EIU provost candidate stresses market-smart view in higher ed

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CHARLESTON — Eastern Illinois University’s first candidate out of four seeking the top academic position on campus has a mission-centered but market-oriented view on how academics should function, according to a faculty open session Thursday.

Tim Crowley was the first provost and vice president of Academic Affairs candidate to come to Eastern for tours and interviews with the campus community.

Hailing from Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan., Crowley, current FHSU assistant provost for academic programs and student success, touched on his history and the history of his university as an example of the success that can come out of his university’s rule of thinking.

Crowley said like in Illinois, albeit under different circumstances, the State of Kansas seems reluctant to fund higher education.

“I live in a red state,” he said. “They are not interested in funding higher education… Our latest administration has wanted to starve the beast. Higher education is a part of state government and the thought is to make state government smaller.”

On top of this, his university is housed in a depopulating part of the state. Crowley said it is more and more clear and evident that the university cannot rely entirely on the state to fix its issues.

“We have always looked at things through whether it is mission-centered,” Crowley said. “The second question we ask is if it is market smart. The idea that higher education has been above, on top of a mountain and never wanted to engage in the realities of the trading and the market is really a false one.”

He said an institution can be market-smart as long as it does not negatively affect the mission.

During the open session with faculty, Crowley cited two programs that were implemented at his university, which he saw as successful avenues in enhancing academics to be more market-focused.

One avenue he mentioned was focused on adopting online programing. He said online programming opened up who the university could educate outside of their state.

However, Crowley said it is still just as important to maintain a strong on-campus community.

Crowley said forming international relationships also is a successful program his university undertook. FHSU formed relationships with Chinese universities, which Crowley said has been a fruitful venture.

However, international relationships and online academic courses and programs are only some pieces of the puzzle.

“I think enrollment management is probably one of the critical things to be worked on here,” Crowley said. “I think that runs the gamut of which online learning is just a piece.”

Crowley is coming from a bigger university, at least in terms of enrollment, with more than 12,000 students.

The second EIU provost candidate is expected to visit from March 27-29. He or she has not been named.

In the position, the incoming provost would oversee academic departments and various services including financial aid, admissions, the library, minority affairs and others. The provost is a second to the university president, according to a description of the position on the EIU provost search web page.

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EIU provost candidate stresses market-smart view in higher ed

Chicago Newsroom 3/23/17

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Ken Davis is joined by Bobby Otter, Budget Director for the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability. They discuss the deeply troubling state of finances at Illinois’ public universities. Since 2000, adjusted for inflation, higher education in Illinois has seen its funding reduced by almost 80 percent, and the situation is worse at the universities that serve largely minority or lower-income students. In their recent report, entitled Illinois’ Significant Disinvestment ion Higher Education, the CTBA concludes, “As things currently stand, there is no basis to believe the State will have the financial capacity to enhance Higher Education funding in the next few years.” This program was produced by Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV).

Chicago Newsroom 3/23/17

Budget crisis forces Illinois university to close for a week

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Northeastern Illinois University has shut down for spring break. The school says the closing, for the week of March 20, is a necessary move to ensure there will be enough money to stay open the rest of the year.

Universities across Illinois have been scraping by just to stay operational over the 20 months that their state’s budget has been at an impasse. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to balk at funding services, from higher education to senior care; the equally determined state Legislature, which has a Democratic majority, refuses to cave to his cuts in public services and anti-union demands.

NEIU has finally reached a breaking point. The campus is shuttered for the week: computer labs, the writing center, the library—all closed. Only police and building engineers are on call. More than 1,000 employees will be furloughed, forced to take a week without pay. Worse, about 300 students who rely on their campus jobs will be out of work too.

Protest signs at Northeastern Illinois University

University Professionals of Illinois members have joined students and community members to rise up and protest. Hundreds turned out at a rally March 16 to demand full funding, and they are planning a statewide Teach Out for Illinois Higher Education on April 27. “This is the second consecutive year where the university furloughed the hardworking staff and faculty to simply keep the doors open,” UPI President John Miller said in a statement. “Our students, employees and state deserve better.” Miller and hundreds of UPI members have protested the cuts and worked hard with the Legislature to try to pass the budget.

Administrators are also outraged. “It’s just unthinkable to me that we would do this to students,” Richard Helldobler, NEIU interim president, told the Chicago Tribune.

Universities across the state have already laid off hundreds of employees. They’ve also furloughed staff before; last year at NEIU, it was one unpaid day a week for six weeks. At Chicago State University, 900 faculty, staff and administrators got layoff notices last year and more than one-third of the employees are currently laid off, including instructors, tenured and tenure-track faculty, and student-support professionals. Enrollment there has dropped by half, as the school’s status has become increasingly unstable.

Eastern Illinois University has laid off 177 support staff and instructors and is now moving to eliminate academic programs. Governors State University has cut 22 programs and hiked tuition by 15 percent, with additional program eliminations expected. Western Illinois University has laid off more than 100 instructors, including tenure-track faculty, and an additional 100-plus noninstructional employees, and has forced pay deferrals and furloughs. The schools have all deferred maintenance, cut travel budgets and begun to spend their reserves. And students all over the state are worried about their Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants—need-based state aid grants that have not been funded for the current academic year. Without the grants, designed for the lowest-income and most disadvantaged students, many will be unable to enroll.

The situation is so bad that, at a planning meeting for the March 16 rally, UPI organizers urged advocates to bring canned goods: With campus closed over spring break, the food bank would be unavailable and students would need to stock up.

“For years, Gov. Rauner has engineered fiscal crises to justify austerity budgets that slash public spending and lower taxes for his billionaire friends,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “It’s a vicious cycle, and today we’re seeing the consequences play out.

“This shutdown will deny students the ability to learn and will fire part-time student workers who depend on a regular salary to survive. Contingent faculty will be hit especially hard. We want the school to join our fight for a new budget in Springfield, but only if it is committed to advocating for students and to stabilizing the state college system that educates tens of thousands of Illinoisans.”

[Virginia Myers]

Budget crisis forces Illinois university to close for a week

Heartland: Funding cuts threaten student progress

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LINCOLN — Heartland Community College officials are concerned that cutbacks made because of the state budget impasse could hurt the progress the school has made in keeping students in school.

In addition, Doug Minter, vice president for business services, told the board of trustees, meeting Tuesday at Heartland’s Lincoln Center, that the college has drawn about $135,000 from its contingency fund two-thirds of the way through its fiscal year, “which is not standard process in a normal budget year.”

Heartland is still working from stopgap state funding from last year as the governor and lawmakers seek agreement on a balanced budget for this fiscal year, which began July 1.

In a report to the board, Heartland President Rob Widmer said the college has made gains in student persistence — the measure of students returning to school from semester to semester and earning certificates or degrees.

Widmer credited that improvement in persistence — coupled with programs such as College Now, which enables students to get college credit while still in high school — for Heartland’s ability to show an overall gain in enrollment from 2013 to 2017.

Heartland was among only three public community colleges in the state to register enrollment gains in that period. Heartland’s overall enrollment rose 2.5 percent from spring 2013 to spring 2017. The only others to show increases were Harper College, with a 2.6 percent increase, and the College of DuPage, with a gain of 1.9 percent.

“This is where it gets a little scary,” said Widmer. “We’ve had to cut student support services. … Is that going to have a longer-term impact if we don’t have more money to put into it?”

The cuts include reduction in tutor availability and library hours, he said after the meeting.

While the college does not have evidence that the cut in support services is having a negative impact, it is a concern, said Widmer.

The college has made a conscious effort to focus on keeping students in school not only to stabilize its enrollment but also to fulfill its commitment to student success.

Citing figures from the National Student Clearinghouse and the National Community College Benchmark Project, Widmer said Heartland is “far exceeding the national benchmarks, indicative of the commitment we’ve made to our students — our commitment to student success.”

For example, among Heartland students who started in 2009 and attended college exclusively full time, 79 percent received a certificate or degree within six years compared to a national benchmark of 54.5 percent. More dramatically, 61.5 percent of those full-time students received a bachelor’s degree in that six-year period compared to a national benchmark of 24.7 percent.

In another matter, the board discussed a bill moving through the General Assembly that could give some community colleges the authority to grant bachelor’s degrees in nursing.

Widmer said, based on discussion among staff, Heartland would not pursue authority to grant such degrees, even if the legislation passes. Heartland officials would support passage of the legislation, however.

Heartland: Funding cuts threaten student progress

Faculty Senate votes to support Teach Out

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Faculty Senate votes to support Teach Out

Cassie Buchman, News Editor
March 21, 2017
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The Faculty Senate discussed the report it sent to the administration reviewing Workgroup No.7’s recommendations on academic programs and passed a resolution supporting a Teach Out at its meeting Tuesday.

The Faculty Senate had created a subcommittee in February to review the recommendations on the programs in Africana studies, philosophy, and career and technical education, which were recommended for deletion or consolidation by Workgroup No.7. In its report, the subcommittee determined that the three programs should be given time and encouraged to enact the structural changes currently underway instead of being eliminated.

“Dismantling these three programs or otherwise enforcing Workgroup No.7’s recommendations would at this time likely result in more harm than good,” according to the report. The Faculty Senate believes that EIU can ill afford at this juncture to eliminate programs without a demonstrated benefit to the long-term fiscal and/or academic health of this university.”

The committee found that the Africana studies program is in discussion with the Latin American studies, Asian studies and women’s studies programs to consolidate some current offerings and find innovative programming to meet the needs of the current student population.

“It would better serve our institution to allow these changes to be driven by faculty aware of the needs, strengths, and challenges of their programs and the ways that diverse programs can work together, than to make an arbitrary ‘top-down’ edict that would enforce an elimination or consolidation of a major,” the report said.

For career and technological education, the subcommittee found the program has shown strong enrollment numbers until the year 2013. Though the program has seen low enrollment in recent years, the subcommittee wrote, there is high demand in the field for workers with a career and technological education skill set.

“Such strong numbers of graduating students (until very recently), coupled with promising job prospects, would indicate that eliminating CTE is premature at this time,” the committee wrote.

Regarding philosophy, the subcommittee wrote that eliminating it would lead to a loss of credibility as a university and that the program has the best student-credit-hour production in the College of Arts and Humanities.

Like the Africana studies program, philosophy has also been engaged in conversations with related programs to develop new interdisciplinary programs.

In its notes on Workgroup No. 7’s budgetary analyses, the subcommittee wrote that both philosophy and Africana studies generate significant profits when examining program profit/loss analyses by “major regardless of subject.”

Faculty Senate chair Jemmie Robertson said it seems like various committees, including the Academic Program Elimination/Reorganization Review committee, which looked at the philosophy program, all believe that philosophy is central to the university’s mission and core values.

The Faculty Senate’s final report was sent to Eastern President David Glassman, Provost Blair Lord and the Board of Trustees.

Lord thanked the Faculty Senate for the feedback at the meeting and said no final decisions have on these programs have been made.

“There is still an ongoing consideration process,” Lord said.

He did report that the president’s council has been going through recommendations from the other vitalization project workgroups.

When making the report, Faculty Senate member CC Wharram said the subcommittee read through recommendations from the Workgroup and interviewed various representative and departments.

“We thought about some of the ramifications instead of just looking at the data,” he said.

Also at the meeting, the Faculty Senate voted to pass a resolution supporting a Teach Out for Illinois Higher Education members of the EIU-UPI are attending in response to a lack of funding for state universities and colleges.

The statewide Teach Out will include universities, community colleges and other coalition partners.

The Teach Out will involve taking students and faculty to the rotunda in the Springfield Capital so they could teach in the building.

Jon Blitz, president of the EIU-UPI, said there will be buses rented for people who want to go.

“We’re going to teach there, basically make a show of it, that we can’t do this anymore,” Blitz said.

To explain the reasoning behind the Teach Out, Blitz gave a presentation about how higher education funding in Illinois has been cut throughout the years and the effect it has had.

According to a chart Blitz showed, the total number of full-time employees dropped by about 35 percent from 2006 to 2016, and the number of civil service employees dropped by about 45 percent during the same time.

In his presentation, Blitz said that when adjusted for inflation, the average state appropriation to Eastern from 1973 to 2015 was $57.8 million.

For 2015, the last year with a state appropriation, Eastern received $43 million, which is 26 percent below this average.

When it comes to losing state-level funding, Blitz said, higher education is one of the areas that is worst off.

When comparing the FY 2015 enacted budget to FY 2016 maximum authorized spending, higher education took the biggest hit in education, with a 67.8 percent cut.

K-12 education was cut by 1.1 percent, while early childhood education funding increased by 7.5 percent.

“We’re being singled out; the data shows that,” Blitz said.

Nationally, from 2000 to 2015, in fifteen of the largest states, Illinois lost 54 percent in per-student funding. The only state doing worse was Arizona, until Illinois stopped receiving an appropriation.

Faculty Senate member Billy Hung asked the senate to consider telling their students about the Teach Out and let them make up work for the missed day.

“We have to fight for what we believe in, and part of that fighting has to be getting warm bodies at these events to have a show of support because they are elected officials who decide how the money is spent, and they need to feel the pressure from their electorate,” Hung said.

However, Faculty Senate member Amy Rosenstein said there is already an erroneous perception that people in higher education can do their job anywhere and do not work hard enough and suggested broadcasting to legislators the work professors do on campus.

“Someone needs to let the public know we’re working our butts off here,” she said. “I feel like that needs to be out there.”

Faculty Senate member Todd Bruns said anyone who thinks faculty members are lazy is going to think that regardless of the Teach Out.

“This is an opportunity for us to go to Springfield and talk to legislators to argue the point (Rosenstein’s) raising, which is how much work we do, how much these investments are needed,” Bruns said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or cjbuchman@eiu.edu.

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Faculty Senate votes to support Teach Out

NIU cracks top 10 among Illinois colleges

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A school that offers the opportunities of a large university while providing the personalized experience of a small college belongs on a Top 10 list.

That is why Northern Illinois University is ranked third among public colleges and universities in Illinois, and ninth overall on the College Choice list of the 25 Best Colleges in Illinois.

College Choice, an independent online publication that helps students select the right college, found a lot to like at NIU. They were impressed with the range of programs (57 undergraduate majors, 73 minors) and the outstanding programs in areas as diverse as accountancy, nursing and steel drum performance.

That quality and diversity, they noted, translates into an excellent return on investment, pointing out that successful NIU alumni can be found in high-level posts all over the country. They work as partners in major accounting firms, as television producers, as judges and as executives in a wide range of industries.

Best of all, according to College Choice, NIU provides those big-school benefits with a personal touch. They specifically noted the First- and Second-Year Experience programs that help pave the way to success for new students. However, those are just a start. NIU students also can work one-on-one with faculty on research from year one, find hands-on learning opportunities in hundreds of classes and have opportunities to study abroad, work internships, participate in more than 200 clubs and organizations, and make the world a better place through volunteerism locally, nationally and globally.

If you want to learn more about the Top 10 experience provided at NIU, join us for an upcoming open house or schedule a visit to campus.

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NIU cracks top 10 among Illinois colleges

Illinois parolees: Often undereducated, unemployed — and soon back behind bars

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Justin McDowell was 17 when he and a confederate shotgunned their way into a downstate Allendale, Ill., home, held a couple and their infant daughter at gunpoint and stole $300 and the keys to the family’s black Chevy Impala. Like so many youth felonies, it was a stupid, tragic act. When McDowell was arrested a year later in 2002, he was working episodically for little money, laying foundations beneath double-wide trailer homes. He had no plans to return to school. The judge gave him 36 years.

By the time McDowell is eligible for parole in 2020, having served half his sentence, he will have cost Illinois taxpayers more than $396,000 — the cumulative price of his incarceration. Will it prove an efficient investment for a state experiencing a severe budget crisis? It ought to, given McDowell’s evolving eagerness over the past seven years to pursue an education and turn his life around. But for the Centralia Correctional Center inmate, now 33, the question remains open — as it does for most of the more than 40,000 men and women currently incarcerated in Illinois prisons.

Last March, McDowell lost an important building block toward reconfiguring his life when Kaskaskia College summarily, indefinitely and reluctantly suspended the in-prison degree program it had administered at Centralia since 1983, and in which McDowell was enrolled. At the time, McDowell was more than halfway toward earning an associate’s degree in general education. He previously had completed a six-month vocational tech program in construction management, earning straight A’s. “He’d been on a waiting list for almost two years, trying to get into that course,” Steve Mandrell, his Kaskaskia professor, recalled. Mandrell found him so impressive, he later hired him as a teacher’s aide.

Kaskaskia ended its program because the Illinois Department of Corrections, as a result of the state’s ongoing budget crisis, had stopped payment on its three-year, roughly $1.2 million contract with the school. According to George Evans, Kaskaskia’s dean of career and technical education, McDowell was one of approximately 1,400 prisoners the school has educated over the years.

The rehabilitative cost of ending post-secondary education opportunities for prisoners such as McDowell is substantial. “I went and talked to him the day before I left (my teaching position at Centralia),” Mandrell recalled. “He was telling me how wrong it was to not be able to complete his degree. He said, ‘There may be something I can do as far as a job, and this is going to hinder that.'”

But there is an accompanying, steep price the rest of us pay.

As of July 2015, McDowell was one of about 41,000 men and women interred in Illinois correctional centers, at a combined, annual taxpayer cost of close to $1 billion.

According to a 2015 Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council study, about 97 percent ultimately will be released, through parole or completion of sentence — including those convicted of violent crimes. It is not unusual for a murderer to get 40 years and win parole after serving 20.

The same study found that 19 percent of those released recidivate within a year, 48 percent in three years. IDOC paroled about 30,000 prisoners in 2013, according to an NBC report. That means roughly 14,400 could possibly return to prison. The cost of housing, feeding and caring for a single prisoner varies among the state’s 25 correctional centers, but averaged around $23,000 a year in the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Based on all those figures, the taxpayer cost of housing people who recidivate, alone, is more than $331 million annually.

Factor in court costs, law enforcement costs and the social and economic losses suffered by new victims of parolees’ crimes, and the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council study estimated in 2015 that the total cost of recidivism in Illinois over the next five years would be $16.7 billion.

The best chance to break the recidivism cycle, a 2013 Rand Corp. study commissioned by the Justice Department found, is by offering prisoners access to a college-level education. According to the study, those who took classes while incarcerated were 43 percent less likely to recidivate.

Yet Illinois’ in-prison college programs are disappearing at an alarming rate. Around the time Kaskaskia ended its program, and for the identical reason, Richland Community College did the same. Danville Area Community College eliminated its vocational offerings.

Evans, the Kaskaskia dean, can’t find the logic in it. “Over a three-year study, the highest recidivism rate we had was 10 percent in our culinary program,” he said. “The lowest was 6 percent in the electronics program. Compare that to the 51.2 percent of those receiving no training whatsoever. Look at the (potential) savings. That has been presented numerous times to the DOC. It has fallen on deaf ears.”

As the community college programs neared their end, the students — prisoners — began a letter-writing campaign, to the IDOC, to their state legislators, to the governor. “The governor’s office was flooded with letters from inmates,” Evans said. “The inmates filed grievances. We had gang members who came in and said, ‘I got kids. I was a punk (when I was arrested), and my goal here is to make sure I never come back here.’ It did no good. They (state and prison officials) just do not take education seriously. They may say that they do, but don’t when it comes down to it.”

A year has passed since Mandrell last taught at Centralia. He still worries about the effect the program’s dissolution has had on McDowell. “My class was the first college course he took,” Mandrell said. “About halfway through, it’s like he softened up. Before, he was very negative — you know, ‘I’m never going to be able to get a very good job, because I’ve got this on my rap sheet.’ Then he started talking positive. ‘You know, if I can do this, then I know I can make a living. I know I can go back into society and be productive.'”

Ron Berler is the author of “Raising the Curve: Teachers, Students – A True Portrayal of Classroom Life.”

Illinois parolees: Often undereducated, unemployed — and soon back behind bars