Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Meaning of the Market Mantra and the Road Less Traveled, Part 1

Drew Koch
Vice President for New Strategy, Development, and Policy Initiatives

On January 26, 2011, the University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice released a report analyzing the growth of corporate influence in the field of enrollment management. Written by Scott Andrew Schulz and Jerry Lucido, and titled "Enrollment Management, Inc.: External Influences on Our Practice," the report looks at the history of the enrollment management profession in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and calls for closer examination of whether that profession is advancing business ideals in the academy at the expense of the stated educational values and mission.

That report has compelled me to write this blog. What I need to say right up front is that I am not taking issue with enrollment management professionals as individuals or the profession at large. Nor am I using this space to challenge (at least not drastically) Schultz and Lucido’s findings. What I am doing is using the report as a vehicle to ask some broader questions of this blog’s readership about the purpose of higher education and balance between what can be, at times, competing forces. Now back to the report.

Schultz and Lucido’s analysis is based on interviews with enrollment management leaders from more than fifty higher education institutions. The report caught my eye because of my research interest in what Henry Giroux and others have dubbed the “Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (MIAC). I was not alone in making the connection between the report’s findings and the broader MIAC. After noting the deluge of service solicitations that admissions and recruitment professionals received largely from for-profit corporations in the days leading up to the a recent professional association annual meeting, Schulz and Lucido shared how one of their interviewed enrollment management leaders “termed the overwhelming number of commercial enterprises present at such conferences as the ‘admissions industrial complex!’”

Of additional interest to me was the point when the authors claim this march to a more market-based mantra began. After providing a brief history of the enrollment management field from the era of the Morrill Acts through the 1960s, the report points to 1972 as the year when higher education institutions suddenly “had to compete for students and their aid dollars.” Specifically, the authors point to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that year, and the manner in which that reauthorization altered the way in which aid monies were taken from the institutions and given directly to students, as the time in which higher education in the United States began being less focused on mission and more focused on money.


The authors note that Congress had good intentions for moving in this direction – it was “an effort to give students more buying power and infuse the higher education system with market-like competition predicated on capitalist ideals.” This was not to occur at the expense of institutional missions and values. In short, market forces would encourage institutions to be more responsive to students and, by doing so, the institutions would be functioning in a mission-aligned manner. But the evidence from the past four decades suggests a gulf between desired and actual outcomes.


While I don’t disagree with the Schultz and Lucido’s broader assertions, I do think they provided a limited historical analysis of the rise of corporate/market based philosophy in academe and, as a result, simplified the manner in which it was infused into higher education in the United States. By focusing on one “trigger“ – in this case, the 1972 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act – the authors placed too much emphasis on one event. The market philosophy did not suddenly appear in 1972. It was always there. And there is more behind the rise of the market mantra in late 20th and early 21st century higher education in the United States than the report’s authors suggest.


In my next installment of this blog, I will pick up where I am leaving off here, and provide added historical context for the ongoing connection between the market place and higher education in the United States, and provide some questions for readers to ponder.

The Meaning of the Market Mantra and the Road Less Traveled, Part 1

Drew Koch
Vice President for New Strategy, Development, and Policy Initiatives

On January 26, 2011, the University of Southern California Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice released a report analyzing the growth of corporate influence in the field of enrollment management. Written by Scott Andrew Schulz and Jerry Lucido, and titled "Enrollment Management, Inc.: External Influences on Our Practice," the report looks at the history of the enrollment management profession in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, and calls for closer examination of whether that profession is advancing business ideals in the academy at the expense of the stated educational values and mission.

That report has compelled me to write this blog. What I need to say right up front is that I am not taking issue with enrollment management professionals as individuals or the profession at large. Nor am I using this space to challenge (at least not drastically) Schultz and Lucido’s findings. What I am doing is using the report as a vehicle to ask some broader questions of this blog’s readership about the purpose of higher education and balance between what can be, at times, competing forces. Now back to the report.

Schultz and Lucido’s analysis is based on interviews with enrollment management leaders from more than fifty higher education institutions. The report caught my eye because of my research interest in what Henry Giroux and others have dubbed the “Military-Industrial-Academic Complex” (MIAC). I was not alone in making the connection between the report’s findings and the broader MIAC. After noting the deluge of service solicitations that admissions and recruitment professionals received largely from for-profit corporations in the days leading up to the a recent professional association annual meeting, Schulz and Lucido shared how one of their interviewed enrollment management leaders “termed the overwhelming number of commercial enterprises present at such conferences as the ‘admissions industrial complex!’”

Of additional interest to me was the point when the authors claim this march to a more market-based mantra began. After providing a brief history of the enrollment management field from the era of the Morrill Acts through the 1960s, the report points to 1972 as the year when higher education institutions suddenly “had to compete for students and their aid dollars.” Specifically, the authors point to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that year, and the manner in which that reauthorization altered the way in which aid monies were taken from the institutions and given directly to students, as the time in which higher education in the United States began being less focused on mission and more focused on money.

The authors note that Congress had good intentions for moving in this direction – it was “an effort to give students more buying power and infuse the higher education system with market-like competition predicated on capitalist ideals.” This was not to occur at the expense of institutional missions and values. In short, market forces would encourage institutions to be more responsive to students and, by doing so, the institutions would be functioning in a mission-aligned manner. But the evidence from the past four decades suggests a gulf between desired and actual outcomes.

While I don’t disagree with the Schultz and Lucido’s broader assertions, I do think they provided a limited historical analysis of the rise of corporate/market based philosophy in academe and, as a result, simplified the manner in which it was infused into higher education in the United States. By focusing on one “trigger“ – in this case, the 1972 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act – the authors placed too much emphasis on one event. The market philosophy did not suddenly appear in 1972. It was always there. And there is more behind the rise of the market mantra in late 20th and early 21st century higher education in the United States than the report’s authors suggest.

In my next installment of this blog, I will pick up where I am leaving off here, and provide added historical context for the ongoing connection between the market place and higher education in the United States, and provide some questions for readers to ponder.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What Shall We Tell Them?

John Gardner
President

I have returned to the US and something remarkable has happened: the same people who brought us the political party and dominant national ethos which gave us the financial meltdown, the huge deficits, an unnecessary war, have miraculously persuaded many of my fellow citizens that the folks to blame for our economic woes are—stand by: public employees. You know, the $50,000 dollar or year cops, firepersons, teachers, civil servants who have been living the high life as over paid government workers. It is they who have caused our state fiscal crises, and not the economic recklessness of Wall Street which led to huge lay offs and declines in tax revenues. History is being rewritten. And the most unsuspecting villains of this piece—who would have ever thought it would come to this: the teachers. And not the well treated university types like me, no, the rank and file classroom teachers. I have returned to mass layoffs of teachers and threats to cut Head Start and other programs for pre-school children. Talk about class warfare? This is truly class warfare against the poor and less fortunate. But then, they can’t hire lobbyists. As I once heard Vernon Jordan say in a speech in Columbia, S.C, when he was President of the Urban League: “If you ain’t in the room, you ain’t part of the action”. And it is the public servants who aren’t in the room. Even those in unions. They aren’t allowed in anymore as we race to take away their rights of free speech and collective bargaining.

So what are we going to tell our students?

For some decades now, public sector employment has become more attractive and compelling to many of our students. The reasons, of course, were multiple: an outlet for their idealism; an opportunity to be of service and to return the gift; greater employment security (or so they thought) in return for much lower wages; secure predictable benefits (or so they thought); the opportunity to retire at a younger age; and more.

We have been making all kinds of strides in enticing some of the best and the brightest into teaching. After 9/11 who had become our national heroes? Fire fighters and police officers. It wasn’t the Wall Street bankers and brokers who rushed into the Twin Towers never to emerge again, trying in vain to rescue our innocent life threatened citizens. A decade later, one political party actually demanded a drastic reduction in the damage settlements to be awarded to those rescue workers who had acquired long term illnesses in that heroic rescue effort, a heatless attack against our heroes set back only by the crusade of a television commentator and talk comedy host.

Our students in the main think that college has something to do with getting a job, a better job, a well paying job. So what are we going to tell them? Why would any thoughtful student now consider entering the career of teaching? With reductions in wages and retirement benefits. With a proposal to close half the schools in Detroit and to increase class size up to 50. Just who would want to teach in this context? Maybe we should just eliminate schools and send these urban kids straight to jail.

I am being serious: what are we going to tell our students? Should they pursue civil service occupations in spite of these dimmed prospects for a decent middle class living? Are the psychic rewards sufficient? What are their other options to be of service? How can we persuade the students to discount the criticism being heaped upon these occupations, the scapegoating? What else can we say other than: “Forgive them, for they know not what they think and say?”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Readjusting to My Country: It Has Been An Adjustment

John Gardner
President

When I last blogged it was from overseas in Australia and New Zealand. As a footnote to a recent blog in which I compared how petty was my loss of favorite gentleman’s hat compared to the terrible losses of the wonderful people of Christ Church where we had visited and left three hours before the earthquake: Delta Airlines found my hat and has sent it back to me. How I wish New Zealanders lives could be put back together so easily.

I returned on the 23rd and have found my readjustment a challenge. And not because of jet lag which I didn’t experience at all. But because of all the stimuli which have jarred my sensibilities upon return, and how contrasting they are to what I experienced in the two English speaking countries I visited, which like ours, are former British colonies.

So now that I am back, I am reacclimating to automobile drivers blowing their horns. And to seeing lots of armed police officers. And to living in a very dangerous country. And to having to hassle with health insurers who are doing everything they can not to pay claims---human organizations which exist to promote a particular human good, profits for investors and high salaries for senior executives, and whose business is only incidentally health insurance for US citizens.

And readjusting to a national legislature which is less homogenous every year and hence finds it harder and harder to see the world the same way and find common ground.

And to a highly argumentative, adversarial political culture, where things have degenerated almost to an unprecedented state of affairs in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio. I am glad my children are no longer small. How would I hold up our leaders to them as examplars for civility.

And to Congressional hearings attacking an American minority (Muslim Americans) by asserting its threat to all things American, said hearings being chaired by a Representative which the The New York Times reported on 3-9-11 was a champion for the terrorist outlawed group, the Irish Republican Army in 1982 and who went so far as to condone collateral damage to civilians.

And to one state legislature (New Hampshire) introducing legislation to deny the franchise to college students while criticizing them for being “liberal” because “they vote their feelings and lack real life experience”.

I am glad to be back, truly I am. I love my country. I love my freedom to think and write as I please. I love my occupation helping colleges and universities to help students. I love the small mountain town where I live. Of course, I love my family. I love the opportunities my free enterprise system gives me if only I have good ideas, initiative, and the ability to follow through. I love that I have the franchise. I am thankful for the strides we have made during my lifetime towards social justice for all.

But it is a bit jarring to reenter and become reintroduced to what is going on in America as we know it in 2011.