The Higher Learning Commission Report on EMU

Hey, we’re back here at EMYoutalk.org after a long time away! The Facebook group for EMUTalk (kind of like EMYoutalk) has been going along great, and so I haven’t seen much of a reason to post here. But this seemed like something worth making available to everyone, including those few people left not on Facebook.

Anyway, the scoop/a little context: for a while go now, EMU has been going through an accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission. I won’t go into the weeds here to explain what HLC accreditation means, but the short version is this is one of the agencies that evaluates and assesses all kinds of institutions of higher learning to make sure they’re doing what they say they’re supposed to be doing. Accreditation– particularly for established universities like the EMU’s of the world, as opposed to less stable/more fly-by-night proprietary schools– is important, but kind of a pro-forma/quasi-automatic issue. For a university like EMU to lose accreditation would be a huge national news kind of deal.

Oddly, EMU hasn’t made the full HLC accreditation report available to the public. The administration has talked about the report in slideshows to EMU administrators and folks like that, but as far as I know, the full HLC wasn’t available publicly. Just the other day though, someone (who wants to remain anonymous for what I assume are obvious reasons) emailed me a copy of the whole report.

Here it is.

Now, this is a 90 page document and most of it is pretty boring bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo, at least to my eyes. But there are a couple of parts of the report that are, well, “problematic,” mostly noted with the slightly damning HLC language “met with concerns,” and I’ve highlighted what strikes me as especially kind of eyebrow-raising in red.

In section 4.C (page 43), which is about “The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational improvement through ongoing attention to retention, persistence, and completion rates in its degree and certificate programs,” the HLC said (my emphasis added):

Although the current strategic plan indicates an intention to improve retention rates – particularly for men of color and single parents – no documentation was provided or found to show that the institution has defined goals for student retention, persistence and completion (although at one point the VP of Enrollment Management stated that there was a goal to increase retention by 4% annually). The Degree Completion and Retention (DCR) Plan was developed to address the low overall retention rate of the university, and of the particular populations identified. The plan included numerous action items, but no benchmarks. Actions have been taken by the institution, in accordance with the plan to improve retention rates, and include participation in the Gateways to Completion (G2C) Project (which included collection and analysis of relevant data); improvements to advising; use of Starfish early notification system; and implementation of the BrotherHOOD and SisterHOOD initiative. However, it is disconcerting that the institution does not appear to have 1) established specific goals or benchmarks, 2) has revisited the plan, or 3) has a process whereby progress is monitored or reported.

The Office of Institutional Research and Information Management (IRIM) shares data with key administrators and the institution identified examples wherein particular data were used to enact change. For example, student survey data were used to support advising offices at the college level, and data on success of first-year students provided information to advisors regarding course selections. But again, there was no apparent systematized process or documentation that provided evidence of benchmarking goals, responding to data and tracking progress to determine the impact of changes.

When asked how the administrative team “knows” when they’ve reached a goal or been successful, the institution responded that they look primarily to see if they are “doing better,” and that they have considered looking at other institutions to compare performance levels.

Then in section 5A, page 46, which is about “The institution’s resource base supports its current educational programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their quality in the future.” This is an especially long and wonky section (at least in my view), but it’s really important. The HLC wrote (my emphasis added):

Eastern Michigan University has three main sources of revenue. These consist of approximately 71 percent student tuition and fees, 24 percent state appropriations and 5 percent other revenue (EMU Revenue Graph). Since 1980, EMU has seen a significant shift in both state funding as well as the increase in student tuition and fees. Evidence (State Funding vs Tuition) shows that in 1980 the amount of funding from the State of Michigan was 72.5 percent while tuition and fee accounted for only 27.5 percent of the budget. This is in sharp contrast to 2016 where state funding only accounted for 23.9 percent of the total and student tuition and fees made up the difference of 76.1 percent. When comparing the increase in student tuition and mandatory fees within the state of Michigan, EMU notably ranks second to the lowest of the 15 state institutions in percent increases over the past 10 years. Evidence provided shows a high average increase of 6.1 percent to a low of 4 percent. EMU has a ten year average increase of 4.6 percent.

The Composite Financial Index (CFI) paints a picture of the financial health of the institution at a specific point in time. The Index is built with the values of its four component ratios. These ratios include the primary reserve, net operating revenue, return on net assets, and viability.

Once each of the four ratios are calculated, there is an additional process measuring the relative strength of the score and its importance in the mix of creating a composite score. This results in the production of one weighted score for each indicator and when added together the result is the CFI. This numerical analysis is required each year by the Higher Learning Commission from every institution.

A scale is used to analyze the CFI by the HLC. For public institutions a score of 1.0 to 10.0 would be considered “above the zone.” A score of 0 to 1.0 would be considered “in the zone.” Finally, a score of -4.0 to -0.1 is considered “below the zone.”

In 2012 EMU fell below the zone with a CFI of 0.3. The following years show CFI calculations of: 0.6 for 2013; 0.7 for 2014, -0.02 for 2015; -0.02 for 2016; and 0.04 for 2017. At the time of the team visit, the 2018 reporting year (fiscal year ending June 30, 2017) had not yet been calculated.

As reviewed in Appendix J of the Federal Compliance document, due to being “in the zone” for two consecutive years Eastern Michigan University submitted a Financial Recovery Plan that was reviewed by a Financial Panel of HLC financial peer reviewers. This plan outlined various elements that EMU felt contributed to their deteriorated financial standing. Items included reduction in state appropriations, state mandated tuition restraints, flat enrollment, strategic investment on capital projects, significant investment on campus safety, and variation in investment returns.

Four strategies were developed to correct the financial stability of EMU. These included strategies to increase enrollment, implement campus wide plan to improve student success, comprehensive actions to increase revenue, and develop and implement multiple cost reduction measures. The goal of EMU was to be “above the zone” in 2017. This goal was not met.

Nowhere in the assurance argument did EMU present or discuss the CFI challenges. During a focus visit with senior leadership, team members were aware that the CFI was still “below the zone” but no specific corrective plans were shared as the 2017 goal to be “above the zone” was not met. State appropriations continue to be flat, credit hours have declined over the past five years, capital constructions projects continue to expand, student support for institutional scholarships and grants continues to increase, but no clear plan to reduce expenses was documented. Several examples were verbally mentioned such as not filling vacant positons, voluntary retirement options, the reduction of some fringe benefits for employees, and outsourcing of the food service auxiliary operation.

In visiting with the Board of Regents, they too were aware that EMU’s CFI was “below the zone.” The board does have a Finance and Investment Committee as part of their internal structure. One member of this committee indicated the BOR was “committed to fixing it.” This committee should take an active role in helping senior management develop an immediate, realistic plan to improve the CFI.

Although EMU is meeting all of its current financial obligation, debt payments and payroll expenses, the long term financial stability of the institution continues to be a concern. New long-term debt projects should be carefully evaluated and focus should be directed toward reducing operating expenses in an effort to counter balance declining state revenues and dropping credit hour enrollment. The original CFI correction plan to move the institution back into “above the zone” status was not successful. A revised plan must be developed that is realistic in meeting the current economic and financial climate of the community and university.

EMU appears to have adequate faculty and staff in place to fulfill the mission of the institution. Data provided (EMU Faculty/Staff Headcount) through the human resources office shows the number of fulltime faculty in FY08 to be 683 compared to 688 fulltime faculty in FY17. When including both full time and part time lectures, these academic professionals show an increase over the same time period from 1,229 to 1,390. All three categories showed a slight variation from fiscal year to fiscal year.

Total full time staff working at EMU during FY08 were 1,052 compared to a slightly lower number in FY17 of 1,042. Over that span of time a shift in the type of support staff is reflected. Most notably is a reduction of 63 clerical/secretarial positions while increases in athletic coaches increased by 10, campus police and police sergeants increased by 11, and professional/technical staff increased by 28. Part time and seasonal employees, along with a cross section of student workers, help fill the additional staff void where needed.

EMU has a number of campus buildings designed to provide instruction, student support, auxiliary services and campus housing. Upon review of the evidence provided, dollars are allocated each year to help maintain and enhance the campus buildings and infrastructure. A detailed 5-year Facilities Renovation matrix template has been developed with a scoring rubric (EMU 5 year Facilities Renovation Plan and Scoring Rubric). Addendum documents provided on site show information relating to FY17 through FY20 budget breakdown by various categories and projects. No “project scoring” has yet been completed for the FY17 or FY18 year. Completing this matrix appears critically important and will be needed in tracking and evaluating the progress of this plan and for future capital planning.

An impressive and comprehensive Five Year Facilities Renovation Plan was published in May of 2016. This document provided as additional evidence after the assurance argument was submitted outlines in great detail the condition of campus buildings and infrastructure. A campus tour was taken by two of the team members during the accreditation visit. Buildings toured included the Student Center, Mark Jefferson Science Building (recently renovated, 180,000 square feet of old space plus 80,000 feet of new space) and the Halle Library. During a vehicle tour of the rest of the campus buildings noted included the under renovation Strong Physical Science Building (a 1.5 year projected project), upgraded power plant, recently purchased Trinity Chapel (now Honors College) along with a number of the academic buildings and student housing units. Recent upgrades in campus lighting and safety were also noted during the tour.

EMU appears to be a campus dedicated to keeping up with technology. The Educational Environment and Facilities Committee (EEFC) meets on a regular basis as documented through a plan of work and minutes from meetings. On site meetings with faculty, staff and students confirmed that computer lab space was available, updated computers were available for employees, and wireless connections were updated around campus. One verbal concern from housing staff focused on some student housing units having slow internet access. Assistance from private sources was being investigated.

Eastern Michigan University relies on several different levels of budget input each fiscal year. The Provost and the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) each receive input during the spring from their respective areas. The Provost is responsible for the student affairs budget as well as much of the auxiliary budget and capital expenditures. The physical plant unit reports to the president and also recommends capital projects needing budget consideration. EMU has a University Budget Council that provides input and guidance as the budget is being discussed as well as a Faculty Senate Budget and Resource Committee. Both of these committees were present during focus visits on campus and confirmed the budgeting process. The President has final say in the proposed budget before the document is submitted to the Board of Regents yearly for approval. Board minutes confirm that budget requests are approved.

EMU references the Institutional Strategic Planning Council (ISPC) as providing input with budgeting and strategic planning. The ISPC link on EMU’s web site shows the last official minutes to be from the spring of 2015. Upon visiting with the areas represented on the ISPC committee, they are currently an inactive committee. During the focus topic meeting with this group, the question was asked about the strategic plan referenced in the assurance argument which reflected that strategic theme on Institutional Effectiveness and Service and Engagement were flagged as being a proposed change. Discussion with the group confirmed that about a year ago the plan had been confirmed by the President. The team recommends updating the strategic plan and correcting all links on the web site to reflect the final document.

Upon review and discussion of the strategic plan, evidence is very minimal or completely lacking on tracking of progress or completion of goals or objectives. The team recommends that the President assign individuals to track and keep updates to the document. The President should also discuss with senior leadership to see if the ISPC needs to remain an active campus committee.

Discussion in the assurance argument references unit-level goal setting and outcome measurements linking back to budget decisions, however, no direct evidence was provided. Employee performance reviews were cited as directly tying to the strategic plan, but no examples were provided. Union contracts require this activity to be occurring so the institution needs to have documentation available.

As overall state revenues support in Michigan have declined over time, EMU strives to remain affordable, accessible, and to provide opportunity to students. Evidence of this strategic decision can be seen in the increase of institutional aid provided to students. From FY11 to FY17, scholarships allowances have increased as evidenced by the external university audits.

Training and professional development are important for faculty and staff. Faculty can utilize the resource of the Faculty Development Center to help with syllabus design, information technology, as well as general teaching and classroom guidance. The web site calendar shows a variety of regular workshops available to employees including SPSS and grant writing opportunities. Staff training opportunities are quickly referenced on the HR web site and include such topics as Excel training and Conscientious Leadership: Employee/Labor Relations. Other workshops are offered to all employees that are more individually centered such as Credit Reports & Scores and Dealing with Debt. During both faculty and staff open forum’s employees confirm that they were aware of professional development opportunities and many had acknowledged they had attended trainings. Regular training for new staff is also presented to employees.

EMU has a formal process in place for budgeting. Processes are also in place for monitoring at the departmental level. As confirmed during the focus visit with the finance team, The Office of Budget and Finance sends weekly expense reports to budget administrators. These expense reports will track purchases and provide account balances remaining for the fiscal year. Individual meetings are held with departments on a regular basis. One such standing meeting involves reviewing expense with athletics the first of each month.

There’s certainly a lot more here that I haven’t quite figured out; I’ll leave that to other readers.

A few more thoughts about the contract negotiations between the EMU administration and the EMUFT union

Here we are, almost at the end of the academic year, and just to complicate matters further, the EMU Federation of Teachers (the union that represents lecturers and part-time lecturers at EMU) and the administration are off to what sounds like a rocky start for contract negotiations. As noted here on the EMUFT’s web site, in this Michigan Radio story, and in this WEMU story, the administration’s “opening bid” in these negotiations is a 25% pay cut for new part-timers. So folks newly hired at EMU to teach part-time would earn $900 a credit hour instead of the current rate of $1200.

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about what the lecturers and part-timers are negotiating for with this round. Frankly, since they just got done negotiating a contract last year, I’m surprised they are at the bargaining table at all. That said, I think there are a few things worth mentioning:

  • I don’t care how you slice it (as in “the administration isn’t serious about this” or “that’s just an opening tactic” or whatever), for the administration to begin negotiations by proposing a 25% cut is I believe what is technically known as a “dick move.”
  • For folks who don’t understand this: lecturers generally but part-time instructors in particular are where a place like EMU makes back a lot of the money it spends on dumb stuff like overpaid administrators and coaches. A really simple example I know well from my experience/work with the first year writing program: classes taught by part-timers rake in a lot of tuition money.  Undergrads pay about $1000 per course at EMU once you figure out all the fees and stuff. The capacity for a section of first year writing is 25, so (assuming that everyone is paying in-state tuition) it’s pretty easy to ballpark the revenue of each section of first year writing is about $25,000. Even if you knock off some of that for paying the bills/keeping the lights on, that’s still a pretty healthy return on investment when that class is taught by someone only making $3600.
  • Higher education’s relationship with part-time labor generally has been problematic for decades. EMU is far from unique in this regard. Personally, I have a lot of mixed feelings about what to do with the adjunct problem, as I’ve blogged about before (here’s an example of a “modest proposal” to reduce the number of adjuncts with MOOCs, and here’s my review/reaction to a movie about adjunct labor called “Con Job”). I think higher ed has an “addiction” to cheap labor when it comes to teaching (particularly in gen ed sorts of classes). But I also think that part-time instructors should be just that, part-time. Too many folks have been trying make their part-time work look like a full-time job by teaching at multiple places and for too long.
  • As it is, we are increasingly having some “staffing challenges” when it comes to hiring people who are qualified and willing to teach at the current part-time rate. This is a relatively recent change, at least in my field. Based on my completely unscientific recollection, there were more people applying for part teaching ten years ago in my program than there are now. So this move by the administration– even if it is just a bargaining tactic– could make things even worse, which of course ultimately impacts students. It might also inspire some current part-timers to realize that with an improving economy and job market, there are other options out there.

By the way, if anyone involved in the negotiations wants to post something more here at EMYoutalk, let me know. I extend this opportunity to the administration too, though I don’t think they’ll take me up on it.

Ugh, Now We’ve Got alt-right Jerks

Well, this is just great. Now we get to deal with alt-right/neo-nazi-types.

Here’s how I found out about this on Facebook:

A friend found this in the Halle library, one who is a Middle Eastern WoC. It was not left on some random table. This was on a sign next to the elevator. This is absolutely unacceptable. Eastern Michigan University this is hate speech and needs to be investigated. No Nazi propaganda on our campus.
#TruEMU #OurHouseEMU
Spread this like wildfire.

I posted this on the EMUTalk Facebook group, and according to the conversation there, the administrative office of the library did verify that this is for real, the cards have been removed, and they are going to “investigate further to ensure this sort of material isn’t anywhere else.”

Mark Maynard has posted about it on his blog, and I’m guessing we’ll be hearing more about this in the MSM soon. Stay tuned.

Update #1: The Office of the President sent an email about all this, and apparently, these cards were all over campus this past weekend. Here’s a PDF of that email.

Update #2: There is this article in Mlive– perhaps best not to read the comments.

I have to say that one of the dilemmas/challenges here is trying to figure out when how much is too much when it comes to paying attention to these tings. On the one hand, yes of course, the EMU community should be made aware of this and should condemn it. On the other hand, at what point are we just giving these people what they want in the form of too much attention?

Heather Lyke Leaving EMU (Good Riddance, IMO)

The Freep web site reports “Sources: Heather Lyke to leave Eastern Michigan to take Pitt AD job.” There are a couple of interesting tidbits in this article. First, the piece rehashes a lot of the ongoing controversies about spending and football at EMU. But second, it gives a bit more of a taste of what the plans for spending upwards of $35 Million on athletic stuff might look like:

The plans currently call for the outdoor track to be removed from around the football field. The existing soccer fields would be reoriented in direction and a new track placed around it.

The existing football building in the far end zone of Rynearson Stadium would be torn down. In its place would be a new 70,000-square-foot building that would have a turf field inside for the football and soccer teams to use. There would also be a 300-meter indoor track and improved weight room, big enough for entire teams to train at one time. The building would also allow the university to have nine or 10 suites facing the football stadium. The current 68 premium seats in the stadium are sold out. A new scoreboard would be added to the stadium.

A new 22,000-square-foot building for wrestling and gymnastics would also be built, allowing them to move out of Bowen Fieldhouse and Warner Gymnasium. That space would then be available for academic programs and intramural sports to use, most likely.

Sure, why not? The best thing EMU could spend money on right now is this nonsense, right? Oh, and the “improvements” to intramural athletics and things like the REC/IM are basically going to amount to letting students use these other spaces once the athletic programs move out.

I wrote a bit about Lyke in a blog post on my own site last May, “An Open Letter/Blog Post About Sports at EMU.” I was following up on an open letter from the administration about the HBO Sports story about the ridiculous amount of money being wasted at EMU (and similar places) on football and also about an interview Lyke did with Michigan Public Radio.  Just to quote myself a bit about Lyke here:

It turns out that the guy interviewing Lyke, Lester Graham, has a child attending EMU. At the 4:35 or so mark in that interview, Graham asks flat-out “how does my EMU student benefit” with EMU being in Division 1 athletics.

Lyke responds “What your student gets, you know… when you chose Eastern Michigan, and the time that they chose they knew they had division 1 athletics–”

“–not a factor,” Graham interrupts. “Was not a factor.”

Then Lyke, digging furiously, says something like “Correct, so it’s, um, it’s not a factor in wether or not they um they… you know, I would hope that that student find value in adding diversity to the, you know, landscape and the culture of the university. There are kids that have unbelievable talents in all sorts of things. We have an unbelievable forensics team, we have an unbelievable slam poetry team at Eastern Michigan, we have fabulous art…” and so forth.

Graham pointed out that none of these things have anything to do with support to the athletic department, and Lyke goes back to the earlier statement that we are not thinking about getting out of the MAC or football, full stop.

So yeah, I don’t see a great loss in leadership here. Goodness knows I don’t know how these kinds of hiring decisions are made, but hey, good luck, Pittsburgh.

 

Fire in Phelps Hall! And this one is not a drill!

Folks at EMU received a couple emails from communications VP Walter Kraft about a fire in the dorm Phelps Hall that forced students to evacuate. And then this morning, I stumbled across this story from Detroit WDIV (channel 4 on your television “dial”), “Fire closes Eastern Michigan University’s Phelps Hall dorm.”

Long story-short, no one was seriously injured, everyone got out (though one student had to be taken out of a window), people who weren’t on the effected floors got to go back to their rooms, and there is some number of students at least temporarily displaced by this.  Ironically enough, there was a fire drill in this dorm earlier in the evening so when the real “this is not a drill” fire alarms sounded, there was initially a bit of confusion.

Susan Martin Finalist for President of Florida Gulf Coast University

Remember Susan Martin, EMU’s retiring president who then went on to be interim president at San Jose State University? Well, she’s apparently still wanting to do some president-type stuff. As reported by the news-press.com web site in the article “FGCU committee selects 4 finalists for president,” she’s seeking the job there.

Fun fact about former EMU presidents and FGCU: infamous ex president John Fallon was actually in the running for the job there back in 2007, though he didn’t make the cut.

About the EMU Board of Regents Meeting; Farewell, Regents Fitzsimmons and Stapleton; Smith Inauguration

Geoff Larcom sent around an email about the most recent EMU Board of Regents meeting yesterday. Here it is:

Yesterday, in its regularly scheduled meeting, the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents approved two new academic programs, in mechanical engineering and a doctoral program in the practice of nursing. The two programs are in response to the strong market need for engineers and nurses with advanced degrees, along with strong student interest.

In other Board action during the meeting:

A $13.8 million capital budget for fiscal 2017-2018 was approved that helps set stage for completion of Science Complex, and sets aside funds for improvements in academic facilities, classroom and campus technology, further enhancements in campus safety and security, and in parking.

An average 2.5 percent increase in room and board rates for fiscal 2017-2018 was approved. The room and board increases are all below the five-year average for Eastern, with the residence hall increase being the lowest during that time period, and apartment and meal plan increases representing the second lowest levels in the past five years. The increases seek to maintain the University’s commitment to offering affordable on-campus living and dining experiences for students.

Complete materials from the meeting can be found on documents page of the Board of Regents website.

President Smith provided a summation of campus activities over the past several months in his regular President’s Report to the Regents.

Please also note that you are invited to attend inauguration ceremonies for President Smith on March 2, 2017. The ceremonies will celebrate EMU’s history while looking forward to a vibrant future. Complete details can be found on the inauguration website.

Two other points/highlights:

  • This meeting marked the farewell of Regents Beth Fitzsimmons and Jim Stapleton. Stapleton in particular has been a controversial figure on the board over the years.
  • There’s also information about Smith’s “Inauguration,” which seems kind of like a not completely necessary event to me (but hey, what do I know?). I am going to be out of town that Thursday, March 2, so I don’t need to think about this too much. But I am curious about who can go to this. I am guessing that faculty and staff can attend for free– though maybe not, I really don’t know– but I’m not sure what the case is with students. I do see that according to the inauguration website, I can buy an individual ticket for $150. Hmm. I realize this is a fund-raiser and I’m all for that, but it seems kind of an odd event to make into a fund-raiser. I mean, even the inauguration of Trump was free for anyone to attend.

“EMU Police working aggressively to solve incidents of racist vandalism that took place last fall”

From EMU’s PR/Media folks comes “Eastern Michigan University Police working aggressively to solve incidents of racist vandalism that took place last fall.”  It’s a press release that details the various things that the EMU Police have been doing to try to track down the people who did the racist graffiti in the fall 2016 semester.

I suspect that the EMU Police and other authorities are in kind of a tough spot in trying to find who did this stuff because they are certainly under a lot of pressure to find who is responsible, but there probably aren’t a lot of good ways of finding out. They’re trying their best, but that still isn’t going to satisfy everyone.

Incidentally, the one thing that I’ve noticed as a very visible thing on campus that might or might not be related to this incident, I’m not sure: for some time now, there has been a sidewalk under construction that runs between the back of King Hall and the south side of the Marshall Building. The first major graffiti was on the wall of King in this out of the way courtyard that opens on to Marshall– that is, on the side of the building where this sidewalk is going in. Now, for all I know, this sidewalk has been in the plans for years. Still, it’s interesting that it is going in now.

“EMU is expanding online degree programs” with the help of “Academic Partnerships”

I was actually out and about today when I heard this story on Michigan Public Radio, “EMU is expanding online degree programs.” A quote:

Eastern Michigan University has entered into a 5 year agreement with Academic Partnerships, a private company, to offer four fully online degree programs.

According to Kevin Kuchera, EMU’s Vice President for Enrollment Management, the programs will increase educational opportunities for non-traditional students while generating revenue for the University.

The four programs are RN2BSN (Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing), Master’s in Educational Leadership, Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and Bachelor of General Studies (degree completion).

It is “interesting” to say the least that a) this is coming out at the very end of the semester, hours before the beginning of the Christmas break, and b) there was nothing about this from EMU about this; rather, the story broke from Michigan Public Radio. Anyway, a couple of thoughts and then I hope others have comments and such:

  • Personally, I have no problem with online programs/online courses in principle as long as they are done well. I’ve been teaching online for about ten years and I think it can be a legitimate way to learn and educate– with lots of caveats that I won’t get into right now. However, I worry a lot about the partnership that EMU has entered into with Academic Partnerships, which strikes me as the worst kind of “Edu-preneur,” interested in trying to suck as much money out of the education sector as possible. The Atlantic had a pretty good article about this, “How Companies Profit Off Education at Nonprofit Schools.” The short version is this is a sketchy arrangement, one where Academic Partnerships is likely to profit a lot more out of this deal than EMU, and also a deal where students generally are the losers/pawns.
  • I had heard some rumors about this coming about, but it sounds like these programs went through with pretty minimal faculty input. That’s kinda bad.
  • I’m not sure I worry much about the nursing program or the graduate programs in Education, but the Bachelor of General Studies degree has lots of potential for problems. This was actually something I wrote about on the old EMUTalk back here, which is when this “General Studies” degree was first floated. Back then I pointed out we already have a program in “Individualized Studies” at EMU, so I don’t know what this degree is supposed to be about. In any event, I’ve had students in the current “Individualized Studies” program– particularly in some of my online classes– and I have to say these students tend to be kind of misfit toys with a ton of credits (usually from three or four different community colleges and universities) who are trying to figure out a way to be a college graduate. I guess it’s good that we should try to help them out, but I’m not sure making this a degree program with lots of students in it.
  • My current work/book project is on Massive Online Open Courses, and I’ve done a fair amount of research looking back at the history of previous movements in distance education. Long-story short: higher education has been trying to come up with a way to bring education to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to college for a long time, and simultaneously to increase revenue. There were correspondence programs in the late 19th/early 20th century, courses by radio and television in the middle of the 20th century, and of course “traditional” online courses starting around the early 1990s. Sometimes, these delivery methods just became “normal” (correspondence and online courses), and sometimes these methods morphed into something else (courses by radio and TV became public radio and public TV).  But one thing has proven to be consistent with these earlier movements and with things like MOOCs: they didn’t “transform” education as we know it and they ended up not being nearly as profitable as the edu-preneurs promised and/or hoped.