The shock of the old: how Americans actually got election news in 2016

Much discussion about the 2016 American presidential election touched on the role of digital technologies.  Social media and web-based fake news are popular (if partial) explanations of Trump’s victory.  Yet if a new Pew study is right, those sources only played a marginal role.

Instead, the most popular way Americans learned about the election was… television.

Yes, that great 20th-century medium, now the purveyor of American mock “news”, remains our main communication node.

Let me pull out the study’s most interesting parts.

First, to Pew’s main claim.  When asked by pollsters, respondents from both major political parties preferred television.  There are some differences between Trump and Clinton supporters, unsurprisingly:

election-news-sources_0-03_pewNearly one-in-ten of both Trump (7%) and Clinton (8%) voters said Facebook was where they got most of their news about the campaign…

Not even 10% used Facebook.  In contrast,

When voters were asked to write in their “main source” for election news, four-in-ten Trump voters named Fox News. The next most-common main source among Trump voters, CNN, was named by only 8% of his voters.

Clinton voters, however, did not coalesce around any one source. CNN was named more than any other, but at 18% had nowhere near the dominance that Fox News had among Trump voters. Instead, the choices of Clinton voters were more spread out. MSNBC, Facebook, local television news, NPR, ABC, The New York Times and CBS were all named by between 5% and 9% of her voters.

The old media are back! they never died!  Talk about the shock of the old (credit for phrase goes to David Edgerton).  It’s not just the technology, but the specific providers as well:

The “main news sources” mentioned by at least 3% of each voting group stand out in another way: they consist entirely of longstanding national news brands – cable and broadcast TV, newspapers, radio – along with local media and Facebook.

Unsurprisingly, Fox was the most popular channel for Republicans.

Second, if we rewind history a little bit further, Pew found some differences between news media habits of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters.  Clinton voters preferred tv more than their opponents, who tended to use online resources somewhat more:

Over half of Democratic voters who had supported Clinton in the primaries (56%) got most of their general election news from television. But this falls to 37% among Democrats who had supported someone else in the primaries. Instead, these Democrats were more likely to say they got most of their general election news from either news websites or social networking sites (48%, compared with 28% of Clinton-supporting Democrats)

Reading this, I thought I recognized an echo of the age-media habit correlation.  Pew anticipated me:

These differences in media use between the primary supporters of Clinton and those of other Democratic candidates are consistent with the age profiles of both groups of supporters. On average, Clinton’s primary backers were older than Democratic voters who backed Bernie Sanders, and – on the whole – older Americans are more likely than younger Americans to turn to television and print sources as their main sources of news.

Does this suggest Bernie backers were – are – the wave of the future?  It seems so, if the social trends linking age and media use continue.  In the meantime, tv is definitely the wave of the present.

Posted in politics, technology | Tagged | 1 Comment

Reading _Paying the Price_: a plan

Now that the book club has a new title to read – Sara Goldrick-Rab’s Paying the Price – how shall we go about reading and discussing it?

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American DreamOver the years my practice has been to publish a plan on this blog, including discussion venues and a timeline.  That seems to work so far, most spectacularly for the Horton/Freire reading, so let’s go with it and build a little more.

Discussion venues

First, on this blog I’ll publish a series of weekly posts.  Each post will contain notes and questions for that week’s chunk of reading.  Readers can comment on the post. And I may add other posts as we go, depending on what themes come up and what stuff other people create. All posts for this reading are organized by the same tag, payingtheprice, so you can find them all at once.

Second, on Twitter we can chat using the hashtag #payingtheprice.  It’s not a unique tag so far, alas, but it seems like references to this book are already leading, and our conversation should race ahead.  I’m happy to go with another (shorter) tag, too, if there is one.

Third, people with their own blogs can post about their reading.  Links back here would be appreciated.

Fourth, I’ve set up a Google Doc for notes and more discussions.  Wiki-style, it’s ours to do whatever we want with.  Let me know if you have issues getting to or using it.

Fifth, professor Goldrick-Rab kindly offered to synchronously video chat with us.  I’m working on setting that up, possibly as a Future Trends Forum session.


I’d like to shoot for about two chapters per week.  That sounds like sixty pages at a time, roughly.  And starting next week, since the hardcover is in some bookstores and libraries, and being shipped by Amazon, while the ebook is a quick download.

How does this sound?  Too soon, too late to start?  Too fast, too slow a reading pace?

January 23 – Introduction and 1: Possible Lives.

January 30 – 2: The Cost and Price of a College Education and 3: Who Gets Pell?

February 6 – 4: Making Ends Meet and 5: On Their Own.

February 13 – 6:Family Matters and 7: Making the Grade.

February 20 – 8: City of Broken Dreams and 9: Getting to Graduation

February 27 – 10: Making College Affordable and the two appendixes.


Professor Goldrick-rab has a discussion guide for the book on her website.  The Wikipedia page on her has good background and plenty of links.  Of course she’s active on Twitter.

There’s a rich C-SPAN interview with the author (thanks to Ilene Frank).  She was also on the Daily Show.

So, grab your e- or print book and start learning about just how fouled up is the system whereby Americans pay for higher education.  And get ready to comment.

PS: happy birthday, author!

Posted in readings | Tagged | 2 Comments

Crowdfunding my future of education work in 2017

How can we support independent work in education?  How can futures work sustain itself?

To answer these questions personally, I’m launching a new project today.  It’s an effort to support the swarm of media I currently make.  To sustain my future of education production, there is now a Patreon site.

Bryan's Patreon page header

Here’s what’s going on.

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, the sheer amount of stuff I’m producing has grown into a part-time job, between this blog, the FTTE report, the Future Trends Forum, the online book club, and a possible podcast.  Some days this actually is a full time job.

I also have a full time job, as a speaker, consultant, and writer.  My media production feeds into that, which is great, but does not sustain itself.  Remember that I am an independent.  No company backs me.  I’m not affiliated with any educational institution.   There’s no family fortune or hidden investment.  My wife and I, while sending two children to college and dealing with medical bills, are entirely on our own.

I’m now facing the point where I could cut back on those fun, exciting projects in order to devote more time to BAC’s money-making services.

I don’t want to do that.  I *love* the Forum, the book club, FTTE, and this blog.  I really want to kick off a podcast.

So when I asked for suggestions, answers flooded back, both here and through other venues (Twitter, email, phone, in person, etc.).  A leading response was to seek sponsorship.  FTTE already has one sponsor, a very kind New York nonprofit.  I have approached businesses, nonprofits, and foundations. But much more is needed.

Hence Patreon.  I picked this because it was about supporting a person’s creative work, which is apposite in this case.  I considered Kickstarter, but felt it too bound up to time-limited projects, whereas I hope to keep my projects running indefinitely.

I set up my Patreon site accordingly.  You can see a few different parts of it:

  1. Funding levels tied to projects.  The first funding goal keeps the lights on at this blog.  The second maintains FTTE.  The third, the Forum.  The fourth powers a podcast.  The fifth and especially the ultimate sixth levels lead to doing this work full time.
  2. A content feed.  Yes, I’ll share and add content to the site, reflecting my ongoing work.
  3. Rewards tied to donations.  As per usual crowdfunding practices, if you give a certain amount, I do something good in return.  That means credits, Q+A, video events – see the site’s right column.  I’ll take care of every contributor.

patronsThis is an experiment.  I’ve never run one of these before, although I’ve studied the crowdfunding movement since it began, and contributed to, and benefitted from, various social funding efforts.  I’m curious (among other things) to see how changing macroeconomics shapes how people participate – for example, will increasing inequality mean fewer or more small donations?  Where will support come from geographically?   Can the site support community, or will that reside in other venues?

I’ll report back regularly on the Patreon site (center column) as to how things are going.  At year’s end, I’ll look back and shudder from Trump’s presidency and assess how the project has gone through a post or several here, and perhaps before that.

Think of this Patreon as a version of the American National Public Radio paradigm.  These digital projects are one big creative effort, and I couldn’t do it without listeners – and readers – and viewers – and questioners – and contributors like you.  Please join me.

Posted in personal | Tagged | 9 Comments

Our next book club reading: Paying the Price, by Sara Goldrick-Rab

What’s next for our online book club?

After much discussion and many responses following my query, I have decided on…

Sara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American DreamSara Goldrick-Rab, Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream (publisher; Amazon).  This is a new, exciting, and important book for higher education.

From the book’s description:

One of the most sustained and vigorous public debates today is about the value—and, crucially, the price—of college. But an unspoken, outdated assumption underlies all sides of this debate: if a young person works hard enough, they’ll be able to get a college degree and be on the path to a good life.

That’s simply not true anymore, says Sara Goldrick-Rab, and with Paying the Price, she shows in damning detail exactly why. Quite simply, college is far too expensive for many people today, and the confusing mix of federal, state, institutional, and private financial aid leaves countless students without the resources they need to pay for it. Drawing on an unprecedented study of 3,000 young adults who entered public colleges and universities in Wisconsin in 2008 with the support of federal aid and Pell Grants, Goldrick-Rab reveals the devastating effect of these shortfalls.

The book’s subject connects with many themes that we’ve discussed on this blog, on the Future Trends Forum, and through the FTTE report.

Additionally, the author is happy to communicate with us as we read:

So let’s track down copies.  I’m downloading the Kindle version and asking the local public library to order one for their collection.

I’ll come up with a reading schedule shortly.  Where would you like to discuss Paying the Price: Twitter, this blog, your blog, a  Google Doc, or…?

Happy reading, all!

Posted in readings | Tagged | 22 Comments

American higher ed enrollment declines, again

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center logoThe total number of students enrolled in American colleges and universities declined in fall 2016, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

I should say: declined again, because as my readers know, higher education enrollment has been sliding down without a break since 2013.

Let’s break the report down by key trends.  And I apologize for catching this story a few weeks after the publication appeared.

According to the NSCRC the total number of students taking classes in US postsecondary institutions was 19,010,459.  That’s down -1.4% from fall 2015’s 19,280,473, while that was down -1.7% from 2014’s 19,619,773.  Corrected for duplication (students enrolled in multiple institutions) last fall’s numbers shrink a little further, down to 18,663,617.

Enrollments from 2013-2016

By sector: enrollment especially declined in community colleges and for-profits.  Four year private colleges and universities saw a slight drop.  Four year public institutions alone saw growth, and that was very small:

enrollments by sector

The decline was all in undergraduate schools.  Grad programs, numerically much smaller, actually grew a little, reaching 2,712,693, a 1.5% rise from 2015’s 2,672,738.

Gender: women continue to outnumber men, 10,867,311 to 8,143,148.

Academic programs: the leading majors for undergrads at four-year campuses were Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Liberal Arts and Sciences; General Studies and Humanities, (includes undeclared); Health Professions and Related Programs; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Engineering.  Community colleges are similar, but with some differences in ranking and selection: Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities, (includes undeclared); Health Professions and Related Programs ; Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support; Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, Firefighting, and Related Protective Services; Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services.

What does this mean for higher education?

  1. For-profits are continuing to collapse.  It’s not clear where those students are going, but other sectors don’t seem to be attracting them.
  2. Tuition-dependent institutions – i.e., just about everybody – are seeing their market shrink.  We should therefore expect increased competition and more resistance to collaboration.  Increased raiding of other countries for students is also likely.
  3. Watch those majors carefully.  That’s where resources are likeliest to flow.  Queen sacrifices should resume.
  4. Will campuses spend more on instruction or on support staff?  It depends on which they see as more effective in winning students from this ever-dwindling pool.
  5. Will state and federal politicians interpret this half-decade decline as a sign that higher ed  is less powerful politically?  Is the drop also ammunition for eroding or changing up federal support, while continuing to cut state funding?
Posted in research topics | 8 Comments

The Future Trends Forum leaps into 2017

After a holiday break (and nice online party) the Future Trends Forum is roaring back for the new year.

First, a glance back.  The Forum launched on February 11th, 2016, almost one year ago, with Audrey Watters as our first guest.   We started from scratch, without any name recognition, media partners, or institutional connections.  From that initial point, we went on to conduct forty-three (43) Forum sessions through 2016.   52 guests have appeared.  For the audience, more than 1,320 people have participated. There are now forty-seven (47) recordings on YouTube.


Forum stalwarts George Station and Amy Collier, plus a horde of participants.

Plenty of developments and experiments have emerged over the past 11 months.  We’ve piloted live sessions, for example, held at important conferences, where Christopher Downs has done terrific production work making everything work.  I’ve tried having myself as sole host-guest for several Fora, connecting the Forum to the FTTE report.  We’ve had in-person meetups and meals.  We’ve experimented with breaks and multi-day events.  Twitter has become a serious venue for live and asynchronous discussion (hashtag #FTTE).  Reporters have covered Forum sessions, and I’ve published articles based on themes that surfaces over the year.  We had a fun online party at the year’s end.

When I write “we” please know that this is a communal effort.  For one, the Shindig staff have been splendid in making this all work, from gently helping participants with technical issues to generously guiding me through multiple bandwidth challenges.  For another – there is a Forum community!  It didn’t exist in January 2016, and now is an energetic, kind, smart, challenging, and engaged group of wonderful folks.  I’m honored to connect with them – you – all.

Kristen Eshleman and Hari Kumar

While the Forum’s center of gravity has been the United States, participation and scope have been international.  From guests to topics to my locations to participants, we’re aimed at the world.  Here’s a quick visualization:

Future Trends Forum around the world. Some locations approximate. Not weighed by numbers.

Blue-green is where participants sign in from. Yellow is my various locations.

All of this has been in the open.  Every step of the way I’ve shared information about the Forum, from technological details to news about guests to emergent topics.  Shindig staff recorded each session, and I’ve uploaded them to YouTube, bandwidth permitting.  Anyone with a web browser and good enough internet connection has been able to participate, especially as we’ve plentifully announced each Forum event.

Now it’s 2017.  What’s next?  Plenty. Continue reading

Posted in Future Trends Forum, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

How academia adjunctified faculty and mainstreamed the queen sacrifice

A new Education Dive article offers a fascinating datapoint about queen sacrifices.  It’s actually focused on two recent American Institutes for Research reports on the economic impact of adjunctification, which are very useful, but the Dive’s conclusion is remarkable.  Needless to say, the combined reports don’t tell a happy tale about American higher education.

To begin with, the AIR studies (“The Shifting Academic Workforce” and “Cost Savings or Cost Shifting?”) outline the current status of part-time faculty.  They are, as some of us have been repeating, the leading population of American instructors:

Between 2003 and 2013, the share of all faculty who were contingent increased from:

  • 45 to 62 percent at public bachelor’s degree-granting institutions,

  • 52 to 60 percent at private bachelor’s-granting schools,

  • 44 to 50 percent at public research universities and

  • 80 to 83 percent at community colleges.

Remember that this is a historical shift, a clear and steady reduction of tenure from the mid-20th-century.

Looked at from an economics perspective, reducing the number of full-time, tenure-track faculty in favor of part-time, benefit-less adjuncts should reduce the amount a campus spends on instruction: “those institutions doing the most shifting to part-time faculty have been successful in controlling E&R [education and related] costs”.  After all, salaries for adjuncts are far lower than those paid to tenure-track faculty, and on top of that they usually don’t receive benefits, which can be very costly. So what happens to the money institutions save by reducing faculty compensation?

It tends to flow away from instructional spending.  Let me rephrase that: all too often, an institution’s financial savings by shifting its faculty off the tenure track doesn’t go to improving teaching.

How this happens depends on the type of campus.  For instance, “[p]ublic four-year institutions appeared to use savings in instructional costs to increase expenditures on administration and maintenance.”  So state schools cut spending on faculty and moved the freed-up funds to pay for building upkeep and on non-teaching staff.

Remember that “administration” means something very broad in higher education, as I’ve noted before.  One AIR report takes care to explain:

Many of the new professional positions added by colleges and universities in the past decade are related to student services, which includes a wide-ranging set of activities, such as recruitment, admissions, financial aid, registrars, student counseling, student organizations, and athletics. Because of the broad scope of student services, it is unclear what specific types of services these student support staff provide and, consequently, whether these new positions represent reasonable investments in directly supporting student success or unnecessary “administrative bloat.”

In other words, some colleges and universities use adjunctification to drain money from faculty compensation and apply it to this growing constellation of non-teaching-focused student services sector.  This is a good example of what critics mean when they charge academic with “administrative bloat”.

So much for state schools.  How does adjunctifying play out in the budgets of liberal arts colleges and community colleges?  In contrast, they simply cut:

In contrast, private four-year and public two-year institutions showed little sign of cost shifting, reporting not only at changes or declines in instructional spending but also limited growth or declines in administration and maintenance expenditures.

Austerity, in other words.

One force powering this pattern is rising benefits costs.  The AIR reports suggest that many campuses cut faculty spending to offset those bennies given to tenure-track faculty and administrators. “[N]onfaculty costs—in particular, costs related to benefits—largely served to limit the scope of these savings.”  Turned around, rising benefit costs for those actually receiving benefits is pushing campuses to shunt faculty off the tenure track.  The two-tier system is really clear at this point.

There are exceptions to the preceding behaviors.  A small group of American campuses did not adjunctify their faculty, and at a cost:

those institutions with little to no growth in the part-time faculty share preserved spending on instruction, raising costs by 8% between 2003 and 2013, but cut back on administration and maintenance spending by -6%.

Now, in reaction to these studies, Jarrett Carter makes the following recommendation:

For most campus leaders, the smartest approach to managing costs is determining which programs are underperforming in enrollment, grant-making and research, and engaging faculty in the process of assessing programs and urging reforms to save them from being cut or reorganized.

Carter is very canny here.  He recognizes that the queen sacrifice gambit, a/k/a academic program prioritization, is in play across American higher education, for some of the same reasons that drive schools into transforming faculty from tenured professors to part-timers.  And he urges us to fight back, “to save” programs.

Note that Carter isn’t speaking of a handful of suffering campuses, but of higher ed as a whole.  Like adjunctification, the queen sacrifice is going mainstream.

As I keep repeating, the economic pressures on American higher education are ferocious.  They have transformed colleges and universities in powerful ways, and will continue to do so.

(thanks to Steven Bragaw on Twitter)

Posted in research topics | Tagged | Leave a comment