When thinking about what is referred to as “the college experience,” do you consider this concept only in relationship to what is gained from inside a classroom or playing on a sports team? Does the idea of school spirit ever cross your mind when you think about your college experience and, if so, what do you think of when you hear the phrase “school spirit?”
My definition of school spirit is when students, faculty and staff gather to show pride in their school and support for each other. Having school spirit means being able to show how much you love your school by creating, coordinating and participating in student events or, going a step further, by actually hosting events that show how much love you have for your school.
A great example of an event that occurred recently that showed the Anna Maria College Community in action was the Midnight Madness event, which took place on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 in the Fuller Activities Center around 11:45 pm. This event was conducted to celebrate the upcoming season of basketball for both women and men at Anna Maria College. It was a way for the College, as well as guests, to see what new skills, players, and determination each team has to offer for this upcoming season.
At Midnight Madness, students not only had the opportunity to be introduced to the upcoming season but they also had a chance to participate in activities centered around basketball even if they had no prior experience in playing the sport. This event had a huge turnout and was hosted by Lynette Colome, a junior at Anna Maia College and James Lambert III. They also had a helping hand from Lisa Saverese, the Director of Student Activities who helped to put the event together. In addition, I can’t forget to mention the hard work of the players from both teams, as well as their coaches.
Prior to the event, I sat down with a few students to gain their perspective on the Midnight Madness event and the upcoming season. The first student I spoke with was Nina Anastacio who is a sophomore, resident assistant and former basketball player at Anna Maria College. When asked if she was excited about the upcoming event and season she replied that she was ecstatic. She went on to explain to me that “Midnight Madness allowed the student athletes to be introduced as part of the school team and it was a way to display a preview of the hard work the coaches have put in preparing them for the upcoming season.” Nina also stated that she is anticipating improvement amongst the players on the team and “what we are about to see from these women is going to be brand new in that Anna Maria College has never seen these women the way we will see them this season.” She continued to show her optimism in the team’s success when she stated that, “there is a high possibility of them making it to the playoffs.”
I also sat down with a member from the men’s basketball team, Caleib Fournier, to get his take on the upcoming season for men’s basketball. When asked what Midnight Madness meant to him, as well as the impact it has on him and the other players, he stated that the event “brings the school together, as well as motivates the players for success during the upcoming season.” Like Nina, he described this season as “brand new.” He stated that the players will have a whole new style of playing and that this season will be different but successful at the same time.” Even though the men’s basketball team has drastically changed since losing their three power players: Javier Bristo, Anthony Click and Brad Peterson, all graduates of the class of 2013, Calieb still maintains his strong faith in his team’s success, as well as Coach Conrad’s ability to continue leading them on a successful path. He shared that Coach Conrad has done a great job in keeping the team on track, helping them to reach their goals in the sport, gaining the trust of his players and establishing a bond.
These interviews that were conducted, as well as having the privilege to attend the very well organized event known as Midnight Madness, definitely have me excited and anxious to attend as many games as possible to support both the women’s and men’s basketball teams. Ordinarily I am not much of a sports person but hearing how optimistic, dedicated and determined these student athletes are to succeed, as well as after seeing a preview of what’s to come, I am definitely ready to show my school spirit in any way including supporting my hardworking peers while they are on the court.
Last week I shared some recent research on the issue of the value of a college degree. A study entitled, “The Economics of BA Ambivalence: The Case of California Higher Education” provides a more balanced perspective on the return on investment of a college education. While concluding that a degree is likely worth the investment, the findings of this study suggest that the question of value is not simplistic and requires additional analysis. According to their findings, the ambivalence to a college education expressed by many families and prospective students may be more justified than some of us may realize.
The authors point out that too many studies about this issue assume best case scenarios that likely create a bias in their findings. For example, most other studies assume that the student completes his/her baccalaureate degree in four years. In fact, many graduates take five years or more and a good number drop out before completing their degree. Some begin at a community college and complete their bachelor’s degrees at a four-year institution.
The authors also clarify that most other studies determine their estimated earning power on pre-tax earnings without consideration of progressive tax rates. These other studies also assume a single rate of economic return without consideration of the graduate’s ability, the chosen profession, the economy, etc. Their point is that the investment in a college degree, while clearly worthwhile, has a degree of risk. A college degree is a good investment for both the individual and society, but factors like rising tuition rates and the widening distribution of earnings among those completing baccalaureate degrees has increased the risk for every college graduate to recoup his/her investment, earn enough to repay loans, and increase overall earnings in their lifetime.
As indicated last week, the data analysis for this study was drawn from the California higher education system. While this educational system of public institutions may not mirror all of higher education, this study is broadly illustrative. Furthermore, the California job market and economy may not be typical of every state or region, but this study identifies clearly the complexity of this issue and the types of analyses necessary before drawing unequivocal conclusions. Here are their key findings:
The BA is a good investment for the average student. The graduate’s earnings will be greater and outpace interest rates on loans.
The BA is a good investment for both society and the individual. College graduates contribute more to the economic stability of the community and their increased earnings help to fuel the economy.
The investment in a BA is increasingly risky. Because of rising tuition rates and the potential of low earnings in certain professions, more college graduates will experience student loan problems in the years following graduation.
What can be done about this? This study concludes with these helpful insights. They suggest that students should receive more and better advising about their choices of a major, postgraduate study and career pursuits. Students need to be better informed about the economic realities of some professions.
They also contend that students need to be better informed about their options for financing their college education. There are a good number of income-based and income contingent repayment plans. The enrollment levels in these programs are low, likely because of a lack of awareness.
The conclusion to their study provides both the optimism and reality necessary:
“College remains a good investment for both individuals and the state but it is a ‘stepping stone’ to the middle class – not a ticket. As such, it deserves the scrutiny an individual would give to any risky investment.”
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)
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 graduate’s 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.)