enroll their first students later this year.
“The Learning House is in the business of translating curricula from face-to-face to online, so we saw an opportunity there,” Zipper said about the company’s expansion into the boot camp business. He added that he views boot camps as a “logical extension” for colleges as well, given their history of teaching computer science.
Trilogy Education Services works exclusively in this market. The start-up is younger -- it launched its first class in fall 2015 -- but its list of clients already includes 18 universities, among them Northwestern University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of California, Berkeley. About 10 of them have boot camps up and running.
Unlike Learning House, Trilogy focuses on boot camps where education is delivered mostly face-to-face. Its boot camp at the University of Texas at Austin, for example, meets three times a week -- three hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays and four hours on Saturdays -- for six months.
“I thought that if we could combine the best of what higher education institutions provide and the format and some of the best practices of boot camps, we could have a very powerful combination,” Dan Sommer, CEO and founder of Trilogy, said in an interview. “Historically continuing education has been a center of innovation at many institutions -- a place where there’s a lot of focus on meeting the needs of industry. There are certain areas where we at Trilogy believe we can supplement and support [them].”
Of course, not all colleges are choosing to partner with companies such as Learning House and Trilogy. Some, like Northeastern University, have launched boot camps on their own. Northeastern now offers its Level boot camp in five different locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Baker University, a private Methodist institution located southwest of Kansas City, Kans., was not in a position to go it alone, said Jacob Bucher, dean of the School of Professional and Graduate Studies. The college, which enrolls slightly under 3,000 students, turned to the Software Guild mainly for help with finding qualified instructors to teach programming in Java and .NET. The boot camp enrolled its first students last fall.
“We didn’t at the time have the faculty to launch a full-on coding bachelor’s degree,” Bucher said in an interview. “With higher education accreditation standards, it’s hard to find faculty -- especially locally, because there’s a lot of money to be made in the private sector.”
The university is exploring additional ways to offer credentials other than college credit, and is considering additional programs to add to its boot camp lineup, Bucher said.
“We’re trying to find ways to deliver Baker education and meet the needs of our working adults and industry,” Bucher said. “Boot camps are one option.”
Several independent boot camps market their programs to potential students with money-back guarantees tied to job placement. Many states prohibit that practice, however, though it is in some cases unclear how the bans apply to boot camps.
Mindful of those rules, the colleges launching boot camps and the companies helping them are steering clear of making guarantees.
“We try to avoid making those claims and guarantees at all cost,” Zipper said, but added, “talking to people about results is a different thing.”
Similarly, Sommer said, money-back guarantees are “not something we need to do nor desire to do. If we’re providing a great service to students, we’re priced right and we’re delivering good results to students, that’s not an area of differentiation that we’re focused on.”
Awarding college credit to students who finish the boot camp programs could be a differentiating factor, but Sommer and Zipper said that idea has only reached the discussion stage at this point. Since boot camps typically attract working professionals either looking to add to their skill set or make a career change, colleges aren’t prioritizing awarding college credit.
“We’re not trying to force the issue, because we know we can make the model work without it, but we think over time it can open them up to a substantially larger buyer base,” Zipper said.
That audience -- working professionals -- presents a lucrative opportunity for colleges. Boot camp programs are normally priced between $10,000 and $15,000, and students generally pay the entire sum themselves. Baker’s program is priced at $8,500, but it is set to increase to $10,000, Bucher said. The university offers a $500 discount for alumni.
As with OPM providers, the companies helping colleges build boot camps normally pay for start-up costs and recover their investments through tuition revenue-sharing deals. Sommer declined to say how big a share of the tuition revenue Trilogy keeps, but he described the agreements the company makes with colleges as “extremely equitable.” Bucher said the university keeps less than half of the tuition revenue generated by its partnership with the Software Guild.Editorial Tags: Business issuesTechnologyIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Academics in Iowa are fighting proposed legislation they say will ravage their unions, with negative consequences for the institutions as a whole. Observers say it looks like Wisconsin's union takedown all over again.
“Republicans said they were just going to tweak a couple things in the legislation on collective bargaining, but this isn’t tweaking -- they produced a bill that was nearly 70 pages long and completely gutted it,” said Joe Gorton, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Northern Iowa and president of its longstanding faculty union.
“We won’t be able to negotiate on evaluation, we won’t be able to negotiate on reductions in force or staff cuts or grievance procedures or health insurance -- all these things are all the table,” Gorton said of the potential impact of Iowa’s HSB 84.
Indeed, the bill specifically prohibits contract negotiations over insurance, leaves of absence for political activities, supplemental pay, transfer procedures, performance evaluations (for faculty members and other employees), procedures for staff reduction, grievance procedures for resolving questions arising under the agreement, and any employment “advantage” based on seniority.
Applicable to all employees except those in public safety, the bill also limits mandatory topics for negotiation to “base wages,” saying that pay increases shall be no more than 3 percent or the local consumer price index -- whichever is lower. Unions would have to be recertified by election prior to the end of every collective bargaining agreement in a two-thirds vote by all members, not just voting members -- a major effort, and at the union's expense. And the governor could reject agreements, even those agreed upon by employees and institutions.
Beyond concerns about faculty members’ collective bargaining rights, Gorton said he wondered how the bill would affect the university’s ability to recruit and retain top faculty as the only public university in Iowa with collective bargaining for professors. A recent union survey of its members found that 82 percent would consider leaving the university, either by seeking employment elsewhere or retiring early, if they lose the right to bargain collectively with Iowa’s Board of Regents. Some 97 percent of faculty members said collective bargaining was important for morale.
A number of members wrote in comments comparing the bill to controversial legislation that severely limited public-sector employees in Wisconsin, in 2011. Here are some examples:
- I am a Wisconsinite, so start with Wisconsin as cautionary tale … it appears that Iowa wants to follow its brother to the north in an ill-considered race to the bottom.
- I hope that the legislators can learn from the example of Wisconsin that what they thought would remove sources of unneeded cost to the state actually kept costs down, compared to what universities need to do now to attract good faculty.
- We are already paid less comparing to other equivalent institutions. Having a union was one of the pluses for me to accept the offer from [Northern Iowa].
- Collective bargaining was a major factor in my decision to make a career at [the university].
Northern Iowa's faculty union stands alone, but some professors at the University of Iowa publicly expressed interest in forming a union there in 2015, following a controversial presidential appointment. There are also other unions for higher education workers in the state, such as the graduate student assistant union at the University of Iowa affiliated with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. That union describes the bill as "horrible" and is asking members to fight, including by testifying against it at a Monday hearing in Des Moines.
"Iowa Republicans have launched a full-scale, Wisconsin-style attack against public sector unions and public education," union leaders said in a memo for members. "These bills would kill collective bargaining and unions in Iowa."
Gorton said his campus is still recovering from its own period of bad blood between the faculty and administration, over the university’s decision to discontinue nearly one-fifth of the university’s academic programs and close the laboratory school without consulting the faculty.
The new legislation in Iowa comes on the heels of a controversial bill to eliminate tenure at state institutions. But unlike that effort, which is increasingly unpopular -- and which the regents have opposed -- there appears to be broad support for the one limiting collective bargaining. It was introduced just this week but already has passed procedural votes in both the state House and Senate. The latter flipped to GOP control in November.
Republicans have said the bill is about giving employers more flexibility, including that to terminate poor performers and reward good ones. State Senator Jason Schultz, a Republican from Schleswig and chairman of the Senate's labor committee, still acknowledged some comparison to Wisconsin, however, the Associated Press reported.
"There are a lot of similarities, and it's because although our issues are not what Wisconsin's are in degree, they are similar. Therefore the solutions are going to be similar," he said. "But to the matter of degree, we are not Wisconsin and we approach this from a different direction."
In Wisconsin, legislation limiting unions was followed up by what many have called a legislative "gutting" of tenure protections for faculty members at public institutions. Public faculty members in Ohio staved off lawmakers' attempt to effectively end collective bargaining for most professors in 2015, in part by partnering with other unions in the state. The Iowa faculty union is embracing a similar strategy.
Gorton said efforts to limit tenure and collective bargaining for faculty members -- whether in Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin or Missouri, where tenure is also being challenged -- were part of the same agenda to "devalue" public higher education.
"Public higher education in 50 years is not going to look like it did 50 years ago, and that's a problem for you and for me," Gorton said.
David Vanness, an associate professor of health population sciences at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who vocally opposed changes to tenure policies there, said he thought Iowa's "version of Act 10" -- as Wisconsin's blow to collective bargaining was known -- is that limiting bargaining to "small" increases in wages "would drastically limit faculty union power, and together with recertification could certainly harm membership."
What's happening in Iowa "certainly does seem familiar," he added.Editorial Tags: Unions/unionizationImage Source: University of Northern IowaIs this diversity newsletter?: Diversity Newsletter Order: 0
Think about fictional portrayals of higher education, and the work of David Lodge or Jane Smiley or Randall Jarrell might come to mind.
But fiction about American higher education goes back quite a bit further. Fanshawe, an 1828 work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, may be the earliest example. The novel features the president of Harley College (a fictional institution likely based on Hawthorne’s alma mater, Bowdoin College). These days, fictional portrayals of higher education are not just in novels or films but in video games, comic books and more. Throughout, American higher education has frequently been mocked, and the images of academics have contributed to anti-intellectualism, according to a new book.
Anti-Intellectual Representations of American Colleges and Universities: Fictional Higher Education (Palgrave Macmillan) includes essays on a range of genres, issues and periods. The editors are Barbara F. Tobolowsky, associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, and Pauline J. Reynolds, associate professor of higher education in the Graduate Department of Leadership and Counseling at the University of Redlands. They responded via email to questions, sometimes answering together and sometimes offering individual reflections (indicated in the answers that follow by their initials).
Q: Much previous analysis of fictional portrayals of higher education has been about novels or films. Your collection includes comic books and video games. Why did you cast a wider net?
BT: Our impetus for the scope of this book is based on two assumptions. First, that society, in general, seems to hold anti-intellectual beliefs. And, second, that media reflects and informs the public’s worldview. We thought it was important to test these assumptions, so we invited authors to investigate the representation of higher education in a wide range of media. If each medium portrayed higher education in similar terms, it might help explain why these beliefs are so pervasive.
PR: Also, representations of higher education do occur across media more broadly so we wanted to make sure that the book itself represented the multiplicity and breadth of this messaging. Comic books and video games, as older and newer media respectively, may reach differing audiences, and we think it’s important to examine the ubiquity of higher education depictions across forms.
Q: As you look at various genres, are there some that are more accurate and others less accurate when it comes to portraying higher education?
BT: I wouldn’t say that any genre is more “truthful.” The more two-dimensional the portrayal, the less accurate it becomes regardless of the medium. In fact, there are elements of truth in all of them. Stereotypes always contain a bit of truth, which is why they persist.
PR: Naturally, though, intended audience and the experience/identity of creators influence the portrayal of academia or college life. So a novel written by a faculty member will probably differ in narrative focus from a comic book written by a college graduate.
Q: Much of American society (outside of the genres you discuss) is arguably anti-intellectual. Do you think the fictional portrayals reflect that anti-intellectualism or are part of the reason for it?
BT: Gabriel Weimann in Communicating Unreality (2000) explored the concept of “cultivation,” which argues that repeated and consistent depictions over time both reflect and inform public views. The thinking is that people pay attention to (watch/read) what they like and agree with. So, it is likely that popular entertainments reflect the views of the audience to some extent. When these views are expressed over time and in a range of media, they become impossible for all viewers/players/readers to avoid even if some members of the audience have yet to form an opinion. This makes the representations very powerful -- and instructive.
Q: The television show Community was originally a subject of concern for many community college leaders, but some of them came to embrace it. Can popular culture change attitudes about parts of higher education (such as community colleges) that are frequently ignored by the mainstream press?
BT: Cultivation theory is based on the idea that the more someone watches a police procedural television show, for instance, the more that viewer integrates the ideas conveyed in the series to their own understanding of the world. There has been a body of research that connects popular culture with attitudes and behaviors. Pauline and I and the other authors believe this is equally true about the higher education depiction. For instance, television has been credited with affecting students’ major choice. One recent example of this is how the success of the CSI franchise has led to an uptick in students majoring in criminology and criminal justice. However, it isn’t a new phenomenon. In the past, the applications to law school increased during the heyday of L.A. Law. We contend that if there are positive depictions of college life, students, institutional types, majors, Greek life and academics, this can affect not only individual behaviors, but the state support of our public institutions as well.
Q: In recent portrayals of higher education (and of faculty members in particular) are there one or two that were particularly damaging? One or two that may have been closer to the truth and helped people understand higher education?
BT: Our work did not look at the effects of these images. However, the prevalence of these negative views may contribute to recent challenges to higher education such as debates regarding the purpose of higher education (public good or private benefit), the cost of higher education, tenure and so forth. Specifically, Felicity did a good job in the first season dealing with real college issues such as the transition to college and financial aid. However, there are very few examples among all the media that promote positive images of intellectual work. A few of the video games and comic books did value scholarship, but this was not a consistent message in even these media.
Q: If you could pitch a television network or film producer on a fictional higher ed story that might do some good, what plot would you propose?
PR: I’d pitch a show or movie that depicted diverse representations of faculty and students. There are far, far too few representations of people of color and women as faculty. And as students, racially diverse cast members are more often relegated to the role of best friend or supporting cast member unless they are part of an ensemble cast such as Community. I’m really looking forward to seeing how new BET show The Quad represents an HBCU, its students, faculty, admin and staff.
BT: I think any film or television series that didn’t rely on stereotypes would go a long way to change the narrative. If faculty were focused not just on getting tenure at the expense of students; if students and faculty valued learning; if students would not be measured by their looks and social connections at the expense of their minds, then these depictions would benefit the public in terms of their view of higher education and society, in general. However, as cultivation theory states, it will take many stories over time to truly have an effect.New Books About Higher EducationEditorial Tags: BooksIs this diversity newsletter?:
- Barnard College: Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders and associate professor of medicine at the University of Montreal.
- Brooklyn College of City University of New York: Senator Bernie Sanders.
- Connecticut College: Colson Whitehead, the novelist.
- Dartmouth College: Jake Tapper, the CNN news anchor.
- Nichols College: Marty Allen, former president of California Closets Co.
- Rochester Institute of Technology: Austin McChord, founder and CEO of the technology company Datto Inc.
- St. Norbert College: Thomas Kunkel, who is retiring as president of the college this year.
- University of Pennsylvania: Senator Cory Booker.
- Wellesley College: Hillary Clinton, the former senator, secretary of state and presidential candidate.
- Whitman College: Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, director of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development.
Study abroad agencies in China will no longer need to be licensed by provincial authorities in order to operate, the State Council has announced, which should make it easier for newer businesses to enter a market that is currently dominated by larger, long-established brands.
Until now, each provincial authority has set its own requirements for education agencies, such as minimum registered capital, that they must fulfil before they can be licensed.
“The MoE should work with the State Administration of Industry and Commerce to strengthen the guidance and services of study abroad agencies”
But a directive published by the State Council on January 21 states that they will no longer have to obtain a specific license from the provincial education bureau, but will still need a general business licence to operate.
However, the directive makes clear that the Ministry of Education doesn’t view this as a relaxation of the regulations, but instead intends to strengthen agency oversight in other ways.
The Ministry of Education and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce will be tasked with fortifying regulatory oversight of study abroad agencies, it says.
The two government bureaus will also create updated sample contracts for education agencies to use.
“After the examination and approval, the Ministry of Education should work with the SAIC to study and formulate the relevant model text of the contract, to strengthen the norms, guidance and services of study abroad agencies,” it states.
“Within the scope of responsibility, the Ministry of Education, SAIC and other departments need to enhance supervision [of education agencies]… and investigate and punish violations of the law,” it continues.
The scrapping of provincial licensing comes as good news for newcomers to the agency business, as the current regulations are seen to protect big-name brands that have been in operation for several years.
“It seems more unreliable and amazing applications will be thrown onto the desk of AOs. Confusion!”
“More and more big companies will lose the control over the market to talented individuals with little investment or no investment at all,” predicted Shiny Wang, academic principal of Beijing Kaiwen Academy and director of college counselling at Tsinghua University High School.
However, there may be some challenges in their implementation, he added.
“If the newcomer independent counsellors… follow the transparent/fair approach of counselling and offer professional services with integrity, it will be really helpful for the students and colleges,” he said, but stressed that a statement of principles of good practice must be established to ensure a level playing field.
And with more agencies entering the market, it may be difficult for parents to discern which are reputable. “They will get lost in the sea of overwhelming counselling service companies; [it’s] hard to judge who will be professional and responsible,” noted Wang.
However, the custom of parents and students relying on word-of-mouth recommendations to find reputable agencies is unlikely to change no matter how many agencies operate in the market noted Peng Sang, president of the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association, a membership body of 150 education agencies.
The policy could also lead to a greater volume of fraudulent applications warned Wang: “It seems more unreliable and amazing applications will be thrown onto the desk of AOs [admission officers]. Confusion!”
International education institutions should therefore be more vigilant when it comes to screening students, advised Sang.
Rather than offering attractive commission to bring in high volumes of students, he said in future cooperation with agencies, educators “should take into account more our students’ individual characteristics, and that your admission standards are matched.”
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CROSS-DRESSING, undressing, bad taste and ribaldry are features of every Brazilian Carnival (this year’s begins on February 24th). Transgression has always been part of the point. But this year the bacchanal’s political incorrectness is provoking a backlash, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where the festival is at its glitziest. And the demand for sensitivity has created another backlash of its own. In an editorial published on February 4th, O Globo, a liberal newspaper, lamented that “to police this Rio patrimony is to leave samba behind”.
The fuss is mainly about marchinhas, singalongs performed in Carnival street parades known as blocos. Often, the lyrics are unashamedly rude. Classics such as “Mary the Dyke” and “Zezé’s Head of Hair” do not evince respect for homosexuals. Zezé “looks like a perv/don’t know if he is”, goes the latter. Even politer songs are failing to pass politically-correct muster. Mulheres Rodadas (roughly, “well-worn women”), a feminist bloco in Rio de Janeiro, wanted to remove from its repertoire “Tropicália”, a much-loved song by...
Fallen friend of the forest
ISIDRO BALDENEGRO LÓPEZ, a farmer and a leader of the indigenous Tarahumara people, had spent much of his life campaigning against illegal logging in the Sierra Madre region of northern Mexico. On January 15th he was shot dead. His father died in the same way, for defending the same cause, 30 years before.
Defending nature is a dangerous occupation, especially in Latin America. According to a recent report by Global Witness, an NGO, 185 environmental activists were murdered worldwide in 2015, an increase of 59% from the year before. More than half the killings were in Latin America. In Brazil 50 green campaigners died in 2015. Honduras is especially perilous: 123 activists have died there since 2010, the highest number of any country relative to its population. Berta Cáceres, an indigenous leader who was a prominent campaigner against dams and plantations, was murdered there last March.
Why is Latin America so deadly? One reason is its abundant natural resources, which attract enterprises of all sorts, from multinationals to mafias. When prices are low, as they are now...
DONALD TRUMP called the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Mexico and Canada the “worst trade deal ever approved in this country”. Soon it will become clearer what he intends to do about it. He has three choices: tear it up, bully the United States’ partners into making concessions that merely damage the agreement or go for a renegotiation that benefits all three.
The process for making big changes to NAFTA has started. On February 3rd the Mexican government began a 90-day consultation with businesses on what its negotiating position should be. Wilbur Ross, who will lead the American negotiators after the Senate confirms him as commerce secretary, says NAFTA is “logically the first thing for us to deal with”. Notification to Congress, which must happen 90 days before talks can start, could come soon.
NAFTA is not the failure Mr Trump claims it is. Trade in goods among its three partners has more than trebled since it took effect in 1994; 14% of world trade in goods takes place under its rules. Cross-border supply chains have made American firms more competitive. The manufacturing jobs it has created in Mexico have...