Top Ten

November 6, 2006

Alberta Lowers PSE Tuitions

Last Friday, the Alberta government announced $136 million to fund a new tuition policy that will save the average two-year diploma student $1,600, and the average four-year degree student more than $3,800, over the course of their program. Average undergraduate tuition in Alberta is now expected to be $4,987 in 2007/08, a return to 2004 levels, and future increases will be limited to the Alberta consumer price index. Alberta students also have acess to the highest-funded financial assistance programs in the country. uAlberta news 

NSSE Director Criticizes Maclean's Rankings

George Kuh, director of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) at Indiana University, submitted a letter to the University of Calgary student newspaper, The Gauntlet, back in July. Kuh indicated that he was "dismayed that Maclean's used a few results" from NSSE in its spring 2006 rankings. NSSE has always opposed use of its results for rankings that "reduce complex dimensions of university life to a single number." Kuh added, "rankings may sell magazines but they do little to help the public understand what makes for a high-quality undergraduate experience." Kuh was concerned that forced disclosure of NSSE results might discourage Canadian universities from participating in the study in future. The letter was reproduced this week in UBC Reports.

UBC Posts its NSSE Results Online

UBC has posted its NSSE results online for the public. The survey measures student responses to about 90 questions, aggregating them into five benchmarks of student engagement: level of academic challenge, active/collaborative learning, student/faculty interactions, enriching educational experiences, and supportive campus environment. UBC suggests that applicants and their parents look at particular items or sets that seem most relevant to their individual learning needs -- addressing the issue of "personal fit." An article in UBC Reports also addresses the fact that Canadian universities score poorly on the NSSE compared to US institutions, suggesting that lower levels of public funding in Canada have resulted in higher student:faculty ratios. Government funding decreased in Canada by 20% since 1980, while it increased 25% in the US. UBC is using NSSE results as one of the benchmarks to measure progress of its SHINE 2010 initiatives. UBC Reports 

Ontario Universities to Launch Common Dataset

Ontario universities, resentful of Maclean's demands for extensive and customized data analysis funded by taxpayers, have developed a new Common University Dataset for Ontario (CUD-O) to facilitate inter-institutional comparisons using data that is less susceptible to "gaming". The first edition of CUD-O should be public in a matter of days, according to University of Toronto president David Naylor. More variables will be added to the dataset in the months ahead, and universities outside of Ontario are being encouraged to participate. "This initiative will help to level the playing field among media outlets and agencies that want to publish competing assessments of universities." Although he praises the Globe & Mail report card, he also expresses bewilderment at some low grades awarded UofT in areas like library holdings and course selection, where they are contradicted by hard fact. Naylor suggests a need for internal market research, or enhanced communication with UofT undergraduates. He also says "I do remain optimistic that a more sensible relationship with Maclean’s is emerging from this year’s disagreements." The state of institutional performance measurement worldwide is "deplorable," because "inputs are confused with process indicators, processes are confused with outputs, and outputs are confused with outcomes." Naylor's Speech | UofT Accountability Reports

40% of US Degree Grads go on to Grad Studies

A report released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 40% of US bachelor's recipients in 1993 had enrolled in a master's, professional or doctoral program within 10 years of graduation. 25% had completed the degree, 6% were still enrolled, and 9% enrolled but did not complete it. Women were more likely to earn a master's degree, while men were more likely to earn doctoral or professional degrees. The data, drawn from 9,000 surveys in the ten-year longitudinal "Baccalaureate & Beyond" study, also examines labour force participation, opinions about their undergraduate education, family status, and civic participation. NCES Study 

Integrated Marketing Like Herding Cats

Consultant Don Schultz says that "you can never integrate higher education marketing because no-one on any campus ever wants to be integrated into anything." An item in the October issue of University Business summarizes his argument, that the traditional 4Ps of marketing are sender-centric and rapidly being displaced by technology and consumerism into a consumer-centric model. The primary task of today's campus marketers is to "align the issues, initiatives and stakeholders at a school to focus on the needs and expectations of key constituent groups." An institutional brand "is what your people are," and student recruitment has moved from "monochronic" to "polychronic" -- what can be most important is how quickly you respond to an applicant inquiry. University Business 

College "Fragility Indicators"

In the October issue of University Business, James Martin and James Samuels observe a "merger and consolidation megatrend": over the past 20 years, more than 200 US institutions have closed or merged. Their analysis points to a median frequency profile that is "a small, single-sex, religiously-affiliated, tuition-dependent, modest-endowment-ratio, heavy-depreciation, high-default, poor-retention, low-conversion-yield, junior or liberal arts college." "Dashboard" fragility indicators include successive deficits, enrolment below 1,250 FTEs, tuition dependency of more than 90%, tuition discounting of more than 40%, debt service of more than 12%, or average faculty age over 55 years of age. University Business 

Liberal Arts Linked to Community Service

A US survey released last week by the National Endowment for the Arts found that 51% of people who regularly visited art museums, plays, or concerts also did volunteer work, compared to just 19% of non-attendees. Even readers of literature were about three times as likely as non-readers to volunteer. "The arts play an irreplaceable role in producing [active and involved] citizens and [healthy] communities." The survey of 17,135 American adults also found that literary reading and performance attendance has dropped dramatically among younger adults since 1982. NEA Study (pdf)

Half of Potential College Students Interested in Online?

A survey of 2,000 Americans interested in attending college found that 19% wanted to earn a degree completely online, 18% wanted to enroll in a program that was largely online, and 14% wanted half and half. Interest in online education peaked for adults aged 35 to 55, and most students still prefer online degrees from institutions that are geographically nearby. As online convenience becomes commoditized, students will start to look for distinctions in quality, cost, accreditation, and technology. Eduventures plans to release the report, "Expanding Demand for Online Higher Education," soon, but some findings were reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education last week. (Subscription required)

Female Revolution in Higher Education

An item in the Globe & Mail University Report Card reports that increasingly, "university has become a chick thing," with only two exceptions: engineering and math. uMontreal's medical school first-year is 78% female, with long-term implications for more male specialties like surgery. The "modern feminized university" has less boisterous dorms, less hierarchical lectures, and new shorter MBA programs that have proven appealing to women in their child-bearing years. In Britain, administrators fear they have "lost a generation of lads." The Globe & Mail