The Faculty, Instructional, and Curricular Environment
A number of national trends relate to the work life of faculty, the curriculum, instructional practice, and the technological environment.
An article in the June 12, 1998 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education draws attention to a national trend of a rise in the proportion of non-tenure-track and part-time faculty members. The percent of non-tenure track professors nationally has risen from 19% in 1975 to 28% in 1995 according to an AAUP study cited. While faculty are concerned about academic freedom and job security issues, administrators note the need to control costs and ensure flexibility.
In a series of articles concerning the possible future of American higher education in 2015 in the November 25, 2005 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education , an article about the future of tenure presents a scenario where financial pressures have caused more constrained institutional resources to be spent on student amenities in order to boost enrollments, with one result being that there is ever greater reliance on non-tenure-track and part-time instructors. This may lead to less faculty participation in scholarship, service, governance, and curriculum development. It may also cause a career in academe to become less attractive to women and persons of color.
The future scenarios presented in the series of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education also offered the following: a worsening economy has gutted state and university budgets, exacerbated pressure for improved sponsored research, and forced institutions into contracts with industry that call academic freedom into question.
A recent report sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the American Association of Community Colleges, the American Council on Education, the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities, and seven state higher education systems and entitled " Facing Change: Building the Faculty of the Future " recommends that part-time faculty be paid at a rate equivalent to that of full-time faculty and that they be evaluated regularly and given opportunities for advancement. Among the more controversial additional recommendations are that every tenure-granting institution should hold post-tenure reviews and that sabbaticals and their results should be carefully monitored.
Lifelong learning, non-degree instruction has grown considerably over the last few years at universities across the nation, according to an article in the February 19, 1999 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education . These activities often involve partnerships with external organizations and services to non-traditional students and can be a source of considerable revenue. The SCUP Trends (March 2005, p. 6) newsletter offers the following thoughts:
The desire for continuing education, including degree programs, is likely to keep growing over the next decade and beyond. Both work-related and
- personal interest courses will be in demand. Demands for continuing education by professional and other skilled groups will likely increase as more adults choose these careers. Insurance and legal risks might also push professionals to needing additional educational certification. Adults are often better served by different classroom and pedagogical arrangements. Can four-year institutions be as flexible as two-years have proved to be?
An article in the March-April 1999 edition of Change magazine highlights the increased popularity of post baccalaureate certificates. The certificates serve as a non-degree method of providing continuing education and training and a way of certifying workplace competencies. Growth in certificate programs in occurring most strongly in the business and health care areas. Programs are offered by both traditional universities and for-profit agencies and they increasingly utilize distance learning technologies.
The October 2000 and November 1999 issues of University Business and the May 21, 1999 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education report on the increased emphasis being given to Master’s Degree programs by many universities. These new, refocused Master’s programs provide increased enrollment and revenue for institutions and a means of enhancing the career prospects and earnings potential of students. The article in the October 2000 issue of University Business highlights a new multiuniversity program designed to provide practical, professionally-oriented Master's degrees in science disciplines to prepare scientifically skilled employees for the private sector.
An October 1999 report from the American Council on Education , "To Touch the Future: Transforming the Way Teachers Are Taught," urges colleges and universities to either make teacher education a top priority or get out of the business of training teachers.
Increasing numbers of public colleges and universities are beginning to offer the following contracts to freshmen: those who meet with advisers, complete a minimum number of credit hours each semester, and do not deviate from their academic plans are guaranteed the ability to graduate in four years or the institution pays for a fifth year. The contract is being used as a marketing tool as well as a way to avoid punishment from state governments for poor graduation rates, according to a December 11, 1998 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education .
An article in the February 6, 2004 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education notes that as enrollments are increasing and resources are shrinking in many areas of the country, institutions are focusing upon graduating students more quickly. Texas has approved a program where the state will pay off loans of some students who graduate promptly. The California State University system has adopted a plan that will standardize the number of credit hours required in each major and has also stiffened requirements for transfer students so that they will take fewer courses after they transfer. Institutions in Pennsylvania have changed their tuition structure to discourage students for registering for a large number of courses and then dropping one or more, which blocks access for other students.
John Gardner, in an article in the March-April 1999 issue of About Campus as well as in an April teleconference, highlights the need to provide greater attention to and enriched experiences for college seniors. He lists current widespread dysfunctional practices with graduating seniors including charging them for caps and gowns, providing insufficient courses to ensure timely graduation, evicting seniors from residence halls on graduation day, providing inadequate and impersonal commencement ceremonies, and charging graduates for admission into the alumni association. He provides several recommendations for improving the "senior year experience" including instituting mandatory meaningful capstone courses, paying special attention to celebrations, critically evaluating institutional career services, improving transition services for students attending graduate school, creating greater linkages with potential employers, and including senior year experiences in assessment efforts.
Internships are becoming more popular and more widely available according to a report in the June 22, 1998 edition of Newsweek . Internships can provide accessibility to potential employers and can result in higher starting salaries for students, while they provide a low-cost way for employers to evaluate potential workers. Feedback about students’ success in internship experiences may also contribute to assessment efforts. An article in the June 1999 issue of University Business discusses the growing popularity of cooperative education. Co-ops allow students to alternate between periods of study and periods of paid, career-related employment. Co-ops appeal to students because they allow them to earn money, to make post-graduation contacts, and to make connections with classroom learning. They appeal to employers seeking well-prepared and motivated workers during a period of labor shortages. Co-ops serve as a recruitment and retention tool for academic programs and also allow them to assess the adequacy of their students preparation and learn about employers’ needs.
Enrollment "swirling," the practice of students attending multiple institutions, often simultaneously, as dictated by convenience, quality, and cost, is a growing practice in Ohio and nationwide. This has been facilitated by an increase in distance learning opportunities. A January 2006 report by the Ohio Learning Network proclaims that Ohio's largest campus may be its least visible one? as approximately 45,000 students in the state completed e-courses in the fall 2004 semester. Forty- nine Ohio institutions currently offer 155 degrees and certificates and 3,200 courses on-line.
Anthony Carnevale, Vice President of Educational Testing Service, notes in the May-June 1998 issue of University Business that 54% of college graduates will ultimately find employment in business offices. The "office economy" represents 41% of all U.S. employment. Over the last twenty years it was responsible for nearly 2/3 of the 26 million new jobs created. Total office jobs will grow by 4.4 million between now and 2005. The average earnings of office workers were 47% higher than those of employees of all other sectors of the economy in 1995. Carnevale says that office workers need critical communication, thinking, and interpersonal skills. He points out that while this suggests that liberal arts majors should do well in the office economy, this is not the case: the average business major earns 1 ½ times what the average liberal arts major does over the course of his or her career. While the liberal arts curriculum may be as good or better than the business curriculum for imparting critical skills, business graduates tend to acquire more access to information, technology, and experience. Carnevale suggests access to internships, cooperative education, and a few basic business courses for all undergraduates, especially those in the liberal arts.
A mismatch exists between the knowledge and skills of many college graduates and the competencies needed by employers, according to an article in the April 1999 edition of University Business. Research is highlighted showing that recent college graduates and their employers agree that they are strong in communication and "self-management" (solving problems, keeping up to date, functioning under stress), but weak in managing people and tasks and in "mobilizing innovation and change" (adapting to new situations, envisioning the future). The article notes that basic skills are mostly not taught in college; successful students learn these skills during the course of their enrollment. The authors propose several strategies to strengthen the development of critical competencies: curricular reform, transition and interdisciplinary courses, and experiential and service learning. Assessment is cited as the key to improving competencies.
Trends in Higher Education published by the Society for College and University Planning (July 2005, p. 6) notes that: “Research in an array of institutions has demonstrated that appropriately integrating information technology into large-enrollment, introductory courses can increase learning, retention, and access while reducing costs.”
A series of articles in the January 30, 2004 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights ten challenges for information technology in higher education over the next ten years. Institutions will need to deploy collaboration software that allows students, faculty, and staff to locate one another and to perform tasks such as exchanging instant messages, viewing and revising papers, sharing instrument data, and holding video conferences. Colleges and universities will need to develop much more wireless bandwidth and reliability as they are called upon to offer both telephone and video service over wireless networks. The substantial increase in distance education enrollments is expected to continue; many institutions may start buying courses from one another and from outside vendors and some may specialize in specific disciplinary areas. Fundraising efforts will also rely much more upon information technology as they research prospects and manage their activities. Security threats will continue to worsen. Institutions will need to develop ways to archive a growing volume of multimedia digital files and to ensure access to them. Intellectual property issues will gain in importance.
Regional employers, at presentations at a Career Center planning retreat in January 2006 and at the chairs and directors professional development retreat in August 2006, both discussed the need for BGSU to significantly increase its activity in internships and cooperative education as well as to increase career services to alumni.
The April 2007 edition of NACUBO's Business Officer magazine discussed the growing pressure from students on institutions to increase their environmental sustainability efforts within campus operations.
The ACT National Curriculum Survey for 2005-2006 highlights differences in curricular priorities for high school students between high school teachers and college professors. Teachers tended to prioritize advanced content while college faculty members focused more on an understanding of fundamental skills.
The Association of American Colleges and Universities' Liberal Education and America's promise project issued a report in 2007, College Learning for the New Global Century, which found that students should prepare for dealing with the challenges of the Twenty-First century by gaining knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world, intellectual and practical skills (inquiry and analysis, critical and creative thinking, written and oral communication, quantitative literacy, information literacy, teamwork and problem solving), the capacity for personal and social responsibility (civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge and competence, ethical reasoning and action, and foundations and skills for lifelong learning), and integrative/applied learning.