What is tuition discounting and why do colleges do it?

Tuition discounting is growing in higher education. Yet, by the very nature of the practice, the concept is confusing to prospective students as well as people who have spent their careers working in colleges and universities.  A recent report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) suggests that tuition discount rates are at an all-time high. The report further argues that the strategy is unsustainable and many institutions will have to reconsider their approach to discounting. But all of this raises the question: what is tuition discounting and why do colleges do it?

Photo credit: Daniel Oines

No one— or very few students— actually pays the listed tuition price for a university. The way to think about a university’s tuition is like the sticker price on a car. No one pays sticker. The question is how much of a discount you can negotiate.

What are the types of faculty appointments in higher education?

Unlike many career fields, there is a relatively small variation in the types of appointments for faculty members in colleges and universities. However, I often find that many non-faculty have a hard time understanding the different types of appointments used in higher education. Once you understand the basic underlying structure for appointments, it is easy to quickly figure out the types of faculty appointments in higher education.

Photo credit: John Lemieux

I think much of the confusion regarding faculty appointments comes from the fact that different institutions used slightly different names to describe the appointments.  Despite this, the basic structure of appointments does not vary tremendously between institutions.

What research on learning tells us about teaching

At the start of each academic year, SMU’s Center for Teaching Excellence (which I direct) hosts a Teaching Effectiveness Symposium. This year our keynote speaker was Todd Zakrajsek from the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina.  Todd is a dynamic and engaging speaker. His talk was based on his book, The New Science of Learning: How Brain Research is Revolutionizing the Way We Learn (which I highly recommend). In today’s post, I will share my five top takeaways from his keynote that I believe should inform the way we teach in higher education.

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Dark side of organizational culture

Organizational culture can help build a shared sense of values and support a consensus among organizational members. Indeed, much of the research explores the positive aspects of culture. Yet, as I discussed in my post on the sorority recruitment videos at the University of Alabama, culture can prove damaging and destructive as well. In today’s post, I want to share an excerpt from my article Witch-hunting at Crucible University:  The power and peril of competing organizational ideologies that appeared in the Journal of Higher Education in 2011.

Photo credit: Flickr Josh

Competing perspectives of organizational culture highlight the role of subcultures which can have quite divergent values and interests (Martin, 2002; Sackmann, 1992).

Subcultures may form around hierarchical rank or occupational position. In universities, the disparate histories and epistemological assumptions of various academic disciplines cause them to operate as independent “tribes” (Becher, 1989).

Understanding the negative implications of subcultures in higher education

The University of Alabama’s sorority system is again in the news. Just a couple of years after a controversy regarding the inclusion of minorities into the almost exclusively white organizations, the values, beliefs, and norms of Alabama sororities are coming under fire. The issue this time is a recruitment video produced by Alpha Phi and called out in a column in the Birmingham News. While Alpha Phi may be taking the heat, a quick google search shows many sororities at UA have a similar video and some are arguably worse than Alpha Phi’s. Although there are clearly many issues one can and should consider when confronting the issues raised by the sorority culture generally and these videos specifically, I argue that the primary focus should be on understanding the negative implications of subcultures in higher education.

Photo credit: Crimson White

When we talk about culture in higher education, the discussion is often framed around the positive benefits of culture. Moreover, we tend to focus on the culture of the entire institution rather than on the smaller subcultures at work within a campus.