Category: college

How Community Colleges Can Keep Sacramento Pols Off Their Backs

ALICIA DOWD, associate professor, Rossier School of Education, and co-director for Center for Urban Education, and ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of education, Rossier, and co-director of CUE.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post on April 30.

The recently released California community college system’s Student Success Scorecard has rightly drawn praise. The web-based scorecards contain comprehensive information on students’ performance at each of the state’s 112 community colleges, making details about student outcomes the most easily accessible in the nation. The Scorecard reveals how colleges are doing in retaining and graduating students, remedial education and job-training programs, with data broken down by gender, age, race and ethnicity. The added information about race and ethnicity, new to this accountability report, is crucial in a system in which latinos and other students of color form the majority.

While students can use the scorecard to pick a campus, its main purpose is to provide data to community college leaders that they can use to zero in on what is impeding students’ performance and design remedies. But as important as the Student Success Scorecard is as an accountability tool, it does not ensure meaningful change because neither rewards nor penalties are attached to using the data or to improving scores.

The Fourth Science Domain

PAUL S. ROSENBLOOM, professor of computer science, Institute of Creative Technologies, Viterbi.

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Introductory science courses, whether in physics, biology or psychology, typically span the discipline’s core ideas, along with glimpses of its past and future. Not so with computer science. Students either learn how to use basic applications — browsers, text editors, drawing programs — or acquire beginning programming skills. They may also be introduced to some key components of working computer systems, but the full scope and diversity of computing is not taught.

Unfortunately, what occurs in the classroom is just part and parcel of a larger problem: Computer science can’t seem to get any respect as a stand-alone science. To students, it’s simply programming. To scientists in other fields, it’s a tool that helps them in their research. To the public, it’s a source of productivity in the workplace and entertainment apps. Even many computing professionals see computer science as just a form of engineering.

A Hail Mary to Save Proposition 30

DAN SCHNUR, director of USC’s Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

Since the day he took office, Gov. Jerry Brown has been on a crusade to convince Californians that he is not just fiscally responsible but downright stingy. During his first week as governor, he ordered thousands of state workers to give up their government-issued cellphones. Since then, he has negotiated to rein in pensions for public employees, initiated welfare reforms that were included in the last budget and bragged about his preference for flying Read more →

Privatizing the Public University

WILLIAM TIERNEY, director of the Pullias Center for Higher Education, USC’s Rossier School of Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Recently a committee of the University of California’s Academic Senate effectively threw cold water on the plans of UCLA’s Anderson School of Management to take its M.B.A. program private.

The plan was for the program to give up state funds and, in return, for the state to give the school more leeway in issues such as setting tuition. The school’s faculty and the UCLA Senate had approved the plans, but it ran into unanimous opposition from a committee of the Academic Senate. It was troubled that donors might have too much influence, that faculty priorities might shift, and that costs would rise without sufficient financial aid for poorer students.

Making Universities and Colleges More Military Friendly

RON AVI ASTOR, professor of urban social development, Schools of Education and Social Work

This op-ed originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

Relations between academia and the military services are not known for their cordiality. The flash point was the Vietnam War. Campuses across the country were incubators of the anti-war movement and arenas for major protests. Many units of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps were shut down, especially at the Ivies. More recently, the government’s “Don’t-Ask-Don’t Tell” policy for gays was a source of friction at some universities.

The Price of College Affordability

WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, university professor, USC Pullias Center for Higher Education.

This op-ed originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

The political standoff in Washington over extending low interest rates on student loans would have been unimaginable a generation ago. Back then, there was an unwritten compact between government and higher education. Everyone largely assumed that if government — that is, taxpayers — financially helped more people attend and graduate from college, we would all be better off in the end. A college education was considered a “public good.” Now it’s a “private good,” and the individual student is increasingly picking up the tab.

This shift in responsibility began in the mid-1980s, but it has exploded during the Great Recession. Revenue-starved states have slashed their higher-education budgets, forcing public universities and colleges, where three of every four students enroll, to dramatically raise tuition and fees. There is a limit to all this, and we may already be at the tipping point of affordability. Student debt, at $1 trillion, is now greater than credit card debt.

In China, Blame the Murder Victims

MEI FONG, lecturer, USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

After USC graduate students Ming Qu and Ying Wu were shot and killed earlier this month, the Chinese student community in America was saddened, shocked and frightened.

The reaction back home was very different. The killings, which happened while Qu and Wu were sitting and talking in a BMW, unleashed a torrent of Internet vitriol in China, and it wasn’t directed at the pair’s attacker.

The Ivory Tower Can No Longer Ignore K-12 Education

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC, and WILLIAM G. TIERNEY, university professor and director of the USC Pullias Center for Higher Education.

This op-ed originally appeared in Education Week.

As we look back on research universities in the 20th century, one regrettable legacy we see is the firewall between too many of them and our public schools.

University administrators and professors missed meaningful opportunities to help K-12 educators manage and overcome the challenges they face daily. There was little sustained interaction between public school teachers and professors. Commonalities across high school and college curricula were largely nonexistent. What students learned in a math class in their senior year in high school, for example, frequently did not prepare them for freshman-level math. And the academic and social gulf between high school and university left too many of our poorest children unprepared for the transition.

This disengagement has much to do with how research universities were born and evolved in the 20th century. Institutions that were small, parochial scholastic backwaters morphed into academic powerhouses whose raison d’être was research. Faculty members doing research earned new respect within and outside the academic world, a development reinforced by the rise of nonacademic funding sources, such as foundations. By the end of the 20th century, research-oriented professors received higher compensation than their peers who only taught in the classroom. Growth and distinction became the new watchwords. Admired throughout the world, these universities helped drive American economic pre-eminence, especially in the second half of the 20th century. But the rise of the American research university had little to do with the creation or sustenance of K-12 education.

Times have changed and so, too, must the research university’s lack of engagement with public schools. No problem is clearer and more compelling where those of us in the research university might add our voice, knowledge, and support.

While not as bleak as commonly perceived, data on K-12 student achievement have remained sobering for over a generation. Many of our urban high schools are “dropout factories,” with up to half of the entering students never graduating. At too many schools, fewer than half the seniors will qualify to enroll in a four-year college or university. At many of our state universities, more than half the entering freshmen require courses in remedial math or English—or both. Several recent studies show that the performance gap between affluent and poor students in terms of test scores, high school completion rates, and, ultimately, wage earnings continues to grow at an alarming rate.

You Can’t Export American Universities

C.L. MAX NIKIAS, president of USC:

This op-ed originally appeared on CNN.com

“America’s research universities have been franchising their campuses overseas, in an effort to reach students in emerging markets that seem to promise an academic gold rush. These universities would better serve the national interest by revaluing the benefits of recruiting the best of the rest of the world to the United States.

The United States’ 50 best research universities have emerged as the American asset that other nations most envy. So it was only a matter of time before other nations would begin to

Rule Changes That Could Boost Minority College-Going

LINDA J. WONG, executive director of USC’s Center for Urban Education, ESTELA MARA BENSIMON, professor of higher education and co-director of the center, and ALICIA DOWD, associate professor of higher education and co-director of the center:

This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

“The Obama administration’s decision to make it easier to consider race in promoting diversity in our schools comes at a propitious time for California.

Race and ethnicity are front and center in the state’s education system with minorities now representing 70 percent of public school students and more than half of those attending community colleges. The billions of dollars in education budget cuts have and will continue to hit these students the hardest. But new federal diversity guidelines, if followed, hold out