Monthly Archives: October 2011
I was looking through Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s website trying to find out what programs the board voted to kill off. For an organization that oversees teaching in the state the THECB is not very good at knowing how to share information and I ended up stumbling onto other things. Before they got around to killing off programs, the THECB looked at enrollment changes in Texas. The curious among you can look at the .pdf of the entire presentation.
This year about 1.5 million students were enrolled in higher education in Texas (up 4.3% since last year). Of those about 571,000 are in public universities and 790 are in public two-year school. The rest are in private schools or health-related programs.
As you can see, growth varied by region. Those of us who worry about east Texas can see that northeast Texas actually had a decline and those of us in east central Texas ticked up a tiny .3%.
Another trend is the rapid rise in enrollment in two-year schools. This may not be a problem for some schools. However, some of us are trying to put together programs that would build skills over four years and it’s hard to serve students who are with you for only half of their education. Also, the quality of students coming out of these two-year programs varies dramatically. Some schools teach their students a great deal. On the other hand, I’ve had students tell me that their instructors at some of these schools promised to pass them if they would just show up for the final.
There has been a lot of growth in Texas higher education and the political forces have made clear that growth=money. Elected officials feel the need to promise more degrees to more Texans (even as they grapple with the fact that many high school graduates are not ready for college). Some of the pressure on higher education in Texas is health. Some will distort higher education and eventually leave a lot of students holding degrees that employers no longer trust.
A story in the Austin-American Statesman (“UT set to lose 2 degree programs with low enrollment“) reports the elimination of the Greek BA and Slavic PhD at the University of Texas. In addition, three programs were consolidated into other programs while eight programs were given time extensions in order to give them a chance to get their numbers up. It will be interesting to see how many programs get cut state-wide and what kind of programs disappear.
I hate to see students lose any opportunities. However, I think UT is lucky to only lose a couple of programs given the severity of the budget crisis in Texas. Some students will see interesting choices disappear but I am much more concerned about the cuts to student grants that mean that some students will never get to college and to have those choices.
This strip does mention a professor. Some days I just don’t feel like reading serious stuff about higher education. Maybe there’s some really deep but subtle insight here. Anyway, Jim’s Journal is an odd and funny strip that deserves a little recognition.
The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story (“Back in the Classroom“) describing how many schools are canceling special arrangements that lightened the teaching load that of individual faculty members.
In “Upping Professors’ Teaching Loads,” Naomi Schaefer Riley makes the case that being a “professional with a stake in the well-being of an organization means working harder when the economy changes.”
Every department at every institution has some kind of special arrangements that give someone a lighter teaching load or something similar. How permanent are those and when can they be changed? I am very glad I don’t have to decide that.
“Dean Dad” has an interesting post on the “Confessions of a Community College Dean” blog. Dean Dad points out that “attention blindness” and different calendars are natural sources of friction. I guess a little more understanding couldn’t hurt.
The Wired Campus blog has a short story schools talking about moving to “cloud computing” that would involve moving the storage of software and data off you desktop or off campus all together. Those of us who cut our teeth using “dumb terminals” connected to remote mainframe computers have mixed feelings about this.
There are all kinds of stories that are not doing faculty much good. Today, a Houston Chronicle story (“Many professors learn to teach the hard way“) reveals the dirty little secret that many of us we not taught to teach.
Of course, it was even worse back in the “good old days” that some of our critics describe. Universities tossed their new PhDs into the deep end with absolutely no training back when everyone agreed with led the world in education. It took the world about 50 years to notice that.
A story in the Chronicle of Higher Education (“Through the Looking Glass: Faculty to Administration“) looks at the divide between faculty and administration. Linda A. McMillin, after spending seven years as Provost at Susquehanna University returned to the classroom. After working on both sides of the divide she reflected:
We make poor assumptions about what we do not see or understand, so both professors and administrators can radically underestimate the size, complexity, and strenuousness of the other’s job. At the same time, we overestimate the other’s power and privilege. And we often cast aspersions on the motives and competence of people working on the other side.
I saw this often during my year as chair of our faculty senate. I often wondered how so many smart people committed to the same goal could generate so much distrust.