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Posted by on in President's Blog

One of the topics I write and speak about regularly is the value of a college degree. While affordability is a major challenge facing prospective students, I continue to believe that there is an indisputable value in earning a college degree. I gave two presentations just in the past two weeks on challenges facing higher education. I was not surprised to be questioned about whether or not the investment in higher education is really worth it. People hear about the high costs of education and observe the continued challenges in the economy.

If you read my blog every week, you know that I am constantly referencing research that clearly supports the return on investment in higher education. Despite the anecdotal evidence to the contrary, almost every study I have read demonstrates that a college degree more than pays for itself over the course of the graduates lifetime in terms of income, professional success, community engagement and happiness.

A study published by College Summit provides even broader evidence of the value of a college degree. College Summit is a national organization that partners with high schools to help to increase the college enrollment rates of youth from low-income communities. They currently work with 180 high schools across the country helping to provide professional development, coaching, and peer influencers. This organization serves 50,000 students annually in 12 states.

Their latest research entitled Smart Shoppers: The End of the College for All Debate? not only provides evidence of the need for more and more college graduates to meet the employment demands of this country, but also that a college degree even helps in those professions typically not requiring an advanced degree. According to this report, even in careers like plumbing and hairdressing, those holding a college degree tend to earn more than their less educated peers.

But a study just released entitled, The Economics of BA Ambivalence: The Case of California Higher Education provides a more nuanced and thorough understanding of this important issue. The study uses data drawn from the University of California System, the states research campuses, and the California State University System, the less selective state college system. While this study focuses on a single state and parts of the state system (i.e., not including private, independent colleges), I think the results are widely applicable and certainly informative for all of higher education.

The authors of this study frame their research in light of the growing ambivalence towards higher education by Americans. Their understanding of ambivalence is drawn from an article written by the well- respected national commentator, Ron Brownstein, which appeared in the National Journal Magazine on September 29, 2012. The article was entitled, Struggling to Advance, and responded to the reality that a majority of Americans now define success as not falling behind. They worry that fundamental changes in the economy are making it more difficult for them—and their children—to get ahead.”

Referencing polls conducted by the Heartland Monitor, Brownstein writes,

“The most fundamental question about the next generation evokes the most unease. Asked if today’s children will have more opportunities than older Americans, only 32 percent said yes. In the four times the Heartland Monitor has tested that question since 2009, no more than one-third of Americans have ever said they expect the next generation to enjoy greater opportunities. In the new poll, an equal 32 percent said they believed today’s children will have less opportunity to get ahead, while the remaining 31 percent said their opportunities would be unchanged. As in earlier surveys, whites remain far more pessimistic than minorities: Just 25 percent of whites believe the next generation will have more opportunity than our own, while 38 percent expect their opportunities to diminish. (College-educated whites are as pessimistic as noncollege whites, who have borne larger job and income losses in recent decades.) By contrast, 51 percent of minorities believe today’s children will have more opportunity than they did, while only 20 percent believe they will have less.

Those anxious responses partly reflect ambivalence, especially among blue-collar whites, about the economic value of a college education. Although studies show that workers with college degrees earn significantly more money over their lifetimes than those without one, just 38 percent of those polled said they viewed a college education as a ‘ticket to the middle class,’ while 54 percent said it was ‘an economic burden that is often too expensive and requires taking on debt to pay for.’ Three-fifths of both whites with college degrees and minorities (with and without degrees) saw such education as a source of advancement, but whites without a college degree split in half on whether the benefits of college justified the cost.”

Next week I will share the results of this study. A college degree is definitely worth it, but the issue may be more complex.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

One of the classic stereotypes in all of education relates to the tension between faculty and administrators. Like all stereotypes, there is certainly some truth to this. Having worked in both K-12 and higher education for decades as both a teacher and an administrator I have experienced cases where faculty thought their voices were not being heard and administrators thought they were not receiving the support they deserved. This stereotype is enforced when the media pays much closer attention to votes of no confidence and denials of tenure, but rarely covers a story about harmony and cooperation on campus.

But a recent survey conducted by The Chronicle of Higher Education tells a different story. Last August and September, The Chronicle conducted an online survey with 431 public and private, non-profit four-year colleges throughout the country. The survey was directed to the chief academic officers on each campus (provost or vice president for academic affairs) and the faculty in leadership positions (heads of faculty senates, faculty representatives on governing boards). The Chronicle received responses from 325 institutions including 254 faculty leaders and 175 academic leaders.

Despite the fact that faculty leaders were typically less positive than administrators in their assessment, a majority of both groups rated relations on campus as good or very good. Even more, a vast majority of respondents rated relations between faculty and administrators as improving on their campuses. Finally, almost 75% of the faculty who responded said that they trusted their administration to look out for the best interests of their institution.

Clearly, there are still areas of disagreement and tension. Faculty are more concerned about the trend to use an increased number of part-time faculty and adjuncts to provide instruction. Faculty also continue to desire greater involvement in decision making about budgets and expenditures. And 10% of the faculty respondents rated relations on their campuses as poor or very poor.

Especially interesting to me was the repeated observation that any significant problems in relations between faculty and administrators were caused more by the behaviors of specific individuals rather than a pervasive level of distrust or disrespect. This certainly correlates with my experience.

A small group of faculty or a single administrator can often ignite a level of tension and acrimony. But the overwhelming majority of faculty and administrators are collegial and share a commitment to the best interests of their institutions. They may disagree from time to time as to how best to reach the goal, but they overwhelmingly agree on the goal.

The fact is that a degree of tension between faculty and administrators is both normal and healthy. By definition, faculty advocate for academic programs, student quality and resources to support teaching, learning, scholarship and professional development. This is their job. This is their professional responsibility. These issues are critical to the academic integrity that they hold dear.

While administrators share these values, they must balance academic and faculty needs with broader institutional demands. No institution I know has the resources to support fully every program and every need. These complementary needs and demands create levels of dialogue and discussion that are central to a vibrant college.

Life on a college campus is rarely perfect. But faculty and administrators work side by side every day in the best interests of our students. Maybe someday you will see a story about this!

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

I have been teaching for over forty years. In some ways, my approach to the teaching-learning process has not changed. I still try to engage every student, present information in ways that challenge their thinking, and encourage active learning.

But in other ways, things are different. I have finally given up my piece of chalk (although I have some in my desk just in case a blackboard suddenly reappears). I use PowerPoints, videos and assign electronic databases. I post assignments, grades and receive assignments online.

I made a decision a few years ago that I would not allow cell phones or computers in my class. I put this on the top of my syllabus and go over it on the first day. Unless students have an emergency where they might need to be contacted, phones and computers are off and out of sight.

A recent study conducted by the University of Nebraska was published in The Journal of Media Education. The study provided the results of a survey with 777 students (mostly undergraduate) at six colleges and universities regarding their use of digital devices in class for non-class purposes. The results should come as no surprise in a world where so many people have their cell phones out 24 hours a day emailing, texting, and even waking up during the middle of the night just to answer a message.

Ninety-two percent of the respondents indicated that they used their devices for non-class purposes in class. On average, undergraduates said they used these devices at least 11 times per day in class. Here is the breakdown:

Frequency of Student Device Use in Class for Non-Class Purposes, Per Day

Never

8%

1-3 times

35%

4-10 times

27%

11-30 times

16%

More than 30 times

15%

Types of Uses

Texting

86%

Checking the Time

79%

Email

68%

Social Networking

66%

Web Surfing

38%

Games

8%

When asked why they used their devices in class, even though they admitted that it was a distraction to them and classmates, they identified these “advantages:”

-staying connected (70%)

-avoiding boredom (55%)

-doing related classwork (49%)

Needless to say, most professors expressed frustration about this phenomenon. But what I found particularly interesting were some of the comments from professors who were less concerned about the use of devices.

Some are trying to integrate the use of electronic devices into classroom instruction … encouraging students to find relevant research or commentary at the same time that the professor is leading a discussion. Others put the burden on the faculty. While it may be a more realistic comment at institutions where class size is small, one professor said if students are bored or more interested in connecting with friends, maybe that’s an assessment of teaching style.

I plan to teach again in the Spring semester. I am rethinking my policy on electronic devices.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)

Posted by on in Debb's Review
Since midway through the fall 2013 semester, the major topic of discussion at AMC has been the new Information Commons, which is located in the space that used to house the upper level of the Mondor-Eagen Library. The traditional library setting is now located on the lower level with new electronic book stacks for the college's literary collection. The new student-oriented environment on the upper level offers computer stations for online research and group work, Information Technology Services (also known as the "IT Department"), The Center for Teaching Excellence where students and professors can interact outside of the classroom, The MIDI Lab for music majors, a Graphic Design lab, and The School of Business (classrooms and professional offices). The Information Commons also attracts students and faculty with the warmth of its color scheme, as well as the wonderful working fireplace that will really come in handy during those cold winter days and nights.
 
Personally, I consider The Information Commons one of my favorite places on campus whether it is to get research done, attend my business classes or just to relax my mind in a peaceful setting. This area is a lounge, research and learning environment all in one: How can you beat that?
 
My typical time spent in The Information Commons is to do research papers, work on new internship ideas, plan for meetings and events, work on group projects and study with classmates. Since The Information Commons was created, I find myself utilizing this spot much more than I could ever imagine. Out of the many things I like about this space, what I love the most are the tables set up for study groups not far away from the computers. This new space is definitely a great asset on campus. The hours of availability (24/7) are amazing especially for students like me who have schedules that are not flexible and who can mainly get their work done only during late hours. Even the fact that the School of Business is located in the Information Commons amazes me. The professors and the Dean of The School of Business, Dean Forsberg, are located right across from the business classrooms, which is very convenient for students in the business program, as well as the faculty. I feel very important when entering such a vibrant environment that has the academic school in which I will be receiving my degree from represented. My overall description of this new environment would be inclusive, warm, helpful, and modern because of the colors, carpet patterns, fireplace and updated resources.
 
To give you a little more insight into The Information Commons, I sat down with President Calareso to get his take on the new space. When I asked him how Anna Maria College was able to have this project completed, he informed me that it was all about timing, resources and student demand. He went on to tell me that about a year ago the school secured enough money to bring a project that just started out as verbal and written ideas to life. Also, it took meetings with students who discussed their various needs and concerns about a new learning environment; and that is how the concept came about.
 
Anna Maria College breathed life into the idea of The Information Commons to create an opportunity and a modern resource for students to learn, hang out and study outside of the residence halls. This space was created with the intention that students would use it to help them excel in and outside of the classroom. President Calareso also informed me that very little changes would be made to The Information Commons besides the art that will soon be hung and any upkeep that might need to be made throughout the course of the year. The next big project that Anna Maria College plans to work on is the campus center. For more details on that upcoming project, you have to look out for future posts under Debb's Review.

Posted by on in Matt's Corner
With social media becoming a very popular platform, it is important to understand how to get the best use possible out of it and make it work for you! As mentioned in previous posts, social media has been able to aid faculty and universities in many ways to strengthen their relationships with students. However, there are always ways that YOU as a student can use social media to help better your life style and future.
 
When it comes to your own social media practices, you can always use them to improve your personal image whether you are using the tool to apply for a job, college, or just in general. When I went to a conference last year for undergrad students interested in the field of higher education there was a session on social media that made me look at it from a whole new perspective. The session talked about the importance of making sure your social media platform represents you in the best way possible. This means making sure there is never offensive material or anything that may portray any organizations you are affiliated with negatively.
 
How can you do this? To utilize your social media so that it works for you and represents you in a positive way, always make sure that you have your content set to private, such as, approving any posts made by another person. Just because you aren't the one posting it, if a friend posts something offensive on your wall or page and you don't delete it, you are basically saying that you agree with or have no problem with what he or she is saying. This can be just as harmful to your image as something coming right from you.
 
When I came to college, I knew Facebook was an easy and efficient way to keep in touch with my friends from high school or new people that I was about to meet in college. However, I realized that because I was going to start building a professional image of myself, it would be a good idea to delete my old Facebook from high school and start a fresh new page. The reason I did this was not because I had offensive material, but because the old Facebook represented a younger me as a teenager. Making a new one allowed me to restart my social media presence in a more mature way.
 
Small things like this are simple ways that can help you keep in an eye on how you look on social media. It is always good to make sure you present yourself well in all media outlets, no matter your age, profession, or how much or how little social media platforms you use.
 
Do you utilize social media like this? Have you ever experienced a situation where someone was reprimanded because of content on their social media platforms?