Category Archives: Inside Higher Education

If this is the first you’re hearing of this, surprise!

I’m reposting an article from this morning’s (Thurs) Inside Higher Ed in full. And without further comment unless people want to discuss it. Click the link to the original if you want to follow all their internal links. Otherwise, happy reading!

Creditworthy in the Keystone State
August 23, 2012 – 3:00am

Pennsylvania’s regional public universities are gearing up to serve more adult students, and will use prior learning assessment and stackable credentials to help meet that anticipated demand.

Work force development is a priority for the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, in part because they are often the only public game in town. Many lack nearby community colleges, especially the universities in the state’s central and northern regions,  so the four-year system sports a healthy suite of associate degrees and one-year certificates, along with the standard fare of bachelor’s degrees.

“We offer the best of both worlds,” says Christopher Reber, executive dean of Clarion University’s Venango College campus.

Those academic programs attract large numbers of nontraditional students, for whom the potential to earn credits for their learning outside of the classroom can be a big draw. The system already does prior learning assessment, but plans to expand through a new partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). System officials expect students will seek and receive credits for learning on the job, from technical training programs, in the military or from other sources, including massive open online courses (MOOCs), according to John Cavanaugh, the system’s chancellor.

“We’re going to open it up to any kind of prior learning that people are bringing,” Cavanaugh says. However, he stresses that by working with CAEL, the system will be able to ensure that it issues credits for college-level learning that matches up with the system’s academic course offerings. “You’re still going to have to demonstrate that you’ve got the learning before that translates to credit.”

The Pennsylvania system will be perhaps the largest public university partner to sign on to Learning Counts, CAEL’s portfolio-based prior-learning service, an official at the council says. Through Learning Counts, students fork over $500 for an online course on how to put together a portfolio that collects and describes their prior learning. For an additional fee of $250, faculty experts review those submissions and can issue recommendations worth up to 12 credits.

However, not all colleges accept prior-learning recommendations, even if they come from CAEL, which is generally considered to be an industry leader. So the council has enlisted over 100 partner institutions that have agreed to defer to Learning Counts and issue full credit for successful portfolios. The Pennsylvania system is joining that group, Cavanaugh says.

Credit for MOOCs?

One reason many colleges are skittish about granting credits for prior learning is because to do so is to acknowledge that the academy doesn’t have a lock on college-level learning. Some faculty members also view the process warily, arguing that it can be an academically suspect money grab and a weak substitute for college.

Prior learning could also threaten professors’ jobs.

“It changes who generates the credits,” says Steve Hicks, an English professor at Loch Haven University and president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the system’s primary union. “Potentially there’s a job loss there.”

Hicks says that representatives from the faculty union met with system officials about Learning Counts and prior learning. While he says they were “concerned” about the plan, they have yet to take a position on it.

Cavanaugh and other administrators defend their approach, and say chief academic officers have been busy vetting how prior-learning credits will align with curriculums. Furthermore, Cavanaugh says the system has long granted credit to students who take College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests, which are administered by the College Board to measure college-level learning. So the portfolio approach isn’t such a stretch.

“The notion that this is credit for living is just not the case,” he says.

The system held lengthy discussions about whether it should grant credit for MOOCs, according to Cavanaugh. CAEL has predicted that many students will seek credit for MOOCs, and the council plans to include those courses in credit recommendations if students can demonstrate that they have received college-level learning. Eventually the system decided it was on board, as long as MOOC credit submissions receive the Learning Counts stamp.

“We fully expect to see people putting them in the portfolios,” says Cavanaugh.

Daniel Hurley praises the system’s plan to ramp up prior-learning assessment, and its proactive approach with new forms of online learning. Hurley, director of state relations and policy analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, says the system and other regional publics can play a leading role in prior learning, in part because they enroll many students who might benefit from the process.

The system is also not alone in helping community colleges on work force development. Hurley says that 42 percent of the association’s members issue two-year degrees. “It’s really about meeting demand.”

Up the Ladder

It’s a long way from Edinboro University to the nearest community college — like two hours.

The university is close to Erie, where county leaders have pushed hard for a new two-year college. But that idea tanked last year, after a saga described in an Education Sector report. So the university decided it had to step up its technical job training options. This fall Edinboro will launch a new associate degree in applied technology.

But Edinboro’s evolving approach is more ambitious than just a few isolated academic offerings, says Julie E. Wollman, the university’s president. It is working with technical trade schools, most of them small for-profits with ties to local industries, to help students get credit for previously earned technical certificates when they enroll at Edinboro.

Sometimes students arrive at the university years after having attended a trade school.

“A lot of people get a certificate at one of those places and go right to a job,” Wollman says.

To advance in their careers, even jobs on the floor of a manufacturing plant, they often need the sort of training only a college can provide. Edinboro treats the prior learning students bring from their jobs and technical trade certificates as the core of their major, Wollman says. And they can earn up to 27 prior learning credits. Then the university offers students classes that help them bolster their communication, analytical, business and mathematics skills.

“What they’re bringing is the major,” she says. “What we’re really providing is the general education.”

An hour down the road, Clarion’s Venango campus has developed similar ways for students to enroll with credits from their work experience. And both institutions are designing their sub-baccalaureate credentials to be stackable, meaning students can complete a certificate or associate degree, leave to take a job, and then seamlessly return to continue working toward a bachelor degree.

Reber calls the approach a “ladder” of credentials. To create credit pathways at Clarion, his campus has collaborated with several technical institutions and employers, including the Precision Manufacturing Institute and FirstEnergy Corporation.

Clarion is also introducing online degree completion programs, including an associate in industrial technology and a bachelor’s in technology leadership. The online coursework is particularly handy for adult students who work full time. And it’s not surprising that students might prefer to keep their jobs and enroll online, rather than attending Clarion as traditional students. Some of the Venango campus’s employer partners pay a guaranteed $60,000 salary to associate-degree holders from the university, and will cover tuition for employees who finish their bachelor’s degree.

For Venango and Clarion, as well as for other universities in the system, one benefit of work place partnerships is a boost to enrollment. Located in Oil City, the campus is surrounded by an aging population, and adult workers are generally conscientious students.

“It’s a win-win,” Reber says.


Filed under Access, APSCUF, Budget, Budget Cuts, Collective Bargaining, Corporate University, deliverology, Education reform, Inside Higher Education, MOOCs, on-line schools, PASSHE, Program elimination, Retrenchment, shared governance

Of academics, politics, free speech, and fishing

[WARNING: Partisan alert!  If you don’t believe the Republican party is more avidly squelching academic political activity than the Dems are, you won’t like some of these assertions….  –Seth]

If any of you haven’t yet been following the story out of Wisconsin of Professor William Cronon, you should.  An article in this morning’s (Mon 3/28) Inside Higher Ed provides a solid account.

Kevin Mahoney at the KUXchange does an excellent job of contextualizing the issue and explaining its relevance to our current situation here in PA.  He concludes:

Cronon’s case is important because i[t] indicates the length to which this new breed of Republican will go to ensure compliance and squash dissent.  One more reason these folks are going after tenure.  After all, the original purpose of tenure was to ensure that the government or an institution could not silence unpopular arguments.  It was a protection against the kind of tyranny we are seeing in Wisconsin.

Tom Corbett hasn’t directly named public unions or university faculty as enemies of the state in the way that the Walkerites in Wisconsin have, but his attack on our budget couldn’t be more clear evidence that he’s perfectly willing to destroy us.

Think about it this way; in the face of pretty strong response publicly against his PASSHE budget proposal, Corbett’s response has been (predictably) along the lines of, “Well, this was just an opening in what I know will be a negotiation.”

That would sound reasonable, except for one thing.  You should NEVER offer a proposal you’re not prepared to live with.  What would have happened, does the Governor think, had we not responded so quickly and strongly?  What would have happened if the citizens of PA had said, “OK, you’re right, Tom!  Let’s smash ’em up!”

Anyway, more germane to the Cronon case, what we’re seeing around the country right now is an all-out effort to squelch shared governance and academic participation in our national and state politics.  The attempts at suppression don’t just cross campus boundaries but sit squarely on both sides of the boundaries.

Therefore, as a practical matter, I very, very strongly recommend a couple of things–

1.  While the WCU policy on email/internet usage doesn’t specifically preclude using your WCU email for political purposes, it seems like a good idea not to–especially given that President Weisenstein made a point of saying so (and saying not to use WCU letterhead for correspondence with government officials) on his Budget Update page.

2.  Start an account with a commercial service; APSCUF will need you to have one anyway if you don’t already.  Otherwise, as we move into preparations for our contract expiration, you’ll be uninformed.  We simply won’t send out organizational messages or updates on negotiations to campus email addresses; this shouldn’t be news to anybody on either side :).  I recommend Gmail, for a bunch of reasons I can explain if you care.

In the end, I think the law is on Professor Cronon’s side, as it would be on ours should somebody come (metaphorically, I hope) knocking at my door to complain about this blog or my personal one.

But why tempt fate?  Or, as I wrote in an email exchange about Cronon with a colleague the other day, who the hell has time to fool with that kind of challenge when we’ve got actual work to do?


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Filed under Advocacy, APSCUF, Budget, Collective Bargaining, free speech, Inside Higher Education, Kutztown University, PASSHE, Tom Corbett, University of Wisconsin, West Chester University, William Cronon

The kind of Orwellian logic we’re up against

I know not all of you colleagues share my exact political affiliations/inclinations, so I’ll preemptively apologize for what I expect might be a somewhat partisan tone here…

From this morning’s (3/22) Inside Higher Education comes an article describing the Ohio Governor’s new plan to increase state university faculty teaching loads by one course every two years.  The idea, says Governor Kasich’s office, is to save (an unannounced and as of yet seemingly uncalculated amount of) money.

So what’s the problem here?  One course every two years isn’t that big a deal, right?

For someone like me, who was markedly less happy when I had reassign time for administrative work than I am when I teach a full load, the change isn’t a bad idea–IF it comes along with an acknowledgement that there’s a balance to be struck.  That is, you can’t expect faculty to teach more, and to research more, and to do more service, all without any more support or compensation.  Every aspect of the job will suffer if those demands are allowed to increase unchecked.

Further, according to the article, the proposal (as of now, and to be sure it still seems half-baked) will take very little account of faculty input; several Ohio AAUP reps and officers make the point that nobody in the Governor’s office has even begun to talking to faculty about how they might make this work.

And that’s where the Orwell button gets pushed…

Just a few weeks ago, a bill (originally SB5–if you want to read any of this news about it, that’s what I’d search for) passed and became law, that (among many other nasty provisions) redefines public university faculty as managers under the Yeshiva SupCt decision.  Briefly, the SupCt held that because faculty (the decision was limited to private university faculty–many of us have been wondering for years when this leap would happen) are involved in decision-making that effects the governance of their campuses, they’re legally doing management work and are therefore excluded from collective bargaining rights.

So are you starting to see the problem here?  Just a couple of weeks ago, OH public university faculty had so much influence over policy and governance that they’re managers.  Now, when the Governor wants to save a few (more) bucks on the backs of people who actually work for a living, he pushes a policy the direct effects of which squarely fall on the one group he has no intention of involving in the decision.

Huh?  Which one is it, Governor Kasich?  Either your faculty have management authority or they don’t.

The reason I’m talking about this here is that I won’t be the least bit surprised, if that provision of the OH law holds up to what I expect is an inevitable court battle, when a similar proposal comes to PA.  We need to be ready for it.  How will we respond?


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Filed under APSCUF, Collective Bargaining, Inside Higher Education, Ohio SB5, PASSHE, Yeshiva decision