Next week in California: a bumper crop of Forum interviews

EDUCAUSE logoNext week I’ll be in Anaheim, California, participating in the 2016 EDUCAUSE annual conference.  A lot will be happening, but I’d like to draw your attention to an unusual event I’m hosting.

On October 26 and 27 we’ll hold a special series of Future Trends Forum sessions.  No fewer than ten (10) guests will be involved, including some of the brightest lights in higher education and technology.  Since this is a Future Trends Forum event, every one will be on live Shindig videoconference, so you are all invited to participate, ask questions, make comments, and more.

Here’s the current schedule, with the roster of guests:

Wednesday, October 26th:
1:00 pm PST: Brian Gardner, Director of Academic Technologies at the Columbia University Business School
1:20 pm PST: Cliff Lynch, Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI)
1:40 pm PST: Allison Salisbury, Director of Higher Education, EdSurge
2:00 pm PST: Jonathan Blake Huer, Chief Design Officer, Skoolbo; Director of Emerging Technologies and Media Development, Ball State University
2:40 pm PST: Emory Craig, Director eLearning, The College of New Rochelle, and Maya Georgieva, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Digital Bodies – Immersive Learning.

Thursday, October 27th
1:00 pm PST: John O’Brien, President of EDUCAUSE
1:30 pm PST: Susan Grajek, Vice President of Data, Research and Analytics at EDUCAUSE
2:20 pm PST: Michael Berman, Vice President for Technology and Communication & CIO of California State University Channel Islands
2:40 pm PST: Casey Green, Founding Director of The Campus Computing Project

I plan on asking each about what they’re bringing to the conference, including some cutting-edge presentations.  I also hope to ask about their impressions of leading ideas and issues raised by participants they’re heard.  Above all, I’d like to get their thoughts on the future of higher education.

What would you like to ask them?  Ask some comments on this post.  You can also click here to RSVP for the event.

Anaheim, by topnach_72

I’d like to thank EDUCAUSE and EdSurge Higher Ed for their contributions to this event.  And I’m looking forward to the discussions!

(photo by topnach_72)

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Another campus sacrifices the queen: IPFW to cut programs, majors, departments

ipfw_logoBack on the queen sacrifice beat, I find another American campus intending to cut academic programs and perhaps faculty.  This time it’s Indiana University – Purdue University Fort Wayne, much more commonly referred to as IPFW.

After a recommendation process earlier this year and a state recommendation that IPFW be divided among two other local universities, campus administrators this week announced the upcoming closure of a series of majors.  Queen sacrifice readers will not be surprised to learn their identities, which include the humanities and teacher training:

Geology (BA & BS)
German Philosophy
Women’s Studies
Biology Pre-Dentistry
Chemistry Pre-Dentistry
Chemistry Pre-Medicine
Math Computing
Math Business
Math Statistics
Legal Studies
Biology Teaching
Chemistry Teaching
French Teaching
German Teaching
Spanish Teaching
Physics Teaching

In addition, some departments will be axed or fused over the next two years:

Departments or programs eliminated January 1, 2017
Women’s Studies
Departments merged July 1, 2017
Departments merged July 1, 2018
VPA and Fine Art

Why so many teacher training programs?  Is Indiana’s K-12 population shrinking, or is IPFW being outcompeted by other campuses?

Melissa Rasmussen reminds us that more cuts are likely to be announced:

Why is IPFW attempting a queen sacrifice now?  My readers will be utterly unsurprised to learn that steeply declining enrollment and tuition income are at work: Continue reading

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New data on student debt

TICAS logoHow much do students owe in college loans?  New data has just appeared from the Institute for College Access & Success (ICAS or TICAS) , and their report is essential, if unsurprising, reading for anyone interested in American post-secondary education.

Some details:

Debt continues to be widespread: “about seven in 10 (68%) college seniors who graduated from public and private nonprofit colleges in 2015 had student loan debt, a similar share as in 2014.”

The average amount of debt passed a milestone: “These borrowers owed an average of $30,100, up four percent from the 2014 average of $28,950.”  Yes!  We cracked 30K! USA USA USA

Defaults are still happening: “[a] record high 8.1 million federal student loan borrowers are mired in default”.  That’s about 2.5% of the entire population of the United States.

Debt varies strongly by state:

Statewide average debt levels for the Class of 2015 range from $18,850 to $36,100, and many of the same states appear at the high and low ends of the spectrum as in previous years. The share of graduates with debt ranges from 41 percent to 76 percent.

For example, compare the highest and lowest debt-holding state populations:

Highest and lowest debt-holding state populations

I’m not sure how this plays out according to red-blue state models.

For-profits are worse than publics and non-for-profit privates, but TICAS admits their for-profit data is weak, since those schools rarely shared such data.  Here’s the best they can find:

The most recent nationally representative data are for 2012 graduates, and they show that the vast majority from for-profit fouryear colleges (88%) took out student loans. These students graduated with an average of $39,950 in debt—43 percent more than 2012 graduates from other types of four-year colleges.

They’ve broken this out by individual states, too.  Some rich stuff therein.

So what’s not surprising?  This is more of the same, just ratcheted up a little worse.  Debt is widely held and rising.  Data isn’t that great, since no sector of higher ed is especially enthusiastic about sharing the results of financialization.

Seven years after the financial meltdown slammed into higher ed and shocked the nation into discussions about (among other things) college and university financing, nearly a decade after some ferment of reform and experimentation and “innovation”, we’ve gotten…


In other words, for American higher education institutions, for American public policy makers, for voters and politicians, for just about everyone except students, this is fine.


(thanks to Todd Bryant)

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Another campus in sharp decline

I haven’t been writing much about queen sacrifices or other problems in higher education financing for a while, mostly for time reasons.  Let me get back on track, and start with one Illinois campus.

Last spring I wrote about problems Chicago State University was having.  They laid off one third of their staff, sent pre-emptive layoff notices to all staff, and took steps to be able to lay off faculty.

So how are they doing this fall?  Not so good.

Enrollments were declining; now they’re plummeting.

[O]verall enrollment [is] down 25 percent over the past year and just 86 freshmen entering this fall.

The 86 freshmen enrolled counts full-time and part-time students. Chicago State has 3,578 students taking classes this fall, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday. That’s down from 7,362 in 2010.

For comparison’s sake, “In 2014 Chicago state enrolled 253 full-time, first-time freshmen. In 2010 it enrolled 523.”

Finances are… murky.  Inside Higher Ed says that “the university has not produced an up-to-date budget book since 2015” (!).  This summer CSU paid more than $2 million in severance for its mass staff layoffs, which is a major cost for the institution to bear right now.  Are there cash reserves?  How sound is the campus?

On top of this CSU’s board fired its president, awarding Calhoun a big golden parachute of $600,000, “double his annual salary [to get him] to leave immediately.” Some faculty and students protested the termination:

One local newspaper deems the payout hush money.

A sample of faculty attitudes towards the current crisis:

“It’s sort of like we’ve been shot and we’re lying on the sidewalk and nobody’s calling an ambulance,” said Robert Bionaz, an associate professor of history and president of the Chicago State chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100.

And: “That erratic, weaving vehicle you see in front of you is the #CSUclowncar. Until it gets pulled over, the university will never have a chance.”

And also: “Chicago State University faculty members want Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner to replace the entire board of trustees, something the governor says his team is investigating.”

More faculty attitudes can be found in this blog (which the university repeatedly tried to squelch) (remember blogs? aren’t they supposed to be dead?).

What lies ahead?  We can imagine a queen sacrifice, especially with crashingly low amounts of students.  Perhaps CSU will offer new programs to win more students.  Or the state will force in a new board, which could take other steps.


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What do Americans think about higher education? New Public Agenda research

What does the American public think about higher education?

Public Agenda has released some new polling data, and it’s well worth the time of any educator looking into public attitudes, especially for funding.  The results go against some stereotypes, and don’t line up with what academics think are problems and solutions.

To begin with, last month PA found that American belief in the necessity of higher ed for a successful life has declined compared to the past few years.  Indeed, more people think “there are many ways to succeed in today’s world without a college degree”.  See how this played out after the 2008 financial crash:


Why?  Partly because of the loan specter and the job market: “46 percent of Americans say college is a questionable investment due to high student loans and limited job opportunities.”

Two more datapoints show serious skepticism about American post-secondary institutions:

  • 69 percent say there are many people who are qualified but lack the opportunity to go to college.

  • 59 percent say colleges today are like most businesses and care mainly about the bottom line.

Access and cynicism.  Is this really how the majority of Americans view their colleges and universities?

There’s more.  Public Agenda followed up with questions about what causes or could solve these problems.  The biggest problems weren’t reductions in state funding, nor even odious “kids these days” finger-wagging at young people.  No, the most popular culprit is… high school:


The solutions we prefer tend to be job-focused.  Read the whole thing for more.

A few thoughts:

  1. Public higher ed is doing a lousy job of convincing Americans to support us, either financially or conceptually.
  2. It’s interesting to contrast faculty who think higher ed is too job-focused with a population that thinks we aren’t job-focused enough.
  3. I’ll say it again.  I’m glad that bashing kids these days (i.e., Boomers acting with a supreme lack of irony awareness) is more smoke than fire.
  4. People would rather blame high schools than families or students for preparation issues.
  5. It’s interesting to compare with this early 2015 Gallup poll or this Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll one from last October.

What do you think?

(thank to George Lorenzo‘s excellent newsletter)

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Genetic engineering, augmented reality, and the extractive economy: starting off _Company Town_

Last week a bunch of you decided to read Company Town in our near-future science fiction online book club.  Here’s a post for talking about the novel’s first third.

Ashby Company TownFirst I’ll offer a quick summary of the plot so far. Next I’ll add observations about Ashby’s world. Last will come miscellaneous literacy critical notes.

I: The story so far

Holding back on spoilers: Go Jung-Hwa is a bodyguard working in a community built on top of an old oil extraction platform ironically named New Arcadia.  She begins as muscle to protect prostitutes, then is hired to protect a very wealthy man’s favorite son, Joel.

Hwa is marked internally and externally by Sturge-Weber Syndrome , which renders her resentful and conventionally unattractive.  She is also unusual in not carrying technological implants, unlike most other people

Daniel Siofra is Hwa’s minder, a corporate functionary and the result of biologically engineering.

II: The world of Company Town

New Arcadia is the titular company town, a community dominated by one major employer and legally part of eastern Canada.  There’s at least some active democracy, if not Infomocracy level, as Ashby tells us that the population once voted on the major decision to build a new platform (160).  Yet the Lynch corporation, which just bought the place, employs Daniel in an “Urban Tactics Department”, where he undemocratically “change[s] the moods of cities” (295).  Lynch may also already own the currency (756): a company town indeed.

It’s a grungy and grim world.  Many characters are poor and unhappy, working by selling their bodies.  There’s a sense of possibilities squandered.  Hwa describes one attractive bit of technology is if “[i]t… came from someone else’s future” (106), because the future they actually live in is sad.  There is some form of social safety net, at least in name, as people have Social Insurance Numbers (673).  Class divides block some people from winning genetic advantages for their children and themselves (1018).

This near-future world offers digital technologies we’ve come to expect from recent science fiction.  People have mobile devices (watches, 31) which they use for photographs, messages, and video, plus being advertised at by canny AIs, Minority Report-style (739).  They see each other through filters which add and subtract content, like a Mind Your Manners layer (112).  Lynch runs a city-wide management software platform, Prefect, which some users can access (814). Haptics are in play (87).  Each person has a “halo” of medical (and maybe other) information (735).

Buildings can be made with “biocrete and healing polymers” (171) or programmable matter (234) and “designed by algorithm” (177).  People can use “nano-mist” to some unclear effect (188).  Botflies has observe people and objects (727).  Self-driving cars are the norm (837, 901).  Fusion power might (still) be just around the corner (1071).

Biological technologies are very powerful.  Engineering children is widespread:

They had the uniform builds of state-sponsored genetic tailoring… (95)

Hwa stared at the uniform perfection of her fellow students.  They were all mainstream: mainstream height, mainstream weight, mainstream ability, mainstream health.  Techically editing skin color or hair texture qualified as a kind of hate crime… (1013)

Most people have implants, called “stimplants” (249). Daniel has “programmable tissues” (262).  Joel has “an antianxiety implant” (1202).

Education seems decent at primary and secondary levels, but college is inaccessible .

“I want to go to university.”

Hwa winced.  “Sounds expensive.” (358)

Zachariah Lynch, Joel’s father and corporate leaders, has a vision of a post-Singularity future attempting to assassinate his son. It’s not clear at this point if he’s delusional or correct, but his explanation of how best to do time travel into the past is interesting (599-635).  Lynch sees the human race as “coming to an end”, mostly due to advances in biological technologies (635); is this apocalyptic fear going to ultimately structure the novel?  Note the reference to Roko’s Basilisk. Continue reading

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Which guests would you like to see on the Future Trends Forum?

We’re been running the Future Trends Forum for almost a year, now (gulp). We’ve had splendid guests.

The question I’m asking now is: who should we invite next?  Which genius or innovator or thought leader or troublemaker should we haul up on the Shindig stage?

Forum discussion: Anya K. and Rachel M.

We do have guests lined up over the next few months. The week after next we’re doing a series of Forum discussions at the EDUCAUSE conference. I’ll post an announcement about that soon. And there are various awesome people slotted in from November through January.

But I’d like to know who else you’d like to see. The comment box is open!

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