Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I'm reading by Andrew Rosen, chairman and CEO of Kaplan, etc. See . He points out that many institutions are set up for elite, traditional-age students. He has it in for fancy buildings and posh accommodations as misuse of funds better spent elsewhere. That argument pains me. I retired from a campus that was a wasteland when I arrived in 1974. University of South Florida's Tampa campus started out as a large swath of land with a few discouraged-looking 1960's buildings. There was no landscaping to speak of. Just a couple of images...

Aerial view of the campus from 1960.

John and Grace Allen Administration Building 1960

There were more buildings by the time I got to campus in 1974, but most buildings were pale, slightly yellow-ish, dreary-looking... beige... The new library was opened to users in 1975 - and this recent photo from a bomb scare makes you wonder if the motive could be bringing down the uninspiring building itself. When they put up the Communications and Information Sciences Building that has just a bit of oomph, it was so unexpected, that some of us thought that they must have made a mistake and dropped the building on the wrong campus.

University of South Florida's Tampa Campus needed some building up! Construction has continued through tough economic times for higher education funding. Why? I remember being told that the construction industry is a beneficiary of state contracts. The construction industry lobbies for funding for building projects. (It might be hard to remember, but there was a bad patch for higher education in Florida around 1980. There was a year in there when the library bought no new books and cancelled many journal subscriptions and we brought our own pencils and pens because there was no supply money. Hard economic times are not new to higher education - at least not in Florida! )

This talk about aspirations and fancy buildings is going on here in Florida. There's an interesting political back and forth going on over architecture at the USF Polytechnic campus. USF Polytechnic does have aspirations to establish itself as a separate university. Big dreams include a contract with noted architect Santiago Calatrava. Santiago Calatrava to Design Cornerstone for USF Polytechnic's New Campus. (2009, June 16). There's a political battle underway developing yet one more stand-alone university. This contract's being attacked as a misuse of funds. Toothman, Mary. (2011, December 15). USF Poly Architect Calatrava Fires Back at Critic. from The

I think it would be a sorry choice to insist on dreary buildings.

Let's leave aside whether higher ed's physical campuses should be models of planning and development - or not. Let's leave aside the attack on the country club atmosphere of some institutions. Let's leave aside the issue of over-investment in college athletics. The increase of administrators and their salaries - oy vay! Rosen gives short shrift to some other things important to me. Rosen mentions the cost of maintaining libraries (p.70 "the immense expense that's required, in part, to maintain optimal humidity levels to preserve the millions of books in university libraries..." ). Yes, maintaining print resources and artifacts takes humidity control. Should universities get out of the business of preserving knowledge? Rosen doesn't acknowlege the importance of libraries and museums. There's a mention of universities as cultural centers, but again, he seems to place preservation and dissemination of culture in the area of frills. He doesn't mention much about scientific research. He mentions research almost as an aside. I'm not convinced that it's awful hat some universities are Harvard - or like Harvard - or focused on the liberal arts instead of workforce education, or provide a place where people gather to make advancements in the arts and sciences. I'd skip the first few chapters.

The main argument for me is that there are large numbers of people who's educational needs cannot be filled by traditional bricks and mortar universities and community colleges. We have to look to new solutions. I'm dismayed by the attack on the public's role in supporting higher education, but if the for-profits can be regulated to the extent that students get what they pay for, let for-profits be part of the solution. (Rosen does acknowledge that some schools have enticed under-prepared students to accept loans that they can never repay. Some schools fail to disclose that their degrees are not accredited. Some schools really are diploma mills. Rosen says that the marketplace will work this out as schools build reputation. However that doesn't provide restitution to those students who have spent time and money to without recieving the proper credentials.)

I was particularly interested in Chapter 6: The Learning Playbook: 2036 and the Coming Twenty-Five Years of Change in Higher Education. These seem to be the same arguments that proponents of open education are making. Rosen suggests that education will be more mobile; education will be more disaggregated; education will be more personalized; education will focus more on learning outcomes; education will be more accessible; education will be more global; education will be cooler. Well, education won't be more accessible if it costs too much. Students will be discouraged from pursuing higher education if there's no way to pay back student loans. Maybe educational opportunities ought to include traditional institutions, for-profit schools, and open education(?)

No comments: