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Community Colleges
2/24/2016 12:00 AM

Whether students start at two- or four-year institutions, most of them share the same goal: graduation. Students who start at community colleges plan to earn bachelor’s degrees.

Whether students start at two- or four-year institutions, most of them share the same goal: graduation. Students who start at community colleges plan to earn bachelor’s degrees. To help students complete the degrees they ultimately seek, officials at many two-year colleges strive to develop clear pathways for their students to earn bachelor’s degrees without losing credits. And officials at many four-year institutions work to eliminate barriers that prevent transfer students from completing degrees in a timely way.

A long-standing partnership between Linn-Benton Community College and Oregon State University eliminates many of the problems that arise from transfer. In fact, it eliminates transfer altogether, said Bruce Clemetsen, Ph.D., vice president of student affairs at LBCC. The Degree Partnership Program enables students to be admitted to both institutions at the same time. They can take classes at either institution throughout their college career. And students taking all their classes at LBCC are still considered OSU students. They are eligible to take advantage of all of OSU’s support services for students offered at OSU, including health services, cultural centers and even campus housing. Plus, they can file for financial aid as OSU students as long as they are enrolled in at least one course there. That typically results in a bigger award because the financial aid office processes aid by the number of total hours the student is taking and not by where the student is taking them.

The DPP has been around for 16 years, Officials at the two colleges saw that students were finding their way to the bachelor’s with credits from both institutions, so they created the program to normalize paths students were already taking, Clemetsen said.

Students can apply for the DPP before they start college or at any point in their enrollment at LBCC or OSU. Having two schedules to choose from makes it easier for them to stay on track to degree completion, Clemetsen said. And officials at both institutions have access to the student information system at the other institution, so students don’t have to arrange for transfer credit.

Participation in the program has risen steadily over the years and is up to about 5,000 students each academic year.

Program leads to student success

Student results from the PDD have been positive. Lynne L. Hindman, Ph.D., research coordinator for the Center for Teaching and Learning at OSU, studied student completion rates for her doctoral dissertation. She analyzed data about the 2005 freshman cohort over 8.25 years. She compared the bachelor’s completion rates for OSU students who were part of the PDD and those who were not. At the six-year mark, the completion rate was 61 percent for those who participated and 60 percent for those who did not. By the eight-year mark, the graduation rate for PDD students rose to 68 percent, but the rate for native OSU students rose to only 64 percent.

The results were particularly positive for nontraditional students. Students who are 25 or older are 2.13 times more likely to graduate if they are part of the PDD than if they are not, Hindman said.

Dual program helps with recruitment

Offering a clear path to a bachelor’s degree at a reduced cost helps LBCC and OSU recruit students. Some specific populations that admissions officials successfully target with the program are:

  • Native American students from Oregon. Tribal officials are sometimes reluctant to support students who enroll at a community college with tribal dollars. They have concerns that the students will be tracked into career or technical programs or will get stuck in developmental education, Clemetsen said. Also, they have the idea that students with talent should go straight to the university. But the officials approve tribal funds for students in the partnership because they see the sound academic connection between the two institutions and the clear path to a bachelor’s. Plus, the students can use OSU’s cultural center for Native American students throughout their program. And they pay a lot less for the bachelor’s since they can take many classes at LBCC.
  • Rural students. The PDD enables these students to be OSU students in an affordable way. They don’t have to worry about when they are going to transfer. And they get smaller communities in the residence halls and in their community college classes, so entering through this route is not as intimidating.
  • International students. These students find the program attractive because it is more affordable than just attending OSU.
  • Nontraditional students. One student Hindman spoke with, a mother of four, needed one class to graduate and couldn’t get it at OSU. She applied for the PDD and took the class at LBCC. She told Hindman she would not have been able to graduate otherwise. She could have taken the course at LBCC and transferred it without joining the PDD, but her OSU financial aid would not have counted toward it, and she would have had to order a transcript after completing the course to get transfer credit at OSU.
  • Hawaiian students. OSU enrolls many students from Hawaii. But LBCC has a much lower threshold for establishing residency than does OSU, Clemetsen said. All the students have to do is live in the state for 90 days and get a driver’s license with their address to qualify for in-state tuition through LBCC. They can earn residency while going to school full-time and living in the OSU residence hall.

Cooperation on curriculum meets institutions’, students’ needs

Faculty members at the two institutions communicate to ensure that courses align so that students learn what they need to know to move forward.

The program’s largest draw is for engineering, Clemetsen said. Advisors who work with OSU engineering freshmen have them sign up for the PDD. The smaller math classes at LBCC are one advantage for those students.

And the partnership has enabled faculty to work together to offer needed sections of classes. For example, OSU wasn’t offering certain business classes in the evening, and working students needed to take them then. LBCC offered sections to meet the need. And LBCC offered foreign language classes during the day, when OSU departments were not able to offer enough sections to meet student demand.

The partnership also allows the institutions to innovate on curriculum. For example, students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and foodservice systems must enroll in the PDD. The program includes a year of culinary courses at LBCC, Clemetsen said. Not many bachelor’s programs accept, let alone require, a year of credits from a career/technical program, he added.

Cultural centers provide academic support

The PDD started off as an equity-driven program, Clemetsen said. It helps low-income students earn bachelor’s degrees for far less money than they would pay if they enrolled only at OSU. And students can take advantage of OSU’s resources while paying the lower tuition and enjoying the smaller class sizes at LBCC.

Students of color can take advantage of OSU’s four cultural centers. The university offers the Asian & Pacific Cultural Center, the Centro Cultural César Chávez, the Lonnie B. Harris Black Cultural Center, and the Native American Longhouse Eena Haws.

Besides offering social activities and events, the centers offer academic support. Last year, officials added peer tutors for 18 to 22 hours a week at each center, said Kim McAloney, academic engagement coordinator for the Educational Opportunities Program. Besides helping students with specific subjects, the tutors help them with study skills, test-taking strategies, campus resources and wellness. Staff members will even walk students to where they need to go on campus if that helps the students. For example, if students need help finding health or psychological services, or even need help finding a place to eat, the staff can assist.

The relationships students form at the centers are valuable in helping them feel at home and support them in getting help when they need it, McAloney said.

Courses in a first-year transition program are also offered through and at the centers. Choices this academic year and last have included “Untold Stories: History of People of Color in Oregon” and “What Am I Doing Here?! Being First in the Family at College.” These culturally themed courses are among the many options students can choose in the transition program.

Email Bruce Clemetsen at clemetb@linnbenton.edu, Lynne L. Hindman at Lynn.Hindman@oregonstate.edu, and Kim McAloney at Kim.McAloney@oregonstate.edu.

The Reflective Leader
1/26/2016 12:00 AM

Academic leaders make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions every semester, some more important than others. Good decision-making is a skill that can be developed.

Dawn Z. HodgesAcademic leaders make hundreds, maybe thousands of decisions every semester, some more important than others. Good decision-making is a skill that can be developed.

Here are my tips for good academic decision-making. They might be a helpful place to start if you are a new administrator in your institution, or you might want to share them with new administrators.

  1. There’s a reason you’re asked to read the course catalog and student handbook on your first day of work at any new job. As an academic leader, you should know the policies and procedures of your institution like the back of your hand. They should always be the first point of contact in making a decision. As I said in the title, good decision-making starts with policy, but it doesn’t end there.
  2. Be firm on policy, but be flexible too. Does that make sense? This concept is the most difficult part of decision-making to teach. Some personality types get it easier than others. Policies are very important to the college but they aren’t legal code. Well, some of them actually are! And those you can’t change. And you have to know them well enough to know the difference. But there are some things you can be flexible on. A course substitution is a perfect example. No one ever died because he took a sociology course as his social science rather than a psychology course, even if it’s not an approved option at your college.
  3. Check with others throughout the college if you think the decision is going to affect a policy outside of academics such as financial aid, the bursar’s office, the registrar’s office, etc.
  4. Bounce your decisions off other department chairs or deans. You don’t want to just go willy-nilly down the hall asking people what they think, because there are privacy issues to consider, but your colleagues can be a rich source of experience.
  5. One of the most important questions you will need to ask before you make a decision is “does this hurt the student’s education or does it help it?” Any decision that hinders a student’s education is a bad one. Now I’m not talking about not suspending a student for cheating. In the short term, that might appear to hurt the student’s education, but in the long term it may be the best thing that ever happened to the student. I’m talking more about those decisions that we might make out of pride, or anger, or because we want to win. If you ever feel yourself making a decision from that place, you aren’t ready to make the decision.
  6. If you are tasked with making a certain kind of academic decision, it’s very important to be consistent with yourself. For example, I make the decisions on all the “hardship withdrawals.” A hardship withdrawal is one that happens after the deadline for withdrawals in a semester. I found that among our deans, some were very soft-hearted and everything was approved. Some followed policy to the letter, and there was no such thing as a hardship withdrawal. And so now I make all the final decisions. I know that I am consistent with myself on what I will and won’t approve. If your college is too big for one person to approve all of one particular thing, then the dean, provost or chief academic officer might need to spend some time talking about this with the decision-makers so that everyone can be consistent. Otherwise, it’s not fair to the students and could potentially create some liability for the college.
  7. Have a way to document your decisions for the records. For historical purposes, and if you were to be audited, the student records need to show why a certain decision was made, especially if it varies from policy.

Ultimately, the integrity of the college is at stake. Accreditation is very important, but there is something even higher than that. And that is doing what is right. We’ve all read about the administrators who got caught up in “this or that” and ended up in prison for selling degrees. The degree has to mean something or it isn’t worth anything. When you make academic decisions, you are the “keeper of the flame.” I take that responsibility very seriously.

Sound decision-making is probably the most important skill any academic administrator can possess. It can take years of hard knocks to learn it, but I think we can reduce the time it takes to learn the skill if we share best practices.

Tools of the Trade
12/23/2015 12:00 AM

Many colleges and universities are gaining a competitive advantage by making the leap into online noncredit, competency-based courses to attract new students and generate additional revenue. However, there can be a host of seemingly insurmountable technological, financial and even political barriers that can arise when moving outside the realm of traditional degree-oriented programs and into online noncredit course offerings that range from professional development and continuing education to certification programs.

Jeff ElliottMany colleges and universities are gaining a competitive advantage by making the leap into online noncredit, competency-based courses to attract new students and generate additional revenue. However, there can be a host of seemingly insurmountable technological, financial and even political barriers that can arise when moving outside the realm of traditional degree-oriented programs and into online noncredit course offerings that range from professional development and continuing education to certification programs.

One significant barrier has been the traditional Learning Management Systems that schools utilize are often geared toward the traditional student by nature of the implementation and integration with other legacy systems. The LMS, however, should provide a framework for course content that can be delivered to all learners in a variety of ways.

Although LMS providers rightfully claim their product is perfectly aligned to deliver nontraditional, competency-based courses, it can be very difficult to change and adapt an existing system implemented to fit the needs of the traditional degree student to also fulfill all the needs of nontraditional self-paced, competency-based programs.

As a result, a new breed of third-party technology service provider has risen to fill the need for technical services designed to ease the road to full-scale online implementation and revenue generation.

Not to be confused with LMS vendors, these third parties manage — and, in some cases, navigate around — critical implementation and technological issues as varied as managing existing LMSs to dealing with issues of exclusivity and accreditation. Their services also extend to student recruitment, marketing, call centers, credit card processing, reporting and certifications.

“Many schools that want to offer noncredit, competency-based courses to increase revenue do not have the knowledge, resources or expertise to figure out on their own how to implement this type of offering at scale,” said Mark Sarver of third-party provider One Squared Education. “Many have the content but do not know how to market and deliver it to maximize revenue generation.”

While the content creator maintains ownership of all intellectual property, One Squared manages it through the delivery of online courses, both traditional and competency-based. These can be for credit as well as noncredit continuing education, professional education and certification.

One Squared Education’s goal is to deliver a solution that does not interfere with existing systems and is not a burden to the institution, technologically or financially. The company is LMS-agnostic and can work with any existing system or provide a content delivery system alternative, if needed.

“From a technological standpoint, most institutions are able to handle their business with students for their undergraduate and graduate programs, but many institutions, when they start to look outward — that is when it starts to become an issue,” said Jerry Rhead, executive director of MSU Global.

MSU Global is a Michigan State University innovation and strategy unit in the Office of the Provost. With more universities entering this space, strategic, think-tank-type teams like MSU Global are being formed to assist faculty and administrators to identify and develop content into revenue-generating courses.

MSU, the first land grant institution in the United States and commissioned in 1855 as the Agricultural Colleges of the State of Michigan, has a rich history of offering Cooperative Extension programs to the citizens of Michigan to improve their lives by having access to research-based information. In many ways, this type of institution is ideally suited to serve nontraditional students, needing only to convert a treasure trove of Extension material into an online, competency-based format.

One prime example was the task of converting its existing Michigan Citizen Planner program, delivered through MSU Extension in the classroom and online, into a revenue-generating national program that would be called American Citizen Planner. The program leads to a certificate of completion or, with advanced training and completion of an examination, a Master Citizen Planner credential.

Although there are differences in legislative specifics from state to state, at its core many of the elements and issues involved in planning and zoning are shared. Other states could therefore leverage the existing Citizen Planner course material by adding state-specific content and branding. In this way, an institution would be able to offer a revenue-generating course with very little investment of time or resources.

For its contribution, MSU would benefit as well, earning a small percentage of the course fee for developing and creating the original program.

Furthermore, the institution utilizing the American Citizen Planner content could then market it to local city and county planning commissions in its state through the established Extension educator system. This would increase revenue exponentially through the franchising of the content information.

However, there were significant barriers to implementation.

Many LMS vendors require exclusivity agreements that limit the institution’s ability to utilize a competitive system. Furthermore, utilizing the LMS for an MSU Extension program was one thing, but as the scope began to extend to other states and other institutions, the LMS provider balked unless additional licenses were purchased by each partnering institution.

“That’s where a third-party vendor like One Squared Education can come in that is not limited by those restrictions,” says Rhead.

One Squared Education was asked to help migrate the Michigan Citizen Planner content to another LMS operated by eXtension, an Internet-based collaborative environment where land grant university content providers exchange objective, research-based knowledge. The company also played a role in strategizing with eXtension and MSU about different approaches to delivering the content and how to serve the market.

“The most important value these vendors provide is they know how to do this better than we ever will, they have the mechanisms to carry it out, and they understand the art and science of how to do it,” Rhead said. “You might be able to get ten students on your own, but when you bring a third-party vendor, they can bring a thousand students. I would rather share a percentage of revenue across a thousand students than keep all the revenue from ten, because ten isn’t going to make us enough money to make the effort profitable.”

Today, One Squared Education is continuing to pursue the concept of the American Citizen Planner by assisting eXtension in moving the initiative forward. In addition to MSU Extension’s existing Michigan Citizen Planner, the University of Arizona is now offering the American Citizen Planner program, and more universities are expected to offer it in the near future.

As its name suggests, MSU Global is not satisfied with simply extending its reach on a national scale. Rhead already envisions the possibilities of an international Citizen Planner course, given that many of the “planning” aspects of the program apply to developing countries. This includes education and information about preserving natural resources, protecting the environment, population, infrastructure development, etc.

According to Rhead, this is a prime example of how universities can take existing content and, through proper planning and evaluation, figure out how to maximize the return on investment. It is the very reason groups like MSU Global exist.

“I think that is where an organization like One Squared Education can help educational institutions be smarter in how to play in this new space and remain relevant,” he added.

For more information, contact One Squared Education: online at http://www.onesquarededucation.com; via phone at 747-384-0811; or via email at marks@onesquarededucation.com.

Lawsuits and Rulings
8/13/2013 12:00 AM

30+ years of law practice are no substitute for scholarship

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

Case name: Spaeth v. Georgetown University, No. 11-1376 (ESH) (D.D.C. 05/09/13).

Ruling: The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted summary judgment to Georgetown University, dismissing the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims.

What it means: When a plaintiff claims he was not interviewed for a college or university position because of his age, it’s not sufficient to show that the individuals interviewed and hired were younger than he was. He must also show that he had all the qualifications necessary to obtain a tenure-track position.

Summary: Nicholas Spaeth — born in 1950 — attended Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1977 after serving as a law review editor.

Following law school, he served as North Dakota state attorney general for seven years, as general counsel to several Fortune 500 companies, and as a lawyer in private practice. He also taught constitutional law as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School from 1980 through 1983.

In 2009, he decided to pursue an academic career. Ultimately, he obtained a non-tenure-track position as a visiting professor of law at the University of Missouri at Columbia for the 2010-2011 school year.

In 2010, Spaeth submitted a resume to an online resume system in which 172 law schools participated because his visiting professor position was only a one-year appointment.

He also wrote to several law schools directly to indicate his interest in being considered for a position.

He did not write directly to Georgetown University because he didn’t think that he wanted to live in Washington, D.C.

Spaeth was invited to preliminary interviews by only two schools and received no job offers.

He then filed a suit against Georgetown, claiming that its failure to interview and hire him violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act because it ultimately hired three less-qualified candidates who were approximately 25 years younger.

Georgetown filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Spaeth’s online résumé did not reveal any interest or experience in producing the kind of original legal research and scholarship that Georgetown and other top-tier law schools required.

Spaeth countered that Georgetown had no written requirement that scholarship weighed heavily — or outweighed — teaching and service.

However, District Judge Ellen Huvelle said that the lack of a written requirement was irrelevant. She said there was no need to put in writing what everyone knew: that scholarship was — for better or worse — one of the overriding concerns among elite law schools in making hiring decisions.

She recognized that Spaeth strongly felt that law students should be taught by practitioners instead of academics. However, she said that he could not dispute that scholarship was indeed a primary focus of law schools when hiring faculty members, and she refused to interfere with the university’s priorities.

Judge Huvelle found that Spaeth did not demonstrate the necessary qualifications for an entry-level tenure-track position at Georgetown because he had no record of scholarly work and had not shown a potential for producing such work in the future.

She granted summary judgment in favor of the university.

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