Plight of the Regional Public University

For several decades now, state higher education policymakers have implemented regulations, policies, and legislation that created incentives for institutions to maximize their own prestige as well as the private economic benefit for students. The emphasis and hyper-attention paid to vocational and economic returns of higher education undercut the foundation of the liberal arts core as well as institutional diversity, as I’ve written about in the past. A recent Chronicle of Higher Education story about Western Illinois University and regional public universities more generally provide yet another clear example of how these policies are failing higher education, our country, and our students.

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Colleges and universities of all stripes— but particularly regional universities— have been encouraged and some cases forced to pursue market-based strategies that led to revenue and prestige generation. 

Are college students more brilliant? The grade inflation debate

Brilliant! I loved the series of Guinness commercials that made fun of the British affinity for using the word brilliant. It is hard not to love using brilliant and I often join in after only a few days in England (resulting in much ribbing from my colleagues). Of course, the issue is that if everything is brilliant- is anything? Brilliant used to mean exceptionally good, but now it has been watered down due to overuse. All of this leads to me think of the grade inflation debate in higher education and whether today’s college students are more brilliant than in the past.

“Grades A and B are sometimes given too readily—Grade A for work of no very high merit, and Grade B for work not far above mediocrity. . . One of the chief obstacles to raising the standards of the degree is the readiness with which insincere students gain passable grades by sham work.”  — Report of the Committee on Raising the Standard, Harvard University, 1984

The grade inflation debate is not new.  

Obama on higher eduction and anti-intellectualism

It is graduation season which means politicians hitting the trail giving commencement addresses. Most of these aren’t particularly interesting and are often quite stupefying.  I thought President Obama’s speech at Rutgers University was an exception to this rule. I’ve been thinking a great deal about anti-intellectualism in our country and thought that the President addressed the issue quite well.  So for today’s post, I want to share a few key sections from his speech that I think should inspire and convict those of us working in the inherently intellectual business of higher education.

Photo credit: Mandel Ngan / AFP

Are liberal professors ruining higher education?

Nicholas Kristof writing in the New York Times called out liberal professors in higher education over their intolerance of conservative and religious ideologies. Kristof’s missive is the latest in a long line of criticisms of the liberal nature of professors and asking the question: Are liberal professors ruining higher education? As with much of our national politics, there is even disagreement over basic facts such as the partisan affiliation of faculty. In today’s post, I will discuss what we know about the ideology of professors, the source of faculty ideology, and how this impacts higher education.

I grew up in North Carolina with conservative Senator Jesse Helms repeatedly railing on the liberal bastion in Chapel Hill.

Debates regarding the liberal nature of higher education are certainly not new. 

Happy 2nd Birthday, Higher Ed Professor

Today is a milestone that I wasn’t sure would happen. It is the two year anniversary of Higher Ed Professor going live. This is the 209th post that I’ve written and I’ve tried to share content that faculty and administrators would find helpful and interesting. I’ve enjoyed the conversation and am looking forward to the year ahead.

Photo credit: Roberto Cacho Toca

I had no real idea how (or if) people would respond to Higher Ed Professor, but I hoped the site could be a resource for those of us who love working in higher education.

The response has been gratifying.

The audience continues to grow each month. The blog has been viewed in all 50 states and 159 countries around the world.

The number of page views has more than doubled this year up with more than 30,000 since we started.

I wrote this time last year that blogging helped force me to keep writing, improved my writing, and make me a better observer of higher education.

Those things all remain true today.

However, I firmly believe that you have to keep challenging yourself and looking for ways to improve.

A Change For This Year

As I’ve thought about where the blog goes from here, I believe there is a desire for a conversation about higher education issues and advice.

However, in today’s internet environment, I’m not sure the short blog post is the way to do this.

With a few exceptions, I’ve written posts averaging 600-800 words. I’ve stuck with the Monday-Thursday publishing schedule that we’ve had since the beginning.

I really like the short blog post concept for sharing ideas quickly and concisely.

Yet when I think about my own internet reading, I find myself increasingly drawn towards sites such as FiveThirtyEight and Vox. The so-called explanatory journalism sites.

As I reflected on the most successful posts of Higher Ed Professor–as well as those I enjoyed writing the most– I realized it was the posts where I tried to present complicated and nuanced ideas in a more accessible manner.

This gets back to what I originally wanted to do with the site and why I came up with the tagline of “Demystifying higher education.”

New Format and Schedule

As Higher Ed Professor moves into its third year, I believe a focus on longer form posts will serve as a better vehicle for enhancing our conversation.

In order to facilitate the new format, the publishing schedule is going to change to once a week on Mondays.

I hope you find the new format compelling and I would appreciate your feedback during the transition.

Also, please send an email or tweet with your suggestions for post topics.

Some of the best topics are those suggested by readers!

Thank you for reading Higher Ed Professor and I look forward to another great year!